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10 Things Matt Cardona Has Done After Leaving WWE

Debuting in 2004, Matt Cardona signed to WWE the following year, and spent 15 years with the company, most famously under the ring name Zack Ryder. As Ryder, Cardona was an early adopter in using the Internet as a self-promotion tool — at least in pro wrestling — and developed a following among WWE fans. But the company never capitalized on Ryder as well as they should have, and he was eventually released in 2020 along with a slew of other talent.

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Now performing on the indies and various other major promotions, Matt Cardona has proven that his days earning fans on YouTube wasn’t a fluke. Let’s look at the latest phase of Cardona’s career and some things he’s already done since leaving WWE.

10 Debuted For AEW

Matt Cardona’s first in-ring appearance after leaving WWE happened in All Elite Wrestling, where he showed up in July to join Cody Rhodes in opposing what was then the villainous Dark Order faction. He wrestled two matches with the company, first a winning two-on-two tag team match against Alex Reynolds and John Silver alongside Rhodes, and then an eight-man tag at the 2020 all-out pay-per-view against the Dark Order, which Cardona’s team also won. From there, Cardona moved on, as his contract with the company was only for a handful of appearances.

9 Debuted For Impact Wrestling

Early 2021 saw Matt Cardona make his way to the Impact Zone, where he quickly became a staple of the show rather than only showing up for a few episodes. By the end of the year, he made his way into the World Title picture, where he found himself feuding not only with the champion, Moose, but also fellow WWE alum W. Morrissey (formerly known as Big Cass). Cardona would compete for the belt in a three-way at hard to kill in January 2021 alongside Moose and Morrissey, but would come up short.


8 Feuded With Brian Myers

Given that Matt Cardona’s real-life friend, former tag team partner, and podcast co-host Brian Myers (formerly Curt Hawkins in WWE) was an established character on Impact Wrestling, it only made sense to reunite them. However, the two ended up at odds, with Myers wanting nothing to do with Cardona, leading to a full-on rivalry between the two.

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After several clashes in the following months, their final encounter would be at Slammiversary 2021 in a mixed tag team match, with Cardona teaming with a debuting Chelsea Green to beat Myers and Tenille Dashwood.

7 Revived The Internet Championship

As part of his YouTube show, Z! True Long Island Story, Matt Cardona (as Zack Ryder) created his own title belt, the Internet Championship, which was adorned with social media logos and featured Ryder’s face on the front plate. While strictly a prop, after leaving WWE Ryder revived the belt and began defending it as a heel on the indies. Like Taz and Ted DiBiase before him, he ended up losing the belt when he decided to defend it, losing it to EFFY at a Game Changer Wrestling show but winning it back after a couple of weeks.

6 Turned Heel And Reunited With Brian Myers

While Matt Cardona was working heel on the indies, he remained a babyface in Impact Wrestling — that is, until February 2022 when he used a steel chair to beat Jordynne Grace for the Digital Media Championship. From there, it wasn’t long before Cardona and Brian Myers reunited as a duo — both in Impact and on the indies — incorporating Chelsea Green into the mix as The Major Players. Cardona would lose the Digital Media Championship to Rich Swann, but would steal the physical belt, leaving Swann as a champion with nothing to show for it.

5 Gained A Manager

As alluded to, Matt Cardona was a total heel on the indie scene, especially in GCW, where he presented himself as a big-time WWE Superstar who didn’t care for the indies. As part of the gimmick, Cardona got himself a manager in “Smart” Mark Sterling, known to fans as the kayfabe lawyer/manager of MJF, Jade Gargill, and Tony Nese on AEW television. Cardona actually has a connection to Mark Sterling as Sterling was trained by his buddy Brian Myers as well as Pat Buck in their Create-A-Pro wrestling school.

4 Became The (Self-Proclaimed) Deathmatch King

Matt Cardona’s biggest feud to date in GCW was with the arguable top star of the company, deathmatch wrestling legend and GCW World Champion Nick Gage. Social media call-outs led to an in-person surprise attack and staged altercations at public events, and finally a deathmatch for the belt, which Cardona won following interference from Gage’s GCW rival, Rickey Shane Page.

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In defeating Gage, Matt Cardona not only got the GCW World Championship and a shower of garbage from the live crowd, but also a new way to troll the fans. Immediately Cardona proclaimed himself the Deathmatch King for having defeated Nick Gage.

3 Got His Own (Non-WWE) Toys

Matt Cardona is known for his lifelong love for pro wrestling, including collecting toys, which is the main subject of his podcast with Brian Myers, The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast, which they started in 2018. In 2020, it was announced that Cardona and Myers were getting non-WWE action figures of themselves released through Super7, which produces licensed toys for collectors based on properties like Godzilla, GI Joe, and various rock bands. On top of that, Cardona and Myers’ toys were part of Super 7’s Ultimates line, which are poseable, heavy on detail, and come with tons of accessories.

two Became a Belt Collector

Toys weren’t the only items that Matt Cardona collected after leaving WWE. While Kenny Omega was high-key collecting belts in AEW, Impact Wrestling, and AAA, Cardona was doing the same under-the-radar, capturing titles all over the indies in addition to capturing the Impact Digital Media Championship and GCW World Title and holding his own Internet Championship. So far, he’s won All Star Wrestling’s Heavyweight Championship, the unified Absolute and Intense Title for Absolute Intense Wrestling, and the Heavyweight Title of New York Wrestling Connection, where Cardona got his start in the sport.

1 Won The NWA World Heavyweight Championship

Amid the above-mentioned belts is one that deserves its own section. At the end of 2021, Matt Cardona showed up at the National Wrestling Alliance pay-per-view Hard Times to attack the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Trevor Murdoch. In February, Cardona was able to defeat Murdoch to capture the belt, and managed to retain against The Pope and former champion Nick Aldis before vacating due to injury after 119 days. No fan watching Zack Ryder in the 2010s could have imagined that he would one day hold one of the most historically prestigious championships in all of professional wrestling.

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