“It was a great experience,” Ryback said. “I was just coming in from being a fan. I had a very athletic background and in college at the time. I had to drop out of college because that is what I wanted to do anyways. It ended up being a good call, as far as that goes. I don’t regret anything that has happened to me since I’ve been wrestling. I didn’t win it, and I’m glad I didn’t win it.
“The guy who won it was an I don’t know what you want to call him, but he’s not here anymore. I got to learn as I went along, and that prepared me for everything that I’m going through now and succeeding. It was a great experience. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything.”
Ryback showed just enough to land in Deep South Wrestling, one of WWE’s developmental territories at the time. The heavy-hitter ended up going through all three of the company’s feeder groups including Ohio Valley Wrestling and later Florida Championship Wrestling. He says he wouldn’t be who he is had he not gone through each experience.
“I was in Deep South Wrestling with Bill DeMott, and that was very aggressive and very boot camp style,” Ryback said. “That made me mentally tougher than anything. Maybe I didn’t get the ring psychology, but I got certain aspects down there that I wouldn’t change for anything. That is a big part of who I am. Then I went down to OVW with Al Snow. That was more psychology based. That was a little bit more on the mental side and more behind the scenes. That’s what I got from him more than anything, not much in-ring stuff. That’s probably on me, too, in that regard.
“I was gone for about a year-and-a-half before I got signed by FCW. Dr. Tom Prichard was by far my best trainer, as far as understanding talent. He polished me and got me ready. Put them all together, and this is what you get. A lot of guys are rushed up way too early. You need to be put through some things before you are put up there. You have to know how to react and handle the pressure.”
The dedicated performer had been given the call to take the next step in 2010. He had been given the chance to showcase his abilities on the first NXT, another WWE reality show competition. However, it was not as Ryback, but Skip Sheffield. As one of the “rookies,” he was paired with William Regal. His character was a corn-fed farm boy who didn’t necessarily connect with the WWE Universe.
“That’s something you can blame Dusty Rhodes for,” Ryback said. “I was Ryback...It’s my name and what I believed in. Dusty Rhodes pushed to get that taken away and wanted me to do something different. Again, everything happens for a good reason. I don’t regret any of it, as it allowed me to do something a little different. I’m Ryback now, and that is pretty much all that matters to me. There is no looking back, as far as that is concerned.”
Ryback didn’t take home the NXT championship, but that didn’t matter. He was promoted to the main roster with other NXT contestants to from Nexus. The rogue group made an immediate impact by attacking superstars and others at ringside at the June 7, 2010 Raw in Miami.
Just as the Wade Barrett led faction was getting hot, Ryback suffered an ankle injury in a tag match with David Otunga against the Hart Dynasty in Hawaii. The rising star was sidelined indefinitely. It signaled the end of Skip Sheffield in WWE and later the beginning of Ryback.