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DeMarco: Can The Former Zack Ryder Do It On His Own?

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.



Zack Ryder Internet Championship Matt Cardona Chairshot Edit

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.

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!

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NXT UK Chuffed and Buzzin’

Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!



Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!

6. It is time for Johnny Saint to retire and officially promote Sid Scala to General Manager. Saint is a beloved figure in British wrestling (and a technical in-ring wizard), so I understand why they brought him in. Truth be told, he’s never done much and when he is around he isn’t a strong presence. Scala is there every week and has earned the job. Give Sid the job!

Johnny Saint | WWE

5. It is only right to send Mr. Saint out with a proper farewell. This is a gem from at least 1985, the last year for the original World of Sport Wrestling. It’s easy to see his influence on British wrestling and safe to say Tyler Bate studied and stole every one of Saint’s moves. Added bonus: some youngster named Dave Finlay has a mullet that would make Eddie Guerrero jealous.
TAELER: Isla Dawn Unleashed In NXT UK | Fightful News

4. Isla Dawn’s character keeps getting better. For months, she hasn’t cared about winning and losing, only taking trophies from her opponents. This week, she beat Aleah James then returned the hair scrunchie she stole from her. That is a seriously cool twist & one I hope they continue until Dawn returns all her stolen goodies. It’s like she took everything she needed from her opponents in order to build herself up to challenge Meiko Satomura. I don’t know if she’s championship material, but I’d love to see her and Satomura try and top their first encounter.

WWE NXT UK notes: Ilja Dragunov vs. Rampage Brown, Charlie Dempsey

3. I like the idea of Teoman’s family, but the execution is lacking. There is no reason for Rohan Raja or Charlie Dempsey to be with him. There’s nothing that ties them together. NXT UK has been running blazing hot this year, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it works. Maybe it won’t. Either way, Charlie Dempsey is a star. When the time is right, he and Tyler Bate can have the 5 star Heritage Cup match we’ve been waiting for.

WWE on Twitter: "The legendary #NXTUK tag team Moustache Mountain want those @NXTUK Tag Team Titles held by Pretty Deadly! @SamStokerPD @LewisHowleyPD" / Twitter

2. Pretty Deadly versus Mustache Mountain feels like a MOTY in the making. Can the Dandy Highwaymen defeat the forefathers of British Strong Style again and officially claim to be the best tag team in the brand’s history? Can Mustache Mountain finally capture the titles that surprisingly have evaded them since the brand’s inception? If they keep it clean with no outside interference, there is about a 1% chance this match won’t live up to the hype.

WWE NXT UK: April 29, 2021 | WWE

1. Gallus’ theme music is bad ass. That is all.

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Steve Cook’s Fave Five: November 2021



The Inspiration The Iconics WWE Impact Wrestling

It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means!

This is the time we give thanks for our favorite professional wrestlers. And other things, I’m sure. Many of you reading this have other things to be thankful for. I don’t know what those are, but I do know which wrestlers I’m thankful for here at this moment. Let’s dive into the Fave Five!

5. Eddie Kingston

As somebody that was into the independent wrestling scene back in the mid-2000s, I’ve been aware of Eddie Kingston’s existence for a long time. I’ve known that the man was a better talker than almost anybody in the wrestling business. I’ve also known that the man was his own worst enemy, much like Buddy Landell was his own worst enemy back in the 1980s & 90s. If Eddie could somehow find the right place and right time, nothing could hold him back.

This seems like Eddie Kingston’s right place & time. He got a spot with AEW, and he kept getting over. His piece with The Player’s Tribune got him even more sympathy than he already had. The feud with CM Punk heading into Full Gear was perfect. It got Punk into the state people wanted him in. The match at Full Gear was great, even if Punk ended up winning. The only issue? The feud isn’t continuing. But that’s AEW. Feuds don’t last long unless they’re on BTE. Punk & King have already moved onto other things, and we can only hope they get back to each other in a year or two.

4. Bryan Danielson

I know that Bryan’s biggest run came when he was the underdog going against The Authority, and many folks took to him as that underdog. I was one of those guys that followed Bryan during his indy career, and his best run came when he was a total dickhead heel in Ring of Honor. Yeah, he was still short or whatever mainstream fans complained about at the time, but he could out-wrestle anybody put in the ring with him, and he was supremely confident about that fact. Not over-confident, supremely confident. He’d tell the referees the rules, because he was the Best in the World.

