Matt Cardona On Major Bendies, Being The Indie God, Chelsea Green In WWE, Cody Rhodes, And More! - Exclusive

Zack Ryder is dead. Long live Matt Cardona.

Cardona has spent the last few years as a self-proclaimed Indie God. With titles runs across the world, including a new one from World Series Wrestling in Australia, Cardona is in a better place now than he seemingly ever was in WWE. He recently noted that, three years out from his WWE release, he's never had more buzz and his rate has never been higher. He's appeared in Game Changer Wrestling, Impact, the NWA, and countless promotions across the land.

In between collecting belts and feuding with Bully Ray, Cardona is huge in the toy collecting world. Besides his "Major Figure Wrestling Podcast," he's also behind Major Bendies, which feature likenesses of many superstars of today and yesteryear. There's even some figures of men he's bested in the squared circle, who are totally willing to work with him, since money talks in this business.

Wrestling Inc. spoke with Cardona. We discussed his work with Major Bendies, his time in GCW, his high stakes match with Bully Ray, a possible cinematic match between Zack Ryder and Matt Cardona, Cody Rhodes, and why his one day WWE Intercontinental Title Reign was exactly what it needed to be.

Major Bendies

Major Bendies, the new Colt Cabana figurine. Tell me about it.

Yeah, so Major Bendies is a toy line I started with Brian Myers and our partner Mike Kanik. We started it just because we wanted to have control over the action figures that our likeness was connected to. We are fortunate ever since leaving WWE to have had action figures from companies like Ringside Collectibles or Super7, but we wanted to have complete 100% control. We wanted to know if there was a delay in the factory. We wanted to pick the outfits exactly. So we started selfishly with us, with me and him, and our buddy, Smart Mark Sterling and Hornswoggle. Now we have over 40 guys. We have guys like Colt Cabana, Chelsea Green, Effy, Gangrel, that's our latest set. But we've done Ric Flair. We've done Nick Gage. We're trying to do legends that maybe should have been in the original Just Toys Bend-Ems line from the '90s, as well as up and coming superstars.

The Nick Gage one is especially fascinating to me, given the fact that you have a win over him that I'm sure he wants back really badly.

[Laughs] Yeah.

Was it difficult working with him given that situation?

No, it actually wasn't, because Nick Gage is a businessman and he likes money just like me. That's one thing we have in common is that we both like money. And one important part about these Major Bendies is getting wrestling figures that have never had figures before. So whether it be Nick Gage or Effy, these guys that I've wrestled in GCW, I'm proud that we're making their first action figure.

Macho Man Bendy Savage?

Are there any ones that you've really, really wanted to get but have hit snags on?

We've actually been trying to get "Macho Man" Randy Savage. We've been talking to his agency and it just hasn't happened yet. Macho Man was supposed to be in the original WWF Just Toys Bend-Ems line, but he left the company, so that figure was never produced. So I would love to get him in the line. We just haven't been able to make that connection yet.

But it sounds like it is actually in the works. It is not necessarily stalled.

Yeah, it's definitely in the works. Yeah, we're in negotiations. I think it will happen, and I would love to make it happen. I would love to do '80 style Macho Man with the stars on the trunks as well as cowboy hat Macho Man. He's what we like to call toyetic. You walk down a toy aisle and he just jumps off the shelves.

Are you going to get morose, denim-clad Macho Man, or maybe Bonesaw Macho Man as well?

I don't know if we have the rights to Bonesaw. I would love to do it! That's the thing, we're doing this the right way, the legal way, making sure we sign all the talents or go through their families, if they're unfortunately deceased. We pay all the superstars royalties. So we're not just here making customs and hoping we don't get sued. We're doing everything the right way.

Misconceptions about toy collectors

So you are obviously a toy collector, given the fact that you have a podcast and right behind you are a number of toys.


What do you think is the number one misconception among people about toy collectors like yourself?

Well, it's a stigma that we've been trying to break ever since we started the "Major Wrestling Figure Podcast" in 2018, is that, for instance, back in the day, that movie, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," the guy was a virgin, he was a loser, and he had all these figures on display. I mean, I'm not a virgin. I'm having sex with a "Monday Night Raw" superstar every single night. So I think the misconception is that you can find your passion, your hobby, whatever it is, whether it be toy collecting or video games or comic books. I think we're trying to make it just more accepted. I mean, there's no denying – you look at the San Diego Comic-Con. That is not a nerdy event, that is a hot ticket.

