After struggling to find his footing in professional wrestling and making next to nothing on the independent scene, Brian Cage appeared to finally get his big break when he was signed by WWE in June 2008 and sent to its developmental territory in Florida (now known as NXT). Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, as he wound up getting released in September 2009.
From there, Cage ventured back into the independent scene, which included bouncing in and out of Impact Wrestling from 2012-14. But, Cage finally found a home with Lucha Underground, which he signed with in October 2014.
Fast forward and the 34-year-old is one of the most sought-after talents not in WWE. Along with Lucha Underground, Cage currently hones his craft for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) and AAA in Mexico — all highlighted by his return to Impact this past January.
This second run in Impact has been more fulfilling for Cage. During June’s Slammiversary, Cage pinned Matt Sydal to become the X-Division champion. On Sunday, at Impact’s biggest event of the last 14 years, Bound for Glory, Cage will team up with Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix to take on Sami Callihan and The Crist Brothers.
Recently, Sporting News caught up with Cage to discuss Bound for Glory, the new views of Impact and how he added his love of fitness into his wrestling.
(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Sporting News: Since the inception of Impact Wrestling in 2002, Bound for Glory has always been viewed as the WWE version of Wrestlemania. What does it mean to you to be competing at the event?
Brian Cage: It’s an honor, but to be completely honest, I personally think it’s going to be hard to beat Slammiversary. That was one of the best shows in wrestling all year and now we have a ton of momentum coming into Bound for Glory, which is usually our biggest show. I’m excited to be on the show.
SN: You bring up Slammiversary and that was a fantastic show. A lot of fans and media felt it was one of the best shows Impact’s put on in a very long time and quite arguably the show of the year in pro-wrestling, period. What was it about that show that clicked across the board?
Cage: To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be that good. The crowd in Toronto was on fire. Everyone clicked on all cylinders. It was definitely a defining moment for the ship being turned around and going in a new direction for the company since it has been under new management. That was a really big turning point. I’m glad to part of it and hopefully Bound for Glory surpasses that.
SN: For the last six, seven years, people have been down on Impact for a variety of reasons. After Slammiversary, Impact has generated more of a buzz among wrestling fans. Have you noticed the same feeling?
Cage: When I was about to sign with Impact to now, it is two totally different ends of the spectrum. Fans have had much more positive things to say by saying they watch it or they like seeing me on the shows. I’m not taking credit for anything because it is a team effort. Everyone tells me how much better Impact is now compared to what it used to be. It’s great to hear and I’m glad to be on the team and part of that movement.
SN: You also work for Lucha Underground and AAA in Mexico. Is it hard for you to adapt your in-ring style when you go from the U.S. to Mexico and vice-versa or do you keep it the same?
Cage: I don’t necessarily adapt to it. I guess it just kind of happens. I prefer to keep the same style everywhere, but there is a little bit of adaptation because you are putting a match together with whoever you are working with. I don’t do it intentionally. It just kind of happens.
SN: I read that you are really into fitness. And that’s one of the things I’m starting to notice more in wrestling now than I did 20 years ago — that males and females care more about how they look in and out of the ring. What made you want to get into fitness and how have you been able to incorporate that into wrestling?
Cage: Since the third grade, I’ve always been into fitness. I was always interested in all the nutritional facts in things like cereal and wanted a Bowflex really bad. I was really into martial arts. I was a really, really, really bad kid growing up. I never got to have those things because my mom didn’t want to reward my bad behavior. Now, I could see where she was coming from. But I was always wanted to be a wrestler. When I went through high school, I was only 155 pounds. I knew that wasn’t going to cut the mustard. I knew I didn’t have huge arms, but I knew that I had to be in shape to look the part. I just started full-on training and fell in love with it. I trained and developed and became a machine over time. It wasn’t my plan to get to this status. It just happened. I feel it has definitely helped out with my wrestling ability. That helps separate me from everybody else.
SN: What made you want to get into wrestling?
Cage: I remember watching at age 10 and knowing I wanted to be a wrestler. That was around the time of the Shawn Michaels and the boyhood dream deal. I loved it and knew I wanted to do it. I wanted to be a superhero or a professional wrestler. The superhero business wasn’t thriving so much.
SN: You are well-traveled in the wrestling business. You’ve competed around the world for various promotions. What’s different about wrestling now compared to when you first started?
Cage: Oh my god. It’s night and day. When I started, there were no thriving independent wrestling promotions or any cool ‘indies.’ There were no great paydays from any of them. It was so fun though. I loved and enjoyed it, but I was lucky to get paid with a hot dog and a handshake. The talent was great. But there were no ‘it’ shows, no social media that has really changed the game for everyone. Now, there’s so many big companies that people can make this a full-time career for themselves. Ring of Honor is better now than it was back then, there was no Lucha Underground, New Japan wasn’t the New Japan of today. There’s so many more avenues in and outside of WWE because that was the only place you could go and now there’s all these places to go hone my craft. The fact there’s all these places to make a great living is tremendous.
SN: You are in a big six-man tag team match at Bound for Glory. Fenix and Pentagon Jr. are two of the best in the world and Sami Callihan has really come on in the last six months. How does it feel to be teaming with the former and facing someone as hot as Callihan?
Cage: It’s an easy day at the office. Like you said, those are some of the best guys in the business right now. I think Sami is one of the most designated top-notch heels in all of wrestling. There aren’t many true heels anymore. Pentagon and Fenix are amazing and the Crist Brothers are overshadowed by how over of a heel Sami is. That just means this is going to be a fantastic matchup. I would assume and definitely feel this will be the best match of the night.