One of the eight finalists on Tough Enough 4, he later signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and wrestled in its developmental territories Deep South Wrestling (DSW), Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), and Florida Championship Wrestling FCW). He also participated in the first season of NXT in early 2010 under the ring name Skip Sheffield. Reeves has headlined several pay-per-view events – some of which were for the WWE Championship – and has held WWE's Intercontinental Championship once.
Reeves was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. He started watching wrestling at the age of eight; he was allowed to ring the bell at a live World Wrestling Federation event, and was the guest bell ringer at the age of 12. Wanting to become a professional wrestler, Reeves began lifting weights at 12 years old. He was nicknamed "Silverback" as a teenager, after a childhood friend joked that he resembled a gorilla, and later adopted it as a part of his ring name.
Reeves excelled at baseball and football while attending Western High School and Palo Verde High School. He also played college baseball during his freshman year at the Community College of Southern Nevada, but broke his leg and ended up missing two seasons. He attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and entered in its fitness management program. He spent the next two years concentrating on training to enter professional wrestling while working part-time at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.
Professional wrestling career
World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
Tough Enough (2004–2005)
Reeves sent a brief one-minute videotape of himself to become a contestant on $1,000,000 Tough Enough and was invited to Venice Beach with 49 others. During the first week of training, Reeves suffered from bronchitis and a rib injury. He eventually became one of the eight finalists to appear on SmackDown! and the last to be voted off. Even though he did not win the competition, Reeves impressed WWE officials enough for them to sign him to a developmental contract. He spent time healing from his injuries in Las Vegas before heading to Atlanta, Georgia in March 2005.
Ohio Valley Wrestling (2006–2008)
After training in DSW for most of 2005 and early 2006, Reeves was transferred over to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in early March. He defeated Kasey James, Pat Buck, Da Beast and Nick Nemeth in dark matches over the next two months and, with Mikey Batts, defeated the teams of Billy Kryptonite and Russell Simpson, and Jack Bull and Vic Devine.
In July 2006, Reeves was suspended for 30 days due to failing a drug test as part of WWE's Wellness Program. According to Reeves, he had been taking several over the counter bodybuilding supplements, one of which inadvertently caused a false reading. The supplements he was using were later taken off the market due to this effect and, although his suspension remained in place, Reeves eventually returned to the roster after passing a second test. His case was later featured on the CNN documentary Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling.
After his previous 30-day suspension, Reeves returned while sporting bleached hair. In September 2006, Reeves began teaming with Jon Bolen, and together the tag team became known as High Dosage. Scoring early victories against teams such as Los Locos (Aaron Lamata and Low Rider) and Gothic Mayhem (Johnny Punch and Pat Buck), they began feuding with the then newly formed team of Eddie Craven, Mike Kruel and "The Bad Seed" Shawn Osborne.
The two did not fare well against the trio losing both tag team and single matches to them during the next few weeks. On October 18, he and Bolen also lost to them in a handicap match. Things soon changed, however, when High Dosage beat Eddie Craven and Mike Kruel a month later. As a result of their victory, they were allowed five minutes alone with Shawn Osbourne but he was able to escape with the help of Craven and Kruel. Although continuing to face their rivals throughout the year, High Dosage also won matches against Los Locos and Bad Company defeating them later in a Handicap Coal Miner's Glove on a Pole match on November 29. On December 9, High Dosage teamed with Seth Skyfire and lost to Craven, Kruel and Milena Roucka. Reeves also took part in a four-way Elimination Christmas Present match with Kruel four days later. The participants included Justin LaRoche and Charles Evans, T.J. Dalton and Steve Lewington, and Seth Skyfire and Paul Burchill who eventually won the match.
On January 6, 2007, High Dosage lost to Justin LaRouche and Charles Evans. They also lost to the Tag Team Champions Cody Runnels and Shawn Spears four days later. This was their last match together as Reeves was officially released from his contract less than two weeks later. Despite having been released from his developmental contract, Reeves returned to OVW on November 14 and teamed with Pat Buck in a losing effort to Colt Cabana and Shawn Spears for the Tag Team Championship.
