Matt Cardona compares himself to Terry Funk.
Cardona, formerly known as Zack Ryder, reinvented himself when he started feuding with Nick Gage in 2021 and went on to defeat the GCW World Champion in a Deathmatch at GCW Homecoming 2021. He has continued to work with the company ever since, though he has made it clear that he doesn’t intend to do any more Deathmatches.
Speaking with Dominic DeAngelo for AdFreeShows, Cardona reflected on how he started working with GCW in the first place. He recalled how he knew he needed a spark after his WWE release, but he didn’t know what it was.
“So I’m released from WWE in March or April 2020,” Cardona said. “There was nothing to do. There were no indies. The world had shut down. If there was an indie, it was with social distancing, with the masks. I’m like, I just did a decade-plus with WWE. My first show back’s gonna be done f—- indie with social distancing and masks? That’s pathetic. So I did AEW for a cup of coffee. That didn’t work out. But I didn’t know what to do afterward.
“I’m like, I need to find myself. I need to figure out what to do. Luckily I started with IMPACT Wrestling, and they were great. But this is still, no fans. Just closed sets. I started doing indies a little bit more, but who was I as a character? I knew who I wanted to be, but you can’t just turn heel on the indies. There has to be something. There has to be a spark. I knew I needed something, I didn’t know what it was.
Cardona continued by noting that when the opportunity to face Gage in a Deathmatch first came up, he was against it. However, he realized that the match could generate some buzz, which it did. Cardona described how nobody could have predicted the remarkable response to the match, which led to him continuing to work with GCW much longer than initially planned.
“The opportunity presented itself to do this Deathmatch with Nick Gage in GCW,” he said. “My knee jerk reaction was, ‘No f—- way. I’m not wrestling this f—- criminal with no teeth. This guy’s on Dark Side of the Ring. I can’t even get through it because it’s disgusting. I can’t wrestle this f— guy.’ Then I thought you know what, I bet a lot of people want to see Nick Gage kill Zack Ryder, carve him up with that pizza cutter. That could create some interest here. I made a little deal with Brett Lauderdale, a deal with the devil. It was just gonna be three shows. I was gonna go in as the masked man, supposed to be Moxley. Lay him out, unmask, it’d be me. Supposed to have a Deathmatch and then one more match, and that was supposed to be it. But it took off.
“I don’t think myself or GCW could have predicted how incredible the response was. I win the title. The fans are throwing garbage. That was not fake. I was scared to f— death. Someone threw a pizza cutter at me. We knew we were onto something, and I’ve been with GCW ever since.”
The former GCW World Champion made it clear that he has loved his time in GCW, and he called the company the number three promotion in the United States. Cardona cited the way the company travels around the world as an important factor. I love it. I think GCW is the number three promotion in the United States. I think it’s hard to argue that.
“Who else runs more shoes in more locations, besides WWE and AEW, than GCW? I can’t think of one. Every weekend. Coast to coast. I’ve done shows in New York, I’ve done shows in California, I’ve done shows in Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit, all for GCW. I went to f— England for GCW. So GCW, it’s in that weird spot because it’s definitely an independent where there’s no real backer, but f—, it’s definitely the number three.”
Cardona went on to describe how he wants to win the GCW World Championship again. He also called himself the Terry Funk of GCW, as he stated that he’s helping the younger talent by teaching them and giving them the rub.
“I want to be the GCW Champion again. After I won the championship, I made this nice f— purple spinner with the Velcro strap, like a real superstar. Then I lost the belt that night. So I’d like to win the title back so I can reintroduce that version of the championship. But I’m done with Deathmatch wrestling. I beat the king. I dethroned the king, beat him at his own game. Trended number one over the UFC and the Olympics. I’m done. I’m retired as king.
” I call myself the Terry Funk of GCW. I’m helping all these young kids, give them the rub, teach them how to grab a hold. I’m having a good time. GCW is so much fun, I love going. I’m not gonna do all their shows because Brett pays me like s—, but I will do enough of them to keep that buzz going.”
Funk is one of the most legendary hardcore wrestlers of all time, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
Cardona will face Homicide at GCW Eye for an Eye on March 17. He is also set to compete at GCW Into The Light on April 21.
Access to this interview was granted through an AdFreeShows membership; subscribe at this link to get access to early podcast releases and other exclusive content.
If you use any of these quotes, please credit the original source and link back to WrestleZone for the transcription.
RELATED: Matt Cardona Details Why He Really Applied To Trademark ‘Zack Ryder’