Zack Ryder Opens Up About Early Battle W/ Cancer, Tough Times In WWE, & Biggest Regret W/ Vince McMahon

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WWE Superstar Zack Ryder was the most recent guest on the Prime Time with Sean Mooney podcast where the Long Island Iced Z opened up to host Sean Mooney on a number of topics.

On Battling 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 Saw 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.’

How Long Did He Battle Synovial Sarcoma?:

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.

How He Was Signed To 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.

How He Met 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 What He Considers The Story Of 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.

(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)

There’s more on the next page including more from Zack Ryder on his YouTube success, tough times in the WWE, his biggest regret with Vince McMahon and his WrestleMania 32 Ladder Match.