Matthew Joseph Cardona Jr. (May 14, 1985) better known by his ring name Zack Ryder, is an American professional wrestler. He was previously signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). He is a one-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and the first and only WWE Internet Champion. Upon making his debut in WWE, Ryder formed a tag team with Curt Hawkins where they would go on to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship.
Professional wrestling career
New York Wrestling Connection (2004-2006)
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. At the next event on June 4 they won a rematch decisively to become Tag Team Champions. 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. on August 27. 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. 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 gold on March 26.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Tag team; La Familia (2006–2009)
On February 24, 2006, Matthew Cardona signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment. 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). 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.
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 until they were drafted to SmackDown! in June. On November 9 they won a battle royal to receive a WWE Tag Team Championship match, but didn't win.
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. 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. Occasionally referred 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.
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. Their victory meant that they were the youngest team to hold the championships. By SummerSlam, La Familia had begun to fracture and Ryder, with Hawkins, went back to appearing on their own. On the September 26 airing of SmackDown, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder lost the titles to The Colóns (Carlito and Primo Colón) in their first televised title defense. On April 15, 2009 Ryder was drafted back to the ECW brand as part of the 2009 Supplemental Draft, separating the team.
The Long Island Loudmouth (2009–2011)
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. He lost to Finlay on his first singles match, on May 7's Superstars and would not gain victory until the May 19 episode of ECW on Sci Fi over a local competitor. On September 15, Ryder won a 10-man battle royal to earn contendership to the ECW Championship but lost to the champion, Christian, the following week. On the November 3 edition of ECW, Ryder entered a love angle with Rosa Mendes who became his valet. He also feuded with Tommy Dreamer, culminating in a match on December 29 where Ryder won to force Dreamer to leave the company.
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 edition 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. 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, 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 edition of Raw, Fox attempted to interfere on Ryder's behalf but was stopped by Kim, leading to Bourne winning the match. The two new pairings faced off in a mixed tag team match on the May 17 edition of Raw, which Ryder and Fox lost. Ryder had a return win over Bourne on May 27's Superstars. 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. During the June 7 Viewers Choice Raw, Ryder was voted to team with The Miz, defeating John Morrison and R-Truth. The next week, Ryder had a title shot in a Fatal Four Way match for the WWE United States Championship but lost; months later in August he was given a WWE Championship match against Sheamus which 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.
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; O'Neil was the first rookie eliminated from the second season, on June 29. 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. 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. On the eleventh episode of Long Island Iced Z, WWE named Ryder the first ever Undisputed WWE Internet Champion.
The Ryder Revolution (2011–2012)
In June 2011, Ryder would make his first Live Raw appearance, losing to Kofi Kingston. After this loss Ryder, upset about his position in WWE, started a YouTube show called Z! True Island Story, which at first WWE heads were upset Matthew made it without their permission and using WWE talent and logo. They saw the growing popularity of Matthew's Ryder character and decided it was time to give him a push. Throughout July 2011, Ryder was given many things, one, an official recongniaton as WWE Internet Champion by COO Triple H, becoming Assistant GM of Smackdown, and a United States Championship Match.