After over a year's absence from OVW, Reeves returned to OVW under the ring name Ryback and under a new Terminator gimmick. In his first match since returning, he managed to win the OVW Heavyweight Championship on October 15, 2008 by defeating Anthony Bravado. After wrestling Bravado to a double countout on October 22 and thus retaining the title, he ultimately lost the title to Bravado on October 29. Soon after the title loss, Reeves was then re-signed to a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). To explain his departure, Ryback lost a Loser Leaves OVW match to Bravado on December 17.
Florida Championship Wrestling (2008–2010)
On December 16, 2008, Reeves, under his Ryback ring name and character, made his in-ring debut in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), losing a tag match with Jon Cutler against Kris Logan and Taylor Rotunda. Ryback soon formed a tag team with Sheamus O'Shaunessy and the duo unsuccessfully challenged for the Florida Tag Team Championship on a few occasions until O'Shaunessy was called up to the main roster. After the Ryback character was scrapped, Reeves made his FCW redebut on October 25 under the ring name Skip Sheffield, a cowboy gimmick, where he defeated Jimmy Uso.
The Nexus (2010−2011)
On February 16, 2010 during the final episode of ECW, Sheffield was announced as one of eight FCW wrestlers, called "rookies", to take part in the first season of WWE's new NXT show. Although Montel Vontavious Porter was originally to be his mentor, or "pro", he was later replaced by William Regal. Sheffield made his NXT in-ring debut on the March 2 episode, where he teamed with Regal to lose to Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel. On the April 27 NXT, Sheffield picked up his first victory with a win over Daniel Bryan. However, Sheffield was eliminated by the Pros on May 11, despite an earlier win over Darren Young, in the first NXT elimination poll. He was one of three eliminations that same night, behind Bryan and Michael Tarver, and said he would be back.
On the June 7 episode of Raw, Sheffield along with the other NXT season one rookies, interfered in the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk, attacking both competitors as well as the announcing team before dismantling the ring area and surrounding equipment. On the June 14 Raw, the rookies attacked General Manager Bret Hart, when he refused to give them contracts. The following week on Raw, Vince McMahon fired Hart and announced the hiring of an anonymous General Manager, who had signed all seven season one NXT rookies to contracts. The following week, the group was named The Nexus. On the July 12 Raw, The Nexus (without Darren Young) competed in their first match together, defeating John Cena in a six-on-one handicap match. The feud continued at SummerSlam, where Team WWE fought the Nexus in a seven-on-seven elimination tag team match. Sheffield eliminated both John Morrison and R-Truth from the match before becoming the third member of the Nexus to be eliminated. Ultimately, the Nexus lost the match. On August 18, during a live event in Honolulu, Hawaii, Reeves broke his ankle in a tag team match with David Otunga against The Hart Dynasty.
WWE Championship pursuits (2012–2013)
Reeves, now sporting a beard and a new attire, returned to television on the April 6, 2012, episode of SmackDown, under his Ryback ring name and as a face. Over the following weeks, he would squash jobbers, as well as more established wrestlers (but still in the "jobber" ranks) like Heath Slater and Derrick Bateman. At Extreme Rules, he made his pay-per-view debut as a singles competitor when he defeated two more jobbers (Aaron Relic and Jay Hatton) in under two minutes. At Over the Limit, Ryback defeated Camacho in another squash match. At No Way Out, Ryback once again defeated two more jobbers (Dan Delaney and Rob Grymes) in under two minutes. On July 3 during The Great American Bash episode of SmackDown, he defeated Curt Hawkins to continue his winning streak. After defeating Tyler Reks the following week on SmackDown, Ryback defeated both Hawkins and Reks in a handicap match at Money in the Bank and again during Ryback's Raw redebut on the August 6 episode. On the July 27 episode of SmackDown, Ryback began his first feud since returning to the main roster against Jinder Mahal, after Mahal lost via countout instead of continuing to wrestle. Ryback faced Mahal in a rematch on August 3 SmackDown, but won via disqualification after Mahal struck him with a microphone. On the August 24 episode of SmackDown, Ryback finally defeated Mahal via pinfall and did so again on the September 3 episode of Raw.
