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Wrestling / Matt Cardona
aka: Zack Ryder

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Matthew Brett Cardona (born May 14, 1985) is an American professional wrestler best known for his time in WWE as Zack Ryder, where he is a one-time Intercontinental Champion, one-time United States Champion, and two-time WWE (Raw) Tag Team Champion.

Cardona began working in the professional wrestling industry in 2004, mainly as a tag team with Brian Myers on the independent circuit and then eventually in WWE (with Myers going as Curt Hawkins), where they won the WWE Tag Team Championship. After the team split in 2009, he was featured sparingly on television. In 2011, he started publishing his own web series Z! True Long Island Story. This and his use of social networking websites helped him in establishing a fan following and a bigger television role with WWE as a result. However, it was later reported that this did not impress the head honchos at WWE, who bought the rights to Ryder's show basically just to cancel it and proceeded to return him to jobber status, effectively putting him Out of Focus. Critics of WWE have pointed to Ryder as an example of how politics have bogged the company down in recent years. Besides winning the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match at WrestleMania 32 (before he lost the title the next night on Raw) and winning the tag team titles with Hawkins a second time at WrestleMania 35, he would remain in that status until both him and Hawkins were released by WWE in April 2020 as part of budget cuts stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the July 30th 2020 episode of AEW Dynamite Ryder (now going under his own name) ran in to save his real life friend Cody Rhodes from a post-match beatdown. However his initial run with AEW was only for 2 months and his deal expired after All Out 2020, making him a free agent, although he didn't rule out returning the promotion again at a later date. He would continue his tour of the wider wrestling world in 2021 when he appeared in Impact Wrestling on a similar limited appearance deal. In July of the same year, Cardona appeared in GCW, beating Nick Fucking Gage for the GCW Championship, and he did it by beating Gage in the latter's signature Deathmatch. On 2/12/22 he would defeat Trevor Murdoch to become the new NWA champion.

"Oh, TV tropes. Tell me everything you know:"

  • Aborted Arc
    • Dolph Ziggler didn't invoke his rematch clause after losing the title to Ryder at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2011 due to becoming the #1 contender for the WWE Championship.
    • Ryder himself didn't invoke his rematch clause for the United States Championship after returning from his (Kayfabe) injury.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Just watch Zack's dad for a few minutes. It's all done intentionally and Played for Laughs, but it's still there. His dad also recently got Twitter; Zack's standard operating procedure is to retweet whatever he just said with an "UGH" attached.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Evan Bourne, 2009-2011, until face turn.
    • Yoshi Tatsu. They had had dozens of matches from ECW to Raw to Superstars, even down to being the last two left in the dark match battle royal at WrestleMania XXVI. They have began referring to each other as "Japanese Broski" and "American Broski" since Ryder's face turn. Curt Hawkins, who pretty much trolls the ground Yoshi Tatsu walks on on Twitter, has stated their newfound bromance makes him sick.
    • Dolph Ziggler was this in late 2011, much to Ziggler's own chagrin. At one point, Zack pinned him at least 3 times in a month, and it drove Ziggler to the point where he hijacked Ryder's Z! True Long Island Story broadcast, talked about how him being "for real" overshadows Ryder's "fake" Net popularity, and assaulted Ryder's friend Chiappetta. It was revealed in Episode 37 that was Chiappetta was jumped by Scott Stanford. Only to be revealed in episode 38 to be Scott Stanford's Evil Twin who teamed up with Dolph Ziggler.
    • Nick Gage, and later Blake Christian in GCW.
    • Since he turned Heel in Impact Wrestling, he feuded with a Face W. Morrisey.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Both the Zack Attack and the Rough Ryder look cool, but are really impractical for a lot of reasons.
  • Badass Longcoat: Sported one in his entrance to Wrestlemania 32, and he's kept it in a lot of his entrances ever since. He actually sketched the design himself while at his hotel room one night, and his drawing was tailored and brought to life just in time his Wrestlemania match.
