It’s high time Rhyno gets the respect he deserves for being one of the most reliable wrestlers the wrestling business has ever seen.
At Sunday’s IMPACT Slammiversary pay-per-view, a mysterious masked man emerged from out of nowhere to spear Michael Elgin before escaping through the crowd. Between his build, the taunt, the Gore and a tweet from The Man Beast himself, fans are fairly certain that it was Rhyno who jumped the ring and made his presence felt..
Rhyno revealed to Chris Van Vilet many months ago that his WWE contract was set to expire on July 17th, but according to Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet, WWE likely won’t make a big deal of his IMPACT return. Either way, he’s back in the company where he spent most of his time following his first departure from WWE in 2005.
Last night marked the end of what had been a fun run for the 43-year-old since returning to WWE in 2015. However, his fondest moments and memories with WWE date as far back as his 2001 debut.
Coming off a successful stint in ECW (where he held the honor of being the last-ever ECW World Heavyweight champion), Rhyno was immediately positioned as a star in WWE by joining The Alliance. It was a failed angle, mind you, but Rhyno’s sickening Gore to Chris Jericho through the SmackDown set will never be forgotten.
Upon his return from neck surgery in early 2003, Rhyno settled into a solid midcard role on SmackDown. Although he was never involved in the main event scene on the blue brand, he was always in the mix for the United States and WWE Tag Team Championships and was a good hand to have.
The Man Beast formed an entertaining tandem with Tajiri soon after moving to Raw in 2004 before being released from the company in April 2005. He went out on a high note by appearing at ECW One Night Stand that summer, but it was apparent he had unfinished business in WWE.
Rhyno spent an ample amount of time in TNA from 2005 to 2010 as well as in Ring of Honor, honing his craft and remaining relevant in rivalries with AJ Styles, James Storm, Eddie Edwards and Kevin Steen, among others.
It would have been extremely easy for Rhyno to rest on his laurels as an ECW Original and use that as his sole claim to fame. However, he was driven and determined to reinvent himself and stay at the top of his game while also elevating his opponents.
Rhyno’s impressive runs in TNA, ROH and on the independent circuit earned him one more run in WWE at the onset of 2015, but instead of being brought to the main roster, he first reported to NXT and made an impact from the get-go.
As WWE’s developmental system, NXT is supposed to serve as the stomping grounds for the future stars of WWE. Thus, ECW alum Rhyno initially stuck out like a sore thumb on the black-and-gold brand.
Eventually, it became clear that he was mainly there to add star power to the NXT ranks and act as a stepping stone for the talent of tomorrow. Over the next year and a half, Rhyno worked with (and put over) everyone from Finn Balor to Baron Corbin and even made a one-off appearance at TLC 2015 to team with The Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer against The Wyatt Family in a losing effort.
Rhyno then disappeared from WWE programming to focus on his political aspirations. Despite his busy schedule at the time, he chose to remain an active competitor throughout his campaign as a member of the SmackDown roster.
The Brand Extension being brought back in addition to the lack of depth in SmackDown Live’s ranks resulted in Rhyno becoming a focal point on the blue brand soon after his return in the summer of 2016. He went from feuding with Heath Slater to teaming with him as part of a tournament to crown the inaugural SmackDown Tag Team champions.
Within weeks, Rhyno and Slater became the most entertaining act on the entire show, and at Backlash, they defeated The Usos to win the newly-created belts and make history in the process. They had a great thing going for a few months before WWE Creative essentially forgot about them and slowly phased the tandem out ahead of their loss of the twin titles at TLC 2016.
Despite there being signs of dissension between the two at one point, Slater and Rhyno stuck together until earlier this year. They were barely featured on WWE TV after moving over to Raw in 2017. Although the storyline with Rhyno being “fired” by then-acting Raw General Manager Baron Corbin last December had promise, that too led nowhere.
In the aforementioned interview with Chris Van Vilet, Rhyno set the record straight: no matter how much money WWE offered him, he had his mind made up months ago that he was gone when his contract expired in the summer of 2019, if only because he wants to help out up-and-coming talent instead of being paid to sit at home.
That’s commendable, especially for a guy who has essentially done it all in wrestling and now just wants to give back any way he can. Although he wasn’t doing much creatively his last few years in WWE, he was always willing to elevate everyone he stepped in the ring with and could be counted on for a quality match.
It will be interesting to see what type of role he plays in IMPACT and if he’s headed for a feud with Michael Elgin. In the meantime, though, fans shouldn’t downplay Rhyno’s accomplishments and everything he’s done for the business over the course of his career.
Whether it’s ECW in 1999 or IMPACT in 2019, Rhyno has been and will continue to be a valuable asset to whatever company is fortunate enough to have him.