Zack Ryder doesn’t have to make up his own championships anymore.
The Merrick native won the WWE Intercontinental Title in a ladder match at WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas Sunday night, the high point in what has been a roller coaster career for the grappler known as “Long Island Iced Z.”
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Ryder defeated incumbent champ Kevin Owens and fellow challengers Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, Sin Cara, Stardust and Sami Zayn in the opening match at AT&T Stadium, where more than 100,000 fans were expected for the most-attended WrestleMania in WWE history.
Ryder debuted in WWE in 2007 with Glen Cove native Curt Hawkins as cohorts for WWE Hall of Famer Edge. Ryder and Hawkins won the WWE Tag-Team Championship the following year at Nassau Coliseum during The Great American Bash pay-per-view.
The ensuing years have been a combination of successes and challenges for Ryder. He used his “Z! True Long Island Story” YouTube show to become an underground WWE sensation -- he even proclaimed himself the WWE Internet Champion -- but despite the viral support never became a favorite of the company’s kingmakers.
But Ryder has taken advantage of a recent push, and Sunday climbed the ladder and grabbed the championship belt, which was hanging from above the ring. He took advantage of the Miz, whose grandstanding on top of the ladder cost him the match.
Shortly after Ryder was interviewed backstage by Maria Menounos.
“This isn’t just the greatest moment in my career,” Ryder said. “This is the greatest moment of my life. I just wanted to hear my music play at WrestleMania.”
After the win, Ryder’s father, Bob Cardona, came into the ring, and the pair embraced.
“If I retire tomorrow, if I retire today, I’d be a happy man for the rest of my life,” Ryder told Menounos. “I did it. I lived my dream.”
Ryder finished the interview with his catchphrase -- “Woo Woo Woo, you know it.”