“…Only man to ever get fired from the UFC on a 4 fight win streak, now living my true dream as a professional wrestler.” boasts the Twitter page of Matthew Riddle. After a rollercoaster career in the UFC, it has to be good to boast about new beginnings and watch the past fade into the sunset. The difficult part of of that equation is most people recognize him as an MMA fighter first and while many in the MMA community will dub him a “fake wrestler”, he has also hopped the fence into a yard where wrestling fans wait for newcomers like unforgiving rabid dogs, ready to criticise and tear apart anyone new, especially those from other sports or platforms. As for Matthew Riddle, he will flash you a coy smile and not give a damn. He likes the challenge, he likes to prove you wrong and he isnt afraid to “break a few eggs” in the process.
Most people remember him as the baby-faced welterweight contender from the UFC who would flash you a big smile and then proceed take you apart and break you away from your game plan in the UFC’s famed “octagon”. How could we ever forget his “TUF 7” knockout of Dan Simmler? A brutal shot that had Simmler moaning on the mat much to the suprise of “TUF” coaches Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson who were only able to look half as puzzled as UFC boss Dana White, whose face radiated more concern and disbelief than I think I have ever seen him show. Riddle was in the midst of building himself a beautiful career which most would say entailed a reign as the UFC’s welterweight championship. Riddle’s naysayers could never argue this point, as the accomplished fighter boasted multiple UFC wins and in addition to a first place state wrestling championship victory in a contest which saw future UFC champion Jon “Bones” Jones go home with third place. Riddle seemed to be right at home and where he belonged; and then out of nowhere, everything changed.
Riddle had already jumped a hurdle following a “submission of the night” victory over Chris Clements at UFC 149 in Oct 2012, where he failed a post fight drug test due to use of medicinal marijuana, a drug that Riddle is licensed for in the state of Nevada (as indicated by a Twitter post showing proof on his Nevada drivers license). Once again he found himself in the same harrowing position, this time in February 2013 following a split decision win over Che Mills, for this and his open criticism of the UFC’s medicinal marijuana policy, Riddle was given his walking papers.
Fast forward to Oct 21st 2016. Four years removed from his first UFC suspension and onto a new chapter of his life, Riddle enters the ring for “House of Glory” Wrestling at the NYC Arena in Queens, New York. He wears his standard issue black MMA trunks and bounces up and down on his bare feet looking much like a young “Von Erich” as he beams across the ring at his opponent, a man we all know as wrestling royalty, Cody Rhodes. His hair is a bit longer than the last time I saw him compete, but overall, Riddle looks to be in the same form as he would be for MMA bout; in shape and ready to compete, all while wearing his trademark smile to hide his killer instinct. As the two lock up and begin a beautiful back and forth it is evident to me what all this internet buzz surrounding Riddle’s rise on the indie scene is about. He clearly belongs here, toe to toe with Rhodes, who in addition to professional wrestling, is also a grappler and established amateur wrestler, made famous in his home state of Georgia. Riddle holds his own in the squared circle against “The Grandson of a Plumber”, every move is crisp and beautifully applied, especially in the early sequence. I admit it feels a bit odd to watch the action spill onto the floor. Up until this point, I had been watching a wrestling duel as things began to shape shift into a bit of a brawl and am even more suprised when Riddle snatches a fan’s chair at ringside and sends their jacket flying, right before he lays the chair onto the floor and slams Rhodes on top of it. if someone could look out of place and right at home at the exact same time, that moment is now. I am so used to seeing Riddle enter the octagon that I feel a bit unusual watching this unfold; But in typical Matthew Riddle fashion around 8 1/2 minutes into the contest, as the two combatants trade blows, out of nowhere, Riddle executes one of the most beautiful German suplexes I have ever seen, causing me to rise up from my desk chair and clap. That was the last moment I watched this match up sitting down.
Moments later I was watching Riddle deadlift Cody off the mat for gut wrench suplex, a move in which he rolled through and completed again before taking Cody’s back into a deadlift for a third German suplex. It was a very impressive sequence to say the least and I was absolutely stunned by how well Riddle has adapted to pro-wrestling. As Cody, the deserving veteran, eventually took home the “W” I couldnt help but feel this is exactly how things were meant to turn out for the former UFC welterweight. From the bright lights of the octagon, to a room full of appreciative wrestling fans, it finally feels like Matthew Riddle is on the rise to feeling those bright lights in his eyes once again, only this time on the platform he has always dreamed of; inside the squared circle.
Like it or not, fans…Matthew Riddle is here, Matthew Riddle is the real deal, and most importantly Matthew Riddle has earned the title of “professional wrestler”. Dont beleive me? Hit the web and educate yourself.