After defeating the Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a non-title match on the September 24 episode of Raw, Ryback confronted the WWE Champion CM Punk at the end of the show after Punk attacked Mick Foley. On the next two episodes of Raw, Ryback again confronted Punk after he threatened Jim Ross during an "Appreciation Night" segment honoring Ross, and after he brawled with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. McMahon then declared Punk must choose to defend the WWE Championship against Ryback or John Cena at Hell in a Cell, and if he refused, McMahon would choose for him. On the October 15 episode of Raw, Cena willingly backed out of challenging Punk in favor of supporting Ryback as Punk's opponent at Hell in a Cell. On October 28 at the pay-per-view, Ryback's thirty-eight match undefeated streak was broken by Punk due to a low blow and fast count by referee Brad Maddox. After the match, Ryback attacked Maddox and hit Punk with the Shell Shocked on top of the cell. The following night on Raw, Ryback was named as the final member of Mick Foley's team to face CM Punk's team at Survivor Series. The next week, Ryback and John Cena were booked in a triple threat match for Punk's WWE Championship at the pay-per-view instead. On the November 13 episode of Raw, Ryback gained revenge against Brad Maddox by squashing him in a match before throwing him into an ambulance, thus denying Maddox a chance at joining the WWE roster as a wrestler. On November 18 at Survivor Series, Ryback was unsuccessful in the championship match after he was attacked by Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns, who powerbombed him through the announce table, allowing Punk to pin Cena and retain the title. The following night on Raw, Ryback was again attacked by Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns, now collectively known as The Shield, before they again powerbombed him through the announce table after Ryback attempted to attack Punk while he was celebrating his year-long reign as WWE Champion. On the November 26 episode of Raw, Ryback demanded another opportunity at the WWE Championship, with Vickie Guerrero finally relenting and giving him the title match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. Later that night, Ryback attacked Punk with a ladder and chair before finally powerbombing him through a table. Punk suffered a legitimate knee injury during to the attack, and the title match was postponed. Ryback was instead paired with the WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No (Daniel Bryan and Kane) to compete against The Shield in a six-man Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, where The Shield was victorious. The following night on Raw during the 2012 Slammy Awards, Ryback won three Slammy Awards for Newcomer of the Year, Crowd Chant of the Year, and #Trending Now. On the January 7, 2013 episode of Raw, Ryback again failed to capture the WWE Championship from Punk in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, after The Shield interfered and powerbombed Ryback through a table on top of the ring steps.
On January 27 at the Royal Rumble, Ryback entered the Royal Rumble match as the thirtieth and final entrant and eliminated five superstars before being the last man eliminated by John Cena. Ryback would then resume his rivalry with The Shield on the February 4 Raw, when he teamed up with John Cena and Sheamus to attack the stable. This culminated in a six-man tag team match on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, where The Shield emerged victorious when Seth Rollins pinned Ryback for the win. The following night on Raw, Ryback and Sheamus teamed up with Chris Jericho to face The Shield in a rematch, but were again defeated. Ryback then began a feud with Mark Henry after several non-verbal confrontations led to them attacking Drew McIntyre with their finishing moves in an attempt to one-up each other. On the March 15 episode of SmackDown, Ryback defeated Henry via disqualification following interference from The Shield. Afterwards, Henry delivered the World's Strongest Slam to Ryback three times in a row. Ryback and Henry competed in a Bench Press Challenge on the March 29 SmackDown, where Ryback tied Henry at 53 reps after Henry choked him with the weight. On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Ryback was defeated by Henry in a singles match.
