Matt Cardona was a recent guest over at Pro Wrestling Junkies, and there he took the time to reflect on his run with WWE. He recalled not quite fitting in with guys like The Undertaker and JBL in the locker room at first because of his passion for collecting wrestling figures and memorabilia.
"The times have changed now," Cardona said. "When we first broke into the business, especially in WWE, it was guys like The Undertaker and JBL who are grown ass men. They didn't grow up playing with wrestling figures. There were no wrestling figures for them to play with growing up, so they had no sentimental attachment to it. They didn't grow up with the cartoons, the ice cream, the bed sheets and wrestling buddies.
"Now, the younger guys have kind of come in, and we're all around the same age, and everyone remembers the wrestling buddies and watching on Saturday mornings," Cardona added. "It's a little bit more accepted now. You have guys in the back playing video games. Xavier Woods is blowing up with Up, Up, Down, Down, and everyone is Twitching and all that stuff. You don't have to be afraid anymore. Whatever you like is all good. It's not like the 40-year old virgin anymore."
Cardona also recalled his Intercontinental Championship win at WrestleMania 32 and subsequent loss the following night. He said that he loved losing the title the next night because it "made the moment", and wishes he could have lost it the same night.
"I think losing the next night made the moment," Cardona said. "I wish I could have lost it that same night. Why have the title for two weeks or two months? Unless I'm going to go undefeated for two years or something, just take it off me. That's just the Zack Ryder character - the underdog that finally gets it and then it gets taken away. I thought that's what made it so special, because nobody thought I was going to win and then it's like, 'Oh my God, he finally got something and then he lost it.' I'm glad that it happened like that with me losing it the next night because it was a perfect fit for my career."
The conversation took a turn and Cardona was asked what it was like for him being such a creative person to work for WWE, where they tend to suppress that individual creativity and formulate their own ideas as a creative team. Cardona said it's nice to be away from WWE and be able to do his own creative things again.
"It was just one of those things that the stuff I did on my own definitely worked and established longevity with my career," Cardona said. "It got me noticed. I'm just someone that's always creative, and I hate sitting back and doing nothing. Now that I'm out of WWE and the handcuffs are off, it's so much fun to be able to do this creative stuff again."
Cardona was later asked what he feels he could have done differently while a part of WWE that could have resulted in a bigger push, and he responded by saying he always tried to push to become a heel but it just never happened that way. He went on to compare his presentation in AEW in retrospect to WWE, and said he appreciates how AEW presented him as a star.
"I'm one who always wants to put the blame on myself," Cardona admitted. "I never want to look back and say they held me down or didn't push me. That doesn't do anything. Towards the end with Hawkins, we were trying to push to be heels, and we tried to work it in to some backstage stuff where we were preaching about being in the 'Gratitude Era', and be overly positive and cheesy to make people hate us. But we never really got the opportunity to do that; I wish we did, but we didn't.
"I was at AEW for a few weeks and the vibe was super cool," Cardona added. "The atmosphere is really cool. If you wanted to talk to Tony Khan about something, I feel like he was very approachable. Tony always made me feel very comfortable and offered to be on the podcast, which is really cool. He made me feel very comfortable in a very short amount of time. I've had people comment on my appearance like I look more jacked and stuff, but honestly, I think it's just the way they presented me. They presented me like a huge star, and I really appreciate that."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Pro Wrestling Junkies with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.