When it came time to select the first interview subject for “Really Busy People” – a column about how, well, really busy people manage to stay productive without sacrificing the quality of their work – my first choice was Colt Cabana.
Colt first went global as a WWE performer in the 2000s. While his on-air tenure with WWE was short-lived, Colt took matters into his own hands, launching a globally popular podcast called “The Art Of Wrestling.” The weekly podcast, which still often charts high on iTunes, led to plenty of other work in the years since, including acting, stand-up tours, a series of “Road Diaries” documentaries, and the launch of a t-shirt company known as ProWrestlingTees. Colt is the rare sort of entertainer, who is both entrepreneurial and creative.
In short, the man always seems to be working on something interesting, and in his Q&A with “Really Busy People,” he makes it clear that this is by choice.
How do you usually describe yourself when someone asks you what you do for a living?
Colt: I say I’m a pro wrestler.
What do you wish more people knew about you, in general?
Colt: Honestly, I pretty much put it all out there, which I think has been the key to my success these past five years. I really don’t hold that much back when it comes to my podcast and that’s by design. I’m very open to the fact that I was/am trying to grow my career outside of the WWE. Wrestling was designed on this “con” years ago, and I knew I needed to be the opposite in order to grow a fan base. I let the world know I’m a podcaster, an actor, a comedian, a businessman, a seamster…I sell headbands that I literally sew by myself, then take over to One Hour Tees and press them myself. This is my job, this is America, this is how I’m trying to support myself and I want to be open about the experience as much as possible
When was it that you realized that it paid off to have a multi-faceted career, rather than just trying to do one thing?
Colt: Being fired from WWE. Hands down. I had every single egg in that basket. Most of the wrestlers in WWE do. I told myself never again would I be “fired” from something and then be screwed. I knew if I had a plethora of baskets that I put my eggs in and one got taken away, I would still have breathing room and not have to start from scratch again. It happened to me in 2011 when Jim Cornette fired me from Ring Of Honor. At that point I had so much other stuff going, that not only was I fine with being let go by ROH, but my career actually skyrocketed at that point and thereafter.
Keeping in mind that you were a teacher before going full-time as a wrestler, when did you realize that your current path is what you need to be on?
Colt: I was a teaching assistant for two years after graduating college. I contemplating going full-time after the first year, but just did the second year so I could really make sure I was secure before heading into it full-time. I made about $11,000 as a teaching assistant with health benefits. In 2003, I made probably about $6,000 as a wrestler. That’s when I said, “I’m almost making as much wrestling as I am with this 9-5 job.” I knew that if I could concentrate on wrestling full-time, I’d be okay for at least a couple of years.
Of all the roles and titles you’ve had, which one regularly brings you the most enjoyment and fulfillment?
Colt: Pro wrestling. I love being in front of the crowd. I love that I’m very good at my job and have been doing it for going on 17 years now. This gives me confidence to be creative and to have fun while performing my art. It’s still my number one.
Is there a field or profession that you haven’t yet worked as which you one day hope to?
Colt: I’d love to be really good at editing video, knowing that skill. Right now, obviously, I edit all my YouTube series and footage. I’m just a novice at it, and I think it’d be amazing to really have a great grasp of it. I’m getting better every day, though.
As you always seem to be multi-tasking, are there particular tools or apps which you regularly rely on to keep everything on-track?
Colt: I use GarageBand to edit my podcast. I enjoy playing with Photoshop. I think it’s important to have the accessibility as a wrestler to always be able to whip up a graphic or a quick picture. Square’s very important in order to do credit cards at live shows. Once I figure out something I tend to stick with it, which may not be the best route, but it’s worked pretty well for me.
When it comes to your career, how much of what you have accomplished is rooted in hustling? As opposed to just sitting back and watching things happen?
Colt: Oh…It’s ALL been from the hustle. Nobody’s given me anything (laughs). That’s my story. It’s an important foundation for my story, too. I tried to be the guy that made it big on TV. I tried WWE, ROH, TNA. I wasn’t a fit for any of them. I literally had to carve out my own path and make my own way. I would have quit if nobody wanted to support me or hear about my journey, but luckily I found an audience. I didn’t need a “company” to get it either, I found it through my own channels, through my own hustle.
From your interview with Lanny Poffo, I remember hearing discussion about the choice to ride “the happy bus.” It sounded like that advice really impacted you. Do you recall any other advice that has really guided you?
Colt: Bill Burr said that the reason he’s on top right now is because he’s just been doing it so long that everyone else just quit. They were “smart enough” to get out, and he was too dumb so he just kept doing stand-up. He’s this good now because he’s the only one with 25 years of experience. Everyone else just left. That really stuck with me. Amy Poehler kind of said the same thing. She said the way to get successful in improv is just to do it for ten years. Eventually you’ll be good and someone you know will ask you to do something and it’ll all work out. Essentially it comes down to just put your time in and get good at your craft.
When it comes to managing finances, are you a planner?
Colt: I’m more of a hoarder because I’m scared. I’m scared that the fans will go away. I’m scared that I won’t be able to wrestle anymore. I’m scared the gigs will dry up. So I try and save as much as possible, so when those years do come, I’ll be okay. Recently I’ve become a lot more financially-stable and have started to invest in the market a lot more. In terms of investments though, I’ve always said that I do invest my money: I invest in myself and it comes back tenfold. I put my money into podcast equipment, buying t-shirts upfront, buying DVD’s and masks upfront. This way the profit can come back directly to me instead of worrying about middlemen.
If you were talking to your teenage self, eager to start as a training wrestler, what financial advice would you pass along?
Colt: Find a lifestyle that you can live with at the lowest amount. That way if money comes or goes, you’ll be happy either way.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do with yourself?
Colt: Eh, I’m kinda always working. Remember though, my jobs are the best jobs in the world. I wrestle, I record, I have fun. I have a fun job. Work is fun.
Finally, Colt, any last words for the kids?
Colt: Nobody cares more about you than you. Nobody. If you get fired or made to look like shit, that person in that job will be happy it’s not them. Try and put yourself in a position where that isn’t even possible.