Ryback was a recent 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 experience in developmental and said he wishes he had the desire to learn as much then as he does now, adding that the WWE’s developmental system has progressed at a great rate.
“We had trained during the week, we would have a promo day once a week. Paul Hayman was down there a lot during my time. We’d do weekend shows, two or three within the Kentucky area. You just get hands-on experience and you’re around some great wrestling minds. You get critiqued to no end down there. I look back and I sometimes wish that I had done things a little differently. It was only when I broke my ankle after I was called up that I really got addicted to learning. But they give you a good opportunity to succeed down there. It’s just all how much you apply yourself and learn the craft. They give you all the tools. The system has just progressed at a rapid rate. In ten years, trainees are going to have more tools than even the people in NXT right now.”
Ryback also spoke about getting fired while in OVW, saying it was unexpected and it had a negative impact on him mentally and saw him in a bad place. He went on to detail how he ended up living with a woman and helping raise her child, but stayed in the Louisville area where OVW is based because he knew he had to make it back and would not have done that if he moved back home.
“Like I said before, things have always come easy for me. When I got released from OVW, I got sidetracked. Everybody at OVW, no one expected that. They released three guys that day, and I was the shocker. I had a very negative mindset after that. I ended up living with a girl who had a two-year-old child in Louisville, and I got sidetracked raising a child that wasn’t mine. I was very in love with this woman, great woman, and I was working at this restaurant Smokey Bones. I was afraid to go home because I knew if I came back to Vegas, I’d get a job at one of the casinos making good money. I know I needed to get back to OVW, but if I left, I knew I would find my comfort zone. I stayed out of that, I struggled and worked 50-60 hours at that restaurant. I needed to find that motivation again. I eventually talked with OVW and got hired back, but I was in a bad place. I had a real bad drinking problem with the girl, she would drink every night and I would drink with her. Did that for about a year and then just stopped.”
Ryback explained how his character came to him one night while working his way up the wrestling ladder. He says the name made sense and found inspiration in Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it also served a greater purpose as the new moniker signaled a new change in attitude for him:
“I read the book (The Secret), then Terminator 2 came on one night. I had a bottle of Bernadette’s vodka and some Grizzly chewing tobacco at the time. The idea of Ryback was born right there. My first name is Ryan and my first wrestling nickname was Silverback, so it just made sense. Arnold was there on the TV and he’s always been an inspiration for me. I just saw him and said that I set goals and I destroy them. That was my last night being a loser in my mind. I went out and I bought a vision board that day, one that I still have, and I wrote out all my goals for the first time. Everything on that board came true very quickly, with the top goal of being rehired by WWE.”
Ryback (originally as Skip Sheffield) was part of one of WWE’s most memorable groups, if not the best debut by a faction in recent memory in The Nexus. Ryback called it a special night for everyone involved and said there’s definitely money to be made somewhere if the entire group could ever have a one-night reunion.
“That was a magical night, very special for all of us who were involved. It was a very real night. Vince and Michael Hayes and John Laurinaitis all brought us into a room. We didn’t know what was going to happen, we all thought we were being sent back to developmental. That’s the worst thing when you’ve spent as much time as we all had down there, you want to get out as soon as possible. I had already been fired once, so I knew what could happen and I certainly didn’t want to go back. We got up to the show, things didn’t work out. We went to competing with each other on NXT to becoming one in a single night.
I just spoke with Michael Tarver and PJ Black, they were in Vegas recently, and we were all saying how we wish we could all get together as Nexus for just one night. There’s a lot of money in that.”