The following night on Raw, Ryback saved WWE Champion John Cena from assault by Mark Henry before attacking Cena as well, turning heel in the process for the first time since 2010. The following week on Raw, Ryback explained his attack on Cena as stepping out from his shadow and getting revenge for Cena not having his back against The Shield; Ryback got a measure of revenge later that night, by allowing the Shield to attack Cena. After becoming the number one contender to the WWE Championship, Ryback continued his feud with Cena by attacking him on several occasions while also having confrontations with The Shield. Ryback received his title opportunity in a Last Man Standing match on May 19 at Extreme Rules, however, the match ended in a no contest after Ryback rammed Cena and himself into the electric backdrop at the top of the ramp. The following night on Raw, Ryback entered the arena in an ambulance and challenged Cena to an ambulance match for the WWE Championship at the first-ever Payback pay-per-view. The following week on Raw, Cena accepted Ryback's challenge, but announced their match would instead be a 3 Stages of Hell match; the first fall a lumberjack match, the second a tables match, and the third an ambulance match. At the pay-per-view on June 16, Ryback won the lumberjack match, but went on to lose both the tables and ambulance matches and his shot at the WWE Championship. Ryback then began feuding with Chris Jericho, which led to a singles match on July 14 at Money in the Bank, where Ryback emerged victorious.
In August, Ryback debuted a new gimmick, where he began bullying various backstage workers. Also as part of the gimmick, Ryback would back away from fighting opponents of equal size and taking advantage of smaller and vulnerable opponents.
RybAxel and various feuds (2013–2015)
On September 15 at Night of Champions, Ryback aligned himself with Paul Heyman after helping him defeat CM Punk. Despite being a bully himself, Ryback claimed he hated bullies and vowed to stop CM Punk and anyone else who acted as such. On October 6 at Battleground, Ryback was defeated by Punk in a singles match following a low blow from Punk. On October 27 at Hell in a Cell, Ryback and Heyman were defeated by Punk in a 2-on-1 handicap Hell in a Cell match. The feud ended the following night on Raw, when Punk defeated Ryback in a Street Fight match after forcing him to submit to the Anaconda Vise, marking Ryback's first ever submission loss. On the November 11 episode of Raw, the alliance between Ryback and Heyman came to an end when Heyman verbally berated him. On November 24 at Survivor Series, Ryback was defeated by the returning Mark Henry after he answered Ryback's open challenge.
Ryback then began a tag team with fellow former Paul Heyman Guy Curtis Axel collectively labelled as "RybAxel", and on the December 6 episode of SmackDown, they defeated WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a non title match to earn a shot at the titles. Rybaxel received their title shot on December 15 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, but were defeated by Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a four-way elimination match, also involving Big Show/Rey Mysterio and The Real Americans (Antonio Cesaro and Jack Swagger). RybAxel received another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship on April 6, 2014, on the WrestleMania XXX pre-show, but were defeated by defending champions The Usos in a fatal four-way elimination match, which also included Los Matadores and The Real Americans. At Payback, Rybaxel defeated Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a tag team match. At Money in the Bank, RybAxel lost to Gold and Stardust. On July 2, it was announced that Ryback and Axel would be competing for the vacant Intercontinental Championship in a 19-man battle royal at Battleground, but neither Ryback or Axel managed to win. On August 26, 2014, Ryback underwent hernia surgery.
Ryback returned on the October 27 episode of Raw, as a face for the first time since 2013, returning to his old "Feed Me More" gimmick, and defeating Bo Dallas. Ryback would later end his association with Axel on the November 6 episode of Superstars. Four days later on the November 10 episode of Raw, Ryback appeared to join Team Authority for Survivor Series after attacking John Cena, but attacked his supposed teammates after they interfered in his match against Cena, joining Team Cena the following week. Ryback was eliminated by Rusev, but Team Cena won the match, putting The Authority out of power. Ryback defeated Team Authority member Kane in a Chairs match at TLC. After Seth Rollins coaxed Cena to bring The Authority back into power, Ryback, along with Erick Rowan and Dolph Ziggler, were (kayfabe) fired by Triple H on the January 5 episode of Raw as punishment for insubordination, but they were re-hired after Cena defeated Rollins, Kane and Big Show in a handicap match due to the distraction caused by Sting, on the January 19 episode of Raw. On the January 22 episode of SmackDown, Ryback defeated Rusev via count-out to earn a spot in the Royal Rumble match, where he was eliminated by Big Show and Kane. At Fastlane, he teamed with Rowan and Ziggler in a six-man tag team match against Rollins, Big Show and Kane, but lost. Ryback participated in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31, but was eliminated by the eventual winner, Big Show.