AEW fans are now getting that side of Bryan Danielson, and fortunately he has the right opponent to do it against. Hangman Adam Page has been accepted as a folk hero by hardcore AEW fans. They won’t turn against the Hangman for anybody, even when it’s really tempting since Bryan Danielson is a pretty amazing professional wrestler. One of the best I’ve seen! He’s getting to be a total dickhead again while he runs through Page’s Dark Order friends, and it’s amazing.

He’s not lying either. He wrestled the day after he won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania! Bryan Danielson has never lied. Maybe you don’t like what he says, but he’s always been honest. And the second he mentioned WrestleMania, those hardcore AEW fans were ready to jump on him. Bryan didn’t bury WWE like other folks that previously worked for them did. He had his reasons, and this was one of them.

3. The IInspiration

I was asked to be part of 411’s Fact or Fiction this week, since this week was decided to be the blowoff for a tournament from way too long ago where Len Archibald & myself made it to the finals. Bad news for me, as Len is much better with the written word than I am. 411 readers will sacrifice me at the temple of the Tribal Chief that is Len Archibald. I can’t blame them. One of the questions of this particular Fact or Fiction column asks us if underutilized people are better off getting released. Two of the most underutilized people in the history of WWE were Cassie Lee & Jessie McKay. WWE never knew what they had with them. Not the slightest idea. The only time they ever put them over was to spite Bayley & Sasha Banks for reasons. They never followed up on that because they didn’t care.

Cassie was supposed to be the breakout single star, except they never followed through with it. Jessie had the personality, and she had the look too but WWE did the best they could to take the look away from her. It was so weird. That’s why I’m so happy they found a place to let them be them. Impact Wrestling is a strange place. Certain people find their place there. The IInspiration seem to fit like a glove.

2. Dalton Castle

The Party Peacock was somebody that original Ring of Honor fans would have rejected in an instant. Some will try to tell me I’m wrong about that, but they in fact are wrong. The very first segment on “The Era of Honor Begins” featured the Christopher Street Connection getting squashed by Da Hit Squad because their sort of flamboyance wasn’t what ROH was going to be all about. It was 2002, a different time. I remember it well, as I graduated from high school. Way too many things have happened since then and I feel way too damn old.

Dalton Castle would not have been a favorite to original ROH fans in 2002. By the time he came around, he was just what the promotion needed. He had a personality the likes of which hadn’t been seen in pro wrestling for quite some time, which was great because the main knock against ROH was that their wrestlers didn’t have personality. Dalton Castle was ROH’s answer to that criticism. Unfortunately, Dalton’s body broke down at the same time he won the company’s World Championship. He fought through a broken back to have a reign worthy of the championship, but nearly killed himself in the process.

Castle wasn’t the same for a long time afterward. Only recently, we started to see shades of the old Dalton Castle. The man was revitalized by the promise of Television. He wanted to make Ring of Honor the best show on TV, even though he was a very busy man. Very busy. We’re lucky to see him when we do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him now that Ring of Honor is letting their people go. If he’s back to being the Dalton Castle we remember from a few years ago, the sky’s the limit. Any company would be lucky to have his talent & personality.

1. Cora Jade

I realize that I am in the minority of people around here when it comes to NXT 2.0. I can’t really say it’s a good wrestling show, but I do find it interesting. You have to know a little bit about my rasslin fan background. I ended up in Louisville during the time when Ohio Valley Wrestling was WWE’s developmental territory. While I never got the chance to attend a show at Davis Arena until years afterward, I enjoyed getting to watch the future stars of WWE on television learning their craft before they made it to Raw or SmackDown. Some were really good in the ring. Some were not. But it was all interesting to me.

Here in 2021, I have more interest in seeing the people that WWE thinks is going to be their future than seeing people I saw in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago having great matches just like they did in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago and having no chance of making it any bigger than “NXT TakeOver main eventer”. Which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. Me…not so much.

I’m looking for the next big thing. Always have been, always will be. So when I take a look at Cora Jade, the youngest person under WWE contract, I see the potential. I see her work against Mandy Rose, who WWE wants to be the next big thing. I see Cora Jade get over, and I see the future, which is Cora Jade. People will try to tell me I’m wrong. They’ll be proven wrong eventually, but since they’re a lot louder, followers will act like the fools were right all along, even though they had the wrong opinions back in the day. That’s America for ya.

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