Brian Cage makes Evolve debut
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Brian Cage shows off. Photos courtesy Brian Cage
Brian Cage gets fans asking him all the time why he isn't on TV more, or a regular in some of the bigger promotions, like Dragon Gate USA or Ring of Honor. This weekend, his career takes a big step forward, evolves if you will, as he travels across the country to compete in his first EVOLVE matches in Florida.
"I love fans who say, 'How come you're not on TV?'" laughed Cage. "Well, if I could just do that, I guess I would. It's not really up to me. I've been trying to break into some of these companies for a while now. I've gotten to do a lot of travelling lately, my indy bookings have definitely increased this year."
The 28-year-old Cage (Brian Button) has been a professional wrestler since 2004, encouraged to get into the sport by the late Chris Kanyon. With Kanyon's permission, for a time Cage worked under the Mortis gimmick. After a stint in the then-WWE affiliated Deep South Wrestling, in Georgia, he returned home to California, where he is now a regular with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. From June 2008 to September 2009, he was under a developmental deal with WWE as Kris Logan. Earlier this year, he participated in a TNA Gut Check segment. He is also a competitive bodybuilder, who spends "probably three hours a day, six days a week" in the gym. As well, Cage helps other competitors with plans and programs -- just don't call him a personal trainer.
So it's fair to say he's been around.
Cage did work a little with Dragon Gate USA when the spin-off of the Japanese promotion ran shows in California, Cage's home state, in January 2013. He got along well with Gabe Sapolsky, the booker of DGUSA and EVOLVE.
"Gabe always wanted to use me, and it was finally able to work out," said Cage. "He talked to me about bringing me in, trying to find a good opportunity, and it all just fell into place with this one. Hopefully it just keeps going from here."
"Brian Cage bring a true strong heavyweight to EVOLVE," said Sapolsky. "Right now we are mostly junior heavyweights and high-flyers, but we are looking to diversify the styles you see in EVOLVE. Brian goes a long way to accomplishing that goal, as he's different than anyone we have on the roster right now."
Brian Caga and Matt Stephenson, his bodybuilding coach.
The scheduled matches for Cage at the three EVOLVE Florida shows provide him with a mix of people he knows well and some he doesn't.
-- May 30th - Orlando (live to VOD with a May 31st premiere). Brian Cage vs. Chuck Taylor. "I've never worked against Chuck, but I've teamed with him multiple times. In [Pro Wrestling] Guerrilla, we had the whole Fighting Taylor Boys faction, so I've done stuff with him plenty of times, but not once have we ever locked up. That was an interesting match. I was like, 'Oh, wow!' I'm looking forward with that one for sure."
-- June 1st - Jacksonville - live iPPV with Brian Cage & Anthony Nese vs. Young Bucks. "That should be a great match. The Young Bucks are, hands down, probably the greatest tag team in the world. They're never in a bad match," he said, "It's never a bad day at the office when you see your name across from the Young Bucks." But Cage has never met Anthony Nese.
-- June 2nd - Ybor City, FL - live iPPV with Brian Cage vs. Jon Davis. They have met but never fought. "I've heard fans, 'Oh, Cage and Davis,'" he said. "That's the big finale for me at the end of it, end of the triple shot."
All of the shows will be available at www.WWNLive.com.
Part of the issue with name recognition for Cage is that he lives on the West Coast, and it can be costly to fly him into the Northeast. "The East Coast, Northeast, it's all so much closer, more condensed," he explained. "California, where I live, the state's the size of the whole upper northeastern United States. Everyone else's travel is so much easier."
He's done the move across the country thing for wrestling, when he went to WWE's Florida developmental territory, and the cost was tremendous.
And he doesn't see himself ever going back.
"The way I look at it, been there, done that. They screwed me over a couple of times," Cage said. "I had to live in Florida without my son and missed out on tons of his life. It ruined my relationship at the time. And I end up being released over a bunk reason. I had to start all over building my name."
Cage called his time with WWE/FCW as Kris Logan a "dreamkiller."
He was in FCW around the same time of the likes of Sheamus and Wade Barrett, and remembers talk that he would be the next one called up to the main roster.
"I also was anticipating a raise," Cage said. "I missed a call from the office, and I was like, 'Here it is.' I called them back and I get released."
It was a big shock. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was getting called to get my release. When they said that, I was confused. I wasn't even upset. I was like, 'What? Did you call the right number?'"
Stunned by the decision, Cage tried to piece together what happened. First off, he was injured, with a torn groin at the time. He had been on a big FCW Father's Day show, where big names like Dusty Rhodes were giving some rub to their kids. Because of the injury, Cage's match didn't go as planned -- "a bad botch" -- and he heard right away about messing up, since the bigger card had more attention from the powers that be than an average FCW event.
"I was talking to some of the coaches a month after my release and everything was hush-hush," he said.
"Everyone went to bat for me and defended me," explained Cage, claiming that the response was, "Well, if he's as good as all you guys say he is, I guess we'll sign him a year later, won't we?"
There was another developmental deal pending with WWE for Cage, but a failed drug test scuttled that.
"I popped a test, and I was furious, because I wasn't on anything," said Cage, clarifying. "The stuff I was taking was stuff that I was taking in the past while I was under contract." The disputed substance was Bolderone, under the trade name Equipoise. WWE refused to retest him, even after Cage put together an information package about the whole situation. He remains on WWE's radar, but believes it is up to him to become a name elsewhere before WWE will give him another chance.
Cage doesn't think the idea of a developmental territory works very well and destroys morale.
"A lot of the guys that I was with that are actually there now hang their heads. I talk to them here or there. They'll talk about wanting to quit. Everyone says, 'At least there's a paycheque,' but that sucks that your dream from your entire life has become basically a sh----, 9-5 paycheque job, because you're there, but you're not there. You're just there in catering, and whenever you do get to go out, a) you don't get to show your true talent, and b) you're putting over somebody who doesn't even know what wrestling is, or somebody's kid. Even more so, you're walking on eggshells; you're damned if you do, damned if you don't."
The TNA experience with the Gut Check Challenge was better, even if it was a losing effort to Jay Bradley in January.
"When I was at TNA, it was like being backstage at an indy show. It was so cool. It was a freakin' pro wrestling show, not business casual sports entertainment garbage," he said. "People came up to me. If you missed somebody's handshake, you came back and shook their hand and it was fine. There just wasn't any heat for any ridiculous nonsense. It was so easy-going.
"In the Fed, people freak out if you're a young guy and go to catering before somebody else. I don't know, there's just so many different stupid things that happen there."
Down the road, Cage has bookings in Puerto Rico and Mexico lined up, and through Teddy Hart, he expects to return to Calgary for any Next Generation Wrestling events.
"Hopefully this will lead more into EVOLVE and Dragon Gate, because the one big bucket list thing that I haven't done in wrestling would be to tour Japan," Cage said. "Absolutely, I'd love to tour Japan. Well, it's not WWE, which was a goal that I achieved at the age I wanted to, but now, looking at it, they've signed so many people that are undeserving it's like, 'What does that even mean as far as complimenting my wrestling work?' To me, Japan only takes the best of the best, if you will. That would be a huge feather in my cap to be able to do that."
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The EVOLVE / Dragon Gate USA website
Greg Oliver is the Producer of SLAM! Wrestling. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow him on Twitter @gregmep.