Intercontinental Champion (2015–2016)
At Elimination Chamber, Ryback won the vacant Intercontinental Championship, his first professional wrestling championship in WWE, by defeating Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, R-Truth, King Barrett and Mark Henry in an Elimination Chamber match. The following night, before Ryback was scheduled to make his first title defense against The Miz; Big Show attacked Miz and confronted Ryback, starting a feud between the two. At Money in the Bank, Big Show defeated Ryback by disqualification after Miz attacked him; Ryback retained the title as a result. Ryback was scheduled to defend the title against Big Show and Miz in a triple threat match at Battleground, but the match was postponed after Ryback developed a staph infection in his knee; the match was rescheduled for SummerSlam, where Ryback pinned Miz to retain the title. Ryback once again defended his championship against Big Show on the August 31 episode of Raw, where he pinned Show after a distraction from The Miz, ending the feud. On the September 11 episode of SmackDown, Kevin Owens, who was one of the lumberjacks, cost him a win against Seth Rollins. On the September 14 episode of Raw, it was announced that he would face Owens at Night of Champions for his Intercontinental Championship. Owens won the match by pinfall after he raked Ryback's eyes, ending his reign at 112 days.
After initially failing to regain the title using his rematch clause after Owens proceeded to get himself counted out, Ryback defeated Rusev to earn another opportunity at Hell in a Cell, where Ryback failed to regain the championship from Owens, ending the feud. On the November 12 episode of SmackDown, Ryback would enter the 16-man tournament to crown the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, but he would lose to Kalisto in the first round. At Survivor Series, Ryback participated in a five-on-five elimination tag team match, teaming with The Usos and The Lucha Dragons to defeat The New Day, Sheamus and King Barrett. In December, Ryback started a feud with Rusev after interrupting Rusev and the returning Lana on Miz TV, which would lead to a match between the two at TLC, where Ryback was defeated by Rusev by technical knockout. On the January 4, 2016 episode of Raw, it was announced that Ryback would compete in the Royal Rumble for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as the ninth entrant, but was eliminated by Big Show.
United States Championship pursuits and hiatus (2016)
On the February 4 episode of SmackDown, Ryback debuted a new look, abandoning his singlets and now sporting black trunks, where he defeated Erick Rowan, but was attacked by The Wyatt Family. Ryback teamed up with Big Show and Kane, being billed as "the titans" of the WWE, to defeat Wyatt Family members Rowan, Luke Harper and Braun Strowman in a six-man tag team match at Fastlane, with Ryback pinning Harper for the victory.
On the February 22 episode of Raw, during a rematch between the two teams, Ryback walked out on Big Show and Kane, in the middle of the match, and turning heel in the process. Later that night, he explained that he was tired of being in tag team matches and would proceed to wrestle multiple squash matches over the coming weeks. On the March 7 episode of Raw, Ryback confronted United States Champion Kalisto backstage, claiming he did not understand why the fans thought "little guys" like Kalisto could defeat "big guys" like Ryback, Ryback then challenged Kalisto to a match for the United States Championship at WrestleMania 32, which Kalisto accepted on March 16 in an interview with Michael Cole. At the WrestleMania 32 pre-show, Ryback failed to defeat Kalisto for the title. In a non-title rematch between the two on the April 21 episode of SmackDown, Ryback defeated Kalisto via pinfall, reigniting their feud. With the win, he earned another shot at Kalisto's United States Championship at Payback, but was once again defeated in the kickoff show.