It's definitely been a slow thing, but over the last 10, 15 years, the overlap between collectible cons, wrestling cons and horror cons is just one big blob at this point.

Yeah, 100%. As a matter of fact, the "Major Wrestling Figure Podcast," we just announced, we're going to be at Power-Con this August, which started as a He-Man con and has spawned into a pop culture con, but we're just a little piece. Of course, we're going to do WrestleCon, WrestleMania Week, why not? That's a wrestling con, but it's cool that we get to take our brand to cons that aren't necessarily just wrestling.

If you want a hard to find figurine, how do you go about getting it?

Well, I always look at eBay. I have saved searches on eBay. Sometimes I throw out a Hail Mary and I tweet about it on Twitter. I say, "Hey, I'm looking for this." It's a double-edged sword because sometimes people, they'll see your tweet and they'll want to sell or trade with me. On the other end of the spectrum, they might think I'm this billionaire and try to jack up the price as much as possible.

His rate has never been higher

Well, I doubt you're a billionaire, but you did say the other day that your rate has never been higher.

Well, that is true. My rate has never been higher. I put that post out the other day that it's been just about three years since I was released from WWE. Was part of that post in gimmick? Sure. But part of it was true. My stock has never been higher. I've never had more buzz and my rate's never been higher. Usually, back in the day when you got released from WWE, you'd go to the indies, your career would go to die, you would switch to spell your name, and then your rate would go down every single time you went to the town. Except for me, I'm raising my stock. My rate has gone up since I was released. It's almost unheard of.

Yeah. And not only that, you are one of the faces of probably the biggest group on the indies, GCW, even though you came in with no death match experience. How did that happen for you?

Well, I say I'm always ready and that opportunity presented itself to me to wrestle Nick Gage in a death match. And I'll be honest, my initial reaction was, "F**k no, I don't want to wrestle this guy. No way." But then I sat back and I thought about it. I said, "You know what? This is going to create some buzz." I couldn't anticipate how much buzz it would create. That particular show, which like you said, at the end of the day really, it was an independent show in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But because of the internet and social media and streaming services, we were able to trend number one over the UFC pay-per-view in the Olympics, which is pretty f*****g crazy if you ask me. And then from there, I just took advantage of that momentum and kept going to GCW. I definitely feel like I'm a member of that roster, and I'm not an outsider at this point.

GCW changed everything

Among fans, there's a very strong perception that either it was your match with Nick Gage that changed the perception of you, or at least your attack on Nick Gage prior to that. Do you feel the same way or do you feel there was more that fans didn't see?

I think the match for sure. I think people tuned to that match, whether you love me or hated me, to see Zack Ryder get carved up by the criminal, Nick Gage, the guy who was just on "Dark Side of the Ring," the guy who sent David Arquette to the hospital. They wanted to see what was going to go on. And not only did I hold my own, but I won. That created this snowball effect where I'd go to independent shows and maybe like 25% of the people would boo me and then maybe 50% and 75%. And then all of a sudden, no matter where I go, anywhere in the world, middle fingers in my face and I absolutely love it.

I was there for some of your shows. It was Get Lost Alot at the Melrose Ballroom, very specifically, when you sang "Hoeski" to the crowd to get them to boo you.

[Laughs] That's where I lost the Internet Title to Effy. We were just back at Melrose Ballroom and I beat Homicide, the Notorious 187. Steph De Lander, my new heater, made her GCW debut. I love GCW and I love the atmosphere there, but that Melrose show, both of them, great atmosphere, great ambiance. The GCW universe is loud and rowdy.

I have to ask about Effy because you have that program with Effy now you're a business partner with him.

[Laughs] See, I'm about three things, buzz, money and gold. So I see a guy like Effy, and yes, we went to war a bunch of times, but then I realized I can make money off this guy and at the same time put money in his pocket. So at this point, it's a business relationship. Effy, he knows what he's doing. He's somebody who I think is one of the top acts in the independent world. And if we can make money together, then why not?

Chelsea Green, WWE Superstar

You mentioned her earlier, so I'm just going to bring it up: Another person who was a big part of your early-ish GCW run was your wife Chelsea and now she's where you were. Is there any cognitive dissonance seeing her on "Raw" when you're out on the indies?

