After 15 years in WWE, Zack Ryder found himself outside WWE, and Matt Cardona was re-born. Well, not re-born, but he's a free agent and using his real name. So there.
Cardona has said in previous interviews that he questioned whether or not he should even stay with WWE and that he'd been speaking with them about a renewal for a while. He revealed in our talk with him that he actually passed on re-signing the deal that WWE had offered him in 2019, and he was only under contract for about a month longer than WWE ended up paying him.
"When I got released, obviously, it sucked not getting a paycheck, right? But, I was so happy. I was so excited. I knew that I needed this. I had been thinking about this for a long time. I didn’t re-sign the contract I was offered to me the year prior. We were in negotiations for a whole year. My deal would have been up this August, so probably a couple more weeks. But, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay or go ‘cause, you know, that was my dream, my family, and my life for fourteen / fifteen years. So, I didn’t know what to do and when the decision was made for me, oh, my God, it was like that anxiety that I didn’t even realize I was dealing with every day was just instantly gone and then I was so excited about the future," said Cardona.
According to Cardona, even though he passed on signing the offer at the time, things were still going well. He didn't seem to think WWE were that surprised that he'd not signed on the dotted line.
"We were still negotiating. So, it’s not like I just said, “No, I don’t want to re-sign.” We were still trying to come to terms. It was about, I guess, around last WrestleMania, the majority of people started getting new deals, new offers. I was like, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to sign for five more years.” Because, listen, I’m very grateful for everything that I have accomplished in my career, especially WWE, but I’ve had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows. Now, I’m thirty-five years old. I don’t want to sit around anymore and just wait. I’ve done that for too long. I want to be able to go out and do what I know I can do," said Cardona.
Following the releases in April, there were constant rumors that talent would be brought back or made new offers. There were even some wrestlers that speculated that others had passed on coming back. Cardona noted that WWE left the door open to return, but hasn't had subsequent contact and doesn't want back in the company right now.
"I think everyone got the “maybe we’ll bring you back” talk that first day. But, I was never offered anything and I don’t want to go back. I mean, never say never. Everyone goes back. You know what I’m saying? Everyone goes back eventually. But, my goal right now is not, “How can I get back to WWE?” That’s not the goal. I love WWE. I love my time there. It was my childhood dream and I lived it for fourteen years. I’m so grateful for it. But, I’m not trying to go back there right now. I’m trying to go out there and do what I can do. Do what I know I can do. I don’t want to prove people wrong. Who cares? I want to prove all my supporters right. I just want to have fun. I want to create stuff. The podcast is taking off. When the wrestling world opens up, I know the fans are eager, the wrestlers are gonna be eager. It’s gonna be an amazing time to be a wrestler," said Cardona.
Cardona's first match outside the WWE umbrella was in All Elite Wrestling. There were plenty of familiar faces there, but it was still a "butterflies" situation for him,
"It was nerve wracking because it was like the first day in a new school, meeting all your new friends. A lot of these people, if not all of them, I knew but didn’t know personally. Whether I saw them wrestle on TV or I followed them on social media. So, I knew who everyone was and of course I watched Dynamite, so I knew who everyone was. So, it was weird kinda introducing myself to these people I feel like I know, but I don’t really know. But, the vibe was super cool and everyone was super cool to me. So, I appreciate that," Cardona said.
You can see Fightful's full interview with Matt Cardona at the top of the page. Also make sure to check out Major Wrestling Figure Podcast to find their show, Youtube channel and Patreon.