So far as wrestling experience goes, Colt Cabana may have one of the most impressive CVs in the wrestling world. He is the undisputed
king of the independent wrestling scene, not just in the UK but the world over.
He was a podcast master before Stone Cold or JR picked up the mic. Meanwhile,
his comedic offerings pre-date Mick Foley’s solo efforts and have secured him a
well-regarded slot at the internationally renowned Edinburgh Fringe festival.
It is whilst at the Fringe that Colt Cabana kindly agreed to sit down with us
for the interview that follows. If that doesn’t sate your appetite, you can
hear him weekly on his Art of Wrestling podcast via coltcabana.com. He is in Edinburgh
until late August and will be doing two shows for ICW, tickets for which can be
purchased here and ‘Commentary on Bad
Wrestling’ shows which are available here.
You’ve had a series of shows at the Edinburgh
Fringe festival including your ‘commentary on bad wrestling’ show with Brendon
Burns which is in a theatre three times the size of last years. What’s the draw
of the fringe festival for you?
Well, I’d obviously heard of the fringe. I’ve been wrestling
for so long but at heart, I’m a huge, huge comedy fan. I love comedy, I like
the idea of alternative comedy, I love the idea of obscure comedy and if you
watch my wrestling the last – I’ve been wrestling 15 years – but probably the
last 7-10 years, it’s almost turned into obscure comedy. I’d always heard about
the Edinburgh Fringe festival and know it’s the largest comedy fest in the
world. I used to think to myself that when wrestling was done for me and I was
a little older, that maybe I could go and take in some shows. Then when I got the
opportunity with Brendon, who invited me over, I couldn’t say no to it. The
show that Brendon and I do is one that myself and my partner Marty DeRosa
originated. When we get home, Marty and I our doing our first Mid-West tour.
We’ve done it sporadically but never really taken it on the road, so we’re
excited for that at the end of August. For me though, last year was a once in a
lifetime bucket-list thing last year and then when I found we could do it every
year afterwards it was amazing. This is now a part of my life and so I’m hoping
and I assume that I’m a lifer now.
More broadly, you appear to be on or have been
on every independent wrestling roster in the UK..
I’m on every indie roster in the world, man!
Right! So what’s the love affair with the UK
and how do you rate the wrestling scene here?
The first time I ever wrestled in the UK was a one-off in
London. I was a teaching assistant at the time and Alex
Shane asked me if I’d like to come over and wrestle. I couldn’t
believe that somebody wanted to bring me from America to England, especially as
I wasn’t even a TV star or anything. I suppose I had a kind of cult tape
trading reputation – it was VHS tapes at that point! But Alex brought myself
and CM Punk over and we wrestled at York Hall in front of about 1000 people. I
remember at the time a lot of people in London wrote us off and thought we’d
look at it as a vacation but especially at that point in our career, we both
thought of it as a huge opportunity and we made the most of it. So, I formed a
relationship with Alex Shane and in 2004 I decided to quit my full-time job and
make wrestling my profession and the first thing I did was come over to England
because there’s a lot of work. The UK is the first place I was ever really
allowed to be a full time wrestler and so it’s always been in my heart. Also,
it’s not like I came over once and then left, I got to know all the wrestlers.
I wrestled maybe 80 shows in 80 days at that point and so I became one of them
for a point in time. I think the fans know that and saw me grow from there
there’s been a mutual relationship ever since.
You have a good relationship with UK sensation
Grado. You’re his tag-team partner at
ICW. Do you think he could win TNA’s British Boot Camp if he enters and which
other UK wrestlers do you rate?
Well, it depends what TNA are looking for and what they want
out of the show. If they want the most fun, entertaining British wrestler then
Grado would win in a heartbeat. If they wanted the most technically sound
British wrestler then he would come dead last! There are a lot of great talents
over here: Rampage Brown, Sha Samuels, Noam Dar is very talented, El Ligero, of
course you just think of the legends that are here too – James Mason should
never be forgotten and should always be talked about as one of the pioneers of
this era’s UK scene. Dave Mastiff, Marty Scurll, there’s a whole lot of guys
that I really, really rate. I feel bad because I’m going to leave out a lot of
guys and I think really highly of them. It’s just a great scene over here and
it comes down to the talent not wanting to go over to America and become stars.
I think ICW’s doing a great job of building the scene and so you think of Jack
Jester and Grado coming out of that promotion – the Bucky Boys too. They’re
making their own stars, their own people, they’re not relying on America to
make them stars and through the BBC and Vice, they see their product really
growing and I think they have the right idea of growing their own thing, their
own people and their own cult following.
Will we see you in TNA?
