Matt Cardona Dedicated to Proving His Supporters Right in All Elite Wrestling
When WWE released Zack Ryder it marked the close of an almost 15-year chapter in the career of Matt Cardona. But as fans found out watching All Elite Wrestling’s Dynamite, it was not the end of his story.
The free agent made the save for Cody Rhodes against the Dark Order on the July 29 episode of the Wednesday night show. This set the stage for Cardona to team with his good friend versus Alex Reynolds and John Silver of the group.
“I’m someone who loves to hustle. I love to work hard and love to see the results. I was so excited. I mean I had my Pro Wrestling Tees store ready to go [after the release announcement] because I knew what was coming. I was just so pumped,” he said.
“I felt like this was my chance now to do what I want to do and prove all my supporters right. Now if I want a t-shirt design, I can think of it and put it up for sale. I could wrestle wherever I want. Right now, I’m getting to finally experience all this. It's no secret. I wanted to go to AEW for a long time. Here I am, making my debut on TNT. It does not get any better than that.”
The 35-year-old is in his best shape ever and looking to show the world there is much more left in the tank. Ahead of his big return to the ring, Cardona opens up about his first impressions of AEW and why it’s the place he wants to be.
You’ve had so many ups and downs. Was there ever a point where you considered not wrestling again?
Matt Cardona: Never. That never crossed my mind. Wrestling has been all I wanted to do with my life ever since I was a little kid. You can’t just love this business when everything is going your way. It’s easy that way. You have to love it when things are bad and you’ve hit rock bottom because when you get those good moments, they’re even sweeter. So I never thought about quitting this ever.
You grew up a fan, so it must be a thrill to appear on TNT where so many of your idols like Sting did back in the day.
A hundred percent. It’s live on TNT, and I was out there. I was so nervous. It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my career, but it went well and I was super happy with it. But now it’s time. Let’s get the ball rolling. Every Wednesday including this Wednesday when I have my first match in five months.
What have you been doing to keep the ring rust off?
During the quarantine I built a gym in my backyard and worked out. Always ready. I have been going in as prepared as possible. Though there is nothing that duplicates getting inside a ring. There is no cardio. You just have to do it. You just have to wrestle.
You came to Dynamite jacked. What kind of training regimen did you put yourself under knowing you really wanted to make a good first impression?
I was always into working out to begin with. If anything it was harder at first because during the quarantine there were no gyms open right away. So I was making stuff up in my backyard. I was putting bands on palm trees. You have to stay ready because at the end of the day nobody wants to hear an excuse. They just want to see the results. So when I knew when I showing up and my WWE non-compete was up, I knew I was going to be in the best shape of my life. And if people think that, then I guess it worked.
What were the early dealings of AEW like?
It’s no secret I’m good friends, if not best friends with Cody Rhodes. Cody has a little bit of stroke in AEW. So it was an easy translation for me to get my foot in the door. Now it’s on me to show why I belong there. I have to prove it to myself as well. I love a challenge and opportunity. I’ve made a career out of making the most out of those opportunities.
Where would you say your friendship with Cody truly began?
It’s funny because Cody and I were not friends. We broke into the business at the same time. We were kind of like competition for each other. Not that we hated each other by any means. It’s with any job. Some people you’re friends with and some people you’re not. He was one of the people I wasn’t friends with. I don’t know how we figured it out, but we both realized we loved theme parks.Then there was this new Harry Potter world Diagon Alley opening up at Universal Studios. We went together. That was the first time we really hung out outside of work. The next thing we know we’re going to theme parks all the time together and are best friends.
How would you describe the atmosphere there at AEW? What kind of feeling did you get?
They definitely welcomed me. The camaraderie was there. The vibe was great. For me, I was the new kid in school. All these people that I knew. I watched them on TV. Like with Christopher Daniels. I had a Christopher Daniels action figure like 15 years ago. There were people I knew from social media. I’m sure some of them knew me too, but being the new kid in school is a little nerve-wracking. Let alone having to make a debut on live TV.
How did it feel to get the warm reaction afterward because you never know? You could get the, “Oh, here is another WWE guy coming in.”
I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to check social media. I know there are going to be some haters. That’s just life, especially on the internet these days. It was just such a great night for me personally and professionally. I didn’t want to ruin it by reading one tweet that would get under my skin. I just wanted to enjoy the moment.
You also have the unwavering support of your fiancée Chelsea Green, who is appearing in WWE’s NXT.
We support each other to no end, one hundred percent. It’s great I have somebody and she has somebody who understands this business because it’s a crazy business. If you try to explain wrestling to someone who doesn’t understand it, they’ll look at you like you have three heads. It’s great we have something in common in wrestling. We can vent. We can get advice from each other. It’s great to be super supportive of each other.
You showed up on AEW in black with a more serious vibe than many fans have seen you before. How would you describe this reinvention we’re going to see in the next couple of weeks?
It’s 2020 with the social media. I’m not going to be coming out with this brand new Oscar Award-winning character. I’m Matt Cardona. If you follow me on social media and see me on TV, you’ll know who I am. I’m a big kid who loves action figures. I also love my cats. At the end of the day, I also love this business. When that bell rings, I want to make an impression. This is my opportunity to make an impression. I don't’ care about proving the doubters and haters wrong. I want to prove my supporters right. This is my chance to prove everyone who has ever supported me right.
When you look at the landscape of AEW, who are you most excited to share the ring with?
It sounds cliche but I want to wrestle everybody. It’s Christmas morning, and I just got these cool action figures to wrestle. I’d love to get into a hardcore brawl with Joey Janela. I never really wrestled Chris Jericho in a one-on-one match. We had one match that went about five minutes long. I’d love to wrestle Kenny Omega. There are so many. Everyone on the roster, I’d love to get in there with.
There are these reports online about working a few initial appearances for AEW. Do you feel a longer commitment to AEW is in the works?
I did not get into AEW to not be the TNT champion. To not be the AEW champion. To not have an action figure. Right now we might be on a per date, but there are definitely long-term plans.
You have so many things going on including an action figure deal with Super7 and the popular Major Wrestling Figure Podcast with longtime tag partner Brian Myers.
The Major Figure Podcast is something Brian Myers and I started about two years ago. At the end of the day, we love talking about our passion in action figures. The first episode is 45 minutes long. We didn’t know what it was going to be. Now each episode is like three hours. We have a spinoff podcast that starts this week. We have a YouTube channel. We do live shows. We have our own action figures. It has grown so much. You got to thank the fans because without them it would be just Brian and I talking to each other via Zoom about toys. The fans have supported me my whole career and made my whole career.
In many ways you were a trailblazer when it comes to using social media as a tool to connect with wrestling fans and get yourself over. What does it like to see these days so many colleagues doing the same thing?
It’s so crazy how powerful social media is. I wasn’t the first person on social media. I wasn’t the first person to write a tweet or do a little web show, but I think I was the first person to combine my wrestling character with my real life personality and let people in. It was really because I was a kid who was really using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.
I was really plugged into these YouTube blogs. So I thought why can’t I do one as my wrestling character and incorporate my dad or my friends from home. I think that really connected me with the audience. Even to this day, “Z! True Long Island Story,” people still talk about it 10 years later. I think that is why I’ve had this career because the fans always want to support me. They always have the chants and are always behind me. And I’m thankful or that
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT