In February 2013 welterweight fighter Matthew Riddle was released from the UFC. He tested positive for marijuana twice within a year.
As Riddle’s Twitter bio states he was and still is the only man in the history of the promotion to be fired on a four fight win streak. Nowadays, at the age of 31, Matt Riddle’s mixed martial arts career is over, instead he pursues a new passion. Professional wrestling.
The Allentown PA native began training for a career in pro wrestling just two and a half years ago. His ability to transition so easily into the industry has been nothing short of remarkable, with famed wrestling and MMA journalist Dave Meltzer saying that he “hasn’t seen anyone including Kurt Angle who was as natural to this business as Matt Riddle.”
“One thing I like to bring in pro wrestling that not everybody brings”- begins Riddle, moments before his debut for Irish wrestling promotion OTT, – “is I like to hit people really hard and people know that and they can feel it when they watch one of my matches and I like to make it as believable as possible.”
Watching Riddle in the ring it is clear that believability will never be an issue. The former UFC welterweight still sports his old fighting attire; shorts covered in sponsors, nothing covering his feet.
His style is very much mixed martial arts based; grappling, suplexes, submissions. “When I’m in the ring I like it to be more like a sport you know, more like a shoot, so that’s my thing I go for believability.”
In the past two and a half years Riddle has wrestled for promotions around the globe from EVOLVE and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in America to Revolution Pro Wrestling and PROGRESS in the U.K where he is the later promotion’s Atlas champion.
“It’s something I really like, it’s one of the reasons I like wrestling for companies like Evolve and PWG because the locker rooms are so stacked and everyone’s trying to one up each other and that just brings the best out of everybody you know?” explains Riddle.
In ring Matt Riddle is no doubt a wrestling prodigy but it is his connection with the fans which has truly elevated him to new heights. As soon as Nate Dogg and Warren G’s Regulate hits, the fans in the sold out Tivoli Theatre in Dublin, erupt.
“I heard they like to get vocal” smiles Riddle, “I think they’re like the English fans in that sense, they get vocal they get into it. Just communicating with fans on the internet even before I got here they seem pretty eager.”
Entertaining the crowd is something Riddle has always held in high regard, even in his UFC career. “The performance of the night or fight of the night, I always worked for those in the UFC win lose or draw” he explains.
The fact that he can now solely focus on giving the fans what they want instead of worrying about defeating his opponent is an aspect of the professional wrestling industry that Riddle is a huge fan of.
“The best part about pro wrestling is there is no real win lose or draw, if you have a great fucking match you’re a winner so in my world in my eyes this is where I should’ve been a long time ago.”
Perhaps it’s where Riddle would’ve been, had he not believed he was too small to make it in Vince McMahon’s land of the giants. A difficult thing to envision when you see him standing just over 6ft tall and nearly 200 pounds.
“Pro wrestling is awesome” beams Riddle, “I’ve been into it since I was a kid. I wanted to do it for so long and I just never thought I was big enough and I saw the opportunity, you know UFC fired me, I saw guys like Daniel Bryan headlining Wrestlemania beating Batista and I’m thinking to myself maybe there is a spot for a guy like Matt Riddle”
In his short pro wrestling career Riddle has already drawn the attention of the of higher ups in the industry, securing a try-out with the WWE in April 2015. He wasn’t signed at the time, but as the self-proclaimed “King Of Bros” explains that may end up being a decision Vince McMahon regrets.
“First they (WWE) said yes, then maybe, then no. They called me and said ‘Hey listen we’re gonna say no, we’re gonna have to pass cause of your history’ and I go ‘awesome’ and I could tell he was shocked that I was ok with it cause I was like ‘I’m gonna make you regret what you just did.’”
Riddle’s confidence is clear. He knows what he wants. “I’m gonna become so valuable on the Indies” he begins, “that Vince McMahon is gonna ask you where is Matt Riddle and why didn’t we sign him already?”
After his match on the sold out Over The Top wrestling show in Dublin, Riddle joins the crowd to watch the conclusion of the card, chatting, laughing and taking pictures with fans.
“For 2017, continue the indie shows, continue building my brand” he says, “I’ve wrestled all over Europe. I’m wrestling in Germany next month, I’m in America, all over Canada, all over the place but the big one’s Japan I’d like to knock that off my list but like right now I think the big think for me is just winning belts, winning tournaments, stacking up the resume until I’m undeniable”
Undeniable. It’s clear from his words that Matt Riddle is on a mission. Whether it’s this year, next year, or further down the road, one thing is undeniable. Matthew Riddle is pro wrestling’s next big thing.