No. When she got the phone call to go back, it wasn't even a discussion. She had to go back. Was she part of my act — a crucial part of my act –- in the indies? 100%. But she had to go back. She never really got a taste of WWE. She was there, did a Royal Rumble, broke her arm twice, got some action figures, but she never had a taste. Everybody needs a taste of the big time. She didn't even have a cup of coffee yet in WWE. She had the Keurig pod, she put it in the machine, didn't even press brew. She didn't get that cup of coffee, so she's got to go. She's got to try. And look, she's absolutely killing it.

She's on every single week. They bring her to "SmackDown" sometimes, and hopefully she'll be involved with WrestleMania. So I couldn't be prouder of Chelsea Green, but when she left, I knew I was missing a piece to my act. I knew I needed to find, not necessarily a replacement because no one will ever replace my beautiful wife, but I needed something, someone. And when I was in Australia two weeks ago for World Series Wrestling, I saw Steph De Lander and I said, "This girl is it." And now it's only been a couple weeks, but we've been all over the place. Literally Australia, GCW, ECW Arena, and we're just getting started.

And also congrats with the new title in Australia, by the way.

Thank you very much. I am the belt collector. My bags are getting so heavy, I'm not exaggerating, that the bottom is ripping because it's so heavy that it's dragging on the floor when I roll it in the airports.

How many more continents are you going to go to get a belt on?

Well, that's the thing. I will go wherever I get booked that will pay my full rate. I'll go anywhere. Hey, if you set up a ring in your backyard and you pay my full rate, I'll be there.

Would Zack go back?

Is there any desire to ever go back to WWE — for the right price, I should say?

So when I got released from WWE, ever since that day, my goal has not been, oh, what can I do to go back to WWE? What do I need to do to impress people to get back there? No, that's not my goal. But I'd be lying if I said I never wanted to wrestle at Madison Square Garden again, or I never wanted to have a WrestleMania moment again. Of course I do. So will Matt Cardona ever go home? I think eventually, but not as Zack Ryder, because Zack Ryder is dead.

You've mentioned that in the past, and you've also talked about how you tried to get the Zack Ryder trademark because you want a Cardona versus Ryder match.


The trademark thing I think is on hold last I heard.

Well, the WWE, they let the trademark go. And I said, well, I'm going to try to pick this up because I'm thinking of all the possibilities. We could do a Ryder versus Cardona cinematic match with the Major Bendies, Matt Cardona versus Zack Ryder two-pack. I'm thinking merchandise, right? I didn't want to be Zack Ryder. I wasn't going to come out as Zack Ryder on the indies or anything like that. I just wanted the name for merch and ideas like that. I knew there was a chance that WWE would try to stop me and they did. [Laughs] They contacted my lawyer and then I said, you know what? Okay, I'm backing off. I'm not fighting WWE over this. Not worth the time, certainly not worth the money because to me, Zack Ryder ... Listen, I'm so grateful for my time in WWE as Zack Ryder. It has set me up for this run. It was my dream. I got to live my dream for over a decade, and I'm so proud of the things I did, but it's over. Zack Ryder is dead. Long live Matt Cardona, the Indie God.

Can you give us a taste of what a Cardona versus Ryder cinematic match would look like, or do you want to keep that in the bag?

Well, I think Zack Ryder would have to be already in the ring. Typical Zack Ryder fashion, already in the ring, from Long Island, New York, no entrance, dark entrance. And then of course, I would go over. Matt Cardona would beat Zack Ryder.

Well, he has to. I think Matt Cardona is a much more explosive, violent wrestler than Ryder ever was.

Yeah. I think Ryder had an aggressive side that not many people want to remember, but he wasn't a death match king like Matt Cardona. There's no denying that.

SeXXXy Eddy -- too seXXXY

Another thing that's happened to GCW lately that you've gotten involved with was a bunch of people got very sensitive that there was a naked man at an 18+ show.

[Laughs] I wrestled that man!

Yes, exactly! [Laughs]

I did. Listen, accidents happen in the ring, his trunks exploded, but the show must go on. And listen, he was fully covered. At no time were his dick and balls exposed, okay? [Laughs] Let's make that official and make everyone know, at no time where his dick and balls exposed. If anyone should be offended, it's me! I'm in the match with them! I took the full moonsault!

