Zack Ryder

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Zack Ryder
Zack Ryder in April 2014.jpg
Ryder in 2014.
Birth name Matthew Brett Cardona
Born (1985-05-14) May 14, 1985 (age 29)
Merrick, New York[1]
Resides Long Beach, New York
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Brett Matthews[2][3]
Brett Major[3]
Zack Ryder[3]
Billed height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)[4]
Billed weight 214 lb (97 kg)[4]
Billed from Long Island, New York[4]
Trained by Mikey Whipwreck[5]
Debut 2004

Matthew Brett Cardona (born May 14, 1985), better known by his ring name Zack Ryder, is an American professional wrestler and singer, currently signed to WWE. Cardona wrestled mostly with his tag team partner Brian Myers/Curt Hawkins on the independent circuit and initially in WWE, where they won the WWE Tag Team Championship. After the team split in 2009, Cardona was featured sparingly on WWE television. In 2011, Cardona began using various social networking websites in order to establish a niche fan following, helping him elevate his status in WWE while also capturing the United States Championship. Hoeski, his first music single, peaked on #92 at the iTunes Pop Music chart in February 2013.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

New York Wrestling Connection (2004–2006)[edit]

Cardona debuted with New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC) in 2004, using the name Brett Matthews. By 2005 he began regularly teaming with Bryan Myers and the duo of Myers and Matthews went on to defeat the NYWC Tag Team Champions Dickie Rodz and Mason Raige by disqualification, for which titles do not change hands.[6] At the next event on June 4 they won a rematch decisively to become Tag Team Champions.[7] Later that month they were attacked by The Dead Presidents (Lo Lincoln and Boog Washington) to set up a feud where they eventually lost their titles against them in July.[6] on August 27.[7] On September 23 they were entered into a three way match with the champions but Team Tremendous (Dan Barry and Ken Scampi) ended up with the belts.[6] After continuing to win matches they re-earned a match against Team Tremendous and won the titles for the second time on January 25, 2006. They held the titles until they faced the B.S. Xpress (Tony Burma & Mike Spinelli), who defeated them for the titles on March 26.[7]

World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE[edit]

Developmental territories (2006–2007)[edit]

Zack Ryder (left) and Curt Hawkins in 2009.

Matt's first WWE appearance was on April 21, 2005 on SmackDown where he, performing as a jobber, took on Matt Morgan. On February 24, 2006, Matthew Cardona signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.[1] In Deep South Wrestling in Georgia, he was renamed Brett Majors while Myers was renamed Bryan Majors. By October they won the DSW Tag Team Championship from The Untouchables (Dice Domino and Deuce Shade) and held them until the end of November, losing them to Urban Assault (Eric Pérez and Sonny Siaki). After the titles were vacated in the following year, they became two-time champions defeating the new team of Siaki and Afa, Jr (The Samoan Swat Team) and the Blue Bloods (William Regal and Dave Taylor).[8] Later in 2007 they moved to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) and won the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship once, reigning from June 15 to 29.[9]

La Familia and WWE Tag Team Champion (2007–2009)[edit]

The team was moved from the developmental league to the main roster in May 2007, changing their last names from Majors to Major. They worked on WWE's ECW brand, winning only their first match[10][11][12] until they were drafted to SmackDown! in June.[13] On November 9 they won a battle royal to receive a WWE Tag Team Championship match, but didn't win.[14]

Ryder (left) posing with Edge and Hawkins.

At Armageddon, the duo dressed up like Edge and interfered in the World Heavyweight Championship match, replacing Edge at several points along the match to help him win the title and thus turning heel for the first time in their WWE career.[15] On December 21, the Major Brothers were revealed as an acquaintance to Edge and his lover, SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero. The Major Brothers were repackaged and renamed, with Cardona being renamed Zack Ryder.[16] Occasionally referred to as the Rated-R Entourage by commentators Michael Cole and John "Bradshaw" Layfield, the group allied with Guerrero's nephew, Chavo Guerrero and his enforcer Bam Neely as the group La Familia, which dominated SmackDown's storyline through 2008. Ryder and Hawkins interfered in Edge's match at WrestleMania XXIV against The Undertaker, but Undertaker eventually won the match.

At The Great American Bash on July 20 Curt Hawkins (the former Bryan Major) and Ryder won the WWE Tag Team Championship from John Morrison and The Miz in a fatal four-way match which also featured Jesse and Festus and Finlay and Hornswoggle after Hawkins pinned Jesse.[17][18] Their victory meant that they were the youngest team to hold the championships.[19] By SummerSlam in August,[20] La Familia had begun to fracture and Ryder, with Hawkins, went back to appearing on their own.[21][22] On the September 26 airing of SmackDown, Hawkins and Ryder lost the titles to The Colóns (Carlito and Primo Colón) in their first televised title defense.[23] On April 15, 2009 Ryder was drafted back to the ECW brand as part of the 2009 Supplemental Draft, separating the team.[24]

The Long Island Loudmouth (2009–2011)[edit]

"It was way before The Jersey Shore. I was with Curt Hawkins as the Edge Heads—a long haired blonde kid. And I needed a change. I needed something different. So I just took my real personality, turned the volume way up, cut the hair, went to all the clubs on Long Island, like GLO, and fist pumped with all my broskies until I finally found who I really was, and portrayed it to the world, throwing up the ‘LI’ hand signal."

