By Maurice Kneisel.
Zack Ryder has been the big story of 2011. He went from not being used to starring alongside John Cena in what happened to be the main storyline on RAW for the past couple of months. I recently got to meet the Long Island Iced Z in Munich and asked him about his YouTube show, what Cena and CM Punk did for his career and whether he believes comedy characters can become World Champions.
Maurice Kneisel: Hi Zack. One thing I’d like to straighten out before we start: Is that Curt Hawkins‘ cane you’re carrying around with you?
Zack Ryder: (laughs) No! No, it’s my own.
Kneisel: Ok then, let’s get to the actual questions. You pretty much forced WWE into pushing you due to your YouTube show. How did the whole thing start?
Ryder: I started wrestling in 2003, and at the end of each year I said: Ok, I did this. 2003 I started wrestling school, 2004 I had my first match, 2007 I had my first WWE match, and so on and so forth. So in 2010 I looked back and I said: what did I do? The answer was nothing, I didn’t do anything and didn’t accomplish any of my goals. I still had a job, but I didn’t do anything and realized my time was running up in the WWE. I had been there for a while and no one was going to give me a chance. So in February 2011 I started “Z! True Long Island Story”. At the time I didn’t know exactly what that was. All I knew was my parents got me that little flip cam for Christmas, I just set it up on an old Tripod and started filming myself inside my apartment. Week by week I started adding little skits and little interviews with a Buzz Lightyear toy or a Justin Bieber cardboard cutout. It just started to gain momentum and pick up on its own. Without that show I wouldn’t be where I am today, I definitely would have been released, a hundred percent. “Z! True Long Island Story” basically saved my career.
Kneisel: Did you intend on getting yourself over through the show, or what was the goal?
Ryder: Yeah, that was the goal! Because I was just sick of sitting home, wondering what’s going to happen next and wondering how long I’m going to be here. I was sick of walking on egg shells and being job paranoid. The goal was either to get fired or to get noticed – and I got noticed.
Kneisel: Definitely. Some of your colleagues seem to try going the same way. Do you think it can work again, or was it a unique development?
Ryder: I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime-thing. I wasn’t the first to use social media, but I was the first one to really embrace it, totally rely on it and use it to the best of my abilities. I’m 26 years old, these things are what my friends use. My friends are on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so I just used that since I felt I was the best person in WWE to be able to. People are doing it now, they’re starting their own YouTube shows, so that’s all good, more power to them. It just gives me more motivation to be the best one out there.
Kneisel: Your dad plays a big part on your show. Is he really that cool, or did you tell him to?
Ryder: (laughs) You think he’s cool? I don’t think he’s cool at all. But yeah, my dad’s on the show, he’s entertaining, the people love him – it’s great. It just started off as a one-time thing, I was at my parent’s house and like: “Hey dad, I need another scene for my show this week. So, who’s your favorite WWE Superstar?” And he said “John Morrison” instead of me, so I was like: “What? You can’t say that, it’s my show!” People loved it and we just built off it and built off it. I just finished episode 56 and he was in that. It’s crazy, people recognize him on the street, they recognize him at WWE events. He’ll be at WrestleMania, so I’m sure he’ll sign just as many autographs as me.
Kneisel: Speaking of WrestleMania, you haven’t got a match so far, but I suppose we’ll see you in Miami, right?
Ryder: I really want to get on that show! My ultimate dream is to be on a WrestleMania card. I’ve done some run-ins, I’ve been backstage, but I never had an actual match. So hopefully this year, on WrestleMania 28, Zack Ryder will be on the show.
Kneisel: There’s so much talk about Rock vs. Cena in the main event. What’s your stance on the match?
Ryder: I compare it a lot to Rock vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 18. This is the Superstar from the past – in this case The Rock – versus the Superstar from the present. It’s going to be exciting, the crowd’s going to be split, it’s going to be half Rock, half Cena. Personally, I’m gonna put on a hooded sweatshirt, a hat and I’m gonna go out there and watch them from the audience because it’s going to be electric.
Kneisel: Speaking of Cena – he and CM Punk did a lot for your career by supporting you when you started the show.
Ryder: Absolutely! Cena, CM Punk, Miz, Dolph Ziggler – there’s so many guys who, when I first started my YouTube show, would retweet my link. That was a huge help since I did not have many followers, it got me so many more views. Without those guys I don’t know how successful the show would have been. There are other people, like Curt Hawkins, who started a YouTube show and it just didn’t take off. Not because it wasn’t good, it just didn’t get the viewership.
Kneisel: Speaking of Curt Hawkins – you two became the youngest Tag Team Champions in the history of the WWE…
Ryder: If you combined our ages, we were the youngest tag team. We started wrestling school in 2003 the exact same time, both from Long Island, both life-long WWE fans. Just the way it worked out, we got signed together, went to developmental school together, broke into the WWE together and became WWE Tag Team Champions together.
Kneisel: It doesn’t work for him the way it does for you. Did he ever ask you for advice?