  • Battle Couple: This was how his relationship with Eve Torres started. His current relationship with Chelsea Green also features them frequently teaming up.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: On the September 20, 2013 edition of WWE SmackDown, Ryder and Justin Gabriel asked Triple H for the chance to compete that night. Trips agreed to give them a fair competition. Of course, his idea of fair was The Wyatt Family...
  • Becoming the Mask: Has embraced the old-school style of living his gimmick.
    Zack Ryder: Ninety-nine percent of that character is me. It is me — I'm a big kid living the dream, listening to boy band music, fist pumpin' in the club, spiking my hair.
  • Big Applesauce: More specifically, Long Island.
  • Brass Balls: It took a pretty big set for Ryder to slap John Cena in the condition he was in. It's actually even more daring when you consider that Cena was slowly being corrupted by hate due to Kane's psychological warfare on him. If John didn't hold any restraint, Ryder would've been beaten within an inch of his life.
  • Break the Cutie: Oh, dear god. Kane went through great lengths with this in his feud with Cena. From trying to drag him into Hell, stalking him everywhere he went and even confined him to a wheelchair and pushing said wheelchair off the Raw stage, the poor kid couldn't catch a break during all of this.
  • Butt-Monkey: 2012 wasn't exactly Zack Ryder's best year. 2013 wasn't much better, being on the wrong end of squash matches and getting annihilated by Ryback as an example of what John Cena could expect in their Ambulance Match at Payback 2013.
  • Call-Back: In a September 2011 photoshoot with his customized Internet Championship, Ryder is facing the camera, head tilted slightly down while he's pulled down his glasses to look directly at the camera. A pose that is very similar to another promotional image taken during the early part of his run in WWE.
  • Catchphrase
  • Continuity Nod
    • Cena called him "The Tenth Wonder of the World". This is a reference to André the Giant and Chyna, who were called "The Eighth" and "Ninth Wonders of the World" respectively in the WWE.
    • Also pretty much the month of July 2012. During a backstage segment at a party, he ended up throwing a bowl of punch on Eve Torres. The following week, Zack won the job of "Smackdown GM for a day" in July 2012 by winning a Battle Royal with that as the prize. His last elimination was that of Kane. Anyone who's watched Raw and SmackDown for most of 2012 is aware that Eve and Kane have been the ones primarily responsible for his 2012 not going nearly as well as he'd hoped.
  • Cool Shades: Admit it...
  • Curb-Stomp Battle
    • His first WWE title shot had him losing to Sheamus in eleven seconds.
    • In the 2010 Royal Rumble Match, Ryder was quickly eliminated after CM Punk (who was a heel at the time) tried to persuade him to join the Straight Edge Society before hitting him in the skull with a microphone.
  • Dare to Be Badass: How Ryder stepped up in 2011, as he noted in an article:
    Zack Ryder: Earlier this year, probably January or so, I looked myself in the mirror and said this career is not where I want it to be. I had nothing to lose; I was on a path to get released. What were they going to do? Fire me? Not put me on TV? I wasn’t on TV anyway. My life was going to change one way or the other. I knew I was either going to get fired or get noticed. I got noticed.
  • Dark Horse Victory: His victory of the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32 was completely unexpected considering his Jobber status.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Before WrestleMania 32, Zack was barely making it onto Superstars and 'Main Event. In Mania'', he won the Intercontinental Championship in a Ladder Match.
  • Demoted to Extra: During the last 12 months of the ECW brand, Ryder was a perennial contender to the ECW Championship, having several standout matches with then ECW Champion Christian, was given the honor of retiring the last ECW original Tommy Dreamer, and he even interfered in the final ECW Championship match. Upon arriving to Raw in February 2010 up until he started his YouTube web series and earned himself a dedicated fan following, he didn't display any of that in-ring competence at all. Afterwards it was zig-zagged; as after a successful year in 2011, he won the United States Championship, in 2012 he was quickly shifted down the card, but four years later he was on the main card for WrestleMania 32 and won the Intercontinental Championship.
