Indie wrestling god Cabana is one very patient interviewee
SPORTS by Devin Pacholik
I got an e-mail from my Prairie Dog editor, saying, “thinking about a story for next issue. Thinking you’re the guy.” Without knowing what the story was, I agreed because I’m a desperate writer who wants people to like me.
Eventually I learned my editor wanted me to interview wrestler Colt Cabana. Cabana, who is coming to The Exchange with Silas Young for a Canadian Wrestling’s Elite professional exhibition, is an independent wrestling superstar and podcast god with his show The Art of Wrestling. The Chicago legend has a storied past and massive fan following.
When I agreed to speak to Cabana, I knew none of this. So, I consulted my wrestling nerd friends.
Regina comedian and podcaster Joel Yeomans was the first to set me straight. “[Cabana] is probably one of the best independent wrestlers ever,” he said.
Another wrestling dork, Deron Staffen, exclaimed, “You get to talk to Colt Cabana!? Really!?” He proceeded to read me Cabana facts from Wikipedia, such as Cabana’s Ring of Honor (ROH) years and famous matches with recently retired WWE star Daniel Bryan.
Yeomans then pointed out that Cabana is a major influence — the Marc Maron of wrestling podcasters — and I could have a real story on my hands with this interview. Yeomans said I would be foolish to overlook Cabana’s relationship with CM Punk.
As it turns out, the WWE-wrestler-turned-UFC-fighter CM Punk is in the news right now because of his upcoming back surgery. Furthermore, Daniel Bryan is retiring because of concussions related to his work. Both CM Punk’s health issues and Daniel Bryan’s retirement allegedly stem from the grueling pace WWE athletes endure.
Obviously, I needed to dig deeper. But then my phone rang.
“Hi, this is Colt,” said Colt Cabana. “I’m ready for my interview.”
“Um,” I stumbled. “Can I call you back?”
Cabana said he was busy but agreed to give me some time to prepare. I had one hour to get home in rush-hour traffic and learn everything I could about Cabana. By the time I got to my recording gear, I only had the knowledge gleaned from my weirdo wrestling fan friends.
Was it enough? I don’t know. Below is the resulting interview with Colt Cabana. Judge for yourself.
Hi Colt. Tell me about your upcoming CWE show with Silas Young in Regina.
Silas Young is a true professional. He’s been around a long time, as well as myself. We’re two professionals who’ve been in this for over a decade. I’ve been doing this for over 17 years at a very high level … Physical theatre in the round, as they call it.
I heard you’ve worked with some pretty big names like Daniel Bryan. He’s retiring, right?
It’s not just Daniel Bryan and being tag team champions with CM Punk, [I’ve worked with] basically everyone except for some of the older guys like the Rock and Triple H. I’ve been in the ring with all of these guys. I’m known as a fringe wrestler in the underground, alternative wrestling scene.
Weren’t you snubbed by WWE?
I got snubbed very badly. They put me in side matches and I lost them all under two minutes and I was fired afterwards. I’ve had my cup of coffee and I didn’t like it too much. It didn’t taste well. So, I went back to my roots of independent wrestling.
I’ve had more success in the last six years being a non-televised wrestler than I did with WWE. Not a lot of people can say that. Luckily, I carved out a niche for myself. A lot of people think WWE is the end-all-be-all, but I’ve proven a lot of people wrong. The WWE is like the NFL, and I’m like the king of the CFL.
Could you comment on the high number of injuries plaguing WWE athletes? Aren’t they farming talent from the independent scene to fill the gaps?
I have no association to WWE, and I could honestly care less about what they do. It’s not my business or my business model. I focus on the independent wrestling scene and have for the last seven years. [WWE] is not a model I like or care about.
Any words about CM Punk’s upcoming surgery?
If I have any words, I’ll text them to him.
Oh, that’s fair. What’s the appeal of the alternative scene?
You have to start here. You can’t just start in the major leagues of baseball. You have to work yourself up through the minors and find yourself. It’s the same with wrestling. You have to build a persona as a performer … WWE guys like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens — these guys were automatically successful when they started on the [WWE] roster because they had paid so many dues and learned their jobs on the independent scene.
For a crowd, you go to these shows and you’re watching the next generation. As far as the shows go, the intimacy is so important … at a larger arena, you’re not part of the show. You’re just watching. You come to an independent show like CWE and you’re part of it. I make sure of that.
Podcasting has done really well for you. Seems to work well with your DYI, alternative career.
I’m known for my DYI work ethic in the independent scene. A lot of that stems from my podcast started in 2010, six years ago now … I was the first to do that. That helped gain a larger fanbase. They are a fanbase that knows me as a person and a performer. It’s helped the fans understand this world.
My friend [Deron Staffen] got excited that you worked with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. I don’t exactly have a question. He just said that.
That’s kinda the cool thing about my career. I’ve worked with so many people. From Ricky Steamboat to Bobby Heenan to Tracy Smothers and doing podcasts with Stone Cold — I’ve worked with some of my heroes growing up. It’s been a wild ride. When I come to do shows, I hope younger wrestlers can say, “Wow, I worked with Colt Cabana.”