Matt Cardona — who most WWE fans remember as Zack Ryder — was released by his former company back in April. When his 90-day non-compete clause expires, he is free to join any wrestling company in the world, and many fans and pundits believe that he’s bound for All Elite Wrestling. Cardona added fuel to these rumors during this week’s Dynamite as well.
Taking to Twitter during the show, Cardona appeared to answer an open challenge from Cody Rhodes, who invited any wrestler to challenge for his TNT Championship. Cardona hasn’t signed with the company yet, but the fact he teased a match suggests that he’s interested in facing Rhodes down the line.
Cardona can’t compete on next week’s show, but Rhodes plans on defending his title on every show. If Rhodes is still the champion by the time Cardona is allowed to sign with another promotion, an open challenge match could be the latter performer’s entry into the company.
Rhodes has made no secret of his admiration for Cardona either. The pair are friends in real life, but when Cardona was released from WWE, Rhodes took to social media to praise him as a performer. It seems inevitable that Cardona will join AEW, and this latest development has only incited more speculation.
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I’d like to take a moment to say how proud I am to be a friend of @zryder85 – In a world of weekend warriors and “play wrestlers”, this dude exudes passion and drive for pro-wrestling like no other. Through 14 years to see him CONSISTENTLY try to better himself(whether that be his in-ring work, or watching him physically mold himself and his body into such a specimen DRUG FREE with hard work and will). I have a little rule, and that’s that if you’ve ever “gotten over” in wrestling…you can always do so again. That rule being fully applicable to Matt now. 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. I chose this picture because it was one of my last days at WWE, watching 80,000+ people applaud as Matt won gold was an eruption not only live in the arena but in the locker room as well. Hearing Dolph coordinate for his father to come over the rails(meanwhile I was ass deep into a broken ladder and stuck but had the best seat in the house) and seeing father/son embrace, I thought I’d be jealous or bitter, but I was truly happy and proud for one of my peers. Congratulations my friend, and good luck!
Rhodes is one of several figureheads within the wrestling industry who feels Cardona deserved a better WWE run. As The Inquisitr reported yesterday, other performers believe that WWE management purposely buried him because he became massively popular without the backing of the company. If the former WWE superstar shows up in AEW, many fans will be happy to see him.
As documented by WrestlingNews.co, there is another link between Cardona and AEW. He recently recruited Michael E. Dockins — an attorney who handles trademarks for several wrestlers in AEW — for his own trademark purposes.
While Cardona hiring Dockins doesn’t confirm that he’s going to join AEW, the attorney has been recruited by other performers right before they joined the company. Lance Archer used him after he left New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he was in AEW not longer after.
It remains to be seen where Cardona will end up in the coming months, but his friendship with an influential member of AEW’s management team, coupled with his popularity among wrestling fans makes him a natural fit for the upstart promotion. Should he join, he might even be thrust into the TNT Championship picture upon arrival.