The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Dec. 15, 2022

Matt Cardona Says He Wants To Return to WWE, How GCW Changed His Career, Betting On Yourself

Matt Cardona Says He Wants To Return to WWE, How GCW Changed His Career, Betting On Yourself

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Matt Cardona (@themattcardona) is a professional wrestler who has worked for NWA, AEW, Impact Wrestling, GCW and was known as Zack Ryder in WWE. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about the incredible 2022 that he had, why he wants to go back to WWE, his goal to win the WWE Championship, his thoughts on Cody Rhodes wrestling against Seth Rollins with a torn pec at Hell in a Cell, how he has been able to monetize The Major Figure Wrestling Podcast, his infamous match with Nick Gage, getting the fans to hate him, what happened after his AEW debut and much more!


For more information about Matt and The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast visit:

On wanting to be WWE Champion:

"I'll put it out there, one goal that I’ve been saying for a long time is to win that WWE championship. That's not a lie. I'd be lying to you right now. Listen, when I got released, the goal was not to get back to WWE. It wasn't like, oh, what can I do to make them notice me? What can I do to get back to WWE? You can't think like that. I certainly can't. But I would be lying if I said, I never want to wrestle at Madison Square Garden again, or I never want to have a Wrestlemania match. Of course I do, because WWE is number one. So not saying, you know there's this, this plan to go back as soon as possible. But before I hang up the boots, I'd love to go back at least one time, for sure."

On conversations with WWE:

“Listen, I appreciate you asking me this, but here's the truth. Like, if I were to go back, I wouldn't reveal it here. And if I wasn't going back, I wouldn't reveal it here, because I want people, I want people talking. So the more they talk, you know, the more people are talking about Matt Cardona, the better for me. I'm the internet champion, then now and forever. So let them talk.”

On not returning to WWE as Zack Ryder:

“I mean, if it was up to me, if I would ever go back it would be as me, Always Ready Matt Cardona. Now if there was going to be a surprise run in or Royal Rumble something, if the Always Ready music hit or the Woo Woo, hit which one would get a bigger pop? I understand Zack Ryder, but I don't want to. I don't want to live in the past. You know, I'm saying like, I'm 37 years old, I'm in the prime of my career. I mean, listen, I always say like the PWI 500 Doesn't matter unless you're number one or number 13, and I was number 13. Which, you know what? I'm very very proud of that. The only unsigned guy in the top 20, I think it's pretty damn cool, that you know that I'm being able to do GCW, IMPACT, NWA, all these random indies of all over the world and doing it on my terms. It's so much fun.”

On not wanting to be tied down:

“Well, I mean, the AEW thing, listen, it’s not like they offered me a deal and I turned it down. That's not what happened. What happened? I don't exactly know. I did a couple shows there. I thought I was gonna be offered something, I wasn't. Okay, now I gotta move on, you know? I just don't want to be tied down anywhere. In WWE, not that had handcuffs on by any means, but I was there for so long. That's when I was 20 years old, when did we get fired? 2020. So I was there for like 14 years, it's a long time. So now it's my chance to make my own schedule and be my own boss and branch out and do all these other things. Whether it be grow the Major Wrestling Figure podcast, or, you know, I just did the last match musical, I did a musical, you know, all these things I'm getting to try now. I just don't want to be tied down anywhere. I don't want to [go] ‘Hey, Okay, can I do this?’ I don't want to do that.”

On WWE fans not knowing what Matt Cardona is doing now:

“100%. Listen, when I was a kid I was the WWE kid. I mean, obviously, I watched WCW, ECW, but I didn't [watch everything]. And it was different then, but I didn't follow the indies and stuff like that. I was strictly WWF, right, so I totally get it. And there's people like, I meet them at conventions, and we just did like Wrestle Cade. [They ask me] ‘Oh, you still wrestle?’ Yeah I’m f*cking busier than ever making more money than ever, pal. You know, but like, I don't blame them. You know. Not everyone is obsessed with this business like I am. Or, you know that not everyone has to be this diehard fan. I don't fault them for that.”

