Report from the Fort: Innovation Award

We made a conscious decision at the end of 2010 to leave our awards until the beginning of the following year, the logic being that you never know what will happen in December that might sway your voting. It’s a choice that I’m pretty happy we stuck with, even if it does sometimes lead to a slightly awkward moment when the person you decide to give an award for innovation to is suddenly sacrificed at the altar of Cena & Kane for no reason…

Yep, this award goes to Zack Ryder for his sterling work throughout 2011. During 2010 he managed the dual distinctions of both having the second-shortest WWE Championship match in history and becoming the first NXT mentor to lose to a rookie (Percy bloody Watson of all people!) in a singles match. After that he pretty much languished on Superstars, teaming with Primo in a team memorable only for Scott Stanford’s description of them as DZP (down with Zack and Primo.) In my first ever Wrestlegasm post I bemoaned the fact that I just didn’t “get” Zack Ryder, and during 2010 he did nothing to convince me otherwise. Then, in February 2011 something amazing happened…

From nowhere, Ryder suddenly had a personality, and it was a pretty likeable one at that. As the series continued he introduced more regular guest stars, increasing the profile of Dolph Ziggler and Scott Stanford as well as introducing his father (the true star of the show) and real life friends to a huge audience. As the show started to gain popularity, Ryder began to appear on TV more and more, turning face partly in response to the “We want Ryder!” chants at Capitol Punishment and partly because… well, it just worked better that way. Before long he had been appointed as the assistant to Teddy Long, and ended the year by winning the United States title from Ziggler in December. Quite a turn around within only 12 months, and one that was primarily achieved off his own back.

While many wrestlers in his position would have sat around complaining that they’re not being used, or that “creative has nothing for me”, Ryder took social media by storm – creating his own character, forcing the WWE to take note of his almost half million followers and being the only wrestler listed as one of Sports Illustrated’s 100 most influential social media users in sports.

Oh, and on one episode he wore a Scott Stanford t-shirt that I designed as well…

Honourable Mention: goes to the Wrestling Retribution Project (formerly Wrestling Revolution) started by Jeff Katz. A former VP of Production at 20th Century Fox who became frustrated with current televised wrestling, Katz decided to start his own company. Rather than inherit a company from his father or get his father’s multi-million dollar energy business to constantly write blank cheques supporting his terrible cash-hemorrhaging promotion as a tax write-off, Katz used Kickstarter to obtain pledges from ordinary fans to start his company. After reaching his $100,000 target, Katz went on to sign the likes of Chris Hero, Luke Gallows, MVP, Kenny Omega, Chris Masters, Sami Callihan & Colt Cabana – repackaged them with new names and gimmicks and filmed the first bunch of episodes in which…

“[each season] will tell a complete set of stories, introducing characters that will evolve and grow with each passing season. Take the season long build of shows like THE WIRE or DEXTER and apply it to the basic wrestling model and you have an idea of where we’re going.

Every character has a mission, a journey and a reason for stepping into the ring. Some will rise, some will fall — and you will be there to see it all. With the benefit of a defined start and finish the viewer is guaranteed a complete wrestling storytelling experience.

Each season will culminate in our season finale or supershow, where storylines conclude and start anew, new legends will be forged and lasting memories will be made. Fresh new characters, meaningful themes and wrestling-driven storylines with a beginning, middle and end.”

It’s a show that certainly has the talent to be worth watching, and with an interesting (and, yes, innovative) concept that could help it stand out

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4 thoughts on “Report from the Fort: Innovation Award

  1. Actual Jericho put over Heath Slater of all people during the first season of NXT…so yea. There’s that! Boom! I picked up a tiny error and missed the point of your post!

  2. Well, err… yeah! Well done Adam, you spotted my deliberate mistake. Ryder was the first mentor to lose to a rookie in singles competition during season two. Now to edit the article and delete your comment so I still look like I’ve any idea what I’m talking about… muahahahahaha!

  3. My views on Ryder pretty much mirror yours – went from not thinking much of him to being one of my favourites. He, Ziggler, Sheamus and Christian are my Fave Four.

    Hopefully he gets something out of this Cena-Kane shenanigans. Seems odd that they’d take out one of their top merchandisers like that otherwise.

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