Matt Cardona shocked the world on the 12th February 2022 by becoming the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Cardona pinned Trevor Murdoch with Radio Silence, his jumping leg-lariat move. With it, he won his first world championship in wrestling, and the fifth belt held at this current time.
This asks a lot of questions regarding the future of Matt Cardona. Will he continue to dominate the indies with his innovate and exceptional character work? Is a return to AEW on the cards? Or will we see Matt Cardona, as Zack Ryder, return to WWE as a main event talent?
Matt Cardona/Zack Ryder WWE return?
With his stock currently at it’s highest, many fans will be thinking that WWE could be angling for a return for Zack Ryder, Matt Cardona’s name in WWE.
Whilst he is now a world champion and one of the biggest stars on the indies, a return to WWE for Zack Ryder might not be the best thing for all parties.
The character of “Matt Cardona” would not be a fit in WWE, for one reason. It would fit too well. The novelty of the character now is that he still acts as if he is in the WWE, and satirically using their own branding and verbiage to mock them.
He calls himself an “ECW Original“, mocking the fact that he was a part of the ECW reboot, and not the Paul Heyman-led promotion of the 1990s. He called the GCW fans, some of the most hardcore wrestling fans around, the “GCW Universe”, satirising the WWE’s need to brand everything homogenously, including the fans as the “WWE Universe.”
If you put Zack Ryder back in WWE with this character, then he would flop. Because they are exactly who he is mocking. If he goes in, calling himself a WWE Legend and talking about the WWE Universe and hitting all the branding cues in his promos, then he wont be special. It won’t be entertaining. He will be literally like everyone else.
And what about a return to the “Zack Ryder” character? The same Zack Ryder character that was neglected, kept off TV despite getting cheered over The Rock at Survivor Series. The same Zack Ryder who was basically taken off TV for years, resigned to being an occasional jobber whilst his entrance pops got smaller and smaller each time.
Yes, he won the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania 32, and the tag team belts a few years later. But as soon as he lost those belts, he was relegated back to catering.
Zack Ryder will not be returning to WWE, because Matt Cardona is too good and is too good a character for him to be stuck reading WWE scripts and being the butt of the same old boring joke every week.
Matt Cardona AEW Return?
Another company that could be interested in the NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion is AEW. Matt Cardona did have a brief run with the company in the summer of 2020. However, this was before his great reinvention, and he basically played “Zack Ryder but with a different name”.
Fans weren’t impressed and he didn’t last long. But AEW never gave him the chance to move on from his WWE character. For better or worse, they wanted “Zack Ryder”, the man who outsold John Cena in merchandise without even being on TV.
But that isn’t Matt Cardona. That was Zack Ryder 10 years ago. Matt Cardona has now become the best character in wrestling, showcasing his skills all across the globe and every week on IMPACT Wrestling, where he also holds the “Digital Media Championship”.
Will Matt Cardona go to AEW again? Maybe. But he has so much more to accomplish as the NWA World Champion. He has the chance to lift the company up in the way that Nick Aldis and Trevor Murdoch never could, and make the NWA one of the top promotions in wrestling again.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.