He did it! (Photo: IMPACT Wrestling)
Matt Cardona did the unthinkable at GCW Homecoming as he defeated Nick Gage for the gold.
The IMPACT Wrestling star, who made his name as Zack Ryder in WWE and spent 15 years there until his release in April 2020, beat the Deathmatch King in his own environment on Saturday night during a bloody brawl.
Light tubes, panes of glass and a pizza cutter were the order of the day as someone synonymous with the entertainment side of pro wrestling stepped into a new world and proved his worth in front of a rabid crowd.
Covered in blood by the end of the match, the biggest surprise was not that Cardona gave his all in the match but that he actually won.
He hit a Rough Ryder on Gage and pinned him in the middle of the ring, with the GCW faithful livid at seeing one of their favourites defeated by someone who they saw as the antithesis of their scene.
Cardona was pelted with beer bottles as he held his new championship and celebrated – but the next twist should be even more fascinating.
Gage has a date with Chris Jericho in a No DQ match at AEW: Fight for the Fallen on Wednesday night, although he’ll surely be set on getting his title back, and you’d have to assume the new champ will be defending it in some capacity, even to drop it back to a GCW regular.
In the more immediate future, Cardona will be on a flight to Disneyland this morning with his fiancée Chelsea Green, and he had already promised to take the gold with him.
He exclusively told Metro.co.uk before the bout: ‘I have a 6 o’clock the next flight the morning to go to California for Disneyland. So that’s my main priority – to take that title to Disneyland.’
It was a bold claim from someone who’d never had this kind of match before, and he was stepping in the ring with someone who’s made his name in brutal bouts across the world.
‘In a way, I’m afraid of him. He’s died and come back to life! This guy will bring anything to the table,’ Cardona admitted before Homecoming. ‘But in this particular situation, it’s me who has nothing to lose.
‘If I walk in there and I get my ass kicked and I’m all bloody and I lose – big deal, everybody expects that. But if he loses to me, his schtick is over!’