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The life of an independent professional wrestler is busy enough, but for Colt Cabana, squaring off in the ring is only the beginning. A wrestler, actor (you may have seen him with legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka in a recent Old Navy commercial), stand-up comic, and popular podcaster, his talents have brought him all over the world (including The Gathering of the Juggalos). He comes to Brooklyn’s St. Patrick’s Gym tonight to wrestle Mike Bennett as part of Family Wrestling Entertainment’s Back 2 Brooklyn internet pay-per-view (8 p.m. on WWNLive.com) where fans will come unglued the moment they hear his entrance music. While “Boom Boom,” an original theme written specifically for Cabana by Chicago rapper Kidd Russell, has become his signature soundtrack, his journey through the world of wrestling themes has been a long and adventurous one.
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The music in wrestling attracted Cabana from an early age. “For Hanukkah,” he remembers, “my parents got my brother, who was not a wrestling fan, The Wrestling Album on vinyl. A year later, I got him to hand it over and my favorite was ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ with all of the wrestlers singing together.” But it didn’t end there. “I remember I got Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II, and I played ‘Jive Soul Bro’ [the song performed by wrestling manager ‘The Doctor of Style’ Slick] constantly. That was the original rap song for me, and years later, that’s my favorite genre.”
Cabana was aware early on of the importance of music in wrestling. “Entrance music is so important to a wrestler and how they’re perceived because that’s painting the first picture of who you’re about to see next. Early in my career I used ‘Vivrant Thing’ by Q-Tip because I love Q-Tip and there used to be a wrestler in ECW named Chilly Willy who used to come out to Q-Tip’s ‘Breathe and Stop.’ While looking back, he isn’t noted as one of the best wrestlers in history, but at the time I thought he was so good because I loved his entrance. To this day, you’ll hear some of the songs from the ’90s on the radio and automatically think about your favorite wrestling superstar.”
For the most part, the indie wrestling circuits give wrestlers a level of creative freedom for their entrances. “In Independent wrestling, usually the promoter comes up to you and asks if you have a CD with your music on it. You give them the CD with a piece of paper with your name and what number the sound person would play.” The rare instances this wasn’t the case lent itself to some odd circumstances. “I was touring England for about three months. We were the entertainment for people staying at a holiday resort who weren’t necessarily wrestling fans. The promoter had his set songs and his set ways, and it didn’t matter who you were, you came out to whatever ever song he played so [Avril Lavigne’s] ‘Sk8ter Boi’ was my song for a while, as was ‘Let Me Entertain You’ by Robbie Williams.”
But the right music can make a big difference to a career, even when it’s the wrong music. “I was using ‘Calling Out’ by [Chicago rapper] Presence on a burnt CD, and the second track I put on there as a joke was [Barry Manilow’s] ‘Copacabana.’ In one of the better matches I had early in my career, by mistake the sound person had played track two and I came out to ‘Copacabana.’ That was such a good match, I used to give [the footage of it] to other promoters and at the time [independent wrestling promotion IWA-Mid South’s promoter] Ian Rotten was such a big Barry Manilow fan that he told me the only reason he put me on [his] shows was because he loved that I came out to ‘Copacabana.’ From that point on, I knew that was my song.”
Unfortunately, during his time in the WWE under the name Scotty Goldman, he wasn’t given as memorable of an anthem. “I didn’t even think about [the music] but as I turned the corner on the ramp way [to debut on WWE television] I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, why would they pick that for me?’ It wasn’t fitting, it was stock rock, and I had later asked politely if I could come out to ‘Jive Soul Bro,’ but that was laid upon deaf ears.”
But back on the independent circuit, it helps to have talented friends to enhance a wrestler’s soundtrack, even if it means remixing some Manilow. “I’d been coming out to ‘Copacabana’ for a while and wanted to freshen it up, and while I didn’t want to go away from the theme, all I did was say [to longtime friend Kidd Russell] ‘Hey, here are some things about me,’ and creatively that was all Kidd and Matt Jenkins [who put] that together.”
But along with his own tunes, Cabana’s a big proponent of other wrestlers’ music. On his weekly “Art of Wrestling” podcast (an hour-long one-on-one sit-down interview show which has become the wrestling equivalent of comedy’s “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast), he spotlights a different song written by/for/about grappling’s biggest stars on each episode. “I wanted to share as many wrestling theme songs as I could and I’m at episode 115 now, which is 115 songs for the most part.” It’s been a mutually beneficial endeavor as fans have shared some great bands and interesting wrestling-related novelty records Cabana himself wasn’t aware existed.
Tonight’s match comes in the middle of an already busy week. After performing comedy with WWE champion CM Punk at a benefit for the Sam Thompson Memorial Fund at Lakeville, IL’s ComedySportz theater on Wednesday and last night taking part in a Q&A for Punk’s Best in the World documentary in Chicago, Cabana’s match tonight is the first of three appearances this weekend, with a convention appearance and a match tomorrow in East Elmhurst and Long Island respectively. With such a hectic schedule as well as his weekly “Creative Has Nothing For You” web series and “Art of Wrestling” Podcast, at least we know he’ll be accompanied by quite the playlist.