Ryback: “Walking out of the WWE was the best decision I ever made”
Via Donald Wood Jr.:
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Ryback Interview Transcription
Ring Rust Radio: Since your departure from WWE, you have really grown the Ryback brand. Not only did you start a podcast and write a book, but you are also still wrestling on the independent scene and started your own nutrition line. Now that you’ve accomplished so much, what are your long-term goals in and out of the wrestling ring?
Ryback: So right now, my number one goal is growing my Feed Me More nutrition brand and my Conversation with the Big Guy podcast. Every week we are growing by the thousands on the podcast and every week we are getting into more and more stores and locations with Feed Me More nutrition. Obviously, my goal is to become the number one supplement brand in that industry and that’s going to take a lot of hustle and hard work. I created an all-natural product that I truly believe in. I use my own products and created them over the past 12 years. I firmly believe that a lot of my success is what I invested in my body and doing it the correct way. Now I’m taking that knowledge in the supplement industry—which is a $50 to $70 billion a year industry—which is corrupt and has a lot of negativity in it. I really want to bring a positive mind set into it. I want to be a positive example to kids so they can look up to a guy with a physique like mine and know you can achieve this without steroids. You can do it with proper supplementation, diet and positive mind set. I’ve been on both sides of the fence and have learned from my mistakes. My goal is to build the Feed Me More brand and make it bigger than it’s ever been. That’s not an easy task while walking away from WWE, but I didn’t like the way they were portraying my brand and limiting me from doing the things that I knew I could do outside of the ring. I didn’t agree with any of the creative aspects. I talked about that before on my podcast. I gave you my opinion on all of that and why that was all correct the way it worked out the way it did. To be told you can’t do magazine covers, or movies, to start your own supplement line, and to be restricted on what you can do outside was very discouraging for me. I don’t like being told I can’t do something when I know I can. It’s only enhancing not only my brand, but the company’s brand as well. That’s when I knew I had to walk away and build my brand on my own now. What you are seeing is me being very diverse and putting my hands in a lot of different jars. Now I have to really focus in on three or four things, and build them up as big as I can build them before I start branching out to other things again.
Ring Rust Radio: One thing that fans often observe as it relates to WWE is that the company at times cares more about getting over the guys that they want to be over rather than backing someone who gets over organically. For instance, you’ve talked about being a top merchandise seller only to be turned heel and forced to drop the “Feed Me More” catchphrase. Why do you think WWE is seemingly so dead set against wrestlers becoming organically popular?
Ryback: So, life isn’t fair. I’ve said Vince created that world and it’s his right to do what he wants to do at the end of the day. That made it very easy for me to leave and go ahead create my own world, start from the bottom and work my way back up again. I don’t agree with the way that he did things and I tried many times to communicate and express myself to him. When you are being told lies over and over again, eventually you just kind of check out. It’s a very discouraging and unsettling feeling. I remember being at this last WrestleMania and the contact stuff was already at a very negative point. He left gorilla position, he couldn’t even stand there and watch my match, then he walked by with this look of disgust on his face and I remember thinking, “This company f–king sucks. This job sucks, and this is the worst day of my life.” This was all on WrestleMania and I thought it really shouldn’t be this way. I think we sometimes have a vision as a kid how we think things are going to be. Telling the truth, from my own experience, I am telling you 100 percent of the truth of everything that went on there and that I encountered there. To be lied to time and time again, then to go out there killing yourself to give that brand everything you got and to be your best, and all you want is to be treated fairly and with respect, all the while you are a staple for that company that they have relied on, it isn’t a good feeling and it’s very motivating to me. Vince did motivate me in finding ways to work harder and to succeed more and to be the best version of myself. I don’t hate him or Triple H, but it gave me that extra kick in the ass to want to succeed even more now. To show him I don’t need him to be successful and I want to set a precedent for these other guys where WWE tries to own and control your brand and you can’t make a living outside of them. No, that’s not right. I created my brand, I’m responsible for my brand and I can take my brand and do whatever I want to do with it. I don’t need you to be successful in life. That is exactly what I am doing. I’m going to blaze my own trail and show these other guys that you don’t need them even though that’s what they want you to think.
Ring Rust Radio: It was easy to see that turning you heel when you did made little sense at the time. However, a lot of wrestlers say that being a heel is easier and more fun than playing the babyface. Do you agree and is there anything specific that you would’ve re-done if given the opportunity with either role as a heel or face?
