In 2004, he became a contestant on $1,000,000 Tough Enough under his real name. 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, he impressed WWE officials enough for them to sign him to a contract.
On February 16, 2010 during the final episode of ECW, Sheffield was announced as one of eight developmental wrestlers, called "rookies", to take part in the first season of WWE's new NXT show. Although Montel Vontavious Porter was originally said 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 of NXT, where he teamed with Regal in a losing effort against Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel. On the April 27 episode of NXT, Sheffield picked up his first victory with a win over Daniel Bryan. However, on May 11, despite an earlier win over Darren Young, in the first NXT elimination poll, Skip Sheffield was eliminated by the Pros. He was one of three eliminations behind Bryan and Michael Tarver, and commented that he will be back.
On the June 7 edition 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 edition of 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 a new 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 edition of 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 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, Sheffield broke his ankle in a tag team match with David Otunga against The Hart Dynasty.
About six months later, he went on working several dark matches prior Raw and Smackdown tapings. On the 3rd of December, Sheffield returned at a RAW house show as a heel defeating Alex Riley. He then made another non-televised appearance on December 5th Dark Event of Raw where he competed in a 41-Man Battle Royal which was won by Dolph Ziggler after sneaking back in. Skip Sheffield, working as a babyface, defeated Michael McGillicutty in the dark match before the 1/2/2012 RAW Supershow in Memphis, Tennessee. He then competed in a dark match prior to SmackDown tapings on January 6, 2012 using his Ryback gimmick, defeated Jimmy Uso. In a dark match with Percy Watson before Smackdown on 1/10/12, he returned to the "Skip Sheffield" gimmick, and defeated Watson. On January 17th he defeated Tyson Kidd using the Ryback gimick during Smackdown's dark match.
On the April 6 episode of SmackDown, Sheffield returned to television under his Ryback ring name as a face even though he wrestled as a heel in most of his dark matches, and becoming a member of the SmackDown brand, where over the following weeks, he would continuously squash jobbers, while other superstars watched backstage. 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 nearly two minutes. On May 11 episode of SmackDown, Ryback defeated Heath Slater in a singles match. At Over The Limit, Ryback defeated Camacho in another squash match.
Ryback defeated two more jobbers (Dan Delaney and Rob Grymesat) at No Way Out, then declared his intention to want to fight three men at once. On the June 22 tapings of Smackdown, Ryback defeated Two local athletes (Frank Venezia and Jared Wachtler) in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match. On the July 3 episode of SmackDown, he defeated Curt Hawkins to expand his winning streak. The next week, he beat both Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks in a competitive match. He then beat them again at WWE Money in the Bank. On August 6, Ryback faced Hawkins and Reks once again with a red eye. 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 episode of 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 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 that Punk would have to choose either Ryback or John Cena to defend the WWE Championship against at Hell in a Cell, and if Punk refused, McMahon would pick 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 would attack Maddox and proceed to perform the Shell-Shocked to Punk 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 following week, however, Ryback, along with John Cena, would be 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 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 would be unsuccessful in winning the championship after being attacked by Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, who proceeded to powerbomb Ryback into the announce table, which allowed Punk to pin Cena and retain the title. The following night on Raw, Ryback was again attacked by Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns before they powerbombed him through the announce table yet again 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. However, Punk would suffer a legitimate knee injury due to the attack, and would be unable to compete at the pay-per-view. As a result, the WWE Championship match was rescheduled for a later date and Ryback would instead be paired with the 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 after pinning Bryan. 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 episode of 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 would then begin a feud with Mark Henry after several non-verbal confrontations that led to the two 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 would perform 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 episode of SmackDown, where Ryback tied Henry at 53 reps after Henry choked him after 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 a post-match assault by Mark Henry before attacking Cena himself, turning tweener in the process. The following week on Raw, Ryback explained his attack on Cena as stepping out from Cena's 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 would continue 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 WWE Payback. The following week on Raw, Cena accepted Ryback's challenge but announced that their match would be a 3 Stages of Hell match with the first stipulation being a Lumberjack match, the second being a Tables match, and the third being the Ambulance match. On June 16 at the pay-per-view, Ryback won the Lumberjack match but went on to lose the Tables and Ambulance match and his second 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. At Night of Champions, Ryback aligned himself with Paul Heyman by helping him defeat CM Punk. Ryback after aligning with Heyman adopted a hypocritical gimmick of being an intimidating bully, but would claim others were themselves bullies and that he had a hatred of bullying. His victims included CM Punk and then a local competitor, whom Ryback easily defeated in a match. On October 6 at WWE Battleground, Ryback was defeated by Punk in a singles match. A rematch was scheduled at Hell in a Cell, in a 2-on-1 handicap Hell in a Cell match, with Ryback teaming with Paul Heyman. At Hell in a Cell, Ryback and Heyman were defeated by Punk. The following night on Raw, Ryback faced Punk again in a Street Fight match. Punk made Ryback tap out, being the first Ryback's loss by submission. On the November 11, 2013 edition of RAW, the alliance between Ryback and Heyman came to an end when Ryback was verbally berated by Heyman.
