Zack Ryder was a guest on Prime Time With Sean Mooney. During the podcast, Ryder opened up about his early-life battle with cancer and other topics. Here are the highlights:
On Facing Cancer:
I had a tumor in my right foot that spread to my lungs. I had two tumors in one lung and one in the other. I had all the surgeries, the chemo, losing the hair, all the horror stories, I went through them. All these complications, it was a big deal and it sounds so cliche; but, the only light at the end of the tunnel was I gotta survive this, I gotta make it through this, I gotta get to WWE. That was it. I know it sounds so cliche; but, it’s so so true. What happened was there was a pea sized tumor on my right foot. I showed my mom and went to the doctor and they said, ‘Keep an eye on it.’ I was an idiot kid, so I didn’t realize that it was getting bigger every day. One day we were at the beach and my mom was like, ‘Woah! What’s going on?’ A couple weeks or maybe a month or so went by and it had gotten to almost a golf ball size and I don’t know, looking back, I’m like, ‘How did I not notice this?’ I can’t make any excuse. Anyway, we went to the doctor and they ended up removing it and doing the biopsy and everything. They realized it was a cancerous tumor; but, they thought they had caught it early enough that no chemo or anything would be needed; but, they said that if this type of cancer, synovial sarcoma, if it were to spread it’s going to spread into your lungs, so you need to get a chest X-ray every month, so that’s what we did and just about a year later of getting it every month, we saw the two tumors in one and one in the other. We caught it as early as you can catch it, but that meant the cancer was in the blood and now chemo was needed. It was 100% necessary.
On What Got Him Through His Cancer Battle:
The passion for wrestling is what drove me to get through it. I can’t even describe to you in words how bad it was. I had no feelings sometimes. I was like a zombie. Literally my parents were taken me to the hospital and I would be in the hospital for a week getting chemo and I was out of it the whole time. I wasn’t even like a person on the weeks I’d be getting the chemo and stuff like that. I had to get through this. Obviously, it’s not up to me to get through it; but, that was my mind set. ‘No matter what, I can’t give up. This is just a set back. This isn’t gonna be forever. Eventually, I’ll get through it and fulfill all my dreams. I know it’s so cliche.’
On How Long He Was Sick For:
It started in 10th grade. I guess I was a sophomore and all the way until the middle of junior year, so almost two years. I’m all good [now]. I’m very very blessed.
On How He Got Signed To The WWE:
WWE was doing these weird online try-outs where you’d apply online. They’d pick a couple people and they would do tryouts before random live events and they were doing one on Long Island and Mikey Whipwreck, he was my trainer, was also in the original ECW, was very good friends with Tommy Dreamer, who was the head of signing new guys to developmental at the time, like right below John Laurinaitis, at the time. He put in like a little like, ‘Hey maybe these kids should be at this tryout.’ I’m not saying he got us in; but, he got us in. So we went to this tryout. It was before a live event at Nassau Coliseum – Curt Hawkins and I. We did horrible. We did not do well. We were not 100% prepared for what was going on; but, I think they needed to sign someone for these tryouts and we were wearing matching gear and I think they were like, ‘Let’s just sign those two kids who look alike.’ There were some people wearing sweatpants and gym clothes and we were all done up in our matching tag team gear. That’s what I think happened because when we left that tryout I thought for sure, ‘Well it’s cool. I’ll get another tryout someday. Good experience.’ A week or so later, I’m pumping gas and Tommy Dreamer calls me and tells me they’re hiring me and I’ve got to go to Georgia for developmental.
On Meeting Curt Hawkins:
We had the exact same life a half hour apart and never knew each other except he was an athlete in high school and I wasn’t. I was a backyard wrestler. We started at the same wrestling school: New York Wrestling Connection. At first we hated each other because we were the same size. We kinda looked the same and we were more like competition for each other than anything. It’s like, ‘I don’t like this guy because he’s kinda like me. I gotta make sure I’m a little better than him,’ and vice versa. One day, it was someone’s idea, ‘Hey you guys look alike. Why don’t you be a team?’ I don’t think anyone gets in the business and are like, ‘Hey, I want to be the tag team champions of the world one day.’ That never even crossed my mind. Then we started hanging out and we realized we both had this love for wrestling figures. We started being friends outside the business, outside the ring and that really helped us form our team and put everything towards that.
On His Thoughts On His Career:
I haven’t been there [the WWE] for a cup of coffee. I’ve been there for over a decade. I could probably count on a couple of fingers how many people have lasted longer than I have and I’m counting without any stops on their run and granted I hadn’t had a Hulk Hogan Hulkamania run; but, I’ve been here. I’m still here and I’m surviving. I’m proud of that. That’s something I’m very very proud of that I’ve always found a way. When everyone has counted me out, even maybe I started to count myself out, I’ve found a way and that’s the story of my career whether it be The Edge Heads or the YouTube show. There’s so many different times where you thought Zack was out. Nope, 1-2 kick out.