Yes. And I really appreciated that you pointed out the person who criticized you and got the most clout over it was someone who paid to be on Twitter.

Yes. [Laughs] He paid for the blue check. What a loser.

And meanwhile, you look at what they do at DDT. That is a pretty common thing that happens in DDT and certain other promotions. You got it easy in some ways.

I am not a fan of naked wrestling. [Laughs] I'm not an advocate for naked wrestling. Like I said, I was beating this guy up, SeXXXy Eddy. I'm beating him up, beating him up. The guy is wrestling in a f*****g G-string. What do you think is going to happen? But history has a funny way of repeating itself because this is not the first time I ripped the trunks off an opponent in the ring. If you recall, I was wrestling "Rapid Delivery" Rory Fox on ECW and ripped his truck off too. And again, the match continued! The show must go on.

Bully Ray, a thorn in Cardona's side

ECW, that's actually a really great transition point because you've got this match... Is this match with Bully Ray confirmed?

It is confirmed. Bully-Cardona 2. Loser cannot wrestle in the ECW arena again. He beat me last December, but I went back to the drawing board and there's no doubt in my mind that I'm going to beat Bully and send him packing. I'm also trying to get a stipulation added to where if I beat him, when I beat him, that I take over his spot on Busted Open for a month. I'm not saying forever. I don't want to steal his job. I'm too busy. But for a month, I'd like to take it over for a month, get an extra couple grand in my pocket, sure. Of course, I'd want to get paid. Let me set the record straight. I wouldn't just do it for free.

Oh, absolutely not.

I would need to get paid.

You're about money as you've said.

That's right.

But he is obviously an ECW original, but you have your-

Well, so am I!

Well, that's true.

That's right!

But you have another connection, a certain Mr. Whipwreck. Are you in contact with him at all?

Well, Mikey Whipwreck, my original trainer, an ECW original, I haven't picked his brain yet on tips and tricks to defeat Bully Ray, but you just put an idea in my head, so thanks for that.

I think that's good because if anybody knows how to walk out of the ECW Arena a winner, especially in a match a lot of people aren't expecting him to win, Mikey Whipwreck's the guy to go to for that one.

Yeah, the ultimate underdog. I feel like Zack Ryder was also the ultimate underdog, but Matt Cardona to beat Bully Ray, Bully is a nasty SOB. This past weekend, there was a big tournament for the Battleground Championship, and I defeated Harry Smith – who by the way, it's criminal that Harry Smith is not on American television every single week, this guy has got all the tools – but then in my match with Brian Kendrick, Bully got involved that I lost to Brian Kendrick. So I'm glad I lost to the guy who would eventually win the tournament in Brian Kendrick, but I'm still pretty pissed that Bully got involved because I get paid per match! And if I would've beat Kendrick, I would've went on to be in the finals. That would've been another payday! But Bully is taking money out of my pocket, taking food out of my dog's mouth, and for that, I'm going to kick his ass.

I really like that you specified food out of your dog's mouth.

That's true, yeah.

I mean, you're doing pretty well and Chelsea's doing pretty well, but your dog needs some help there.

Well, my dogs, Dude and Walt, they're big guys. They eat only the best. So dog food's pretty expensive if you get the right stuff.

The one day Intercontinental Title reign

Your Intercontinental Title run of one day. That was one of the best opening matches I've ever seen at a WrestleMania. You barely got to hold the title for 24 hours and there it goes. Do you ever wish you got another chance at it?

Well, let me answer that in two parts. One, the original question, do I wish I got another chance at it? Yes, I do. But I do not wish it would've been longer than one day. That is the story. That is the story of Zack Ryder, the guy who wasn't even supposed to be in the match ends up winning the thing, shocking the world in this incredible WrestleMania moment. It's only fitting he loses it as soon as he gets it. If I would've held the title for a month, two months and lost it to Cesaro at Backlash, we wouldn't be talking about it right now. Everyone's always talking about it because it's the one-day title reign. And to me, that's the story of Zack Ryder, finally winning something, finally achieving something and then having it taken away.

So would you say that's the difference between Zack Ryder? Zack Ryder wins and then gets it taken away, but Matt Cardona just keeps winning?