Throughout the later part of 2011, Ryder would start a feud with Dolph Ziggler over the US Championship, getting an official Main-Event Match. In December 2011, Ryder would get his fourth singles loss of 2011, losing to real life and on screen friend John Cena, before defeating World Heavyweight Champion Mark Herny with John Cena's help. The next night on Smackdown, Ryder would defeat Heath Slater. Following his win over Slater, Ryder would team up with Randy Orton to beat Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett. Following this, Ryder would defeat Ziggler for the US Championship, team with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk to beat The Miz,Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler, on Smackdown would defeat Cody Rhodes and the following Thursday in an unaired match for WWE Superstars, would defend the US Title against Ziggler and Swagger. Ryder would be attacked by Resurrected Kane and injured. Despite being injured, John Laurinitus would have Ryder defend his title against Jack Swagger, and although he kicked out of two gut-wrench powerbombs, he still lost due to his back injury. After the match it was revealed he was no where near cleared to compete, but John still made the match official. Ryder's friend John Cena attacked Jack Swagger, possibly taking Swagger out of action in retaliation for Ryder losing the US title. After a month of not appearing on-screen, Ryder returned in late March 2012 to confront Eve about her lying to him about being friends, her heel turn and trying to use Cena as a way to skyrocket to the top. Ryder would have his first match since being taken out by Kane, in a losing effort to former on-screen friend Daniel Bryan (in the same arena the two made The TLC Trio, in a losing effort. Ryder would then make an appearance on Smackdown, getting Teddy Long to have him and The Great Khali be placed on Team Long at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania, Ryder lost the match after being turned on by Eve. After WrestleMania, Ryder would be used rarley on TV again. Throughout the Summer and fall of 2012, Ryder started a team with Santino Marella and started a feud with Antonio Cesaro.
Return to lower-tier status (2012–2015)
Going into 2012, Ryder started trying to romance Eve as part of a romantic storyline. 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; Ryder never received a title rematch despite being ex-champion. Ryder's injuries mounted after he was chokeslammed through the Raw stage and Tombstoned at the Royal Rumble. 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. 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. Ryder returned on the March 5 episode of Raw, confronting Eve on her recent actions, but she managed to seduce him. 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. 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. He won 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.
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. During the debut episode of WWE Main Event on October 3, Ryder and Santino Marella were entered into a tournament to decide the number one contender to the tag team titles, where they defeated Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd to advance to the semi-finals. 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). As 2012 drew to a close, Ryder commented that 2012 "sucked". Ryder was ranked by Pro Wrestling Torch writer Benjamin Tucker as No. 1 in the "Top 10 Crashing Stars of 2012". Tucker noted that Ryder was once again a jobber despite getting himself over in 2011.
In 2013, Ryder most commonly appeared on Superstars and lost all his singles matches on Raw and SmackDown. Ryder entered the 2013 Royal Rumble match (his only PPV match for the year) and was eliminated with no eliminations after two minutes. 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 beat-down by The Shield and Randy Orton on the September 16 Raw. 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. 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.
WWE has been harshly criticized by critics and fans because of the way Ryder was shuffled down the card. 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. Ryder was also unsuccessful in winning three battle royals: the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX, a battle royal for the United States Championship in May and a battle royal for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Battleground. On the July 21 episode of Raw, Ryder picked up his first singles victory on Raw since December 2012, but it was only after Layla interfered against Ryder's opponent, Fandango.
In November 2014, Ryder announced that he had torn his rotator cuff. John Cena gave a storyline explanation that a comment on Twitter led to The Authority punishing Ryder. Ryder returned on January 25, 2015 at the Royal Rumble in the Rumble match at #9 and was quickly eliminated by Bray Wyatt. Ryder participated in the 2nd annual André the Giant Memorial battle royal at WrestleMania 31 which was won by Big Show. Ryder, being accompanied by the cast of "Entourage", answered John Cena's United States Championship open challenge on the May 25 episode of Raw in his hometown and in the final WWE event held in the Nassau Coliseum, but failed to win after a countered 450 Splash. On the June 4th episode of SmackDown, Ryder accepted Kevin Owens' open challenge for the NXT Championship, but failed to win.
NXT; The Hype Bros (2015-2017)
In June 2015, Zack Ryder debuted in NXT, forming an alliance with Mojo Rawley, dubbing themselves as The Hype Bros. The Hype Bros went on to defeat Elias Sampson & Mike Rallis at the May 21st NXT TV Tapings, three weeks later, with the duo officially recognized as a tag team, they defeated the team of Angelo Dawkins & Sawyer Fulton on the June 18th TV Taping. After a month long feud with the likes of Dash Wilder, Scott Dawson, Chad Gable, and Jason Jordan, along with countless victories over the teams, The Hype Bros teamed up with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to defeat Chad Gable, Jason Jordan, Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson in an 8-man tag team match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
On the October 16th edition of NXT, The Hype Bros competed in a match for the NXT Tag Team Champions in a losing effort. On the October 22nd edition of NXT, Ryder competed in a 26-man battle royal to determine the number one contender for the NXT Championship. Ryder was unsuccessful, although he was among the last few competitors in the match. On the November 11 episode of NXT, The Hype Bros teamed up with Bayley during an intergender tag team match against Blake and Murphy and Alexa Bliss, where they emerged victorious, after Bayley attacked Murphy.
Zack Ryder would be named one of the contenders for Kevin Owens's Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania 32, which it will be held in a 7-man ladder match. Ryder would pull off the upset and won his first championship since the US Title. However, Ryder lost to The Miz the next night on Raw. Ryder had a chance to regain it on Smackdown, but once again, The Miz stood tall. On May 2, Ryder competed in a battle royal for the #1 Contendership against Kalisto at Extreme Rules, but he would be last eliminated by Rusev. On the May 9 edition of Raw, Ryder tried to take Owens's place in the Fatal 4 Way Match at Extreme Rules for the title, but he was unsuccessful.
In 2017, during the November 28th episode of Smackdown Live, the Hype Bros were defeated in a tag match against The Bludgeon Brothers (Harper & Rowan). After Ryder was pinned during the match, he was almost immediately interviewed by Renee Young for post-match comments. During this, Rawley attacked Ryder, establishing his heel turn and dissolving their tag team.
Singles competition (2018)
In 2018, during the January 9th episode of Smackdown Live, Ryder met Rawley in a match during the WWE United States Championship tournament. Ryder was eliminated by his former tag partner. During the January 30th episode of Smackdown, Ryder competed in a fatal four-way match against Rusev, Jinder Mahal and Kofi Kingston to determine the new number one contender for the United States Championship, but was defeated by Rusev. During the course of the Road To WrestleMania Tour, Ryder wrestled in a series of tag matches, teaming with Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze) against Mike Kanellis, Ryder's former teammate Mojo Rawley & Primo Colon. During the WrestleMania 34 Kickoff, Ryder took part in the 2018 Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal but lost to Matt Hardy. During the April 23rd episode of WWE Main Event, Ryder defeated Mike Kanellis. Returning for the May 7th episode of Main Event, Ryder defeated his previous tag partner Curt Hawkins. During the house shows held during May 15–18, Ryder teamed with Chad Gable in defeating his former Hype Bros tag teammate Mojo Rawley and Goldust in a succession of tag matches. Ryder would defeat Rawley by disqualification and eventually team with Chad Gable and Goldust to defeat the team of Mojo Rawley, Mike Kanellis and Curt Hawkins.
Tag Team Reformation with Hawkins (2019-2020)
When Hawkins came back to WWE in 2016 he lost an Open Challenge to A.J Styles. That started his 0-260 losing streak. That was until WrestleMania 35 when he and Zack Ryder teamed up and won the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship from The Revival (Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson), ending Curt Hawkins's losing streak.
In other media
Ryder began a YouTube web series called "Z!, True Long Island Story" in February 2011. The show is a collection of short comments from Ryder, containing comedic allusions to wrestling and pop culture; it also features cameos from his various WWE colleagues.The show also featured The Miz, Primo, John Cena, Standford, Big O, his father and more WWE wrestlers.
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. Cardona is an avid collector of Pop! Vinyl and WWE action figures. In April 2017, it was revealed Cardona is dating fellow professional wrestler Chelsea Green. Two years later in April 2019, it was announced the couple are engaged.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- With Curt Hawkins
- "The Long-Island Loudmouth"
- "The Long-Island Iced-Z"
- "The Ultimate Broski"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked Ryder #117 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2010
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- WWE Intercontinental Championship (1 time)
- WWE United States Championship (1 time)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (1 time) with Curt Hawkins
- WWE Raw Tag Team Championship (1 time) with Curt Hawkins
- Slammy Award for Most Annoying Catchphrase (2010)
- WWE Internet Championship (1 time)
- Smackdown Assistant General Manager