Ryder on his new character after he stopped teaming with Hawkins.[25]

Ryder made his return to ECW on May 5, 2009 in a backstage segment with General Manager Tiffany. He now sported short hair, tanned skin, sunglasses, a headband, half-trunks/half-tights, displaying something of an arrogant Long Island guido character and more frequent uses of catchphrases "woo woo woo" and "you know it", that he had used sparingly in the tag team.[26][27] He lost to Finlay in his first singles match, on the May 7 Superstars.[28] His first win was on the May 19 ECW on Sci Fi over a jobber.[27] On September 15, Ryder won a 10-man battle royal to earn contendership to the ECW Championship[29] but lost to the champion, Christian, the following week.[30] On the November 3 episode of ECW, Ryder entered a love angle with Rosa Mendes who became his valet.[31] He also feuded with Tommy Dreamer, culminating in a match on December 29 where Ryder won to force Dreamer to leave the company.[32]

Ryder with his signature pose.

When the ECW brand came to an end in February 2010, Ryder and Mendes moved to the Raw brand, making his debut on the February 25 episode of Superstars, defeating Primo. Ryder made his Raw debut on March 1, losing to Montel Vontavious Porter in a Money in the Bank qualifying match.[33] He participated in an untelevised 26-man battle royal at WrestleMania XXVI, being the last person eliminated by the winning Yoshi Tatsu. Mendes was drafted to SmackDown as part of the 2010 Supplemental Draft without Ryder,[34] so Ryder sought a new valet, trying to impress Alicia Fox and Gail Kim while they watched his matches at ringside. During a match with Evan Bourne on the May 10 episode of Raw, Fox attempted to interfere on Ryder's behalf but was stopped by Kim, leading to Bourne winning the match.[35] The two new pairings faced off in a mixed tag team match on the May 17 episode of Raw, which Ryder and Fox lost.[36] Ryder had a return win over Bourne on May 27's Superstars.[37] The next week on Raw, Fox attacked Ryder with an axe kick after Raw guest host Ashton Kutcher put a bounty on Ryder's head.[38] During the June 7 Viewer's Choice episode of Raw, Ryder was voted to team with the Miz, defeating John Morrison and R-Truth.[39] The next week, Ryder had a title shot in a Fatal Four Way match for the WWE United States Championship but lost.[40] Months later, in August, he was given a WWE Championship match against Sheamus that lasted 11 seconds, which was the second-shortest WWE Championship match in WWE history, in an attempt by Sheamus to circumvent the company's 30 day championship defence policy.[41]

During this time, Ryder became a mentor on the second season of WWE NXT to Titus O'Neil. They debuted in a losing effort against John Morrison and Eli Cottonwood;[42] O'Neil was the first rookie eliminated from the second season, on June 29.[43] On the July 27 episode of NXT, Ryder lost against Percy Watson, making him the first mentor of season 2 to lose to a rookie in a singles match.[44] For the remainder of the year and well into 2011, Ryder mostly became used on the non-branded Superstars show, occasionally teaming with Primo. Ryder won a 2010 Slammy Award for Most Annoying Catchphrase in December.[45]

The Ryder Revolution (2011–2012)[edit]

Ryder with his Internet Championship.

As a result of being underutilised on television, Ryder became dissatisfied with his place in WWE and he started a YouTube web series[46] called Z! True Long Island Story in February 2011[47] to promote his character.[48] The web series soon earned Ryder a dedicated fan following: his T-shirts sold out despite not appearing on TV[48] and by June, "We Want Ryder" chants were started by the audiences of Raw and the Capitol Punishment pay-per-view without Ryder appearing on the show.[49][50]

