|Ryback's intense entrance has been one of his calling cards. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Ryan Reeves, better known as Ryback during an extensive run in the WWE, is a homegrown talent of the Stamford-based promotion. Shortly after his pro-wrestling-debut, the Las Vegas-native was already part of the fourth reincarnation of Tough Enough, even making it to the finals of the show before succumbing to Daniel Puder. Reeves wrestled under the gimmicks "Ryback", his real name and "Skip Sheffield" throughout his career. He has yet to hold any title in the WWE even though he was pushed into main event spots quickly and his rise in the industry as well as his unbeaten streak in the promotion have been compared to the early career of Bill Goldberg in WCW.
Growing up in Nevada, Ryan was quickly drawn into wrestling and everything related to it. He started watching at the young age of 5 and according to him was more and more drawn into the business at the age of 11. A fitness and sports fanatic at heart, the future superstar showed his talent early in Baseball and Football throughout his high school and college career before a leg injury halted his performance for two seasons. While attending the university of Las Vegas, Reeves majored in fitness management and trained for his future in wrestling. Working part-time for a Casino, he found the time to audition for the fourth season of Tough Enough and did so successfully. Being the last contestant voted off the competition, he was able to secure a developmental deal with the company anyhow and after a short stint in DSW, wrestling with the nickname Silverback, was called up to OVW, one of WWE's farm leagues at the time. Mostly contesting in dark matches, Reeves remained unbeaten in singles competition before eventually teaming up with Jon Bolen as "High Dosage". This team was formed after the Silverback served a 30-day suspension due to failing the promotion's wellness policy, allegedly because of over-the-counter supplements.
The new group started off with mixed results in OVW before starting a feud against the trio of Shawn Osbourne, Mike Kruel and Eddie Craven. Due to the unbalanced teams, the results varied and different stipulations were added to even or worsen the odds at times. Shortly after the storyline ended, Reeves was part of a mass-firing in the company in early 2007 and released from his developmental deal. His former tag team partner wold suffer the same fate in July. Unlike the Silverback, Bolen never returned to the WWE. Ryan on the other hand returned for one match in November of the same year in a losing effort against the reigning OVW tag team champions Shawn Spears and Colt Cabana alongside Pat Buck. It would take over a year for him to return to the company but in late 2008, a now rebranded Ryback was signed again and made his run for his first, and to date only title in winning the OVW heavyweight title. Inspired by the Terminator, he quickly made strides in his new gimmick and was eventually sent down to FCW after losing a "Loser leaves OVW"-match against Anthony Bravado, the man whom he defeated and was beaten by for the promotion's title.
In his new home, Reeves teamed with fellow big man Sheamus before the latter was called up to the majors. He subsequently underwent a gimmick change to the cowboy Skip Sheffield and played a role as a rookie as part of the first season of NXT, being coached by William Regal. He fell to the first voting but returned with the rest of the newcomers in the Raw-beatdown as part of the new stable the "Nexus". He was part of the team before breaking his ankle in August of 2010 which took him out of competition for over 15 months. Reeves returned in December of 2012, re-debuting his Ryback character with a new look and as a face as opposed to his Rookie-gimmick. The Las Vegas-native drew comparisons to former WCW champion Bill Goldberg, due to his physical resemblance and following run. Rebranded, he would go on a 38-match undefeated streak spreading over more than 9 months before falling to CM Punk at the PPV Hell in a Cell in a dirty finish. Reeves feuded with the reigning champion and his unofficial allies "The Shield" for the following months but was unsuccessful in all his title challenges as well as a 6-man tag match alongside "Team Hell No" against the aforementioned posse. He also went on to team up with John Cena, Chris Jericho and former tag partner Sheamus in losing efforts against the group at the 2013 "Elimination Chamber" event and the subsequent Raw.
Ryback turned his attention to Mark Henry shortly thereafter, their feud being based around the strength of both men. After various challenges and matches, the storyline ended after he fell to the "world's strongest man" at Wrestlemania 29. He turned heel the following night beating down Cena after saving the same from Henry. With his turn, Ryback ended his on-and-off feud against "The Shield" to pursue the WWE title. His first shot ended in a No Contest after neither man was able to answer the bell in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules. He went on to challenge the champ again at the following Pay-Per-View Payback but again was unable to secure the belt. After a short stint against former partner Chris Jericho, Reeves tweaked his gimmick once again, this time only in behavior as Ryback turned more into a bully, avoiding serious competitors for physically disadvantaged opponents and sided with Paul Heyman's crew against former nemesis CM Punk.
-- compiled by Frederik Heinen
Feb. 15, 2013: Ryback: 'I always knew I was going to make it'