NAME OF SCHOOL: New York Wrestling Connection
LOCATION: Deer Park, Long Island, N.Y.
TRAINER: Mikey Whipwreck
OTHER CLASSMATES & ALUMNI: Curt Hawkins, Trent Barreta, Spirit Squad member Mikey, The Big O (of "Z! True Long Island Story")
Zack Ryder, along with former tag team partner Curt Hawkins, trained at one of the New York area's most highly regarded training grounds — New York Wrestling Connection, more commonly referred to as NYWC. "I started there in 2003, right after high school," Ryder told WWE Classics. "It was like my second family when I went there. Everyone loved wrestling. It was such a cool atmosphere. I always wanted to go back."
NYWC's head trainer was ECW Triple Crown Champion Mikey Whipwreck, one of the most popular competitors from the original ECW. Always assuming the role of an underdog, Mikey constantly scored huge upset victories, including a memorable bout against Steve Austin at November to Remember 1995. Whipwreck, part of the ECW ring crew was discovered by Paul Heyman and Joey Styles while he was bouncing around the ring before an event. He was later taken under the wing of Mick Foley, which likely contributed to his desire to find the future stars of sports-entertainment. Fourteen years later, Ryder became one of the biggest Superstars of WWE's incarnation of ECW and achieved upset victories of his own, including a win over Tommy Dreamer in which Dreamer was forced to leave ECW in 2009.
"It was such a great learning experience. A great environment to learn in," Ryder recalled. But it wasn't all fun and games. "It was hard. It was to weed out people who didn't really wanna be there," Ryder explained. "Mikey was a very old school trainer. He didn't want to just train any old kid. He wanted to make sure if you were gonna get in this, you really wanted it, you wanted to be passionate. He taught everyone about dedication and respect and discipline, all things you need to survive in the world of pro wrestling."
Ryder also learned some important lessons the hard way. "One time I missed a 450 Splash in a match where Hawkins and I won the tag team titles, and I don't remember anything," Ryder told WWE Classics, reminding the WWE Universe that Superstars are trained individuals who encounter genuine injury in the ring. "We had to go to the hospital. I woke up and didn't know where I was. I was in so much pain. My mom was there, and as they were taking me out in an ambulance I kept shouting, 'Gimme my title! Gimme my title!'"