The web show's popularity led to Ryder having a rise in status, making more appearances on television. Between April and June, Ryder appeared during Raw more often, often in backstage segments with John Cena.[51][52] On June 6 Ryder had his first match on Raw in 2011, losing to Kofi Kingston.[53] On the June 16 episode of Superstars in front of his hometown of Long Island his status as a face wrestler was confirmed when he defeated his former tag team partner Primo.[54] On the July 29 episode of Smackdown, Ryder was appointed as the assistant to Smackdown General Manager Theodore Long, allowing him to make TV appearances on both Raw and SmackDown.[55] On the September 19 episode of Raw, Ryder won a non-title match against United States Champion Dolph Ziggler with the help of guest star Hugh Jackman who punched Ziggler mid-match.[56] Following his victory over Ziggler, Ryder received a match for the United States Championship the following week and again at Vengeance but both unsuccessful due to interference from Jack Swagger.[57][58] Ryder main-evented Raw for the first time on November 7, teaming with John Cena in a losing effort against The Miz and R-Truth.[59] Ryder then lost a match to Cena and a chance for a title shot, but Cena surrendered his WWE Championship match so Ryder could have a second chance. This second chance was a No Disqualification match with World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry, which Ryder won with interference from Cena.[60] This won Ryder a United States Championship match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, which he won over Dolph Ziggler his first ever singles title.[61] Shortly after, Ryder left his position as assistant to the SmackDown General Manager due to his championship commitments.[62]

Return to lower-tier status (2012–present)[edit]

Strong fan support for Ryder as he prepares to face The Miz in April 2012.

Going into 2012, Ryder started trying to romance Eve as part of a romantic storyline.[63] As Cena's friend, Ryder also became a target of Kane, who was feuding with Cena at the time and attacked Ryder on several occasions. On the January 16 episode of Raw, Ryder lost his United States Championship to Jack Swagger due to a rib injury he suffered at the hands of Kane;[64] Ryder never received a title re-match despite being ex-champion.[65] Ryder's injuries mounted after he was chokeslammed through the Raw stage[66] and Tombstoned at the Royal Rumble.[67] On the February 13 episode of Raw, a wheelchair-bound Ryder saw Eve kiss Cena, after Cena saved her from a kidnapping by Kane. After a confrontation with Cena, Kane wheeled Ryder off the stage, injuring him even further.[68] While Ryder was out injured, Eve sparked a heel turn for her character when she revealed that she had never liked Ryder and had disingenuously used him for fame and publicity.[69] Ryder returned on the March 5 episode of Raw, confronting Eve on her recent actions, but she managed to seduce him.[70] Ryder then joined Theodore Long's team for a match to determine the General Manager of Raw and SmackDown at WrestleMania XXVIII. During the match, Eve distracted Ryder, costing him and Team Teddy the match, and she added further insult to injury by giving Ryder a low blow after the match.[71] After wrestling sporadically, Ryder failed to gain revenge on Kane for Kane's attacks on him earlier in 2012 when Kane easily defeated Ryder in the pre-show match of the Over the Limit.[72] Ryder finally took revenge on Kane by last eliminating him and winning the 20-man battle royal on the special "Great American Bash" July 3 episode of SmackDown to become the acting SmackDown (or "ZackDown", as he called it) GM the next week.[73][74]

"He almost immediately lost his U.S. Title, was never afforded the opportunity to further develop his persona, was entrenched in a terrible feud with Kane and John Cena, and was the fall guy in his first WrestleMania match. Since then, he's become a jobber yet again... With a stale gimmick and no attention from Creative, Zack Ryder's 15 seconds of fame are apparently up."

Pro Wrestling Torch analyst Benjamin Tucker on Ryder in 2012[75]

At the Night of Champions pre-show on September 16, Ryder won a 16-man battle royal to become number one contender for the United States Championship. However, later on in the pay-per-view, he failed to capture the title from defending champion Antonio Cesaro.[76] During the debut episode of WWE Main Event on October 3, Ryder and Santino Marella were entered into a tournament to decide the #1 contender to the tag team titles, where they defeated Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd to advance to the semi-finals.[77] The following week on Raw, the duo (eventually known as Team Co-Bro) was eliminated from the tournament after losing to Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow).[78][79] As 2012 drew to a close, Ryder commented that 2012 "sucked".[80] Ryder was ranked by Pro Wrestling Torch analyst Benjamin Tucker as #1 in the "Top 10 Crashing Stars of 2012". Tucker noted that Ryder was once again a jobber despite getting himself over in 2011.[75]

Ryder in 2014.

In 2013, Ryder most commonly appeared on Superstars and lost all his singles matches on Raw and SmackDown.[81] Ryder entered the 2013 Royal Rumble match (his only PPV match for the year) and was eliminated with no eliminations after two minutes.[82] After weeks of the roster's emasculation at the hands of authority figure Triple H, Ryder and several other babyfaces finally saved Daniel Bryan from a beatdown by the Shield and Randy Orton on the September 16 Raw.[83] In response, Triple H arranged for Ryder and Justin Gabriel to face Luke Harper and Erick Rowan of the Wyatt Family on the next SmackDown, where Ryder's team lost.[84] On the next Raw, Bryan, Ryder and the other babyfaces faced the Shield in an 11-on-3 handicap elimination match; Ryder was eliminated by Roman Reigns, but his team eventually won the match.[85]

"... it really kind of broke the spirit of the locker room. For years, we were told ... that there's a brass ring ... and it's there for the taking if you work hard enough and get yourself over. And [Ryder] ... defied the odds and actually does it, and all the boys are rooting for him ... He got over without the office, without TV time ... And then they did just crush it and take it all away from him ... It's like, you're not going to get pushed unless they pick you to get pushed, and that's kind of it."