On May 2, 2016, it was reported that WWE had sent Ryback home from television due to a contract dispute, and he did not participate in a Battle Royal match he was promoted for. The following day, on May 3, Ryback posted a long explanation on his personal Tumblr page, confirming that he himself made the decision to go home, and cited a lack of equal pay for talent and creative frustration as primary reasons for his departure.
The Ryback character has been described as "Goldberg meets The Ultimate Warrior meets Rob Van Dam's tights". Owing to similarities between him and Goldberg, the portmanteau of "Ryberg" was devised for Reeves. In October 2012, after Reeves allegedly "stole" a move used by Goldberg during a match, Bill Goldberg would respond by stating, "now comparisons offend me". Spectators at WWE events had been chanting "Goldberg" during Reeves' matches from 2012, which Reeves said "never bothered [him]". In response to podcast host and mixed martial artist Chael Sonnen's confusion about Ryback's appeal in late 2014, former WWE writer Jon Piermarini noted that the creative staff were doing "essentially the exact same thing they did with the character when it didn't work or catch on the first time" and would only continue to get Goldberg's character over as Ryback. Reeves has garnered praise from peers. Wrestler Wade Barrett stated that he is "a huge fan of Ryback". WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley said Ryback "had been doing a great job" in his solo promos, and that Ryback's first verbal interaction, opposite Foley in 2013, "went really well".
Reeves's in-ring work as Ryback has been criticized by some writers and fans. In 2012, IGN reporter Matt Fowler described Reeves as "green", "unsafe" and lacking in stamina. This was after Reeves botched his Shell Shocked finishing move multiple times on Tensai on the October 1 episode of Raw, which was described by an IB Times writer as "hard to watch". Reeves later attributed the error to sickness and improper technique on his part. Readers of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter voted Ryback the "Most Overrated" wrestler in the publication's 2012 awards, and WWE live crowds went on to chant "You can't wrestle" at Reeves in 2013. On the other hand, Jon Piermarini felt that Reeves has the potential to be successful under a new gimmick, stating: "I see a lot of good qualities and I see someone who can talk, I see someone that could be different and stand out... I think that there's something there."
According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, Dolph Ziggler received a concussion from a stiff clothesline by Reeves in a January 2014 match; Johnson reported that this damaged Reeves's reputation among peers along with ongoing complaints of his recklessness – a reason why his recent pushes were aborted. In November 2014, CM Punk labelled Reeves as a "steroid guy" and said that wrestling him "took 20 years off" his life. Punk also claimed Reeves purposely broke his ribs. Reeves denied the notion that he is a hazardous wrestler, and claimed that he would not be placed in matches with top WWE stars if he were as unsafe as some have claimed. Veteran wrestler Chris Jericho also dismissed the allegations of dangerous in-ring performance directed at Reeves, saying: "Having worked with [him], I've never seen those types of things... it was always fun."
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- As Ryback
- Back body drop
- Big boot, sometimes followed by choking the opponent with his foot
- Big Guy Splash (Diving splash) – 2014–present
- Boulder Holder (Backpack stunner)
- Fallaway slam – 2012
- Meat Hook (Lariat, with theatrics), sometimes used as a finisher
- Military press transitioned into either a drop or a slam
- Missile dropkick – 2015–present
- Multiple powerbombs
- Multiple suplex variations
- Multiple turnbuckle thrusts
- Release powerbomb
- Running powerslam
- Running splash
- Thesz press followed by multiple mat slams
- As Skip Sheffield
- As Ryback
- Entrance themes
- "Wild & Young" by American Bang (March 2, 2010 – May 11, 2010)
- "We Are One" by 12 Stones (June 7, 2010 – August 18, 2010; used while a part of The Nexus)
- "Meat" by Jim Johnston (April 6, 2012 – August 10, 2012)
- "Meat On the Table" by Jim Johnston (August 13, 2012 – present)
- "Meat On the Perfect Table" by Jim Johnston (March 31, 2014 – August 26, 2014; used while teaming with Curtis Axel)
Championships and accomplishments
- Ohio Valley Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE
- WWE Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- Slammy Awards (5 times)