May 22, 2010
Mat Matters: Carlito wanted out
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
I greeted the news of Carlito's release from his World Wrestling Entertainment contract with a shrug. Make no mistake about it, he was a guy who wanted out. So whether his Wellness Policy violation was accidental or intentional, it was no doubt greeted with a leap of joy.
Over the years, I've interviewed countless wrestlers. When they are with the big companies, particularly WWE, a public relations flak usually sets up the interview and listens in if it's a phoner, which is okay, as they rarely interfere. (But don't get me started on those that listen in when you are talking to someone in person and butt in, rare though it may be.)
Since there is someone listening in, they don't always speak their mind as much as you might expect, and almost never as much as a journalist wants. Some come off as total company-men (and women), praising the company line. Their enthusiasm is usually genuine -- they want to keep their job, after all.
Carlito Colon was an exception.
I asked to interview him in September 2009 with WWE coming up to Canada, since his mom is Canadian and his famed father, Carlos Colon, spent so much time honing his skills in Stampede Wrestling and in Montreal.
He'd always been fun to watch, as he burst on the scene with such freshness -- and the apple spitting was great. It wasn't long until he'd made top of the card, one of the main eventers at the 2006 New Year Revolution pay-per-view, in the Elimination Chamber match. He seemed destined for bigger things, and he held the tag team titles with his brother, Primo, and the Intercontinental title.
But then those bigger things didn't happen any more.
We'll never know all the behind-the-scenes things that go on in WWE, the butt-kissing that may or may not go down, the political manoeverings, the feuds and petty jealousies.
Then there's the self-castration that seems to go on sometimes, where a performer sabotages their own career with an ill-advised misstep, usually away from the arena.
In Carlito's case, it was apparently his first Wellness Policy violation, so he's gone, despite that others have gotten more opportunities. "Carlito’s termination was due to his first violation of the WWE Wellness Program and his subsequent refusal to attend a rehabilitation facility," reads WWE.com.
The WWE doesn't release details on the actual substance(s) involved with the violation, so we'll likely never know what went down -- at least until Carlito's no-compete clause runs out and he starts talking.
When I interviewed him, Carlito was matter of fact, less than enthusiastic about his push, and seemed to have his mind elsewhere.
"I just do what they tell me," he said more than once, referring to WWE creative.
He had dissed the bookers a few years before in a interview with Tim Baines of the Ottawa Sun too. "I'm out of Wrestlemania," he said. "Apparently, they had to make space for Kane vs. Khali and Melina vs. Ashley. How can I be at Wrestlemania? If I politic and kiss ass, I should make it.
"I'm not going to cry or be bitter, there's always next year ... and I don't want to get fired.
"But they're showing disrespect by not having Ric Flair at Wrestlemania and even more disrespect by not having Carlito there."
To me, he admitted he was a bit of a loner.
"I get along with everybody, I think, pretty much. I try to be professional. I pretty much stick to myself. I get along with everybody. I just prefer to stick to my guns and take care of myself."
Carlito Caribbean Cool wasn't on the Breaking Point pay-per-view.
The shrug could be heard over the phone. "Whatever spot I can get, you know what I mean? I do what I can. If it happens, it happens. If not, there's always the next pay-per-view."
Except now there won't be another pay-per-view for Carlito.
WWE has parted way with a young, vital talent that had skills in the ring and charisma. He had a unique look and wasn't part of their cookie-cutter style that seems to come out of their developmental system.
That's a shame, but I don't weep for Carlito Colon. He'll find his happy place.
Greg Oliver has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. His fifth book, SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle came out in the fall of 2009. The four previous books are Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (with Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy and Irv Muchnick); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them all from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.