In the second edition of Let’s Talk Pro Wrestling (check out the first with Kevin Kelly here), I sat down with the King of independent wrestling, Colt Cabana, who was kind enough to lend some of his precious time during the recent Wrestling Media Con with zero notice (for either of us). There was a bit of background noise part way through from a group that weren’t supposed to be in the room but hopefully it doesn’t take away from the talk too much. I hope you enjoy.
Please note: As I’d never conducted interviews prior to this weekend, I had no plans of publishing the audio for this interview, but because the sound quality turned out better than expected, I’ve decided to include it along with a transcript. As I wasn’t planning on anybody hearing it, and this interview was arranged at the last moment with no prep time, I may be stumbling my words in places so please forgive any mistakes. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this brief but brilliant talk.
HWF: How are you, man? How does it feel to be here at Wrestling Media Con? A convention all about media in wrestling.
Colt: Yeah, well you know just last week I was doing a convention of just pure independent wrestling (Starrcast).
HWF: Yeah, just a bit of a small indie convention.
Colt: Well [wrestling and media] are two worlds that I put together. Once I was fired from the WWE I was like, “Okay, I really gotta go to my royal oats, like where I’m from, what I know,” and what I know is independent wrestling, and how to be in the new era, in the new media, I understood that to an extent. So it’s been two back-to-back weeks.
Of course with All In it was all independent wrestling, now here we are with the new media. It’s weird because I’m a wrestler, and it’s not that I started it, but with the wrestler-to-wrestler podcast, it was like the first of someone in the industry doing something like this full time. I think because a lot of us wrestlers were all afraid we would come across as ‘marks’, if you will, like, “Oh what are you doing? You’re doing that stuff the internet kids do?” I was afraid of that, but I was just like, “No, this is where the future is.” It’s nice that all of this is being celebrated this weekend.
HWF: You talk about not wanting to come across as a mark in your early career – being a mark is something we’ve heard a lot from old school wrestlers in interviews and such over the years. It’s part of this old school ideology that still exists today, but over the last few years we have seen some really positive changes in pro wrestling about being who you are, showing your sexuality without judgement, showing your inner love of pro wrestling. We see a lot of performers like yourself openly admitting that they think pro wresting is just the best thing in the world. It’s great that people don’t have to hide who they are anymore. In your career, what are some of the best changes you’ve seen especially in the past few years?
Colt: Well it comes with society, but wrestling’s always ten years behind the times. If I try to burrow my way inside of this, there was a time in my first four/five years of wrestling where I didn’t tell anyone I was Jewish. I was scared, and I got some antisemitism. There weren’t many, if any, Jews in wrestling that I was aware of. I was afraid because I was a bit different, and wrestling was such a… especially where I came from… Southern, like, “This is what wrestling is!” back in 99 when I broke in. That was the start of The Attitude Era, and all the veterans were from the late 80s territories so that’s just how it was.
Maybe that’s why there’s a place in my heart where I love the idea of Cassandro (an openly gay exotico wrestler), I just wanna make sure there’s a nice place for them, and for wrestling fans because I remember having to closet my Judaism. It’s great, and I couldn’t be happier. I try to do my part in making sure that window is open, it’s important for people like me, who are quote, unquote veterans in wrestling, who can influence a locker room or how other wrestlers speak, where if someone in my position said, “Yeah, call him the R word or the F word, that’s cool, that’s how we talk”, or a lot of times, where someone says one of this bad words which aren’t right, I’ll say to them we don’t say that anymore. That’s happened a lot. Hopefully that will help influence the younger generation because there is that high school mentality in wrestling locker rooms, like seniors and freshmen, it’s easy to get bullied just because of the veteran status. With a nicer veteran group, there will be a nice lower group, and they’ll grow up to be good people in wrestling, and so and so forth.
HWF: Unfortunately there is a lot of bad in professional wrestling, but there is a lot of good in it as well – one of the good things was last week. As probably the most famous independent wrestler in the world, you got to compete at the biggest independent wrestling show probably of all time, in your hometown. When you went out in front of those 11,000 people, can you even describe how that felt, or was it just another day at the office for you?
Colt: Well, this was one of five shows/events I was doing, my schedule is just always going, so this was a booking. I’ve done big shows before, I’ve done the All State Arena, all those SmackDown matches I did, they were always in full arenas, wrestling for DDT in front of 6,000 at Sumo Hall, to me, my fan base was always the American indies, one at a time, making new fans, sixty people a time at a show, and [All In] just seemed like a gathering of all of them.
In Japan, I was never the selling point, not that I was the selling point [in the All In battle royal], but over there they probably didn’t know Colt Cabana or my story, they probably just thought of me as that funny American, but [at All In] all of those fans knew exactly who I was, that’s what made me so happy. That was the warm feeling in my heart.
HWF: You mention DDT – right now we’re sat in a bar made to look like the cantina from Star Wars. It’s a pretty weird place to do an interview. Where’s the weirdest place you’ve had a wrestling match?