  • Determinator: Just based on how many brutal beatdowns he took from Kane during Kane's feud with John Cena yet Ryder still appeared on TV, you could make a case for this.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Nobody, and we mean nobody thought he was going to come away from WrestleMania 32 with the Intercontinental Title- right up until the very second where he shoved The Miz off the ladder to grab the belt himself. Unfortunately, Miz would invoke his rematch clause the night afterwards and Maryse would successfully distract Ryder by attacking his dad, which allowed the Miz to capitalize and recover the Intercontinental Championship.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Really? A dance battle between a guy whose big move is fist pumping and a pelvic thrust against a master of parkour for the US Title shot at Survivor Series? Scott Stanford, are you serious, bro? To be fair, Zack did well with his limited moveset. The real failure was picking Zack's dad, a known Jomo Sapien, to be the judge.
  • Distressed Dude: Unfortunately ended up in the middle of Kane's quest to make John Cena give in to the hate. He was nearly dragged to hell, chokeslammed on to a pallet outside the arena, chokeslammed through the stage as well as given a Tombstone Piledriver, then pushed off the stage...all in the matter of about a month.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: He defeated the United States Champion Dolph Ziggler twice and then didn't appear on Raw at all for weeks on end.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Zack Ryder went from being a leading candidate in the "future endeavors" club to United States Champion all in the course of a year, and he did it all on his own, by making himself relevant through social media to the point that WWE had no choice but to take notice.
  • Executive Meddling: An in-universe example: A week after being choke-slammed onto a pallet by Kane and suffering damage to his midsection, Ryder's advertised United States Championship defense against Jack Swagger depended on a doctor's note saying whether he could compete or not. John Laurinaitis did receive the note, and the match went on as scheduled, so we assume Ryder was cleared. However, he ended up on the wrong end of a squash and lost the United States Championship to Swagger. It's only just after this that we find out Laurinaitis never actually read the note until after the match, which said Ryder in fact had not been cleared by doctors. "My bad".
  • 15 Minutes of Fame: At WrestleMania 32, Ryder would stun the WWE universe by competing in a 7-way ladder match against Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn, Sin Cara, Stardust and The Miz, catching Miz off guard in the midst of a premature celebration, pushing him off the ladder and seizing the Intercontinental belt. Unfortunately, this would be short-lived as The Miz would invoke his rematch clause the night afterwards, and Maryse would distract Ryder by attacking his dad, which allowed Miz to snatch the belt back from Ryder, who would never regain the Intercontinental title.
  • Fighting Your Friend: This is what Johnny Ace's "social experiment" attempted to do between Ryder and John Cena, the guy who's been promoting him practically nearly from the get-go. Ace pits the two friends against each other in a match where if Ryder wins, he finally gets his United States Championship match against Dolph Ziggler, and if Cena wins, he's in the WWE Championship match at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view. Neither man is happy about it, and it seemingly plays out when Cena pins Zack, and Ryder's absolutely despondent about losing his "one shot", but the Divided We Fall moment is averted when Cena goes backstage to Johnny Ace and is willing to forfeit his title opportunity via Johnny's Sadistic Choice to give Ryder another chance at a US Title shot. See Nice Job Fixing It, Villain below for details on what happened then.
  • Finishing Move: The Zack Attack (inverted overdrive neckbreaker) and the Rough Ryder/Radio Silence (jumping leg lariat). Zack's late 2011 push and increased ring time saw the Rough Ryder see more use, while the Zack Attack was dropped because it's Awesome, but Impractical.
  • Flipping the Bird: What he's doing ever since he turned Heel in GCW. He's giving "Stone Cold" Steve Austin a run for his money.
  • Iconic Outfit: His signature look; a pair of half-tights, half-briefs (although he later switched to full briefs), headband, and the Cool Shades.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: When he was funny heel jobber. Now he's a face.
