WWE officials may not have been all that familiar with Colt Cabana when he worked briefly for the company a couple of years ago.
It’s safe to say they are now.
Cabana was mentioned at the conclusion of last week’s Raw during a C.M. Punk promo that shocked the wrestling world and created a stir on Twitter.
But Cabana, longtime best friend of Punk, wasn’t surprised.
“He’s worn my shirt before doing commentary,” says Cabana, referring to a Raw broadcast last November when Punk sported a Cabana shirt displaying the Star of David symbol, paying homage to Cabana’s Jewish heritage. “He doesn’t care anymore, and he’s looking out for his buddies.”
Punk used the microphone during the final six minutes of the live show on USA Network to verbally bury WWE along with its owner, Vince McMahon, and company executives including the husband and wife team of Triple H (Paul Levesque) and Stephanie McMahon.
“Vince McMahon is going to make money despite himself. He’s a millionaire who should be a billionaire,” said a defiant Punk. “You know why he’s not a billionaire? Because he surrounds himself with glad-handed, nonsensical yes men like (talent chief) John Laurinaitis, who’s going to tell him everything he wants to hear.”
Punk, who has vowed to leave the company after his title match with John Cena at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on July 17, just hours before his WWE contract expires, didn’t stop there.
“I’d like to think that maybe this company will be better after Vince McMahon is dead. But the fact is, it’s going to be taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law and the rest of his stupid family.”
Punk, whose real name is Phil Brooks, also went on to mention former WWE employees such as Hulk Hogan, Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar — all of whom left the company on less than favorable terms.
And then, seemingly from out of left field, came the shout-out to his friend.
“Hey, Colt Cabana, how you doing?”
“He mentioned Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar — two guys Vince knows very well,” says Cabana. “He also mentioned a little-known wrestler from Chicago named Colt Cabana. Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar weren’t trending on Twitter worldwide, but Colt Cabana was.”
Although many casual WWE fans may not have recognized the name Colt Cabana, who was billed as Scotty Goldman during his brief stint with the company, Cabana has spent more than a decade working in the business and is one of the top stars in the heralded Ring of Honor promotion where Punk was a headliner before joining WWE six years ago.
Cabana hopes Punk’s worked shoot promo signals a new direction for WWE.
“Hopefully this promo was revolutionary in terms of maybe making them recognize that his real feelings will bring them so much attention. Hopefully that will open some eyes and open some doors for wrestlers like myself and Zack Ryder to get a better opportunity using real-life situations.”
Punk’s sentiments, says Cabana, were “from the heart” and reflected the feelings of a number of performers.
“There were a lot of ‘thank you’s’ from those guys in the back,” says Cabana. “Everyone wants to say it, but no one has the gall to. But Punk is Punk, and that’s what has made him so amazing over the years. He had a live mic, and he was able to do it.”
Punk’s promo is being hailed as one of the greatest — or at least the most controversial — in WWE history.
ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons tweeted “C.M. Punk’s Monday Night Raw performance tonight was one for the ages.” ESPN radio and TV host Jim Rome invited Punk to come on his show and finish the rant that was interrupted when his microphone was cut out.
“We said that wrestling needs some kind of spark,” says Caabana. “And you never know where it’s going to come from. Thank God it was from an unscripted promo. It wasn’t from some writer telling Punk what to do. It was unscripted, live television, and I hope this has the ability to turn wrestling around if done right. I hope they go the right way with it.”
The two friends first met in the spring of 1999 when both were training.
“I showed up at Steel Domain in Chicago and he had already been training there for a couple of months. He hadn’t had many matches at the time, so we basically showed up together. We were the only ones really capable of much there and formed a bond almost immediately. We loved wrestling and had a huge passion for it. We picked it up the quickest. We both had that natural ability for it and formed a strong friendship.”
The two knew they didn’t want to stay in Chicago. Their goals extended far beyond the local scene.
“We wanted to travel the world. In a span of about four years we drove to literally every state in the Midwest and we ventured to the East Coast and down South with a group of guys. We were the main core. We stayed friends ever since.”
The 31-year-old Cabana, whose real name is Scott Colton, got his first big break in Ring of Honor where he both feuded and teamed with Punk in high-profile programs. He signed a contract with WWE’s developmental program at Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2007. He was brought up to the main roster in August 2008 but released less than six months after his on-air debut.