Matt Cardona keeps winning. I mean, Number 13 in the PWI, only independent wrestler in the top 20 last year. I was the NWA Worlds HeavyweightCchampion. Never lost it. Only reason I had to give up that title is because I tore my bicep. A weaker man would've just taken three months off. First of all, they would've taken six months off like the doctor suggested, but I only took three months away from action. But I still made every single booking, I traveled all over the world, still had my podcast, still went to rehab. I was busier with an injury while most people basically have a vacation.

And you got another shot at Tyrus. And unfortunately, he's the one who came away winning.

And why did he win? Because Bully Ray got involved, that son of a b***h!

I am seeing a theme here.

There you go. See?

I know you don't train to lose, but anything can happen in wrestling. What's going to happen if you can never wrestle in the ECW Arena again? Are you going to find other ways to go after Bully Ray?

Yeah, I will. Because Bully Ray, whether it be Impact Wrestling or NWA, he's been a thorn in my side and the story is not over with Bully Ray and I. Even if for some way he was able to beat me, there's no way the story is over between myself and Bully Ray. No way.

Cody Rhodes and a 'Cody Fib'

I also have a question about Cody Rhodes, who you seem to have a very interesting relationship with. I've seen him in the past mock you as a kind of a toy collecting dork, but I've also seen him call you one of his best friends. What's the truth here?

I definitely consider Cody one of my best friends. He was in my wedding party. I mean, hell, him and Brandi introduced Chelsea and I. I'm super proud of him right now. The fact that he's going to WrestleMania main events and all eyes on him, I'm very, very happy for him. I'm rooting for him, obviously. Yeah, I mean, what is there left to say about Cody Rhodes? I mean this guy, he took a chance on himself. He left WWE, he found his own path, created his own path, and then decided I need to go back. He helped build AEW, which is great. AEW is great, but he needed to go back to accomplish his dreams and win the big one. I'm rooting for him come WrestleMania.

Well, I'm glad you're rooting for him, but he did almost put you on blast on a podcast in a couple weeks. So I'm going to give you a chance to get ahead of something. He said there's a story he hasn't told yet about you blowing your chance at a meeting.

Matt Cardona:

[Laughs] I saw this going around on the internet. Let's just say it's what I like to call a Cody Lie. There's some truth, but a lot of embellishment. It is what it is. Not going to speak on it, but listen, this is Cody's time to shine. Let him say whatever he wants. Maybe eventually I'll tell my version of it, but you can quote me on saying it's a Cody Lie – maybe a Cody Fib.

Cody Fib, Cody Lie. So guess I can't really ask you about the Nightmare Family merch then, can I?

[Laughs] I will say this, my last AEW show that I was at, he did gift me a Nightmare Family jacket that had Strong Island sewn to the front and I will say that I never wore it. How about that?

Will you ever wear it?

Time will tell. Time will tell. We'll see. I still have it. Maybe one day it'll be worth some money.

Rey Mysterio in the Hall of Fame and closing thoughts

Rey Mysterio is going in the Hall of Fame. I know you've worked with him. What have you got to say about Rey Mysterio getting into the Hall of Fame?

Well deserved, overdue. I didn't even want to say overdue, because the guy's still active. The guy's still active, competing at the highest level. Not only has he not missed a beat, I feel like he's better than ever, moving faster than ever, quicker than ever, more innovative than ever. I'm super fortunate to have wrestled him a handful of times. He's a pro's pro in and out of the ring and I couldn't be more happy for him.

So we're closing on the end of my time, so I'm just going to give you the chance to promote anything you want to about Major Bendies, any upcoming matches – anything you want to promote to the world out there.

Yeah, I mean I am the indie guy, so just follow me on social media to see where I'll be next. But Major Bendies,, get your Major Bendies. It's our toy line and listen to "The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast" every single Friday. We will be at WrestleCon, all three sessions. And we have a live show Thursday night at The Bourbon Room. It is live. It's our 16th live show. We're calling it Live 2000 because like WrestleMania 16 was in California and it was supposed to be in 2000. So it's not our 2000th live show, only our 16th. But if you can't make it to LA, order it on the Premier Streaming Network. It's going to be a great show. We got a lot of surprise guests and we will have a lot of figure reveals. So if you're a figure guy or girl, you won't want to miss it.