Since his release from WWE in 2020, Matt Cardona has been afforded numerous opportunities on the independent wrestling scene and has redefined what it means to be a star on the independent circuit. Cardona has been booked for appearances in National Wrestling Alliance, Warrior Wrestling, House of Glory, One Pro Wrestling, Battleground Championship Wrestling, and the indie slept-on GCW.
Once known as Zack Ryder while in WWE, Ryder was often booked as a low-tier babyface. Although he suffered a variety of injuries while with the company, he did have a WrestleMania moment when he substituted for Neville (PAC) in a ladder match winning the Intercontinental Championship. Ryder was later paired with Curt Hawkins on the WrestleMania 35 pre-show, and they would go on to defeat The Revival (FTR) to capture the tag titles.
A New Beginning
Cardona worked with All Elite Wrestling on a limited appearance deal under his real name (Matthew Cardona) in 2020. While in AEW, he teamed with Cody Rhodes to defeat The Dark Order. He also teamed with Dustin Rhodes, QT Marshall and Scorpio Sky in an eight-man tag match to defeat Mr. Brodie Lee, Colt Cabana, Evil Uno and Stu Grayson of The Dark Order, which was his last match with the company.
Cardona began to work with Impact Wrestling again on a limited appearance deal in 2021. After competing in a few tag matches, he challenged for the Impact title. Although he failed to win the main title, he was able to win the newly created Impact Digital Media Championship, in an intergender match with Jordynne Grace. Cardona confirmed he was leaving Impact Wrestling on May 14, 2023.
Cardona has created several self-given nicknames. Currently he is going by “President of Independent Wrestling”. After winning the GCW title, he named himself, the Death Match King. Later on, he adopted the moniker, “The Indie God,” a play off Indiana Jones during an appearance.
During an GCW event, he walked to the ring as The Undertaker. He hijacked Taker’s gimmick (which has over one million views) and was referred to as “The Rydertaker”. To make things worst (or better depending on your Cardona stance), he was accompanied by Steph De Lander, who held an urn, like Paul Bearer.
Titles held by Cardona on the Indie Circuit:
- Impact Digital Media Championship
- GCW World Championship
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- DDT Universal Championship
- Ohio Valley Wrestling Southern Tag Team Championship – with Brian Majors (Curt Hawkins)
- All-Star Wrestling Heavyweight Championship
- Deep South Wrestling Tag Team Championship (2x) – with Brian Majors
- House of Glory World Heavyweight Championship
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated he said, “2022 was the most successful I’ve ever been in my wrestling career, now I’m determined to make 2023 top that.” If you didn’t know, Matt Cardona was named Male Independent Wrestler of the Year by Fightful Select & Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2022. Needless to say, Cardona bet on himself despite the odds, and succeeded…