Colt Cabana only wanted to be a professional wrestler. He watched pugilists moon-eyed as a kid: He-Man, Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport, but especially the turgid giants of the squared circle. He loved the stories, the characters, the conflict. He dreamed of being a wrestler himself, living to endure the slog of travel, the pain of performance.
As soon as he could, Cabana became a professional wrestler. His life was training, traveling, performing, repeat. He saw the job push some to drugs. Steroids, alcohol, or whatever dulled the pain long enough for the next match. He'd decided long ago that wasn’t for him. He didn’t want the behemoth build that anabolics gave; the glass-eyed slur that poured into the next morning; the hard escalation needed to hush the pain. He doesn’t call it “straight edge" like his longtime friend and former WWE Champion CM Punk, but he did it his way. No drugs, just work.
He eventually made it to the big time. WWE. Seven-figure contracts and world-wide fame if you’re lucky and good enough. They changed his name but he kept his humor. He worked some good matches. But it didn’t happen. On February 20, 2009, Colt worked a match with Umaga, a 400-pound Somoan with a tough guy gimmick and a rep for stiff work. The match was quick, designed only to show Umaga’s dominance against a weaker opponent. 2 minutes in, Colt was pinned. 3 days later he was out of the job.
But he wasn’t done. Years later and Colt says he’s in a better place now then he ever was in the WWE, and you’d be hard-pressed to call him a liar. He’s got The Art of Wrestling with Colt Cabana, a show that was second only to Serial at one time in 2014. He interviews other wrestlers, people in the industry. He still wrestles the indie circuit, internationally when he can. Though, as with some of the greats, he’s gotten most of his goodwill without throwing a punch.
Colt remembers the harder times, mostly when he wakes in the morning and the pain taps him on the shoulder. And the thigh. And the knees. Tears, breaks and sprains piled on top of one another until they’re your most reliable companion. But to him it’s worth it. The price you pay to tussle with the giants and talk about it after. He’d do it all again, he says.
The 10-Bell Salute, in order of mention: