Only Colt Cabana could suffer what is arguably the least impressive injury in wrestling history – an infected finger – and spark a global outpouring of concern.
Sarcastic concern, yes, but still.
“I’m not sure it had anything to do with genuine sympathy for my finger,” Cabana tells WrestleNewz over the phone from Chicago. “But I loved it anyway.”
Wrestlers far more famous than Cabana have endured injuries far more grave, but somehow the plight of this lovable indie-wrestling goofball captured more online attention than the latest Smackdown storyline.
Considering that Cabana doesn’t have the benefit of the WWE publicity machine behind him, his popularity among wrestling fans everywhere is remarkable – perhaps even unprecedented.
It is a testament to his quirky sense of humor, his dogged persistence to make a name for himself regardless of the obstacles in his way, and to the nontraditional means he has used to forge connections with his fans.
Though he has been plying his trade on the indie scene for more than a decade – establishing himself as a master of physical comedy – his notoriety has grown drastically since launching his popular podcast, the Art of Wrestling, two years ago.
The show, on which Cabana shoots the breeze with a different fellow wrestler each week, has become must-listen entertainment for die-hard wrestling fans around the world.
Thanks to Cabana’s down-to-earth style, recurring in-jokes and natural knack for storytelling, the show resonates with the warm, welcoming charm of a summer campfire. With Chicago comedian Marty DeRosa, Cabana lovingly skewers the weird world of wrestling through the weekly web skits “Creative Has Nothing For You” and the so-bad-it’s-good DVD series “5 Dollar Wrestling.”
Cabana says his willingness to make fun of himself and his profession is what inspired so many of his fans to make light of his infected finger.
“It seems fitting for me,” he says with a laugh. “I mean, if Colt Cabana is going to go down with an injury, then a freaky hole in the finger seems like an appropriate one. I think the silliness that I bring to the world of wrestling goes hand-in-hand – or, I guess, finger-in-finger – with something as weird and random as this injury.”
Of course, the infected finger isn’t entirely a laughing matter. Before he finally decided to check himself into a California hospital, Cabana endured excruciating pain as his finger swelled to several times its normal size.
Although he can’t pinpoint exactly when he cut his finger, he assumes the infection was caused by a dirty ring mat or piece of sweaty wrestling gear. He had recently returned from a series of shows in Australia, and was excited about an upcoming wrestling gig (and accompanying vacation) in Hawaii.
Like most wrestlers would, he tried to put off going to the hospital as long as possible. When he realized it was infected, he tried cleaning out the cut with a pair of tweezers under some hot water, but in retrospect he figures that probably just made it worse.
“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my own life,” he says. “The finger was throbbing. It had its own heartbeat. I knew I couldn’t do anything more for it myself.”
Upon checking himself into a hospital, doctors took one look at the bulbous finger and recommended immediate surgery to prevent the need for full amputation.
“I could have lost my whole hand or arm if I had waited much longer,” says Cabana.
While recuperating for nearly a week in hospital, with an intravenous drip pumping antibiotics into his bloodstream (and painkillers fogging up his brain), Cabana still managed to record and post his podcast, right on schedule.
“I think it’s important that you give people what they expect,” he explains. “I do a weekly show, so it had to go out that week.”
Cabana is now recuperating back home in his studio apartment (or “aaaaaa-partment,” to fans of the podcast), begrudgingly missing some scheduled wrestling shows on doctor’s orders. Although he is supposed to stay out of the ring for six weeks or more, he expects he’ll be back much sooner than that.
In the meantime, he’ll have time to focus on his ever-growing list of wrestling-related side-projects, including a new comedy idea he’s hatching with DeRosa based around terrible wrestling promos.
His convalescence will also give him more time to watch his best friend rule the professional wrestling world. Cabana and CM Punk started in the wrestling business and remain close pals, even after their paths in wrestling diverged drastically.
Whereas Punk is now enjoying one of the longest World Championship reigns in WWE history, Cabana’s ill-fated tenure in WWE (under the moniker Scotty Goldman) was an exercise in frustration and disappointment.
Cabana says he feels “nothing but pride… and zero jealousy” for Punk, because “one of us good guys from Chicago made it.” He hopes that Vince McMahon is “smart enough to put Punk in the main event of WrestleMania, because that’s where he belongs.”
Cabana feels grateful to have carved his own niche in the wrestling world – and even feels grateful for his short-lived and disappointing WWE period, because it gave him the motivation he needed to try something different.
“I wanted to stay in wrestling (after WWE) so I had to find a new way to survive,” he says. “I know how to connect with people, so I found the correct medium to do that.”
Every small victory he achieves without the help of WWE marketing, he says, feels especially gratifying.
If those small victories include trending worldwide on Twitter thanks to an infected finger, so be it.
“I think people realize I’m a person and a fan just like them,” he says. “I’m not an extraordinary person, but I am part of this extraordinary world of professional wrestling. I think that hits home with a lot of people.”