Ryback: I always took my pride in doing my job and what was asked of me. I’ve spoke about that before so we don’t need to break that all down again. Being a heel is a lot of fun and I don’t mind being a heel at all. Being a heel, though, absolutely sucks when you’re not allowed to get heat or have a lot of TV time to tell the story with a microphone. In that regard, being a heel sucks. When used correctly and allowed to get heat, wins and losses don’t even matter, but when I say used correctly to get heat or get your heat back after moments of defeat, it can be a lot of fun. It’s different than being a good guy as there are two completely different mind sets. I always enjoyed playing the heel role outside of that last go around. I was very adamant about not wanting to turn heel with Kalisto. I was lied to and told over and over that I was going to be a tweener. They had me going out there and mounting guys and it started getting a really good reaction then they told me to stop doing that. They had me stop doing the “feed me more” chant again and it was like the first time all over again. I had enough and it was just time to go.
Ring Rust Radio: As one of the top free agents in the wrestling industry right now, have you received offers from other wrestling promotions and how have you enjoyed being sought out by top companies?
Ryback: Its one of those things where I don’t care about being on TV. I have my brand, I have my name and I haven’t been off TV that long. I am already very profitable in my business where I don’t need to go on TV just to be on TV. I don’t feel the need to be seen. I get to go out every week and work for myself, make a great living, wrestle, meet the fans and get to spend time with the fans. I get to be home every day, minus the shows I do once or twice a week. It’s such a great feeling after being on the road five days a week. I don’t want to go live in another country for three or four months at a time. I set myself up to be able to have success from home and to be able to just go do wrestling because I love wrestling and now I don’t have to worry about anything. When you sign a contract, it doesn’t matter what company it’s for—unless you get it written in the contract—you are giving up freedom of your character and who you are. In this day and age, so many people believe the movie is real that I want to have some sort of control of the image I am portraying at different times. Owning the brand and trying to send out a positive message, it’s detrimental when you have to go out there and do certain things like be a bully. People perceive that as real and it impacts your brand. We are kind of moving forward in this day and age where guys have to start looking out for themselves more because not enough of them do and not enough of them stand up for themselves anymore. I am enjoying this and I don’t care to sign with anybody. The ultimate freedom to me is being able to work for yourself. It should be every human being’s goal to not have to answer to another human being on what you have to do for a job. I don’t have to do that right now so why would I ever want to again? I don’t care about being on TV and once you take that out of the equation it’s a very easy decision.
Ring Rust Radio: Something that a lot of former WWE wrestlers talk about after they leave the company is the idea that it can be creatively stifling, especially when it comes to promos. What are your feelings regarding the promo process in WWE, the scripted nature and how all of that might have impacted the message you wanted to convey and the character you wanted to portray?
Ryback: Vince McMahon doesn’t care if he makes $300 million a year or $100 million a year; he is making money off the people. So, he really doesn’t care. He would rather do what he wants to do and at the end of the day that’s the game for him. So, like I said, he created that world, nobody in his mind has the right to tell him how to run his business. I respected that enough to where I said fine, I am leaving. That sums that up in so few of words. I understand it from the WWE standpoint that they are a PG company and they have sponsors that they make a lot of money from. We all love the days where guys could go out there and organically say what they wanted to say and instead just be given bullet points. Throughout the course of wrestling, it has evolved into having all these writers and then having Vince, Hunter and Stephanie approve everything. Then you have to recite your lines line by line essentially or pretty close to it without straying from the topic. I can tell you from experience the process absolutely sucks from a wrestling standpoint and from a creative standpoint. It’s just really difficult and it comes across when you are watching at home and you can tell when someone is just reading off a piece paper. I understand it from a corporate stand point of why they are doing, but I think they do it too much. I think there is a way to scale back on it and still keep your sponsors happy and give your guys the creative freedom to incorporate some of their character and who they are into the lines. That’s how you find out what really gets over is letting guys be themselves and I always said my best promos were the ones I got to do on my own. Vince would essentially get mad over that more than anything. In his words, I didn’t make sense or that I was out of touch and in my mind that always just baffled me because it was the complete opposite. He owns the company, he is allowed to think what he wants and say what he wants to say. I respected him enough to go ahead and leave and just not play his game anymore.
Ring Rust Radio: What has been the most rewarding experience for you so far during your career as a professional athlete?
Ryback: Walking away from WWE. By far it was the greatest day of my career. The fact I had the courage and by no means it wasn’t an easy decision because it was going on in my head for over two years. It was such a proud moment for me to know that walking away and walking away from the amount of money I left to be free. I equate it to the Shawshank Redemption, that I was finally released. I did it on my own terms and conditions. To be able now to have the relationship with different fans, to communicate with them, to be able to still wrestle, have everything and to do it my way, it feels really good. Mark my words; I am going to be ultra-successful, do things that nobody thought I could do because I know what my game plan is and I know what I am doing. There is no longer anybody telling me no and there isn’t another human being that works as hard as me from morning to night. At the end of the day, in the next ten years, I cannot wait to see where Ryback is. Walking out of the WWE was the best decision I ever made.