By Aaron Oster
The Baltimore Sun
1:20 PM EDT, March 19, 2014
Maryland Championship Wrestling is holding its "Tag Wars" Event this coming Saturday, and one of the featured wrestlers is Colt Cabana. I got the chance to talk to him about the upcoming show, his time with WWE and Ring of Honor, the state of independent wrestling, and some comments that Jim Cornette made about him recently.
It seems like you're everywhere these days. You're constantly at shows all over the world and you're on commercials and doing podcasts and other side projects. What's your life like right now?
I just got back from England a few days ago. I also recently did a tour of India. I'm going to South America in two weeks after MCW, then I go to Japan. Then there's WrestleCon [in New Orleans Wrestlemania weekend]. Cliff and I just filmed a KFC commercial, which is pretty awesome. That's just a small window into what my career has been for the past four years. It's independent, and there's always stuff popping up and things keep happening. As long as I push forward and constantly work as hard as I can and give my best efforts, these things keep popping up. It's just a nonstop constant flow of hustle and work.
When a lot of people think of wrestling, they think of working for one company whether it's WWE or TNA, and having to stick to their schedule. What's it like to have so much freedom to make your own schedule?
There are definitely two sides to it. It would definitely be nice to just have someone telling you what to do and then you wouldn't have to worry about schedules and just focus on the performance aspect. But it's relieving that I don't have anyone telling me what to do, or being my boss or constricting me in any single way, because I have the ultimate freedom. It comes with a price, and it's hard to do, but for the ones who can do it, it's very free and relieving and I really enjoy it. But it is hard. I act as my own booker, agent and my own everything, including my own creative team. I'm literally everything, so it's a lot of hats to take on. But that's the scenario in which I thrive.
There are some people who would give you the “King of the Indies” label. Is that something you embrace, or do you view it as almost a backhanded compliment?
I totally embrace it. It depends on how you look at it. I love the independent scene and independent wrestling. This is the area in which I thrive. Obviously, I didn't do too well in WWE or any other place that has a corporate structure. But I've found a niche and found a home on the independent scene. When we first started, a lot of us on the independent scene, that was something to look up to, the king of the mountain, the guy who was wrestling everywhere, the guy who everyone looked up to. And I always looked up to those guys, guys like Christopher Daniels, Mike Modest, the list goes on. The label of king of the indies, I don't mind that admiration at all.
You were in Ring of Honor for many years, but haven't been there for a while. What exactly happened between you and the company?
They were bought by a corporation and the owner wasn't aware of a lot of the wrestlers of the past. So when new management came in and wanted to shuffle some people out the door, nobody was really aware of my past history with the company so it wasn't a big deal to them, and I wasn't asked to come back.
Jim Cornette did an AMA on Reddit on Monday and he had a question about you where he responded pretty negatively. Did you see it and what were your thoughts on it?
Yeah, a lot of people tweeted it towards me. I think he is entitled to his opinion. You can't fault people for having an opinion. Luckily for me, I've never been put in a position to hire and fire people, and he was in that position and he can't hire everybody. I'm one of the people that Jim Cornette didn't want. Obviously the people that he didn't want aren't going to be happy about it. That's life. I could hold a grudge, but I don't. I understand that you have to hire and you have to fire and the ones that you fire aren't going to be happy. It's about going on and moving on. Luckily, I've done way bigger and better things since leaving Ring of Honor. Maybe it was a mistake by them for letting me go, and maybe it wasn't if they're happy with the direction that they've gone. I don't hold any grudge against Jim. I'm almost kind of thankful that I was able to go on to better places in my career.
You mentioned working in the WWE. Can you talk a little bit about that, and why it didn't work out?
Well, it didn't work out because management said creative didn't have anything for me. Then I went out and did a web series mocking the answer that they gave me. It was maybe with the big corporate structure that I got lost underneath the pile of people (laughs), that doesn't sound good, piles of people. But I spent two years under contract with WWE. After about a year and three months I was brought up to the main roster [in 2009]. When I was brought up, I wasn't brought up in a predominant role at all. I was kind of brought up as a guy really to lose matches. Which was weird because they don't have contracted enhancement wrestlers, for the most part every contracted wrestler they have is “a superstar.” Of course, that's an interesting fact when some of the guys like myself and Gavin Spears and Ryan Braddock are just kind of brought up to lose. But that was a different time back then and now I think they've seen the errors of their ways from that generation. A lot of us took a bullet but I'm glad that because of the way they handled developmental at that time that they have a good grasp on it now. You can see the great things their doing with some of the guys and the way they bring people up with the NXT talent. So maybe we were part of an experimental process in developmental. Unfortunately I wasn't able to be one of the guys on NXT or whatnot, but luckily enough for me, because of my past, people are able to succeed in that system.
Speaking of the WWE, I know you're probably tired of it, but I have to ask. Have you talked to CM Punk recently?
The WWE really is starting to be dominated by some of these former indy wrestlers like Daniel Bryan, Antonio Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, amongst others. What do you think of the indy flavor that WWE has right now?
