We all remember the mighty Ryback don’t we?
Are you too young? Did you erase him from your memory? Well, he is the guy who in 2012 got the Goldberg push in WWE while looking like Rob Van Dam’s mutated second cousin!
For those who are unfamiliar, Ryback was a meathead who was booked to look ultra-impressive in WWE circa 2012. After falling to the wayside following the NXT invasion, Skip Sheffield would be repackaged as the unstoppable Ryback. He would make quick work out of all comers, from a variety of skinny jobbers, to former US champs like Dolph Ziggler and The Miz (no one ever beats these guys ever) in sub-3-minute matches.
Everyone was slowly getting fed to Ryback.
In each match, he sold no moves, used nothing put power moves to stop his opponents and won easily. Simply put, they highlighted his positives and hid his negatives. And boy did he have negatives. Ryback was sloppy, as green as fresh broccoli and extremely clumsy. Think of him as a slowed-down, balding version of the Ultimate Warrior. But you wouldn’t know how bad he was as his matches were over you had a chance to spot any of his flaws.
Nevertheless, Ryback chewed through his opponents and was slowly making his way up the card when out of nowhere Vince McMahon and his creative misfits hit the juice on the rocket they strapped to his bulging acne back and took him on the shortcut to the main event.
But what happened? He went over five minutes with CM Punk, got badly exposed and lost everything he built up in one match. Soon after that, his aura had disappeared and, as Vince does, he soured/lost interest. We went to WWE mid-card hell and slowly went away. The end.
I reference poor old Ryback now as it seems a new star with potential akin to Ryback is at similar crossroads to the former Skip Sheffield.
On March 3 last year, Jade Cargill made her professional wrestling debut in a high-profile match. She was teaming with the wrestling-loving celebrity that is Shaq as she stood opposite Red Velvet and Mr. AEW himself, Cody Rhodes.
It was her first match and the pressure was on. It wasn’t in front of a crowd of 10 or so hard-core fans at a local gym, this was a televised match that would be watched by approximately a million live fans in the US and even more across the world via Fite TV. It was no easy task for any debuting talent.
No one expected this match to be anything other than a potential train wreck, as the only experienced hand in these four individuals was Mr. Rhodes. Red Velvet was still a relative rookie at this time in terms of national exposure, while Shaq was in the same boat as Cargill in terms of wrestling prowess.
But these four somehow pulled it off and not only did the match not suck, but it was also enjoyable. It was no 5-star classic, but by all accounts, Jade knocked it out of the park in her first-ever match. I feel a lot of people have slept on the fact that she waltzed into her very first match, with a ton of pressure and absolutely delivered as much as a rookie can on that stage. She oozed confidence, style and purpose as she went headfirst into professional wrestling. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
Fast forward to January 5 2022, Jade is undefeated has the opportunity to make history on the TBS debut of AEW Dynamite. She has the chance to become the companies inaugural TBS Champion at the culmination of their entertaining title tournament.
But is Jade Cargill ready to be a champion so early in her career?
She certainly has the look and charisma of a star. She looks physically impressive and stands out from the rest of the roster in her dazzling metallic ring gear and striking silver hair. She can speak, and looks believable, with the addition of Mark Sterling has helped her connect with the audience. From a character perspective, she is firmly on the right track, as she carries herself with an air of arrogance. But how has she improved in between the ropes since her debut?
It has been roughly 10 months since her impressive first outing and Jade has wrestled 20 singles matches in that time, mostly squashing feisty young upstarts in quick fashion. On average, her singles matches last just under three minutes and most of them are in around the minute mark, with her longest match only coming last week against Thunder Rosa in her 11-minute semi-final match.
In the short matches, her positive attributes are on show as she demonstrates her power and charismatic abilities for the most part. The short match times also hide her inexperience, as they should.
Like Ryback before her, the squash push can serve as a great vehicle to make Jade look like an impressive, unstoppable force. And to be fair, they do that. The issue comes, same as it did for Ryback, when the match goes beyond a minute and a half and she has to do more than press slam her opponent.
Right now, based on recent evidence, Jade does not appear ready to go beyond five minutes in the ring. As her match with Thunder Rosa showed, even with an extremely competent opponent, she is still extremely green. Her exchanges look sloppy, her selling doesn’t look genuine and she appears quite nervous. Her confidence, which is proudly displayed when she poses prior to the bell ringing, is all but vanishes when she tries to execute a couple of sequences or when she is required to sell offense.
And that’s an issue.
Right now, she is at the same crossroads that Ryback arrived at when he fought Punk at Hell in a Cell. Prior to his big match in 2012 for the WWE Heavyweight title, old Ryback was squashing everyone in his path in three minutes or less. Then he faced Punk in the main event and was exposed to the world. The aura was lost and Ryback never recovered.
You could argue that he should have squashed Punk and squashed everyone in his way for some time after, but sooner or later the mask was going to slip. Jade appears to be in a similar situation. She is in danger of losing the aura and mystic she has built up over the past year just like Ryback. While she is in there with an experienced hand like Ruby Soho, who I’m sure will do her utmost to make Jade look strong, she may look further out of her depth if the match goes.
Should the match go a similar length to that of the Thunder Rosa match, Cargill needs to step up her game or the match needs to be laid out in a more favorable way to hide her flaws. Cargill has buckets of potential, but she is in serious danger of being thrown into the deep end before she can fully swim.
AEW is in a difficult position with how to proceed. Do they continue to have an inexperienced Jade go beyond five minutes with an established talent? Do they have Jade revert to type and steamroll through Soho in three minutes?
Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
I feel the best option, while an obvious unpopular take to Ruby Soho fans, is to have Jade pulverize her in minutes and be crowned champion.
Either way, AEW have booked themselves into a bit of a corner by pushing Cargill while she’s still very inexperienced. I am a fan of Jade’s and I’m not writing her off just yet, but I feel her shortcomings will be on display for all to see come Dynamite should she go long with Soho.
Will she come out of this situation with her reputation intact in a strong position or will she begin to go the way of Ryback? I’m hoping it is not the latter.