At Survivor Series, Ryback issued an open challenge, which the returning Mark Henry answered in which Ryback was defeated. The following night on Raw, Ryback teamed with Curtis Axel to face Mark Henry and the Intercontinental Champion, Big E Langston, where they lost the match. They were able to defeat The Rhodes Brothers on the December 6 edition of SmackDown in a non title match, agreeing to continue teaming to take on the champions at the TLC event, but were unsuccessful, as the match was won by The Rhodes Brothers. At WrestleMania XXX RybAxel was unsuccessful in capturing the tag team titles in a fatal four way match. At Payback (2014), they defeated the Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a tag team match. The two teams did battle once more at Money in the Bank (2014), but this time Cody Rhodes was using an alter ego, Stardust. RybAxel lost the match. On the July 1, 2014 episode of Main Event, Rybaxel teamed up with Cesaro who was accompanied by Rybaxel's former manager Paul Heyman. The team lost to Dolph Ziggler, Big E and Rob Van Dam. During the match Rybaxel and Paul Heyman were not getting along well. On July 2, it was announced that Ryback and Curtis Axel will be competing for the vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship in a over the top battle royal at Battleground. Neither Axel or Ryback won that match. On the July 25th episode of Smackdown, RybAxel lost to The Usos in a tag team match. On the July 28th episode of Raw, RybAxel teamed with The Miz in a losing effort against The Usos and Dolph Ziggler. RybAxel lost to The Usos once again the next night on Main Event. On August 26, 2014 Ryback underwent surgery.
Ryback returned on the October 27 edition of Raw, as a face, returning to his old mannerisms, easily defeating Bo Dallas. On October 31 Halloween Smackdown, he defeated Heath Slater. On the November 10th episode of Raw, Ryback appeared to join Team Authority, but attacked his supposed teammates, aligning with Team Cena for Survivor Series at the end of the night. Ryback was eliminated by Rusev, but Team Cena won the match. 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 edition of Raw as punishment for insubordination, but they were re-hired after Cena defeated Rollins, Kane and Big Show in a handicap match on the January 19 edition of Raw. On the January 22 edition of SmackDown, Ryback, Ziggler and Erick Rowan returned to the WWE. Ryback defeated Rusev via count-out to earn a spot in the Royal Rumble match. At the event, Ryback was eliminated by Big Show and Kane. At WWE Fastlane he competed together with Rowan and Ziggler in a six man tag team match against Rollins, Big Show and Kane, which they lost. Ryback participated in the 2nd Annual André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31, but was eliminated by the eventual winner, Big Show. This loss ended his feud with the Authority. On the Raw following Extreme Rules, where he attacked Bo Dallas, Ryback attacked Dallas yet again, only to be interrupted and attacked by Bray Wyatt, beginning a feud between the two that had been hinted by Wyatt at in a series of mysterious promos. On the SmackDown following, Wyatt attacked Ryback yet again following a victorious match with Luke Harper. Ryback lost to Wyatt at Payback.