“I had four squash matches — where I was the squashee — and two battle royals,” he laughs. “I don’t know how anyone’s going to become a star when they lose their first match in three minutes.”
Cabana’s release came as no surprise.
“They didn’t even know who I was. I knew it was only a matter of time, and I had prepared myself mentally.”
Apparently unbeknownst to WWE brass, Cabana had been creating a devoted following through his own innovative devices. He was given his own comedy segments (“What’s Crackin’ with Scotty Goldman”) on the company’s Web site.
“I was trying as hard as I could to make some waves. My Space had just been invented, and I was putting up these very funny blogs on WWE Universe that were getting more hits than Matt Hardy and Michelle McCool. But the bigwigs don’t seem to take notice of that stuff. Just look at Zack Ryder. It’s like they don’t take notice of some of the trending new media ways. I just knew it was a matter of time.”
Cabana also had impressed trainers at WWE’s developmental facility in Florida.
“Dr. Tom Pritchard, Steve Keirn and Norman Smiley worked with me every day and they loved me. They didn’t even understand why I was at developmental.”
Cabana was quickly moved up to the Smackdown roster, but was never given a chance to shine.
“They brought me up and didn’t know who I was or what I was capable of. They didn’t know anything about me and didn’t take the time to learn who I was. They just kind of fed me to the wolves. The next thing I know, I don’t have a Paul Heyman rooting for me. I had nobody, so I just got released.”
His parting of the ways with WWE, says Cabana, surprisingly worked out for the best.
“It really lit a fire under my butt because since I got fired in WWE, I’ve made more money in wrestling, I’ve had more notoriety, and had more success creatively and mentally. I would love to have a fair opportunity and a fair shot in WWE, but I can’t allow myself to wait for them. I’m doing it on my own. I’ve got a lot of things going right now that are really keeping me afloat and keeping me successful in a real underground, independent-band type of way.”
An example is Cabana’s podcast, “The Art of Wrestling,” where he interviews different wrestlers each week. Or his DVD documentary “Wrestling Road Diaries.”
“It’s sold unbelievably. That was put out by me. It wasn’t put out by a corporation or a marketing team. DIY — Do it yourself ... totally.”
Cabana plans to continue pounding the pavement and doing whatever it takes to be successful. He’s not asking for any handouts, nor is he waiting around for offers that may not come. He believes in his abilities and is taking a pro-active approach.
“It’s building a brand,” says Cabana, whose sites include welovecolt.com and coltmerch.com. “I don’t know if I have some giant goal in mind, but I know that if I work really hard to put out really good stuff on a consistent basis, that somebody somewhere might take notice. Whether it’s a fan, or whether it’s somebody in Hollywood or WWE or overseas, I just figure that if I keep on pushing and working as hard as I possibly can, I don’t think I can be denied. That’s always been my way of thinking.”
That philosophy and drive, says Cabana, is shared by friend C.M. Punk.
“He’s a guy who was going to go in there and work as hard as he could. And when his contract was up, he was going to show them that they were wrong for not wanting to re-sign him and for pushing these other guys. His matches with Rey Mysterio have been unbelievable, and obviously that promo changed the game. It was just so refreshing. It was unbelievable.”
Cabana has even incorporated his wrestling exploits into his stand-up comedy act. He has performed weekly improv skits at ComedySportz Chicago and standup shows nationally opening for wrestling star Mick Foley.
Cabana recently launched a new online series titled “Creative Has Nothing for You” — a spoof on the standard line given to wrestlers who are given a pink slip.
Cabana firmly believes WWE may be missing the boat on a generation of potential stars who are never given the chance to show their stuff.
“I think a lot of the younger, more fun and hip talent are just scared to show their real personality around these guys,” says Cabana. “They’re just backstage ‘yes sir-ing’ and ‘no sir-ing’ when a lot of them have this hilarious personality.”
Cabana cites Luke Gallows, a recent guest on his podcast series, as a prime example.
“He’s probably the funniest guy in wrestling. But he doesn’t shake hands and take whatever they gave him aka Festus. So I think if the upper management took these guys out to eat, sat down and have fun, and really got to know them and their stories, they would find that they’re really talented.