Colt: I wrestled at a fat camp. I don’t even think we’re allowed to call them that anymore, but there was an MTV show called Fat Camp before. I’ve wrestled in India on dirt patches, the border towns in Mexico. The Gathering of the Juggalos. There’s a whole list of them.
HWF: You’re wearing a fabulous LJN logo shirt. What was your favourite wrestling figure from the LJN era, and did you play any of their really bad video games?
Colt: I think I played the video games, but I don’t remember them as much. I played with the [figures] everyday as a child. Who was my favourite? My least favourite was obviously Ravishing Rick Rude, he was connected at the hips so you couldn’t do anything with him. I’ve got a little piece in my heart for King Kong Bundy and Koko B. Ware – Bundy because KP Toys had an advert with him in the advertisement, but you couldn’t find it anywhere. I was like, “Oh my god!” I went there like, “It says you have this!” and they were like, “We don’t have this?” and I was like, “Noooooo!” But they did a thing called a raincheck where you’d eventually get it so in the end I did get it.
With Koko B. Ware, I somehow found him in a sea of Hogan’s and Macho Man’s. My mom was like, “But you don’t have any money?” and I was like, “You don’t understand. Someone will find this and buy it.” So she bought it, put it in her closet, and I had to work two weeks of chores to buy it from here.
HWF: Speaking of your mother…
Colt: Excuse me…
HWF: …She’s a lovely woman! This year you changed your podcast style around, it’s more storytelling. You speak to different people, and at the end of every episode someone asks your mother a question. How did that come about? Why did you decide to bring Mama Cabana into this weird world of wrestling?
Colt: I’ve always done fun stuff with her because she’s very quirky, and she’s with it for a 71 year old lady. I think that’s where I get a lot of my humour from, my mom. I’ve had her reading Lanny Poffo poems before, and in my podcast years ago she’d do a weird, famous promo from wrestling history, and I wanted to make sure people listened to my plugs after my podcast, so I’m always thinking, “What can I do to make sure people stick around?” She wanted to get involved, she’s retired, she just wants something to do, so I gave her something to do, plus it’ll help people stick around.
HWF: With you doing your podcast for so long, how many hours of your life do you think you’ve spent talking about pro wrestling? You’d think after all these years speaking to all these people, you’d get a bit sick of it, but it doesn’t sound like you are.
Colt: There’s been a little over 400 episodes, so that’s probably over 400 hours, and then all the other weird stuff I’ve done. Towards the end of the interviews, I was a little like, not on autopilot, but I could do those in my sleep. I did enjoy those conversations with my friends about wrestling, but I felt like I’d done everyone, everyone’s origin story. I really liked talking about the independents and the trials and tribulations. Now with this new one, it feels like we have endless stuff to talk about because we’re just going over what was happening that week, we’re always going through crazy stuff, there’s always something crazy going on. It’s really given me a new kick in the butt for my podcast, I’m really enjoying it.
HWF: I have to ask – what’s Scott Steiner like to be around? I’m fascinated by him.
Colt: He’s always been very cool, calm and collected around me. I once watched him have this match in WrestlePro, he just worked his butt off. I was so impressed. Whenever I talk to anyone they say, “He comes in and he works hard, he works really hard.” I don’t know if that’s one of his University of Michigan things, he just has that work habit. He shouldn’t, he doesn’t have to, I think he’s 55 now, but he works really hard. I think he’s kinda like Iron Sheik where he knows when to turn it on. It’s like here’s a live mic and he goes, “Oh, you want one of them? I’ll give you a gem.”
HWF: You’ve probably been asked a million times what your favourite match is, but what’s your favourite match you’ve ever commentated? You’ve started commentating full time for Ring of Honor, so if anybody wants to know how good Colt Cabana is as commentator, which match would you point to?
Colt: It’s only been a year and a half or so, but the one that I really liked was a Jay Lethal vs. Jonathan Gresham match. They told a great story, it was a great match, and it was really easy for Ian and I to sink our teeth into. I remember that one really standing out as one I really enjoyed calling.
HWF: How good is Jonathan Gresham at pro wrestling?
Colt: Yeah, he is really good. I like his position in Ring of Honor. He’s just going to really slowly climb. Everyone realises it backstage, maybe the fans haven’t, I’m not sure, but it’ll be a slow climb until they realise that, “Oh, he’s one of the key guys in Ring of Honor.”
HWF: Last question – with wrestling being as diverse as it is, what’s the one big reason that makes pro wrestling so great?
Colt: Live entertainment for me, I love watching wrestling live. I know there’s all of these great digital platforms and great services, but there’s nothing like coming to live wrestling and being a part of that intimate setting. I think that’s where I really thrive. For me doing it, I love just playing with the crowd and the front row, I love just rolling out and having these connections with individuals, and everyone can be a part of it. That for me, the magic of interactive physical theatre in the round, it’s so fun. There’s nothing like it, and I love it so much.
HWF: I think we all love it. Sometimes we question why but we love it. Thanks, Colt.
Please follow Colt on Twitter and Instagram – @ColtCabana
You can find me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling