Matt Cardona was a guy struggling to find his place in the world of wrestling after being let go by WWE. The former Zack Ryder got himself over in WWE by not letting his lack of TV character development get him down & instead got himself over on YouTube and social media. Lightening has indeed struck twice as Matt Cardona has got himself over again, in a way most people probably never saw coming.
Since leaving WWE, Cardona has had a few appearances on AEW and is having a run with Impact, but he hadn’t really found his way. He’s a solid hand, a good entertainer, but he needed something to break out. Starting a feud with Nick F’N Gage, who perhaps has the most loyal following of any wrestler anywhere, was a stroke of brilliance.
Cardona, simply by being himself, became one of the hottest heels in the independent scene by targeting Gage, and tonight, in their match for the GCW World Championship at GCW’s big Homecoming show, Cardona had heat that you simply don’t see anymore. It was old-school, ‘we hate you & you better not beat our guy’ heat. In the era of “smart fans”, getting that kind of heat just doesn’t happen anymore. When Cardona defeated Gage for the championship, the ring was filled with garbage in a sight that will surely remind long time fans of Hulk Hogan joining the NWO. It was that kind of heat.
The match itself saw Matt Cardona earn his stripes, meaning that he took one helluva beating. No matter how much GCW fans hate him, they will subconsciously remember the more-than-ten shots with light tubes he took. They will remember him getting speared through a pane of glass. They will remember him getting stabbed repeatedly, taking a pizza cutter all over his face, and how bloody his back and face were. Fans who didn’t watch the show will see photos and clips, and the match will be immortalized as the moment when the world realized that Matt Cardona was so much more than Zack Ryder.
Over the last year, WWE has released over 80 wrestlers, who are all flooding the independent scene. It’s going to be difficult for everyone to stand out and make themselves an act that people want to pay money to see. By launching this feud with Nick Gage and going to the lengths he did, Matt Cardona has set himself up for an incredible run throughout various promotions. He’s killed Zack Ryder and created something long-lasting in the process.
So what happens from here? Well, this Wednesday, Nick Gage is going to AEW for a match against Chris Jericho. It almost seems inevitable, especially after the playing of Jericho’s theme song during the GCW title match, that Cardona is showing up Wednesday. Jericho needs to win, Gage needs to be protected and there’s no better way to accomplish both of those things than by involving Gage’s prime foe, Matt Cardona. Getting booked for an episode of Dynamite only mere days after this memorable match, that people will certainly still be buzzing about Wednesday, only serves to get Cardona more over, this time on a very large stage.
Matt Cardona is in a great place right now; one where he can be one of those talents that wrestles everywhere. He’s an Impact guy, now with his fiancé Chelsea Green. He’s the GCW World Champion, so he’s likely going to be there more. Are the doors, forbidden or not, going to be open for more appearances in AEW and perhaps even ROH, where his fiancé also wrestles? Woo woo woo, you know it.
Watching Matt Cardona tonight, I saw a guy who can be a top heel everywhere he goes. I saw a guy who was willing to put his body on the line for his craft & for his career. I saw a guy who knows how to get heat and in tonight’s case, heat the like of which we don’t typically see anymore. I remember being really impressed with how Cardona got Zack Ryder over with virtually no help from WWE. He’s done the same thing again, only this time with no glass ceilings or political climates to hold him back. Look out wrestling fans: Matt Cardona is here to stay and the independent wrestling scene is better as a result.