Two weeks later at Elimination Chamber, Ryback won the vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship in an Elimination Chamber match, which would be his first title win in WWE. At the next episode of Raw, Ryback made his first title defense, losing by disqualification to The Miz, after The Big Show interfeared and knocked Miz out. After that, Ryback and Big Show had a short confrontation. One week later, on the 8th June episode of Raw, Ryback participated in a Miz TV segment, also involving The Big Show. All three men began to fight with each other, but in the end, Ryback managed to lift Big Show on his shoulders and to execute the Shell Shocked on the giant. On the same night it was announced that Ryback will face The Big Show at Money in the Bank. On the 11 June episode of SmackDown, Ryback squashed The Miz in a non-title match, ending their short feud. At the Money In The Bank pay-per-view, Ryback and Big Show faced each other for the Intercontinental Championship. The match ended when The Miz attacked Big Show first, giving him a win by disqualification. However, titles only change hands via pinfall or submission, making Ryback retain the title while being attacked by Miz also. On the June 22 episode of Raw, Ryback defeated Mark Henry in a singles match, following a diving splash. In a backstage segment after the match, Ryback brawled with Big Show. It was later announced that that Ryback would defend the title against Big Show and Miz in a triple threat match at Battleground. At the July 13 episode of Raw, however, Ryback suffered a knee injury during his tag-team match with Randy Orton, facing off Big Show and Sheamus, and it was later announced on July 15 that he wouldn't be able to defend the Intercontinental Championship at Battleground. Ryback returned on the August 10 Raw by clotheslining both Big Show and The Miz, therefore rescheduling the triple threat match between the three at SummerSlam. At the event, Ryback retained the title. Ryback retained his title on the August 31 Raw when he defeated Big Show. 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. Kevin Owens won the match by pinfall, resulting in Ryback losing the title.
On the October 1st edition of Smackdown, Ryback used his rematch clause for the WWE Intercontinental Championship, where he defeated Owens via count-out after he purposely failed to climb back into the ring for the count of 10. Therefore Owens retained the title. Ryback once again became the number one contender for the title on the October 8th 2015 edition of Smackdown when he defeated Rusev for another championship match against Owens at Hell in a Cell, where he was defeated by Owens via pinfall, ending the feud and Ryback's chance of reclaiming the title. Ryback started a feud with Rusev after interrupting Rusev and the returning Lana on Miz TV. At TLC, Ryback was defeated by Rusev. Ryback also lost to United States Champion Alberto Del Rio on the December 17th SmackDown via the cross armbreaker after a distraction from the League of Nations, being assaulted by them afterwards and placed in the Accolade.
On the January 4th episode of Raw, it was announced that Ryback would compete in the Royal Rumble. Later on during his match against Big Show, they were both assaulted by the Wyatt Family in which he passed out to Braun Strowman's submission hold. On the January 11th episode of Raw, Ryback got retribution against the Wyatt Family when he stormed the ring during their match against The Social Outcasts, assisting them in driving the group away from the ring. Ryback challenged the Wyatt Family on the 18th January edition of RAW alongside the Dudley Boys, where they were defeated. Ryback squared off against Bray Wyatt the same week on the January 21st Smackdown where he was defeated following interference from the Wyatt Family. Ryback entered the Royal Rumble Match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as the ninth entrant, where he was later eliminated by Big Show.
On the February 4 episode of SmackDown, Ryback debuted a new look, abandoning his singlets and now sporting short black trunks (similar to Goldberg), where he defeated Erick Rowan. 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. However, the following night on Raw, during a rematch between the two teams, Ryback abandoned Big Show and Kane, causing them to lose and seemingly turning Ryback heel for the first time since 2014. Two weeks later, Ryback confronted United States Champion Kalisto, claiming he did not understand why the fans thought "little guys" like Kalisto could defeat "big guys" like Ryback, solidifying his heel turn. 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 on 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. After months of inactivity, Ryback announced that he had left WWE on August 5.