Happy Friday TJR faithful! Hope that everybody enjoyed Smackdown this past Tuesday and the 1st U.S. Presidential Debate on Monday evening… and Monday Night Raw as well, I suppose. Raw had their first brand exclusive PPV last Sunday, and I don’t know if this speaks ill of that show, but I do not feel compelled to talk about anything that took place on that show. In fact, this week I’ve felt compelled to talk about Zack Ryder.

Do you remember when Zack Ryder improbably won the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania this year? It seems like a lifetime ago. It was one of the weirdest finishes on that Wrestlemania card (which was a card full of wonky finishes), especially considering he dropped the belt to Miz the night after on Raw, and The Miz hasn’t looked back since. I remember thinking that unless the WWE had a plan to follow that Zack Ryder Wrestlemania victory, then the decision to have him win that Ladder match and the title was incredibly foolish. We’re now 3 months away from 2017, and I can confidently say that they had no plan, and as of right now, the decision was for all intents and purposes, fruitless. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

As long as Zack Ryder is being used in a tag team with Mojo Rawley, doing nothing most weeks on Smackdown, then it certainly was a fruitless endeavour putting the Intercontinental Championship on him at Wrestlemania. With that said the framework exists to not only make that moment mean something more to the overall narrative of Zack Ryder, but create one of the most interesting angles on WWE TV this year if executed correctly. I’m going to write about it here today, and if anybody in the WWE wants to take it and run with it, feel free. So enough preamble, let’s do this!

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So I had this idea when I saw Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley entering an arena together on Smackdown a few weeks back. Ryder was wearing a suit, while Mojo had on a bright t-shirt and zubaz pants. I remember thinking to myself, “There’s something here. There’s the bones of a great story.” I went online to look up Zack’s age at that moment, and discover that he turned 31 in 2016. He’s 31 years old, and acts like he’s 21, hanging around with a overly hyper man-child that dresses like he’s a teenager. Thus was born the idea for a storyline I’m tentatively calling “Grow Up Zack”.

The first domino that needs to fall here, is getting Emma on Smackdown. There have been rumors about her being added to the Raw roster, which I can summarily say would be a huge mistake. She is better utilized in the Smackdown Women’s Division, and as the catalyst for Zack Ryder’s evolution. As Ryder’s real life girlfriend (at least as far as I’m aware of) she injects the little bit of reality that this story needs to get off the ground.

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I’d have her arrive on Smackdown and greet Ryder, happily announcing that she’s back on the road and has signed w/ Smackdown Live. She will go on about how now they’ll get to spend more time together, and that she’s missed being on the road with her boo. That’s when Mojo will interject, telling Zack that he has a huge night planned since they don’t have a match tonight. They’re going to an amusement park, then a bar, then a club, then another bar, and that they’re going to be up all night long. Mojo then notices that Emma is there, and introduces himself, saying he’s heard so much about her. Emma will tell Zack that she would rather go get some dinner after the show and then maybe Netflix and Chill (a reference that will fly right over the children in the audience’s heads). Zack will plead with her to come out with he and Mojo, and she’ll relent and agree. Through out that show, just pepper the viewing audience with photos from this epic night out, where Emma looks progressively more miserable.

For weeks you can build this up. Emma wanting to be alone with Zack, but Mojo constantly playing he third wheel. Make it clear when they are in the backstage area, when they do interviews for dot com, when they come out as a trio for matches, that Emma hates Mojo. It will eventually build to a big number one contender’s match for the Hype Bros (with Emma in their corner). Ryder will pick up the win with an assist from Emma, who will enter the ring to celebrate with him. Before she can hug her man, she is lifted off the ground by Mojo who embraces her for a big hug. When he puts her down she is furious and slaps him, only to turn an see Ryder down on one knee, holding a ring, and looking shocked and chagrined. He stands up and walks out, with Emma following trying to explain herself.

Emma catches up to Zack backstage after the break and he asks her what that was about? She apologizes and says that she has boundary issues and just reacted when Mojo locked her in a bear hug spinning her around. She says that she loves Zack and that if that means she has to accept Mojo, she’ll do it. She wants to marry Zack more than anything in the world. Zack ponders everything for a moment, before dropping to a knee and going through with his proposal. She says yes, and they kiss. That’s when Mojo shows up and turns it into a group hug. Emma struggles to hide her disdain for Mojo in this moment of course.