  • Insane Troll Logic
    • After getting a new shirt, identical to the "Broski" t-shirt but with "Are you serious, Bro?" instead of "Take Care, Spike Your Hair." The reported reason for this is Vince McMahon didn't want anything with "spike" on merchandise, because it obviously promotes Spike TV and in turn, TNA. What?
    • Even more insane? Michael Cole saying that despite the thousands of signature on Ryder's public petition and the fact that he's pinned Ziggler almost every freakin' time they face each other, he says Ryder doesn't get one because "none of those matches were for the title." Are you SERIOUS, Bro?
    • Once claimed on Twitter that since he and his wife Chelsea Green shared everything under marital property, this made him partially the WWE Women's Tag champion.
  • Joisey: A major element of his gimmick since 2009 (though he's actually from Long Island, which has a similar "wiseguy" subculture).
  • Large Ham: Only Santino Marella can keep up with him in that department. One of the reasons he's endeared himself to the fanbase is his lack of inhibitions; how many other wrestlers would show themselves singing the tunes of Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, New Kids on the Block, and Rebecca Black with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas?
  • Love Makes You Dumb: He still had feelings for Eve, despite her turning heel and admitting using him to get to Cena. Hopefully he got more wise about it, after she cost his team the victory and giving him a low blow, as this photo he took of her when she "went swimming" is any indication.
  • Made of Iron: Ever since he got roped into the Cena/Kane angle, you could make a case for this just based on how many brutal beatdowns it's taken to get him off TV.
    • First he got chokeslammed off a near-ten-foot drop.
    • Then, the following week, he came back only to lose his United States championship to Jack Swagger, who had to use his Gutwrench Powerbomb three times to get Ryder to stay down. Keep in mind, Ryder had cracked ribs (which the gutwrench specifically targets) and wasn't cleared to compete.
    • Then, the following week, Ryder ends up in a match with Kane, who predictably destroys him (although nowhere near as easily as one would think) and rounds it off by chokeslamming Ryder through the stage. Ryder ends up getting driven off in an ambulance.
    • That Sunday for the Royal Rumble, he's back again (albeit in a wheelchair), and gets a Tombstone Piledriver that finally appears to have finished him off. Let's put that in perspective. Once Kane singled out Ryder as a secondary target, it took him a full month to get rid of the guy. If that's not Made of Iron, I don't know what is.
    • Then this happened. Lets just say that for all of his grit and determination, Zack Ryder will forever remember Kane as the worst thing that ever happened to him.
  • Martial Arts Headband: In ECW onward, eventually getting "Woo Woo Woo" sewn on it.
  • Meal Ticket: Sadly turned out to be this for Eve Torres when she revealed on the February 20, 2012 episode of Raw that she was using him as a means to gain notoriety and work her way up to hooking the "big fish". What a ho-ski.
  • Morality Pet: In early 2012, Zack actually seemed to bring out the standards in a lot of heels. Notably the heel Bella Twins and Natalya Neidhart called him a "great guy" and "genuine person", and disapproved of how Eve Torres was using him.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Thanks to Cena giving up his title shot at TLC, Ryder gets another chance at a US Title shot, but the opponent he ends having to try to beat is the Ax-Crazy World Champion Mark Henry. Johnny Ace even made the match No-DQ and No Countout so that there would be no easy victory by Ryder or any dispute if he lost. Cena, however, is savvy in that he knows he can come down and get involved without Zack being DQ'ed. He gives Mark an AA, and puts a dazed Ryder on top of him for the three.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Since his wife Chelsea Green returned to WWE, he's currently teaming up with the toughest woman in the business, Steph De Lander.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: He's basically Santino if he was slightly less ridiculous, slightly less competent, and from Long Island instead of Italy.
  • Power Stable: Was part of La Familia on SmackDown!
  • Pun: Manages to get off a couple on his YouTube show, riffing on wrestling lingo;
    • He promises to "shoot", then shows up dressed as Han Solo firing a toy blaster, and then he says that the reason the economy's so bad is because he's doing all the "jobs", then demonstrates how he's a wrestler, a cook, a plumber, and an underwear model.
