Now free to work anywhere he pleases, Matt Cardona seems to be staying independent. Greg DeMarco looks at the potential for the former Zack Ryder to excel on his own.
April was a crazy month for WWE fans, and all wrestling fans around the globe. WrestleMania, the indisputable pinnacle for anyone in the business, took place from the WWE Performance Center. “The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All” was hosted at a warehouse, converted into a training facility with seven wrestling rings, meeting spaces, and a gym. The building was the polar opposite of an arena or stadium the company would usually run–so much so that Stephanie McMahon shared they are using “augmented reality” to cover-up two industrial fans adorning the ceiling.
April also saw the release of a multitude of WWE names–staff, producers, and most notably talent. While some have popped up in companies such as AEW, Impact Wrestling and Ring Of Honor, one most notable name is seemingly staying independent: Zack Ryder.
Zack Ryder’s Improbable 14-Year WWE Run
Matt Cardona, better known to WWE fans as Zack Ryder, started his time with the company in 2006. He hit television in 2007, teaming with longtime friend and partner Brian Myers as the Major Brothers (a name that lives on with their podcast today), they’d be repackaged and win the World Tag Team Championships in 2008 as Cur Hawkins and Zack Ryder.
From there Ryder would go on to have some singles success across all WWE brands, including a month-long run as United States Champion and a second Raw Tag Team Championship win at WrestleMania 35. But Ryder’s biggest moment in WWE came at WrestleMania 32, when he captured the Intercontinental Championship in front of over 101, 000 fans at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, winning a 7-person ladder match in a finish that almost no one predicted would happen. The “reign” would last only a day, as The Miz would capture the championship the next day and go on a run that many can credit with the championship’s return to prominence. While Ryder could have had a longer run, there was no way to avoid his reign peaking on day one with the magnitude of his win.
Even though he won a singles championship in front of the largest crowd in wrestling history, the likely proudest accomplishment of Ryder’s WWE career should be the development and leveraging of his internet following–before it was “cool” in the eyes of WWE. In 2011 he created “Z! True Long Island Story,” a web series that promoted his character while he was off of television. It was so successful that he sold out his t-shirts without appearing for the company, and had notable names like John Cena on his show. You think Being The Elite is a huge success? It’s nothing if not for Z! True Long Island Story.
Of course, he also developed his own Internet Championship, that the WWE never acknowledged as an actual championship.
Release In April 2020
Cardona was among the bevy of talent released this past April, and along with Rusev, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows, was among the most prominent names to go. Now, I humbly say that as a person who hasn’t been kind to Zack Ryder in the past. I haven’t always felt like he would be a huge loss for WWE, but he’s also a prime example of not knowing what you have until they’re gone.
And while some talents don’t bring anything to the table creatively and simply blame the company for not knowing how to use them (when they don’t know how to use themselves), Matt Cardona has proven himself to be creative many times over. But that creativity simply wasn’t harnessed by WWE in any effective fashion.
Even in a potential Internet Champion comeback, Zack Ryder was not able to catch-on.
The Next Evolution: Matt Cardona, Internet Champion
Matt Cardona is now looking to work again, and is bringing his Internet Championship with him. With several top names signing with Impact Wrestling (and elsewhere), Ryder is charting his own Cody Rhodes course, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Rhodes helping him. He has a new theme courtesy of Downstait, who also made Cody’s theme (to be fair, Ryder’s “Radio” theme was also Downstait). Cody has said before that if anyone could do what Cody did, it was Zack Ryder.
— Matt Cardona (@TheMattCardona) July 21, 2020
But there is a larger question here…can this work? Matt Cardona find success on his own? I have my thoughts, but I also sought out some feedback from my trusted Chairshot colleagues: PC Tunney, Andrew Balaz, Miranda Morales, and Patrick O’Dowd.
Most seemed keen on the idea, including Tunney who said “I don’t see why wrestling fans that go to indie shows wouldn’t be interested in something as fun and recognizable as Ryder and the Internet Championship.” O’Dowd sees this gelling perfectly with the world outside of major promotions in saying “I think it’s built for independent wrestling.”
Miranda thought this can work, but does it have a shelf life? “It will get old after awhile, especially since he will win all his matches. He will need to keep each challenge fresh and interesting, and eventually I think should actually drop it to someone.” And Balaz can only see it working on the independent scene: “Indie scene would make enough sense, since indy fans really enjoy gimmicks and recognizing talent. But anywhere bigger than actual Indy would be seem a bit pathetic.”
I tend to agree, this can definitely work. Personally, here is what I would recommend Matt Cardona do:
- Film these, and put them on his YouTube channel, website, and all social media platforms. Use what got you to the dance in the first place.
- Take any sized booking possible by managing your rate, even taking a little less to own your footage and booking plans. It’s mutually beneficial.
- Make a long term plan so you can lose the title, and maybe have one or two people trade it before winning it back. Make this believable.
What’s The End Game?
I gotta be honest with you, I think Matt Cardona sees more Zack Ryder in his future. Sure, taking off could land him a great AEW deal after he has a load of fun on the independents, but at the end of the day I think this skyrocketing could land him back in WWE. Given WWE’s reliance on the 24/7 Championship, and their flexibility in NXT (where Cardona lives by the way, in Orlando), this could have legs on a certain level.
Also, in leaving Matt Cardona is more likely to go back to WWE and be happy with his role. It’s easy to complain when you’re there, but after you leave, and you’re having to hustle to replicate that $250k minimum, you suddenly hate creative a little bit less.
Personally, I think this can work out, and I want it to work out. Matt Cardona is a fan who made it, but he made it the right way. He’s a grown ass man who is taking matters into his own hands–betting on himself–and I have mad respect for that. Good for him, and good luck to him. Make this shit work, Ryder!
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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