Although he's worked for WWE for five years, it's only in recent months that Ryder, 26, has developed a rabid fan following. Signs showing their support for Ryder have begun popping up in arenas, and his T-shirts have been selling out at the stands.
Ryder's recipe for success: A spiky-haired, fist-pumping goofball character he's dubbed "The Long Island Iced Z," and a low-budget YouTube show that's become an underground sensation, having gotten more than 1 million views.
Ryder recently talked about his newfound popularity and excitement over his homecoming.
On performing in front of a hometown crowd:
As a kid, I once slept outside the Nassau Coliseum trying to get tickets to "Raw." And going back Monday is going to be incredible. I've got my friends, my family, my girlfriend. It's going to be awesome. And hopefully the Zack Pack is going to be cheering me on.
I was sick of just not being on TV, sick of just sitting in the background on the sidelines. So I created my opportunity. I created my own YouTube account. My parents got me a Flipcam for Christmas, and I started to make my own shows. And 16 episodes later, more than a million views, it's starting to pick up.
On creating his "Long Island Iced Z" character:
I needed something different. So I just took my real personality, turned the volume way up, cut the hair, went to all the clubs on Long Island, like GLO, and fist-pumped until I finally found who I really was and portrayed it to the world . . . I'm definitely not mocking Long Island in any way, shape or form. I love where I'm from . . . I'm walking out there throwing up the "LI" hand signal . . . It's not mocking it in any way. So I hope no one feels that way. If they do, oh well. I'll send them a T-Shirt."
On whether he considers himself an athlete or an entertainer:
"Definitely both. How can you not be athletic and do what we do? We're on the road four times a week, if not more. What other athlete is doing that year round? I don't think anybody. We're sure entertaining, but we're definitely athletes. And I challenge anyone who says that we're not, because I'll beat them at any athletic contest they want -- except maybe baseball, because I [stink] at baseball.
WHEN | WHERE 7:15 Monday night, Nassau Coliseum
INFO 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com