It's just about the cream rising to the top. You can bring in a lot of high-caliber athletes from outside of the wrestling bubble. Some will go on and have success but there's a lot that they don't necessarily understand. When I was in developmental they would bring in some football players and they were great athletes. Way better athletes than me. I was the last man on a division I football team that never saw any playing time, and they had all these All-Americans coming in. But it's just such a foreign concept, the art of professional wrestling, that it's hard to pick up and it's hard to grasp. It's not just the athletics, it's mental and emotional. There's so much to it. It is sport, but it's also art. Some people are just sports-driven, not artistic driven. A lot of the independent wrestlers have honed their craft for many years in different places and different scenarios. They've been able to work out what's good and what isn't good. They were the ones who seeked it out, and wanted to be in the industry of professional wrestling. So there's a level of love to it that maybe some people who were recruited don't have. When Jim Ross or Gerald Brisco would go out and recruit wrestlers, they were looking for the it-factor, or an extra tangible. But wrestlers on the independent scene already have an extra tangible in that they want it so badly that they seeked it out. That's just an extra bonus, an extra mark of greatness for those wrestlers.
I know that a few months ago you were brought in to the WWE to audition for a possible commentator's job, or to do a show. What happened with that?
I don't want to comment on that.
What do you think of the state of professional wrestling right now, from WWE all the way to the independent scene?
I think the WWE will forever conquer and they're great at it. They're a multi-billion dollar business and they're on the New York Stock Exchange. They know exactly what they're doing. Whether their style of wrestling changes or becomes different, they'll always be fine, because they're synonymous with pro wrestling. I really don't see pro wrestling go anywhere from there. As far as what I've noticed on my scene is that the underground independent professional wrestling shows really seem to be thriving. Something that I've always liked is the intimacy of a professional wrestling show taken out of the arenas and put into smaller towns. We're really starting to see an influx of it, whether it's PWG in Reseda [California], or AIW in Turner's Hall [in Cleveland], RevPro in the UK and ICW in Scotland. I was just recently part of a BBC documentary and they documented ICW in Glasgow. I recommend trying to catch on that. The great thing about the internet now is that we can be fans of a promotion in Scotland, it's very accessible. All you have to do is just click on Youtube or go on a website. These kind of promotions are thriving and that's the scene that I'm starting to see more of now. Smaller packed shows with passionate fans who want to be part of the show and CAN be part of the show because of the intimate crowds.
Do you think the success of some of the independent guys in WWE have contributed to this rise, or do you think it's primarily the technology and being able to find everything more easily?
I think that in the time that we live in right now, we're really able to find individual sects of any interest we have. Everything is being shaved down into different sub-categories. Because of the internet, you can really like whatever you want. I really think it's because of the digital age, the modern age, and because people can talk on forums and on the internet and spread and share ideas. Yes it could be for science or socialization or some big idea, but it also can apply to professional wrestling. People are going to watch exactly what they want to watch and that's what it is. Now people can find exactly what they like and it's easy for them.
I know you're involved in a bunch of side-projects. One of them, $5 Wrestling, is really interesting and different. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
A bit of it is celebrating professional wrestling, and a bit of it is a parody of professional wrestling. I like to say, if you love “Star Wars” and you say that “Spaceballs” ruins it for everyone then that's being single-minded. We're the “Spaceballs” to the WWE's “Star Wars” if you will. $5 Wrestling is something that started with Highspots with Jake Manning. There was a lot of these wrestlers who were shunned from wrestling, they weren't allowed to be on these shows. All they wanted was to wrestle and perform in front of people and have people know who they were. They wanted to live out their dream. And you take myself and standup comedian Marty DeRosa, we do commentary over their matches. Now, I've been on shows where Freight Train sells more autographs and pictures than some of the old WWF guys. I think that's a testament to people wanting something different and wanting a variety and also that humor does sell and funny equals money. That's what it is. We do the commentary over these guys' wrestling matches. And now these guys have become legitimate stars and people really enjoy them. I can't tell you how many times I've done a show and people have asked me when Raider Rock was going to come on or that they wanted to see Dynomite. Or sometimes they just tell me how much they love Freight Train or Big Donnie or Little Donnie. I'm happy that I was able to be in a process to help make some new starts.
And you guys are doing a live show at Wrestlemania Weekend, right?
Yeah. Actually, I went to Scotland last year, and I did this show where we did some commentary over some wrestling at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts and comedy festival in the world. It's 3500 shows A DAY during the one-month period. We did the show for 25 straight days. We're actually going to do the show again this August. But every single year, since the Atlanta Wrestlemania, I rented out my own theater and independently ran it. We did the commentary over some weird, bizarre wrestling. Each year it's grown a little bit and now it's morphed into $5 Wrestling. After the Hall of Fame, when that ends, we give a little break and then we start our show. We do some commentary over the wrestling, me and Marty, we've been doing it every year. This year, since WrestleCon will have a ring, Freight Train and some of the guys will be down there, and we'll also have a live match or two this year.
A KFC commercial just came out with you and Cliff Compton. How did that come about?