    • Replies to The Big O pushing him on his show with "NOBODY PUSHES ZACK RYDER."
    • And as he's trying to climb a fence, someone asked him what he's doing: "Trying to get over."
    • Of course, both of these examples are very ironic as the show where he took jabs at his situation got him massively over, which has resulted in a push as well as a short run as the US Champ. It's also gotten him roped into the storyline with Kane and gotten him Kayfabe injured to the point where he lost his title. Then again, when he finally did show up on TV again, he was still over.
  • Purple Is Powerful: His attire started to get a lot of shades of purple around the time he build his fan base and got his push.
  • Red Baron: The Long Island Loudmouth, The Long Island Iced-Z, The Ultimate Broski, The Woo-Woo-Woo Guy, The Internet Champion, Always Ready, The (Self-Proclaimed) Deathmatch King, The Indy God, The Agent. He and Curt Hawkins were sometimes called the Rated-R Entourage.
  • Redemption Promotion: Since his face turn, Ryder's been winning more matches on both Raw and SmackDown. This includes defeating United States Champion Dolph Ziggler (thrice, the first with Hugh Jackman managing him, no less and finally winning the United States Championship) and being on the good end of a Curb-Stomp Battle against Michael Cole and other heel jobbers (funny since he used to be one).
  • Shameless Self-Promotion: His YouTube channel, where he airs episodes of his series "Z! True Long Island Story." Though it's not all that shameless anymore. He's doing whatever he can to get the attention of WWE creative and stand out in a midcard full of other guys WWE creative has no idea what to do with. Even with two guys in main event for WrestleMania XXVII (and Triple H, kinda-sorta) going to bat for him, he's having a difficult time catching up.
  • Ship Tease: With Eve Torres, but after Zack saw Eve and Cena kissing, along with Eve dropping the "f-bomb" on him right after as part of her explanation, it sunk.
  • Shout-Out
    • As the first WWE Superstar to build his fanbase almost solely from the internet, it's almost appropriate that Ryder would riff off one of WWE's many memes. He took to Twitter to discuss his injuries at the hands of Kane, alluded to getting some revenge when he came back, and rounded off his tweet with, "Kane, we coming for you Broski!!
    • Possible one: Ryder calling himself the "Assistant General Manager" when his title is actually "Assistant to the General Manager" during his stint with Teddy Long on SmackDown seems to be a reference to Dwight Schrute from The Office (US).
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Seems to be a victim of this, as he's got entangled into John Cena's storyline with Kane and severely injured as a result.
  • Signature Move: The Broski Boot (Facewash after fist-pumping)
  • Small Name, Big Ego: His breakout persona - which has evolved into a Plucky Underdog as he has started to become as popular as he thought he was. Granted, he's still a bit of an incompetent tool. It's just that now it's presented as endearing rather than annoying.
  • Spiky Hair: Part of his character, along with the slogan "take care, spike your hair"... up until 2013, where it was revealed that languishing in jobberdom for several months prompted him to grow it out (again) in an attempt to change his image.
  • Start My Own: At one point, Ryder started referring to himself as the "champion of the Internet." A few weeks later, he actually had a WWE Internet Title belt that he defends at WWE live events.
  • Take That!
    • A pretty deadpan one that was quite out of character towards WWE management on his Twitter feed, see it.
    • Recently started adding one to the "do all this social media stuff" exit message he gives on his YouTube show after moving future entries to WWE's YouTube channel instead of his own: "But because of WWE, you can't leave a comment." Although this one has since been averted, as WWE soon allowed fans to leave comments on his show. This was something of a big deal, since WWE was so notoriously tight-fisted about things like that, the fact that he and his fans had the pull to get that changed is saying something. And indeed, it started a changing of tide, as most of WWE's videos are now comment-friendly.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: A rare male example, as he was being injured and beaten down solely to improve John Cena and his rivalry with Kane.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Despite going back to being a jobber in 2012, Ryder got some comeupance from Kane and Eve Torres, the two people who in storyline wrecked his moment in the July 3, 2012 episode of SmackDown, where he dumped punch on Eve and won a Battle Royal to be GM for next week—by eliminating Kane.
