Ryback was this week’s guest on Prime Time with Sean Mooney and the former WWE star talked about his path to WWE. Ryback competed on the fourth season of Tough Enough before heading to WWE’s Deep South Wrestling developmental territory, and later OVW and Florida Championship Wrestling.
Ryback talked about his Tough Enough experience, saying he grew up as a dedicated pro wrestling fan, and the only thing that matters is your work ethic, not how you got into wrestling. He said he’s seen some cases where talent working their way up on the indies would frown upon other people getting an easier opportunity in the business, and says it’s a very poor way to judge people.
“Anybody that comes through the developmental system, you’re going to be busting your ass. You’re still making the road trips, you’re there morning to night, making all the towns.” Ryback said. “Even the guys on the independents are making the road trips, that still exists. Just sometimes they’re getting paid to train, but I can tell you, they’re not making that much money to train. They’d be better off working a regular job most of the time.
As far as my Tough Enough audition, I think it’s out there on the show’s DVD. It’s a 60-second promo from my Dad’s kitchen speaking from the heart. I had a full head of hair and I was all jacked up, and I think my physique and how I looked at the time, I’m sure that didn’t hurt at all. Got me a call to go to Venice Beach for a tryout, and it was nothing from work from that point on.”
Ryback went on to praise one of his coaches, Bill DeMott, for inspiring him to find the intensity and drive he’s found as ‘Ryback.’ He said DeMott was tough and pushed him mentally where he needed to go, but also was there to congratulate him once he made the main roster in WWE.
“Straight up, I love Bill. He’s the toughest trainer I ever had. The intensity and drive I have as Ryback, Bill DeMott really helped me find that. He was extremely hard on me, kicked my ass down there.” Ryback said. “They all expected so much of me. It didn’t come right away, and Bill wasn’t the best at teaching me moves or psychology, but he beat me up mentally in a way that I needed. Nothing will ever be as hard as what I went through there. It was a blessing that I got that training with him. I didn’t agree with everything he did, but it got me through. When I ditched Skip Sheffield and came back as Ryback on the main roster, he was working with me on a lot of my dark matches. I just remember, he hugged me and said I was going to be a big star. It was an emotional moment.”
The ‘Ryback’ character had been created before he made it big on WWE TV, but Ryback ended up going through a period where he was known as ‘Skip Sheffield’ in the developmental territories and NXT. Ryback says Dusty Rhodes was the one that had to break the news that he had to come up with the Skip character, something he was not initially happy about. He says Skip was what got him to the main roster in the first place, but he was happy to ditch the character and go back to being ‘The Big Guy’. Despite his initial reservations, Ryback says the Skip character did allow him to open up a bit more and have more fun in wrestling.
“Skip Sheffield is very true to my real personality. I’m very personable and likable, but get me angry and I’m Hulk-like. That’s something I’m trying to control as I’m getting older and evolving. Let’s just say, and I’ll try to be as humble as possible, I’m always good at whatever I try to do. Wrestling was a real challenge, and I got really negative early on.” Ryback said. “I was fearful, and I had to get broken down to succeed. I still had that fear when I got rehired, even though I had discovered this book The Secret about positive thinking. I still had that fear, and Skip Sheffield allowed me to just do whatever I wanted to do. The floodgates had opened, and I could fall down or do a dropkick and it fit the character. It opened me up to just having fun. I was a silly character, so Skip Sheffield could do no wrong.”
Ryback talked about his ankle injury in 2011 being a big setback, but he used the time off to study tape and figure out the best way to make his comeback. He said he had a new drive to succeed, and said he needed to take chances, citing his dominant babyface run when his ‘Ryback’ character officially debuted on WWE TV by squashing enhancement talent in handicapped matches.
“When I had my ankle injury, I was in a wheelchair and I couldn’t walk. I bought every WWE DVD I could find. Hundreds of them, and I started watching matches morning to night whenever I had free time. It was the first time I watched it like football film, stopping at a spot and asking myself what I would do in that situation. What three moves can I do in that position. When I came back, I had a different drive in me, it made me obsessed to succeed. It put a chip in my shoulder that truly helped me succeed.
I thought, when I was wrestling the locals, I had to make things look like a trainwreck. If I just had a regular match with these small guys, I’d look like a bully. I have to make this cool somehow. I did it by double stacking guys, and that was Hunter and their idea. It’s really what got me over, picking up multiple guys at a time. It was a great lesson, in order to succeed in life, you have to take chances. For me, it was double stacking guys. If I failed at that, I would have been done.”
Check out the full interview below: