RECAP AND REVIEW: Prime Time with Sean Mooney with Zack Ryder on beating cancer, his new podcast, why he and Curt Hawkins initially hated each other, how “Woo Woo Woo!” started, one of his biggest regrets, why he stopped Z! True Long Island Story

Prime Time With Sean Mooney – Zack Ryder

Release Date: October 17th, 2018

Running Time: 1:24

Recap: Joe Aguinaldo


Intro, The Major Wrestling Figure Podcast and Collecting

  • Sean met Zack one time prior to this podcast at Raw 1000.
  • Zack has a podcast called Major Wrestling Figure Podcast. Curt Hawkins and Zack love figures and they talk about them everyday. They decided to start a podcast about figures. There are a lot of adult collectors who have figures from their childhood or are collecting the new ones. They also sprinkle in some wrestling stories but there are so many wrestling podcasts out there that they try to be different and talk mainly about wrestling figures.
  • Zack doesn’t remember his first figures.
  • His dad claims that he took Zack to WM 2, but he doesn’t think that’s true. Zack grew up on the old school rubber figures. Zack’s whole childhood is wrestling, that’s all he remembers.
  • Sean never had a Sean Mooney wrestling figure out there. Zack is going to talk to his contacts and see if they can do something about that.
  • People will send cards to Sean and ask him to sign him which he does and sends them back. Zack gets the same thing but he doesn’t send them back because it confirms he lives at the address which is a security issue.
  • Zack has 2.2 million Twitter followers.

  • Zack grew up on Long Island. Zack’s dad took him to a bunch of wrestling events including WM 10 in MSG. It was a good area to grow up if you were into wrestling
  • Zack only collects old figures not figures like Dean Ambrose. The older wrestlers are those he grew up with
  • From the time he was a little kid, he always wanted to be in the WWE. As he grew up he kept saying he was going to be in WWE although people didn’t take him seriously.
  • Zack got signed very early into his indie career when he was 20 years old.
  • When Zack was in high school, wrestling wasn’t cool. After the Attitude Era, he started the backyard wrestling with some friends. He loved doing it and had his own promotion (he was the booker). He loved the creative process of putting matches together.

Beating Cancer

  • In his sophomore year, Zack found he had cancer.
  • He had a pea size tumor on his right foot and the doctor said to keep an eye on it. He didn’t notice that it was getting bigger but one day they noticed it was a golf ball size.
  • They went to the doctors and ended up removing it via surgery. They thought they caught it early enough but recommended he get a chest x-ray every month and a year. Later they saw a tumor in his lungs which meant the cancer was in his blood. Chemo was necessary
  • Zack says the passion for wrestling drove him to get through it. He can’t describe how bad it was. He didn’t feel like he was a person on certain weeks that he was getting chemo, he just knew he had to get through it. He treated this as a set back and knew it wasn’t going to be forever. He was going to get through it and fulfill all his dreams.
  • Cancer started Summer of his sophomore year in high school all the way to middle of junior year so about two years. He’s made a full recovery

Getting into Wrestling

  • Zack’s parents were supportive of his dreams but had some reservations which Zack understood. They paid for his wrestling school and he admits to going to college only so his parents would pay for wrestling school (which he doesn’t recommend). He didn’t have a plan B, he needed to make this work.
  • Zack started wrestling in Sept 2003 and got signed by WWE in Feb 2006.
  • WWE used to do online tryouts where you sign up online, they would pick people and you’d get a tryout at live events. Mike Whipwreck was Zack’s trainer at the time and was friends with Tommy Dreamer who was in talent relations. Mikey may or may not have helped Zack and Curt get a tryout.
  • Zack felt they didn’t do well but also thinks the WWE needed to sign someone from the tryout. Curt and Zack had had matching gear compared to everyone else and thinks that’s what got them signed.
  • Tommy Dreamer called him a week later and told him to go to Georgia in developmental.
  • Zack says he and Curt had the exact same life but half hour apart. They started in the same wrestling school and hated each other because they had a similar look and bodies. Someone suggested they be a team but as they started hanging out, they found they had a love for wrestling figures which started a friendship outside the ring and that helped them form their team.

Working the Developmental Territories

  • Back when Zack was coming up, there was OVW and Deep South Wrestling which were the WWE developmental territories. Bill Demott was head trainer with Dave Taylor and Tom Prichard. Along with learning the WWE way, they also did a TV show weekly.
  • There were no guarantees that you would make it to the main roster. Deep South training was rough but they loved it. It was a family environment. Kofi Kingston, Natalya, Tyson Kidd, MVP, Luke Gallows, Connor from Ascension and Big Khali were some that came from that territory.
  • Every once in awhile, they would pick a person and test them on a house show. Zack did a couple loops and in late April of 2007, they announced they were going to close Deep South and start FCW (which later became NXT). Hawkins and Ryder were moved to OVW and in the week that move, they got the call to debut on the main roster. They were booked to be enhancement talent who would get the upset win.
  • Their original gimmick was the Major Brothers and the WWE wanted them to be a white meat babyface team which in 2007 was getting booed out of the building and didn’t work.
  • While at WWE, they still have to go back and forth to OVW. Every so often, writers and producers would go down to OVW to see what everyone was doing.
  • Zack and Curt knew the producers were coming to OVW and asked Michael Hayes what they should show. At the time, they were genuine fans of Edge and decided to be Edge’s lackeys. They came out dressed as Edge and did a skit with Edge being his errand boys. The producers loved it.
  • The pitched it to Edge and within a couple of weeks they were debuting in the main event of a PPV helping him win a title.
  • Zack believes that if they hadn’t become the Edgeheads, he and Curt would have been released within 6 months. He owes Edge a lot. Sean says that Zack and Curt should take some credit for taking a chance and doing something different.
  • Sean tells a story about his audition and doing a stupid skit to stand out from the other candidates.

Working on the Main Roster

  • Zack and Curt went from sitting in catering to being involved in matches with Undertaker, Batista, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. Learning and working with these guys was invaluable. Their first WrestleMania was being involved in the main event. Sitting with Edge and Taker to go over their match was unbelievable.
  • Zack and Curt were 21 or 22 at the time and everyone felt like grown men but they had to adjust and put on a game faces on to do the work
  • After the Edge Head angle ran its course, Zack wanted to be different and changed his look. That was cool for awhile but once it cooled down, that’s when he started his YouTube show. Guys like Cena loved that initiative and would tweet about it and even appeared on one of the episodes. Getting that stamp of approval from him was huge.

Long Island Iced Z

  • Sean mentions the level of competition in the WWE and Zack says it’s what have you done for me lately. Zack has been in the WWE for over a decade and there aren’t many who have lasted longer than him without any stops in their run. He’s proud of the fact that he’s found a way to survive when everyone (and even himself) counted him out. That’s the story of his career.

  • Zack started the Youtube show in 2011 and he did everything himself. He knew he needed to create some content to show everyone his voice. He used it as a promotional tool and it snowballed.
  • He started in February and by WrestleMania, someone in the media went up to John Cena, HHH and The Miz and asked them about the show which is when he realized it was taking off.
  • He also said he would mail an autograph to anyone who tweeted a pic of them wearing his shirt. Between the autographs and the YouTube shows, it was authentic and fans saw it was him doing all the work and they wanted to be part of that.
  • Zack also used other forms of social media.
  • The Woo Woo Woo was something they would do when they saw a good looking girl at the bar which eventually become something that got chanted at MSG.
  • Because of the YouTube show and social media, Zack was selling a ton of merch including wigs, t-shirts, broski slippers and a Zack Ryder garden gnome.
  • Zack says one of his biggest regrets was not going to Vince and asking what was going on with him. He doesn’t know why he got the push he did. Regardless, they started to use him. He started the year being nothing and ended the year being the US champ. Then it started going downhill from there.
  • Zack says the WWE wanted to move his YouTube channel to, which he refused. WWE was going to do their own YouTube channel and Zack’s show was going to be the show. That said he wasn’t involved in any of those meetings.
  • However, Zack didn’t want to keep doing the show. He used it to get noticed but once he won the US title, he figured that was a good ending. He didn’t to do it anymore because it took a lot of work to produce the show. The WWE wanted him to do another year of the show. It became a job and it stopped being fun.
  • He was unable to monetize the channel because he didn’t own Zack Ryder as an intellectual property.