Fortunately for me, I've been doing a podcast for four years and I've reached out to a lot of different people in a lot of different walks of life. I know it's becoming a popular thing now to do a podcast, but I've been doing it for a long time. This guy who works for an agency who works for KFC knew about it and knew about the reach I had and the weird, bizarre world of the wrestling fan. He reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be a part of it and I said yes. He asked me if I had any ideas on who to face and I said said yes. I got Cliff on board and Jamie Campbell is the referee. Ricky Gonazlez and Chicago is in my corner there. It's great to get my friends involved and get them a nice payday and be involved in something fun. I love how it's taken off. Not only the wrestling fans get to see something fun and different and I think there's going to be more stuff on the horizon with that. We know as wrestling fans that we're all the redheaded stepchildren of everything. So KFC didn't know who we were or what reach professional wrestling had, but now that it happened, they've taken to us and they love it. Brendon Burns has always said that professional wrestling is like a secret handshake and if you know it, you know everything. So that's the whole scenario coming true.
On Saturday you're coming down to wrestle for Maryland Championship Wrestling at their “Tag Wars” event. Have you ever worked for MCW before?
I've never wrestled for MCW before. Of course, they've been around since basically myself and Punk and Chris Hero and Ace Steel were all trying to make waves on the independent scene. I'm well-aware of the rich history that MCW has. I'm well-aware of all of the great talent that has come from MCW, and the great talent they have now. But I've never wrestled for them and I'm really excited.
You're at a point in your where can pretty much pick and choose what shows and promotions that you want to do. What attracted you to MCW?
I used to open up for Mick Foley, doing standup, when Mick just started doing his tour. We did a show in Baltimore and Dan McDevitt, who runs MCW, was there and he's a name that I've heard about for a long time. He came up to me and asked if I'd be interested and I said “yeah I'd love to”. So we got together with a date. He's a guy that I know and that I've heard of and that I trust, and so I'm happy to come through and wrestle for his company and for the people of Maryland. I travel around a lot, and I know I have a nice reach with my podcast and my shows, so I like to hit the markets that I haven't hit before. I haven't been in the Baltimore-area or Maryland for a long time so these are some of the fans that haven't been able to see me live and in-person, so that alone is a great reason to come to MCW.
On the show you're teaming up with C-Fed to face The Hell Cats. Have you worked with any of those guys before?
This will be the first time for me for all those guys so I'm really excited. I know them and McBride are a little bit silly, so that's right up my alley.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts is also going to be on the show. Have you had a chance to work with him before, and what are your thoughts on him going into the WWE Hall of Fame?
Jake was on my podcast before, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy that. I was also on a show with him in Buffalo a year or a year and a half ago. He was so kind. He took me out to dinner, and he paid for my dinner, which I didn't expect. That was something that nobody knew about, so he just did it to do it. I always think that shows what kind of man somebody is, when they do something like that without expecting any press or anything. You remember those things, and you remember what kind of person people are. No matter what kind of demons or past people have, it matters where you're at in your heart. To me, he's just a genuine, nice dude. So I'm excited that he gets to be in the Hall of Fame. He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, he was one of my favorite wrestlers growing up, he's a lot of people's favorite wrestlers growing up. That's why he's great to have on this show. People love nostalgia and getting to see their heroes and getting to meet them and seeing them in person. It's way better than seeing them on a stage far away if you're at the Hall of Fame or on TV. That's the great thing about independent wrestling and MCW. It's live, it's intimate and you can just come up and interact with the wrestlers.
For the fans that have never been to an independent event, what's the best part?
It's like I said, the intimacy. You can interact, you can be part of the match. With WWE, it's a great show of course, but what I love about wrestling in front of these crowds is that I can interact with them. The fans can be a part of the match, and make a difference in the match. There's so many times when I'll go out and I'll do something interactive with a kid, or a fan, and it's a memory that they'll have forever. It's so easy to make a memory for someone. It's all very accessible. Also, this is where all of the stars come from. Everybody has to start somewhere and a lot of these stars will eventually go on to become huge stars and you can be the person to say “I saw them when.” And that's always great. There's so many shows that I did with Punk and Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins where we were in front of crowds with 10, 20, 30 people. Those 30 peoples have those stories of seeing them when.
Thanks for your time, is there anything else you have coming down the pipe?
Yeah, I have my weekly podcast. It's the longest running wrestler-to-wrestler podcast, almost four years now. You can find it at ColtCabana.com. If anyone is making the trip down to Wrestlemania, Thursday and Friday night myself and Marty DeRosa are doing commentary over two bad wrestling movies. That's at TNMComedy.com/Colt and I'll also be at WrestleCon all Wrestlemania weekend which I'm very excited about. WrestleCon is full of all the different stars and is very interactive. It's very cool, so come and hang out.
You can see Colt, as well as Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Former WWE diva Kelly Kelly, and all the MCW stars at MCW's Tag Wars, Saturday, March 22, in Joppa. Go to marylandwrestling.com for tickets and more details.
Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below in the comment section or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster
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