Sunday, November 23, 2014

Superstar Collection: Zack Ryder

In 2012, WWE Home Video released eight installments of a new budget line of videos titled, The Superstar Collection. These were not the standard $20-30 two to three disc sets WWE usually puts out, but instead 90 minute, single disc releases found at most retailers between $5-10. They were just a no-frills collection of matches for superstars ranging from headliners like John Cena and Sheamus to middle of the card guys like Kofi Kingston and Zack Ryder. I was not interested in this line of DVDs, but I never thought WWE would release a Zack Ryder DVD ever, so today's blog is for the only entry in the Superstar Collection I own featuring Zack Ryder.

Zack Ryder has been a lower card talent for a majority of his WWE run since he debuted in the tag team, The Major Brothers back in 2007. The scrappy underdog, Major Brothers tag team never worked, and they shortly thereafter were rebranded as the Edge Heads and became tag team champs while in a stable fronted by Mr. Edge himself, and even had a run in during the main event of Wrestlemania XXIV. After that stable eventually went away, Ryder broke off on his own in ECW in 2009 with the new "Long Island Iced Z" persona he developed, which was essentially being a more flamboyant "Bro" character of a typical Jersey Shore cast member.

The character kind of worked for a little while in ECW and Ryder seemed to be picking up legit crowd heat as one of the up and coming villains in ECW. The first match on this DVD is from this period in Zack's career where he faced ECW champ, Christian in a pretty entertaining back and forth bout. Things were looking up, but then WWE closed up ECW in February 2010 and Ryder went on to the RAW roster where he quickly got lost in the shuffle and was barely used on television and mostly only being shown in losing efforts on bottom tier telecasts throughout 2010.

At the beginning of 2011 however, something inspired Ryder to get creative and started to do things on social media that none of the other stars of the company were doing as he really embraced Twitter and YouTube. He created his own weekly YouTube show, Z True Long Island Story on his own dime with a nice gritty, homemade feel to it since most of it was shot with what else, but his smart phone. The first episode featured Zack Ryder loving his first ever basic line t-shirt WWE put out of him, and he encouraged fans to take photos of themselves wearing the shirt and to tweet him and he would mail them out an autograph. I remember being impressed at how brazen Ryder was to try and do this outside official WWE channels that I took him up on the offer and went and got one of those shirts, and sure enough an autographed Topps card came in the mail shortly thereafter.

For a few months, Ryder got away with his show and he quickly garnered a following online as this officially contracted WWE star who was barely used on television going out on his own outside the WWE lines to create a name for himself. This led to many "We Want Ryder" chants at arenas, and eventually WWE had no choice but to capitalize on Zack's newfound popularity by pushing him on television as an actual threat for a change. The remaining five matches on this DVD are from the last few months of 2011 when BroskiMania was running wild in the WWE Universe as he beat Dolph Ziggler with the help of special RAW guest star, Hugh Jackman. Even John Cena got in during the 'Ryder Revolution' as he was featured on some of the web episodes, and Ryder became Cena's number one broski on RAW. Unfortunately, this only led to terrible things as seen on this DVD where Cena and Ryder teamed up to lose to Miz and R-Truth, and later on with the then-evil GM of the season, John Lauranitis making Cena and Ryder face off for a WWE Title shot, and well you can guess how that went down for our favorite broski. At least 2011 ended well for Ryder, where he went on to have an entertaining feud with Dolph Ziggler that saw him win the US Title from him to close out the year on the final PPV, TLC, in what is probably the best match on this disc.

Zack's US Title victory is probably the best way to close out this DVD because WWE made sure to kill all the momentum Zack had just a few months into 2012. How you ask? They quickly got the US Title off of Zack just a few weeks into the new year, and then for several weeks straight they had Zack get slaughtered mercilessly by Kane to the point that there was no more faith in the guy. At least Zack was starting to have a nice on camera romance develop with then top diva, Eve Torres, until Eve was caught exploiting Zack's friendship with Cena as a way in with Mr. Fruity Pebbles. Even Z True Long Island Story went downhill as WWE took over production of after the 50th episode and the show noticeably lost its loveable gritty, homebrew charm as WWE pumped in production values that were more of a turn off instead. To top it off, WWE went overkill on pushing all types of new Zack Ryder merchandise down everyone's throat that it combined with the rest of this paragraph to have the fans quickly jump off the Zack Ryder bus while it was barely getting into second gear. By the summer of 2012, Zack was back to where he was a year earlier on occasional losing efforts on bottom tier WWE programming.

It is too bad none of the Z True Long Island Story episodes are included as extra features, as they are all easily consumable at three-to-five minutes in length. Instead this budget DVD release, well, stays on budget with only a quick little montage of the web series to open up the DVD, so I recommend checking out this link where you can watch the first 50 installments of Zack's web show in their entirety. It is kind of sad actually WWE could not track down Ryder to introduce the DVD and some of the matches, or even one of the C or D-list announcers at the very least like they have done before to help give a breather between the matches, but instead it is just match, match, match non-stop. Budget DVD shortcoming be damned,Superstar Collection: Zack Ryder is still a fun little jaunt and quick, cheap way to relive the Ryder Revolution of 2011.

Past Wrestling Blogs

Best of WCW Monday Nitro Volume 2
Bobby The Brain Heenan
For All Mankind
Goldberg: The Ultimate Collection
Legends of Mid South Wrestling
OMG Vol 2: Top 50 Incidents in WCW History
RoH Supercard of Honor V
RoH Supercard of Honor VI
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
Warrior Week on WWE Network
WWE Wrestlemania 3: Championship Edition
WWE Wrestlemania 28
WWE Wrestlemania 29

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