I love what Matt Cardona is doing post-WWE

I can’t say that I was ever a Zack Ryder fan.  The whole internet schtick, the fist pumps and self-aware but still over-the-top broeyness of his character, he was pretty much no better than Santino Marella, as far as caricatures of wrestlers they were.  I cringed when he had a US title run, and I winced even harder when he actually got a Wrestlemania Moment™ when he won the Intercontinental championship in a ladder match against way more worthy opponents.

When he was released by the company, I didn’t think anything of it, other than the fact that I figured he’d probably end up in AEW, because at the time everyone who was leaving the WWE whether it was a forced release or future endeavored, was usually bound for AEW at some point.

And as expected, he did show up in AEW, under his real name, Matt Cardona.  However, after a fairly uninspired program where he teamed up with Cody Rhodes, he was quietly gone.  Scuttlebutt said that he was only brought in for a temporary program, but for the most part was not #ALLELITE™

A few months later, Matt Cardona’s name came up again, as he apparently had a massively gruesome deathmatch in a fed that I’d just begun hearing about, GCW, since Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring had just done an episode on GCW godfather, Nick Gage.  And despite Gage’s cult-like popularity in the ultra-violent GCW, he had still done the job to Matt Cardona, and made him the GCW champion.

What was pretty astounding though, was how Cardona introduced himself to GCW, which was under a mask, and pretending to be Jon Moxley, which royally enraged the fans, and GCW fans are already maniacal enough in the first place, but Cardona manufactured a perfect heat bomb that got fans nuclear hot about his existence, and the number one rule of professional wrestling is to elicit a response at all, be it cheers or jeers.

But Cardona became the GCW champion, which I shrugged off, seeing as how GCW would probably rank as like the sixth or seventh noteworthy promotion in North America, so it really didn’t seem like much of a big deal.  However, I did take amusement of this new persona of his where he was apparently feeding off of the hate for Zack Ryder, fans like the ones of GCW were, and basically trolling the entire promotion by doing shit like declaring himself king of death matches, and switching their belt for an obnoxious John Cena-like spinner variant.

Eventually, he’d lose the GCW title to the actual Jon Moxley, who supposedly showed up to an event to watch it, but was somehow roped into performing and then going over as champion, which kind of disappointed me since I was beginning to curry favor with Matt Cardona.

But then he shows up in Impact weeks later, to get involved with a program with their champion, Moose, and the guy who used to be Big Cass in WWE.  Next thing you know, he’s in a world title program on Impact, even if he would eventually lose in a triple threat against Moose and Morrissey, but it was more of the same.  Fans someone have become conditioned to dislike Cardona, for what I’m guessing is because they all still see the obnoxious Zack Ryder character.

Somewhere along the way, Cardona also shows up at an NWA event, to jump their champion, Trevor Murdoch.  When I find out about this, I am salty, because this was actually an event that I had tickets to go to, since it was taped in Atlanta, but due to the rise of omicron, my tickets were cancelled and I didn’t get to go, but again, same story, unexpected appearance, jumps a world champion, gets nuclear heat from the crowd.

Now, I’m a big fan of what Matt Cardona is doing, and I don’t think there’s any wrestler out there that’s capitalizing on a career post-WWE than he is.  Sure, he touched AEW like most guys do, but when that didn’t work out, he didn’t quit and go get a job at Walmart like his old tag team partner did.  Instead he got extremely creative, and is low-key blazing an entertaining trail in lower promotions, but raising his stock all the same.  This is some Chris Jericho-like creativity in reinventing himself; he might not be making WWE money anymore, but he’s definitely in world title pictures in three different promotions, with nobody really being able to predict where else he’ll show up next.

Just a week ago, he was back in GCW, where he defeated Rhino; and because Rhino was the last ever ECW TV and World champion, Cardona declared himself the new ECW TV champion, and I have no fucking clue to where he procured the blet, but he still celebrated with it, all the same.

At this point, I’d lose my shit if Cardona shows up at a New Japan Pro Wrestling show, seeing as they’re currently touring North America right now.  Or maybe he’ll lay low and then show up at Ring of Honor in Dallas in April when they start their shit back up again.  Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t show up at Final Battle in December.  Hell, maybe he should wander down to Mexico and appear at a AAA event, and mix it up with their Mega Campion.

Nobody is embodying the potential for fun and excitement in this current wrestling atmosphere like Matt Cardona is.  The industry isn’t just the WWE and AEW, and their insufferable tribalistic fans.  There are so many other options out there, and with the sheer volume of talent that was cut loose from the WWE primarily, the indy scene is ripe with potential for all sorts of creative, fun and new possibilities, and there’s nobody capitalizing on all this potential than Cardona is.

I never really cared much for Zack Ryder, but I absolutely love what Matt Cardona is doing these days.  He’s trolling fans in promotions left and right, but staying relevant and at the tops of cards everywhere he goes.  And I hope he keeps it going and finds some real success doing it, because I think what he’s doing is awesome.