I’m basically known as the ultimate independent wrestler.
I’m an independent contractor. If someone comes to me with any kind of deal,
I’ll always look over anything. But it seems my charm is that the big guys want
absolutely nothing to do with me but the fans do. I think it’s funny that the
big guys don’t seem to understand that but its fine – I don’t need that,
because I have fans that are willing to support me. That’s the ultimate
underdog DIY kind of scheme.
I was on the very first PCW show and I was on some of the
first RoH shows. I was intricate in bringing ROH to the UK years ago – by
setting up Alex Shane with RoH. They haven’t been back in a while but it seems
like the UK has a thirst for American wrestling sometimes, so it’s really cool
when they can come every now and then. Dragon Gate’s been coming over with A1
Merchandise and that’s a cool thing. It’s like the Edinburgh fringe, you’re
bringing cool acts from all over the world and they’re coming to you instead of
you having to go to them.
What do you reckon ofJeff Jarret’s promotion
To be honest, I can’t reckon anything. When they produce
something, I’ll reckon it.
You’ve wrestled a number of the guys at NXT,
who should we look out for?
It’s obvious to say Sammy Zayn. In my mind, at a certain
time, I thought he was the best. Going into that system I feared that it would
all be stripped away but it’s so great that obviously the right people see the
right things that for years, everybody saw on the independent scene. That makes
me feel good for the future for Fergal Devitt and Kenta and any other big burly
Canadians (author’s note: Kevin Steen, now signed to NXT) that might be going
there in the future. So those guys are great – there’s definitely some great
talent in that system. Scott Dawson was a guy that I really enjoyed watching
wrestle and Aiden English is another that at first I wasn’t sure about but I
watched him and I really enjoyed him. The reality is that the guys who do it
for years on the scene and who make a name for themselves – not because they
get a cheque each week but because they have the passion to drive themselves
towards their goals, those are the guys who stand out. They know what they’re
doing and they know how to wrestle in every kind of situation. If you see Dean
Ambrose, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Claudio
Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro), these are the guys that stick out in that company
and obviously the biggest two in the past 10 years – Daniel Bryan and CM Punk –
that’s where they came from and that’s how they learned the job. They need to realise that it’s not a fluke,
it’s happening for a reason. They’re learning slowly but there’s so many great
stars that come from the independent scene.
You were ahead of the curve with a wrestling
podcast now everyone is following suit. What makes a good one and do you listen
I don’t listen to any other wrestling podcasts. I’ve been
listening to podcasts religiously for about 5 years now and I subscribe to
20-30 podcasts that I listen to weekly. My favourites are comedy podcasts and
informative ones. I started podcasting because I saw the value in it from those
worlds, not from wrestling, I didn’t take anything from the wrestling world. I
started podcasting over 4 yrs ago and I knew what a difference it would make in
the wrestling world and I knew they – meaning everybody, would be about 5 years
behind. They beat me by a year, 4 years later they’ve all come out of the
woodwork. As for what makes a great podcast, first is great audio, it has to be
great sound. It can’t be done over a telephone line or a recorder without
microphones and second, is the interest of the host and how excited they are.
If you’re watching a wrestling match and you can see the wrestlers not even in
it, it’s hard to engage an audience. In the end, you have to be listenable.
What’s the best rib played by you or on
I don’t have anything in my back pocket necessarily and I’ve
pulled probably thousands of little ribs in my career- CM Punk and I constantly
rib each other. I think I’m telling this one right though. Sheamus won the FCW
championship, before it was NXT and he was so proud of that because he’d always
wanted to be a champion. He left his title alone for a second and me and a
couple of other guys, we clipped it to the very top of the arena. We tied the
title up there and no-one told him where it was and he was furious, just
absolutely furious. He’d just ask us “where’s my belt, fella?” and
we’d be giving hints like “look up buddy, things will be OK”. It took
a couple of hours but eventually he found it. With ribs, it’s important that
they’re not malicious and that they’re fun and friendly – even though he wasn’t
too friendly about it! But that’s just one that comes to mind.
We recently interviewed Robbie E, who
is a Jewish wrestler. Has being from a Jewish background impacted upon your
career? Was the Scotty Goldman character a nod to your Judaism?
Scotty Goldman was definitely picked because I was Jewish.
Vince McMahon was like “oh, he’s Jewish? Let’s characterise him”,
which is fine. I was thinking that I went to the land of the giants and I’m
just an average, normal looking dude (which has always been an advantage, I
think, to my career because I’m relatable) but up there it’s a question of why
do you stick out? I know that if you put me on TV for 10 weeks you’ll figure
out why I stick out but it’s hard at first because I look like everyone else
for the most part. So Goldman was because I was Jewish but I don’t think it was
discriminatory or to keep me down. I’m not religious but I love the culture and
I love the idea of Judaism. I enjoy our humour and I believe I put a little
tint of Judaism into my act through that humour.