On life after the WWE release:

“Well, that's the thing because you know, I got released, I knew, okay, I'm Matt Cardona now. But who is that? I knew I needed to change, but you can't just turn heel on the indies. You know, it just doesn't work that way. So the deathmatch, the GCW, it really started this snowball effect where I go through to, you know, random indie shows, and it's like 50/50 getting cheered or booed. First it’s like 25% getting booed and I'm like this is weird, then 50/50, then 75% get booed, now it's 100%. I don't get cheered anywhere I go, and I love it. And that's what I need, I just needed something, the catalyst, if you will, to spark this new version of me. It's been so much fun. And for a while, you know, I was like a babyface, and IMPACT and then like, I'd be doing an indie show the next night and getting booed. So like, I love that now, no matter where I go, people know f*ck this guy. It's so much fun.”

On transitioning from Zack Ryder to Matt Cardona:

“I mean, even at the very end, like the past couple years in WWE, I was trying to be a little more serious, you know, got in better shape, dropped the Woo Woo sh*t. But like if you don't get the time on television to showcase that. I mean, who really knows, right? So I think now, being my own boss, you know, I'm not signed to any company, I've refused contracts. I just want to be my own boss. And selfishly, I don't want to answer to anybody. You know, I'm having so much fun and it's working. And I love just being able to try things. All I've ever wanted was an opportunity to try and a lot of things that I've tried since being released have worked. Some things that I've tried haven't worked. And that's just how it is. That's how you learn, that's how you grow.”

On wrestling Nick Gage:

“I was scared to death and honestly before I walked through that curtain I'm like, they might try to kill me in this ring, and that would be the trending moment, right? Like, Nick Gage kills Matt Cardona at GCW, I was scared to death. I watched the Dark Side of the Ring, or at least I tried to, the Nick Gage episode, and I couldn't get through it. It was so gory and disgusting. And I'm like, holy sh*t. I have to wrestle this guy?”

On possibly not going all in for the Nick Gage match:

“No, I knew that it was, I knew this is gonna be a big night. I wore all white, I knew I was gonna bleed, right? Of course, deathmatch, light tubes, glass, you’re gonna bleed. But my white shirt turned like maroon red. And there's one point in the match, I superplex Nick through this pane of glass, and there's like, it's blood coming out of my arm but it's like ooze. It's so thick and disgusting. And the referee was concerned, once the referee was concerned, then I was like concerned. So then like, you know, I started getting lightheaded. We finished the match, I won, long story short, I'm the deathmatch king, but holy sh*t. And, you know, there's no medical team backstage at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City. There was this nurse, I think, you know, she was a nurse, she stitched me up, did a horrible job. She did her best with what she had, and she told me yeah, these stitches are dissolvable don't take them out. Of course they were not. I got infected, it was brutal. It was the aftermath that hurt the most because I flew right away cross country to Disneyland, I had a big Disneyland trip planned. So John Carlo, if you know John Carlo is, he worked for GCW, works for AEW now, he didn't have any bandages. So I just went to his hotel room and he taped towels around my body. That's how I flew cross country, and I did all the rides at Universal and Disneyland.”

On Chelsea Green’s reaction:

“Well, she was the one who found me in that hotel room the next day, and she had to go get all the bandages and she bandaged me up and cleaned me up. But um, a lot of people thought I was crazy going into it. I got so many texts and DM’s like don't do this, this guy's crazy. I'm like, if I'm convincing people in the business, this is gonna be great.”

On Cody Rhodes wrestling with a torn pec:

“Oh, man. First of all, he had to do that match. Was it like this the smartest for his health? Maybe not. But it's such an iconic moment, you know, and it really showed that he had these balls and the passion for pro-wrestling. I think he gained a lot of people's respect if he didn't have it already. Great, great night for him and he needed that. And I think Cody is, you know, it was a blessing in disguise to get injured, because now he gets two big comebacks in one calendar year.”

What is Matt Cardona grateful for:

“Chelsea Green, The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast and living my dream.”