At some point in the coming weeks, Emma has time alone with Zack backstage, as Mojo is off making plans for his bachelor party. Emma will tell Zack during this moment that she is thinking about their future, when they’re married. She thinks that Zack hasn’t reached his full potential. She thought he had finally put it all together at Wrestlemania, when he won the Intercontinental Championship, but that things didn’t go the way they’d planned since then. He lost the title, she got injured, and he regressed to hanging out with an adult toddler. She loves him and she like Mojo, but she feels like Mojo is holding Zack back. He’s like that friend in college you have to move on from when it’s time to grow up. “When we’re married, I don’t want to spend all our time with Mojo”.

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Zack is taken aback, but seems to really register what his wife to be has told him. Over the next couple of weeks he changes his demeanor. He starts acting more maturely, while also noticing the immaturity of Mojo Rawley. Everything will come to a head during their Tag Team Championship match. They will be on the cusp of victory, with another assist from Emma, when Mojo, not wanting to cheat, rebuffs her assistance, and end up costing The Hype Bros the victory and the belts. Emma is furious and even Zack looks disappointed that his best pal bungled their opportunity to capture the Tag Team Titles.

The very next week is the wedding on Smackdown Live. They show Emma getting ready to walk down the aisle and they show Zack Ryder in his tux getting prepared for the big day. Zack will have a pep talk with his best man Mojo, who is still feeling responsible for their loss in the Championship match. Zack tells him to relax, and just make sure he has the rings. “Don’t lose those too”

At the ceremony, when it comes time to exchange the rings, Mojo reaches into his pockets and can’t find the rings. He starts panicking. He checks all his pockets and can’t locate the damn rings. Zack is looking at him, embarrassed and Mojo apologizes, stating that the rings must be in the back and he’ll run and get them. Zack will stop him, stating that “I realize now, that I can’t do this. I can’t grow up” he hugs Mojo. “With you weighing me down”.

That’s when Emma low blows Mojo, and Zack Ryder beats him down. Emma and her Maid of Honour (maybe it’s Alexa Bliss) join in on the beat down on Mojo, kicking him while he’s down. The priest will attempt to leave, before he is stopped by Ryder. Ryder pulls the Wedding Rings out of his pocket, and tells the Priest to finish the ceremony. Zack and Emma exchange their rings and are pronounced Husband and Wife by a perturbed priest, over the prone and beaten body of Zack’s former best friend Mojo Rawley.

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From there, the story writes itself. Zack Ryder is a heel and his “wife” Emma, is his Lady MacBeth. She points him in the directions that she thinks are most beneficial for his career and he does as he’s instructed. Emma breaks up The Hype Bros friendship, and makes Zack Ryder grow up. Perhaps to make them even more despicable, you could have Ryder and Emma befriend Miz and Maryse, becoming the “It Couples” of Smackdown Live. It certainly would bring everything full circle, as Miz stealing the Intercontinental Championship the night after Wrestlemania facilitated this change in attitude months later, and now Ryder and Miz are allies, along with both their wives.

Mojo would obviously eventually feud with Ryder, but I’d wait on that. I’d go through a brief period of time where the talking point is that Mojo lost his mojo. He’ have to build his confidence back up after such a deep betrayal. Build sympathy for him, while simultaneously making Ryder and Emma seem like bigger assholes for doing Mojo so dirty. Eventually he’ll rise back up and challenge Ryder for his revenge.

The key to any story is evolution. We watch shows and movies to see characters confronted with hardships and/or choices. We want to see how these trials change them, for either better or worse. Storytelling done right changes the characters by the end, and what is clear is Ryder hasn’t been part of any story. He’s been a stagnant character for years, and without question needs to change. What I’ve outlined is months of storytelling for this listless character as well as adding new dimensions to other characters that help them grow too. Zack Ryder desperately needs to grow up in the worst way possible, and this facilitates that fully.

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There you have it, but as always I want to know what you think! Could you get interested in the dissolution of The Hype Bros? Would Emma make a good Lady Macbeth? Would you feel sympathy for Mojo Rawley? Would this be an improvement for the Zack Ryder character?

Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying only a few more weeks until the return of the NBA! Have a great weekend everybody!