Were your family proud to see you on TV as
Listen, I was on TV but I lost in under 2 minutes – it’s not
like I was a superstar. They had watched me honing my craft for years and this
was my big opportunity and I lost all my matches very quickly and I wasn’t
really showcased even though I was a contracted wrestler and presented as a
superstar. Sure, it’s nice to be on TV but you recognise right away when
something doesn’t have legs. Of course my family are proud of me no matter
what I do but I think as a parent you
want something to have legs and to grow and it became apparent that whilst I
was on TV, it wasn’t going to last very long. It was a shame but because I have a sense of
humour about it, I’ve been able to mock the Scotty Goldman character and
preserve my career. You can look at a lot of wrestlers – and I don’t mean to
single anyone out specifically, but if you look at Brandon Walker, I had the same career
path but I just had everyone laugh with me rather than at me, which is important.
I think sadly for him, his career kind of stopped when that character didn’t
work. However, Indy and Indepdent isn’t a taboo or bad word – some people look
at it like that – but I love it. I’ve been doing this for going on 16 years and
I’ve been able to make a living out of it for about 10 years on the independent
We didn’t want to be the guys that ask the
obvious CM Punk question but also didn’t want to be the guys that didn’t ask.
Paul Heyman said we might see him in MMA, do you think that’s likely?
(Author’s note – from the look on Cabana’s face, we think
he’s heard a lot of silly rumours about Punk)
I speak to punk everyday but I’m not the one to speak for
him and so when he wants to talk he’ll talk.
Would you care to comment on any of the recent
WWE news – Del Rio being fired, the streak ending, Sting coming over…..?
You know, to be honest, I went to Japan and I had to take
WWE off my DVR because I didn’t want it to fill up. When I got back I didn’t
put it back on and I’ve lost a lot of interest in it since CM Punk quit. When
that happened, WWE took away 2 job offers from me – I believe in direct
correlation to him quitting. There was a plan to do commentary and we were also
about to put on a show on YouTube together. When he quit, I believe the hatred
for him extended to me. Either way – and not on a bitter cue but just because I
thought I was going to work for them for the 7th time in my career and it was
taken away for the 7th time – I lost a lot of passion in watching their
product. I am a wrestling fan so I want to and do keep up to date but with
Bryan being out and Cesaro’s push being taken away a little bit and watching
the same guys on top, it’s hard for me to get into it.
When will we next see you in the UK and what
are your future plans?
I plan on doing the fringe every year, that’s my plan – I
want to make it a thing every single year. I’d like to build the ‘Commentary
Over Bad Wrestling’ show when I’m back in the US. I’m also desperate to go back
to Ireland. I haven’t been there in probably 10 years and I know a lot of my
orders from my merchandise site are placed there and that I have a great fan
base there. I feel like I’m slighting Ireland when I come to England and
Scotland! I’d like to come back and work for places like Revolution
Pro-Wrestling who I did a lot of work for (and was their champion for a year).
Meanwhile Grado and I are the ICW tag-team champions and so it looks like I
really have a home in Scotland and in ICW. When I get home, we’re touring the
mid-west show, I’m going to tour Japan again – Ive kind of made a home for myself
in Pro-Wrestling Noah which is nice and then I’m going to tour Canada in
September. My podcast is out every Thursday on coltcabana.com and I ship
internationally from coltmerch.com. I’ve also got copies of
my new movie at the fringe, ‘The Wrestling Road Diaries 2’, which I’m very
proud of. It’s a wrestling documentary, a sequel the likes of which has never
been seen before. It’s a story of being on the road with indepdent wrestlers.
No limos, no hype, no 4-5 star hotels. It tells the story of how you travel as
a guy before you make money in wrestling. We documented it and its really cool.
You know you look at my schedule and hear my podcast, I’m always somewhere and
doing something and looking to further my career. Im always looking to further
my contact with the hip wrestling fans – not every wrestling fan, I’m looking
for a specific niche of wrestling fan who likes what I’m doing. So it’s not
about getting a million fans, it’s about getting the right fans for me.
We leave Cabana at this point who is off to check his
schedule, which as you may now appreciate, is jam-packed. It was a real honour
to spend time with this funny, friendly and interesting showman. If Cabana’s
work ethic, professional pride and entrepreneurial spirit is rubbing off on
others in the indepdent wrestling scene, its future is very bright.