“I don’t think anyone really ever wanted to hear my story, which is a fun one. I think I have a fun personality. I think if they got to know me, they’d see that I was relatable and that people could connect to me. For a guy with four squash matches and two battle royals, I have 30,000 Twitter followers and have developed a real connection with a lot of wrestling fans.”
Punk, a three-time world heavyweight champion in WWE, surpassed the expectations of many insiders when he achieved success in the company. Some had doubted him since he didn’t exactly fit the WWE mold.
He also has been the target of some backstage ridicule during his run in WWE. Some labeled him “King of the Indies,” while others accused him of having an attitude problem.
But winning titles and gaining success, Punk said in a 2006 interview, was vindication.
“It was like a big middle finger to everybody who said I’d never be anything,” he said. “That’s kind of the way I live my life. I’m very goal-oriented. People said I’d never get a job. Boom — I got it. They said I’d never be on TV. Boom — I was on TV. Nobody thought I’d ever make it this far, but I’m just going to keep pushing forward and doing the best I can. There’s setbacks, but I just get back on my horse and ride and work harder and harder. Eventually the cream rises to the top.”
Punk said at the time that his dream match would be with John Cena for the title, and he has his chance at the upcoming pay-per-view in his hometown of Chicago.
But, he now vows, it will be his last match with the company.
Punk’s promo has been the most talked-about event in the Internet wrestling media in a long time, and momentum has continued to build. Was his speech a stroke of genius to generate much-needed interest, or rather the rants of a talented performer who felt he was being underutilized? Most likely it was a little of both, but either way, mission accomplished.
Punk has drawn lofty praise from a number of different circles.
“Just melted my 52-inch TV with a scorching hot promo ... delivery, content and attitude ... one of the best promos I’ve ever seen,” said “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am for him, and how proud I am,” former WWE champ JBL (John Layfield) posted on his Facebook page. “I had no idea how good the guy was going to end up being that good on the microphone. That last night was nothing short of phenomenal, one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in years. Was it a shoot? Was it a work? Who cares?”
Even Ring of Honor’s Jim Cornette praised Punk on his Twitter page for mentioning ROH during his promo.
“C.M. Punk recognizes the best wrestling in the world when he sees it,” Cornette wrote. “Thanks Punk.”
Punk’s upcoming opponent, Cena, told the Chicago Tribune that Punk’s “one last hurrah” should be an interesting one.
“WWE has a lot of events, but rarely do you see something this controversial and hostile,” Cena said. “I think people will talk about Money in the Bank for years to come. It will be a great moment for Chicago. A guy like C.M. Punk on live TV, you don’t know what he’ll do. I’m prepared for anything.”
Punk’s name-dropping promo undoubtedly has opened some doors for Cabana.
“Thankfully for me it’s been great publicity. I’ve gotten a lot or orders, a lot more views, and hopefully a lot more people will listen to my podcast now, which is something I’m very passionate about. It’s probably my No. 1 project right now. Hopefully it also will get more eyes on Ring of Honor. I think he did a great thing for wrestling by mentioning Ring of Honor and Colt Cabana and showing that there’s more out there than WWE. There’s a lot of different options for people.”
The buzz over his electrifying promo and his upcoming match with Cena has Cabana excited — as a wrestler and a wrestling fan.
“It’s been a long time since anything like this has happened in WWE,” he says. “I want to watch WWE next week to see how they’re going to handle this.”
And he definitely knows where he’s going to be the evening of July 17.
“I plan on being front row for his match in Chicago. That’s for sure.”
-- “Macho Man” Randy Savage died of heart disease and not the car crash he was involved in, according to an autopsy released on Thursday.
Savage, 58, who crashed into a tree with his 2009 Jeep Wrangler in Seminole, Fla., on May 20, had an enlarged heart with severe blocking of his coronary arteries, the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office reported.
Toxicology results showed small traces of alcohol and hydrocone in his system, but officials say the amounts would not have factored in the crash.
-- Old School Championship Wrestling will present a Champions Challenge Night on July 10 at the Hanahan Recreation Gymnasium, 3100 Mabeline Road, Hanahan.
Bell time is 6 p.m. Doors open at 5.
All champions will have their belts on the line. Top bouts include Reid Flair returning to face Calie Casanova in a challenge for Hardcore King, and Josh Magnum meeting Ken Magnum.
Adult admission (cash at the door) is $10; children 12 and under $5.
For more information, contact (843) 743-4800 or www.oscwonline.com.