With WWE announcing on Wednesday that it was letting go of dozens of employees, including close to 20 wrestlers, AEW executive vice president and wrestler Cody Rhodes took to social media to offer well-wishes and praise to one of these newly-released superstars — former Intercontinental Champion Zack Ryder. This has led to some speculation that the Long Island, New York, native may soon be taking his talents to the rival promotion.
In a lengthy Instagram post, Rhodes started by highlighting Ryder’s passion for professional wrestling, explaining that in his 14 years with WWE, he had constantly worked to improve himself in and out of the ring, making sure to remain drug-free while doing so. The AEW star also suggested that Ryder, aka Matthew Cardona in real life, is still young enough to experience a resurgence in popularity as a wrestler, despite his status as a WWE veteran at the time of his release.
“At 34 years young, his best wrestling days are ahead of him. Cheers to a great start and 14 years of unrelenting blood, sweat, and tears. Future endeavors are limitless when you actually endeavor.”
Explaining why he chose to share a photo of his good friend winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32, Rhodes noted that he found the image special because the moment took place just as his WWE run was coming to an end. He stressed that he and several colleagues were genuinely happy for Ryder at that time, pointing out that another former co-worker, Dolph Ziggler, was the man responsible for having Ryder’s father join him as he celebrated his title victory.
“I thought I’d be jealous or bitter, but I was truly happy and proud for one of my peers,” Rhodes concluded. “Congratulations my friend, and good luck!”
The only thing I wanted to do in life was wrestle. I’m grateful I spent 14 years living my dream in WWE. Thanks to my fans & everyone who believed in me. As I was getting released, I was looking at this photo & smiling. I’m #AlwayzReady & beyond excited for the future. #NotThere pic.twitter.com/uKRVK7FboI
— Matt Cardona (@ZackRyder) April 15, 2020
As speculated by WrestlingNews.co, there is a “very real” possibility that Rhodes will try to get Ryder to join AEW, considering their long-running friendship. The publication, however, cautioned that the worldwide economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic could make AEW president Tony Khan hesitant to take advantage of the mass exodus of WWE superstars and add more than a few of them to his company’s roster.
According to Cultaholic, more than 30 wrestlers and other on- and off-air talents were released by WWE on Wednesday. Aside from Ryder and his longtime tag team partner, Curt Hawkins, some of the more prominent wrestlers who were let go included the likes of Rusev, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Lio Rush — all of whom had also held singles or tag team titles during their time in WWE.