Ryder's former tag partner Curt Hawkins in a 2014 interview[86]

In January 2014, the Professional Wrestling Torch Newsletter released a ranking of WWE's roster; Ryder was ranked as a lower-tier babyface and the third lowest babyface on the roster.[87] Ryder was also unsuccessful in winning three battle royals: the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX,[88] a battle royal for the United States Championship in May and a battle royal for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Battleground.[89][90] On the July 21 episode of Raw, Ryder picked up his first singles victory on Raw since December 2012,[81] but it was only after Layla interfered against Ryder's opponent, Fandango.[91] In November 2014, Ryder said that he had torn his rotator cuff and he may require surgery.[92]

Personal life[edit]

In an interview with WWE Magazine, Cardona revealed that he had suffered from and overcame cancer while in high school, but had to miss a year of school battling the disease.[93]

Other media[edit]

Ryder started a YouTube web series called Z! True Long Island Story in February 2011, which has amassed over 12 million views to date. The web series is a collection of short comments from Ryder, containing comedic allusions to wrestling and pop culture; it also features cameos from his friends and family, as well as fellow WWE colleagues.[94] The show's theme song Just Take Care, Spike Your Hair was written specifically about Ryder by The Luke & Duane Show. In April 2011, Ryder proclaimed himself WWE Internet Champion[95] complete with a children's replica belt covered in stickers, as it was unsanctioned by WWE.[96] In July 2011, Ryder defended his Internet Championship at a house show in Australia, against Primo.[97] He later said on Z! True Long Island Story that it was a non-title match, and that he would never defend his Internet Championship. On a later episode, Dolph Ziggler challenged Ryder to an Internet title match at Wrestlemania 29, and Ryder accepted.[98] Ryder soon replaced the toy belt with a $1,500 custom-made belt. The belt's centre plate features an engraved illustration of Ryder's head while the side plates display his logo and those of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.[99]

On episode 50 of Z! True Long Island Story, Ryder announced the show will be part of WWE's YouTube funded channel.[100] Z! True Long Island Story ended on January 11, 2013 which was the show's 100th episode. The show was "ended" by Dolph Ziggler, who attacked Ryder with his MITB briefcase, setting up a dream sequence featuring cameos from people who had previously appeared on the show while Ryder climbed a staircase to "heaven". When Ryder woke up, he thought that the Ryder Revolution was all a dream until being told by his family and friends that it all happened.[101] Overall, the series ran 50 episodes on Zack Ryder's YouTube channel and 50 episodes on WWE's official YouTube channel. Ryder later said that he regretted allowing WWE to move his show to their YouTube channel, and that WWE had removed content from his videos.[102] Ryder teased restarting Z! True Long Island Story in both April and May 2013, but the show ultimately did not return.[103][104] On March 10, 2014, Ryder uploaded the first episode of his new series, Zack Ryder's Last ReZort, to his own YouTube channel. In this video, Ryder (sans his traditional glasses and headband) expressed his frustration regarding his dramatic plunge to the bottom of the roster, proclaiming his desire to have "lightning strike twice" and work his way back up the cards.[105] In October 2014, Ryder and Dolph Ziggler "took over" an episode of WWE's YouTube series, The JBL (Not Cole) Show for its 99th episode, making it in turn the 101st episode of Ryder's show, Z! True Long Island Story.[106]

Ryder has over 1,300,000 followers on Twitter,[107] over 600,000 Facebook "likes",[108] and over 120,000 YouTube subscribers.[109] This led him to be featured in Sports Illustrated's list of the 100 most influential social media users in sports.[110] Ryder became the fourth WWE performer to reach 1 million followers on Twitter on January 14, 2013, minutes after the conclusion of the 20th Anniversary episode of Raw

On 16 January 2013, Ryder released a music video entitled "Hoeski".[111] The song amassed over 100,000 views in 4 days and was also posted on WWE's official YouTube channel.[112] "Hoeski" peaked on #92 at the iTunes Pop Music chart on 5 February 2013.[113]

Ryder has appeared in several WWE video games, including WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2009, WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011, WWE '12, WWE '13, WWE 2K14. Despite never being used on television, Ryder's Internet Championship belt can be defended in WWE '13 and WWE 2K14. Due to copyright issues, it is missing the stickers of the social networking sites, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.[citation needed]

Ryder has also appeared on Travel Channel's Toy Hunter documentary.[114]

In wrestling[edit]

Ryder performing the Broski Boot to Conor O'Brian.
Ryder counters an oncoming Miz with a double high knee.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

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