On Doing His Own Thing On YouTube:
Miz and Morrison had their own video series prior or like Santino Marella and while they did get involved with creative, at the end of the day WWE did it. They put it together. They filmed it. They edited everything, right? This was all me and I’m not this tech savvy guy, believe it or not. So, I was teaching myself how to edit on IMovie, even how to upload it was impossible at first. I just knew I had to create some kind of content to show everyone my voice because if I wasn’t on TV, how would they know what my personality is? How would they know what my character is, all that B.S.? I needed to create – not only a creative outlet for my mind, but for me to get out there, a promotional tool. That’s what it was. It snowballed in ways I could have hoped for; but, never really imagined.
On His YouTube Videos Getting Shut Down:
A number of times my YouTube videos were shut down for using WWE footage. Guys, I’m like, ‘I’m in WWE.’ I had to contact WWE, like, ‘I’m in WWE. Can you put my video back up?’
On His Long Island Iced Z Character:
I knew once we split up [Ryder & Hawkins] this was my chance to be as different as possible. If you stood me next to Zack Ryder the Edge Head, I didn’t want to look anything like him, so I cut my hair. I started wearing one-legged tights, as ridiculous as possible, sunglasses or headbands. Really what it was, was I was trying to be a version of myself that I would hate. Like, if you were to close your eyes and think of someone from Long Island – this was before all this Jersey Shore stuff. When people are like, ‘You are a Jersey Shore ripoff,’ it makes me so mad because this was before. I tried to be everything that I would hate. I’d pop my collar up and wear obnoxious colors. The woo woo woo was something I’d say with my friends out at the bar, if a hot girl walked by like, ‘Woo woo woo.’ We thought it was funny; but, it was also annoying, so it became my catch phrase in wrestling and eventually became something people were chanting at Madison Square Garden.
On His Biggest Regret When It Comes To Vince McMahon:
I don’t like living with regrets; but, one of my biggest regrets was not going to Vince McMahon personally at this time and kind of asking what the deal is; but, now I can only speculate. I don’t know if it was, ‘Let’s just use this guy and shut people up,’ or ‘Let’s see what he’s got.’ I don’t know and I can’t speculate. I wish I would have found out for myself and that’s on me. They did start to use me and I started the year as nothing….I ended the year as United States Champion, so 2011 was a hell of a year for me and then it all started kinda going down hill.
On The Tough Times He Faced Prior To Winning The IC Title At Wrestlemania 32:
When I saw everything slipping away from me and all my hard work getting flushed down the toilet, it was heartbreaking on so many levels. Again, that’s the time where I wish I would have manned up, knocked on Vince’s door and asked him what was going on; but, I didn’t, so we’ll never know. That is on me. I accept full responsibility of what happened to me. It sucked and I was very bitter at the time. Looking back on it with a different perspective, I should have taken control. I should have gone to Vince directly and asked what was going on, so I knew and maybe I could have done something about it; but, to see all that hard work literally disappear, it sucked. It really did…..almost 12 years I’ve had on the roster. I’ve had the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows; but, of course, the end goal is for me to be WWE Champion. I want to be that Grand Slam Champion.
On How He Ended Up In The Wrestlemania 32 Ladder Match:
I heard these rumblings that Vince saw me wrestle on Main Event or Superstars, not even RAW, the matches they tape before and he said something like, ‘Why aren’t we doing anything with this guy?’ I was like, ‘Vince said that about me? Wow, that’s awesome. Maybe something will happen. Who knows?’ I heard that I was on this list to be in the Ladder Match that year. I was like, ‘What? How am I gonna be in this? That doesn’t make any sense.’ A couple weeks later, I was taken off the list. To met it was kinda cool that I was even being considered considering that the past few years I had been doing absolutely nothing. It sucks to say; but, Neville was supposed to be in that ladder match, but he got injured. On Monday Night RAW, he got injured. He broke his leg or his ankle or something. He was out, so the next day I found Road Dogg and I just pleaded my case to him and said, ‘If anyone deserves to be in this match, it’s me.’ I don’t remember everything I said; but, apparently one of the things I said was, ‘I never heard my music play at WrestleMania.’ That was just a throw away line that just popped in my head. I wasn’t planning to say that. Later on he pulled me aside and said, ‘What you said about your music really got to me.’ I don’t know who talked to who, but long story short, I’m in the match.