Monday, October 14, 2013

One of the biggest mistakes WWE ever made

One of the biggest mistakes WWE ever made was destroying the creative talent that is in this ring, circa August 2008. The problem that Brian Kendrick and Scotty Goldman (aka Colt Cabana) had was that they were featured in the wrong era of WWE programming.

Brian Kendrick was trained by Shawn Michaels in 1999. Who else was in Kendrick's training class? A young kid named Bryan Danielson, who became multiple-time world champion Daniel Bryan.

Colt Cabana began training to become a wrestler in 2000 in Chicago. Who did he meet in his class that was also training to become a wrestler? A young kid named Phil Brooks, who became the "Best in the World" years later as CM Punk.

Kendrick had been with WWE off-and-on in various capacities since 2003. At this point in 2008, he was in the middle of the biggest push he had ever had. He was being positioned as an upper-mid-card heel. He beat a lot of people and was entertaining on the microphone - all the things you need to be a star.

He had one mark against him, though - his size. WWE still wasn't ready to push a smaller (but charismatic) star, despite the fact that every time they did it in the past it worked (Shawn Michaels, anybody?).

Kendrick was paired with Ezekiel Jackson, a newcomer to WWE. He was seen as the "muscle" that Kendrick lacked. They made a good pair. Similar to the Shawn Michaels and Diesel combo from the mid 90s, they complimented each other.

They could have been stars together. Instead, they broke them up way too soon and tried to push Ezekiel, while getting rid of Kendrick. What happened to Kendrick? Nobody is 100 percent sure why he was released, but rumors abound that it was Wellness Policy related. When the Wellness Policy was enacted in 2005, it tested for illegal drugs and steroids. A big loophole that was quickly discovered was that nothing happened if you tested positive for marijuana. A while later, WWE amended the policy to make testing positive a $1000 fine. Other drugs prompted a 30-day suspension, but marijuana was simply a $1000 fine, and that was only after facing scrutiny from the media.

Rumor has it that in the summer of 2008 WWE was telling people to stop smoking marijuana and that if you continued breaking those rules you would be de-emphasized in WWE programming as a result. Kendrick is a well-known pot smoker, open about his lifestyle. Who knows? But that's what it looks like.

Sidenote: Kendrick's theme music from that era is one of my favorites of all time.

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Colt Cabana is just one of the oddest stories in wrestling from the last decade. Why he is not a major star in WWE is one of the biggest questions everybody who knows enough is asking. He trained alongside CM Punk and they wrestled their first matches against each other around the country before both got noticed by Ring of Honor (where Kendrick also had a couple stints).

Punk took things in a different direction, becoming a talented heel known for his impassioned promos. Cabana became a throwback to a cartoon-style of wrestling, mixing comedy into his routine.

What made Cabana stand out is that he was able to be taken seriously as a wrestler while still incorporating his comedy. And I think that's where WWE dropped the ball. They have trouble booking comedy acts as being serious. In an interview, Cabana has mentioned that he has been told that "funny does not equal money."

Had Colt Cabana stayed in WWE, he would probably either have Santino Marella's spot or he would have ditched the comedy and been repackaged as something different. And, that's a shame, because Cabana could have been a star in WWE with his style. When CM Punk, one of the biggest stars in wrestling, is actively promoting you and saying WWE dropped the ball with Cabana, you tend to listen.

Cabana is making his own name outside of WWE. He has a popular podcast, The Art of Wrestling, that has a sizable following. He interviews wrestlers, several of them WWE wrestlers, and it's an entertaining look into what makes these people tick.

Inside the ring, Cabana will likely be best remembered for his 2010-2012 feud with Adam Pierce over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Their "7 Levels of Hate" series of matches over those two years were especially brutal. A documentary looking at the matches and politics involved was recently released. Click here and click here for previews.

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I'm guessing that WWE has learned from their mistakes, as evidenced by the success of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk in recent years. It's a shame that Kendrick and Cabana never made it huge on a national stage. Both obviously had the talent to become something special.

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