Ryder: We both weren’t getting used, both did nothing. It just so happened that I started that YouTube show and it worked. He’s busting his ass and he’s trying to make it and I’m sure he will. I’m trying to put him on my YouTube show now because he’s not getting his time on RAW or SmackDown! Even if my show helps him out a little bit, I’d be glad I could help.
Kneisel: During the Cena/Kane storyline it felt to me like you and Eve were stealing the show from Kane a little. He seemed more like a supporting act at times. What’s your stance on this?
Ryder: (laughs) That whole Kane/Cena/Eve/Zack Ryder thing was the worst two months of my life. (laughs again) And it’s still not over! I thought Eve was my girl and I thought Cena was my friend. Kane beat the living hell out of me for two months straight, Cena kissed Eve, Eve said she was using me, so… I believe Cena was doing the right thing for me and Eve just kissed him. And then Eve kissed me on RAW, so my mind’s racing and I don’t know what’s going on.
Kneisel: But it’s still Broski before Hoeski, right?
Ryder: It’s always Broskis before Hoeskis, yeah.
Kneisel: Mick Foley recently commented on the whole storyline, especially on the part of Eve being called a “Hoeski” on TV. What’s your opinion regarding his statements?
Ryder: (hesitates) I didn’t really see his comments, so I’m not sure.
Kneisel: He wasn’t too pleased with Eve being portrayed that way.
Ryder: Well… she shouldn’t have kissed John Cena, what can I say? (laughs)
Kneisel: Okay, I see. Do you think comedy characters like Santino Marella or – no offense – you can win the big one, the World Title?
Ryder: Santino, right now, is on top of the world, he’s the United States Champion. But I don’t think I’m a comedy character. Am I funny, is my YouTube show funny? Yeah, sure! But go back and watch my match at TLC versus Dolph Ziggler – that wasn’t a comedy match, that match stole the show. I think I have the potential to win the big one.
Kneisel: What happened to those One-and-a-half-legged pants you used to wear on ECW?
Ryder: (laughs) You know, that was something I used to get attention after I broke off from Curt Hawkins. I cut my hair, but I didn’t feel like that was enough, I needed something else to stand out. So I came up with the idea of wearing those one-legged tights and it worked. It got people talking – whether they knew my name or not, they knew who the guy in the one-legged tights was. And that was a good thing. But then, when the time came and I got more serious, I went to the traditional trunks and I wouldn’t go back there, no way.
Kneisel: A little bit like The Miz, getting more serious?
Ryder: Yeah! Like The Miz dropped his hat and shorts, it was time for me to drop the one-legged goofy tights.
Kneisel: When will we finally see The Big O on WWE?
Ryder: (laughs) I don’t know! He had two wrestling matches already. Big O is this big meathead from my gym in Long Island who I absolutely hated because he’s one of those loud guys in the gym, always grunting, always screaming, always talking about himself. I’ll never forget: it was 2008, I was doing calf raises at the gym and he puts his headphones in my ears. It was “Summertime” by New Kids on the Block, and it was just such a ridiculous moment! We’ve been friends ever since, he’s been on my YouTube show, he’s one of the key characters on my show. He started training to become a WWE Superstar earlier this year and you never know, he could be one of the next guys, too. Everything’s possible.
Kneisel: I think I read a while ago that you were considering ending the show, because you grew a little tired of it?
Ryder: I didn’t want to jump the sharks, so to speak. I did it to get noticed and it’s 56 episodes in, but trust me: I ain’t stoppin’ anytime soon.
Kneisel: How much time does it take from you?
Ryder: It takes me pretty much the whole week. I’m always thinking about it because I’m coming up with the material each week. I don’t have anything in advance, it’s a weekly show and I’m filming stuff, editing. I do all the editing by myself. You know, I’m a professional WWE Superstar and not a professional editor, so it takes me time. I’d say at least ten hours a week, at least. And sometimes it takes me way more. Certain episodes where I’ve done training montages, or the episode where I did the Best Of the first 50 episodes – that one took me forever, that took me weeks.
Kneisel: Speaking of the best episodes – what’s your favorite scene from the show?
Ryder: My favorite scene? (laughs) I mean, there’s so many. One of my favorites, off the top of my head, is definitely my training montage that I filmed for the Nassau Coliseum, Long Island show in June, I think it was episode 17. Kind of like a Rocky-style video montage. It was pretty ridiculous and that was one that took me forever to do. But in the end, it was great, one of my favorite things and I had a lot of fun.
Kneisel: Final question: Do you enjoy being a face, or could you see yourself portraying a heel again, like you used to for many years?
Ryder: I was a heel for a while, it was cool, but “Z! True Long Island Story” turned me into a face. WWE didn’t say: We’re gonna make this guy a good guy, it didn’t happen. The fans did it on their own and whatever happens, happens. Love me or hate me, I’m going to be Zack Ryder, Long Island Iced Z 24/7 365.
This interview was originally published at SPOX.com
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