  • Too Many Belts: In early 2022, he adopted a "belt collector" gimmick similar to that of Kenny Omega, though Cardona didn't use that phrase. In May of that year, he held the NWA Worlds Heavyweight and Impact Digital Media belts, four belts from various indy promotions, and his self-proclaimed Internet Championship.
  • Took a Level in Badass: December 2010? Seldom-used Jobber lucky to get even token TV time. December 2011? The United States Champion. Also take note that he's actually able to take most of the blows that are coming this way, whereas before he'd be pummeled pretty easily: it took three gutwrench powerbombs to his injured ribs to put him down in a recent match against Jack Swagger, and that's to say nothing of the beating he endured at the hands of Kane.
  • Verbal Tic: Sometimes he WOOs during his entrances... and doesn't seem to notice.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Triple H. Subverted on Ryder's end because he's absolutely grateful Trips gave him the opportunity to prove himself on TV and gave "The Game" his vote of support despite the issue surrounding Triple H's stint as COO which were affecting all of the roster. Played straight with Triple H, who does support Zack Ryder getting more air time and making something out of himself, but cringes when saying the kid's "Woo Woo Woo" and can't resist the urge to give him a Pedigree whenever they're in the ring together.
  • The Unfought: Despite Eve Torres's emotional manipulation, and kicking him in the groin at WrestleMania, the two never faced each other in so much as a mixed tag match.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Started his WWE career as one half of the "Major Brothers" with himself as Brett and Brian Myers/Curt Hawkins as the latter's first name.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Despite his California "surfer-dude" appearance when he debuted as Brett Major, Zack is actually an Italian-American (okay, Spanish-American, but close enough) from New York, and that comes through pretty well in his accent and gimmick. Many people were probably surprised when they first heard him speak.
  • We Used to Be Friends: In a interview, he pretty much says he could care less about Cena after the guy kissed Eve, and hopes he and Kane destroy one another in their Ambulance Match at the Elimination Chamber PPV. However, they've apparently reconciled later, as they've appeared together a few times since summer 2012.
    • In Impact Wrestling, he once fought against his former friend Brian Myers during their feud. No longer the case now that both are reunited as The Major Players.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Likely the only reason Eve didn't get any comeuppance from low blowing him at WrestleMania. But she sure can take a punch, a-thank you!
    • Would Hit a Girl: On the other hand, this is how Matt Cardona won the Impact Digital Media Championship against Jordynne Grace, with a chair shot, of all the things.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain
    • Happened during the October 24, 2011 episode of Raw when Ryder was announced as Cena's tag team partner going up against Awesome Truth in the main event. Ryder's so excited about being in the main event for the first time, he takes the time to do a backstage promo right before the match, during which R-Truth and Miz promptly jump and beat him down to take him out of the match. Broski got denied big time.
    • Subverted on the November 7, 2011 episode of Raw when he got to tag with Cena for real, even getting to hit a stereo Broski Boot and Five-Knuckle Shuffle with the man.
    • And in the 2011 European tour, Ryder got the chance to team up with Cena once again. They even give him a part in the US promos for the tour (usually reserved to top talent/big names) and mentions that part. Cut to Cena flatly saying "Don't air that part. On to the next part."
    • In WrestleMania 32, Ryder wins the Intercontinental Championship. On the Raw following WrestleMania 32, Ryder has an emotional speech about him becoming Intercontinental Champion, and the crowd is totally behind him. Then The Miz shows up and goads him into a title match which Ryder loses, with help from Maryse attacking his dad. Then he loses again on a rematch in the following SmackDown. Poor guy can't catch a break.

Alternative Title(s): Zack Ryder