Career Limbo to WrestleMania

  • When Zack saw things slipping away and his work being flushed down the toilet, it was heartbreaking. He wishes he would have manned up and asked Vince what was going on. He was bitter at the time. In his twelve years on the roster, he’s had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He would love to win the WWE championship but also says the only things you can control in this business is your attitude, your physique and your gear. He tries not to let the good or the bad affect him because it can change for better or worse overnight
  • After the YouTube run, Zack was in limbo. He was trying anything to get noticed again. One day it was presented that he’d be going to NXT to start teaming with Mojo Rawley as the Hype Bros. Initially he didn’t want to do it but said he was going to make it work.
  • For a year or so, Zack would go to NXT on his off days. Along the way, there were rumors that Vince had seen Zack on TV and asked why they weren’t doing anything with him.
  • Zack later heard he was on the list to be in the ladder match at WrestleMania. A couple weeks later he was taken off but was flattered that he had been considered.
  • Neville got injured on Monday Night Raw and was out of the match. Zack found Road Dogg and pleaded his case to be in the match. He doesn’t remember what he said but apparently one of the things he said was that he had never heard his music at WrestleMania. Road Dogg found Zack later that affected him and he was re-added to the match.
  • Zack thought being in a match and hearing his music at Mania was going to be his dream come true…then he won. He doesn’t know why he was chosen but when he won the place exploded. His dad jumped the barricade and came into the ring. Zack’s greatest moment is him hugging his dad holding the IC title in the ring at WrestleMania. And in typical Zack Ryder fashion, he lost the belt the next day.
  • Sean says Zack is an example of persistence and has a hall of fame worthy career.

Thoughts on All-In and the Wrestling Business

  • Zack is proud of the Bucks and especially Cody for the success of All In. What they are doing is great for them, the fans and the business.
  • NXT evolved from the developmental territories and is now a third brand. They are grabbing many independent wrestlers from indie promotions and now these promotions are growing too. Zack loves that the whole wrestling world is growing and it’s not only a good time to be a fan but a wrestler as well.
  • At the end of the day if someone is making money and is happy that’s all that matters. Guys in NXT are super hungry and they put on Takeovers which are hard for the main roster to follow it the next night. Everyone is trying to one up everyone else and that will make the business thrive and make it more popular.

Show Wrap

  • Social media has made it easier for fans to directly contact a wrestlers.
  • Zack’s motto is ‘Still Here and Always Ready’. Whenever he is called he needs to be ready and that’s how he’s lived his life and conducted his career. He has to be able to make the most of any opportunity he’s given.
  • Follow Zack on Twitter (@zackryder). The Major Figure Wrestling Podcast drops every Friday.

Rating: 8/10

Another strong show from Sean Mooney whose podcast has made it onto my rotation. I did not know a bunch about Zack and wasn’t a huge fan but I was one of those who popped when he won the IC title at WrestleMania. Highlights for me are his time in the development territories, the YouTube show and how he beat cancer. A thumbs up recommend for me.

About Joe:

Joe is a long time wrestling fan from Toronto. He is a co-host on the Pull Apart Podcast with Jeff Rush and Caitlin Lavelle as well as a contributor to One of his life goals is to be a guest host on one of Wade Keller’s post show podcasts.  He doesn’t consider himself any sort of expert, he just likes wrestling. Check him out on twitter and instagram @ja113.


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