AEW’s Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schaivone had Brian Cage as a guest on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast, where Cage discussed how he got a developmental contract tryout with WWE.
One of Cage’s favorite wrestlers growing up was Chris Kanyon, and through being friends with him, he was able to get extra work with WWE. Cage described how his tryout match went.
“Being good friends with Kanyon and getting some opportunities through him led to me getting booked as an extra through a loop in California, which led to me getting signed there,” Cage described. “I got pulled aside by Jamie Noble, and I went talk to Johnny Ace. They’re hopped up [about it]. Johnny Ace is like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re gonna have this match. Make sure you to come talk to me afterwards,’ and Noble was like, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna get you signed tonight.’ I was working Shannon Moore, who I knew from Canyon, and Jimmy Wang Yang, who I was a huge fan of.
“I wasn’t even nervous at all. Not even a little bit nervous. I was so like pumped up and ready. I felt so good, the match was going great. I remember from watching it, Jimmy Wang Yang gets a hot tag. I’m selling around, feeding around. Jimmy gets off of this huge cross body. Always been a big fan of his crossbody. I’m going to take this so good. So, I jump up in the air so high, I catch him. We come down and he hits me so high, I jump up so much. We turn like, and he lands right on top of my head. Completely knocked out. Stiff arms and everything. I go limp.”
Cage continued talking about how no one except the ref realized that Cage had suffered a concussion. Cage said he doesn’t remember what happened that day, only being able to recall what happened from seeing the tape of the match.
“He peppers my partner off the corner and he’s waiting for me, feeding me up for the comeback,” Cage recalled. “I’m not there, so he runs over. He shoot kicks me like, ‘What the hell kid? Get up,’ and the referee realizes I’m done. ‘Go home. Go home. He’s over.’ So he pins me one, two and as the commentator says Schiavone, I still kick out on instinct.
“The referee just goes three. Ring the bell. They go to kick me out of the ring, and the referee goes, ‘No, he’s hurt. He’s hurt.’ So they let go, and I’m standing there like drunk selling like put my dukes up dirty-style boxing. Then I just go limp again, and I fall backwards. My head just goes down all three ropes. The whole day was gone. I only remember this from watching the video.”
Cage then says he tried to get into contact with John Laurinaitis but was not able to. He recalled that he had interrupted a conversation Laurinaitis was having which caused Laurinaitis to sour on Cage soon after they were high on him.
“The next day, I didn’t get to do anything. I was concussed,” Cage stated. “I asked Noble, ‘Hey, what happened? Did you talk to Ace?’ [He goes], ‘Oh, I tried talking to him. We’ll see what happens.’ End of the night, he never talked to him. He goes, ‘You know, don’t worry. We got your information. We’re going to Australia for a couple weeks. We’ll reach out to you.’ I’m like, OK, thanks.
“You know what? That sucks. That doesn’t work for me. So I was like, where’s Ace? I’m looking for Johnny Ace now. I’m kind of buying my time staggering around. I keep seeing him, and he’s always occupied talking to somebody. I’m like, alright, forget it. I’ll just go for it. I walk up there and go, ‘Excuse me, sir. Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt.’ I put my hand out to shake his hand. He just looks at me like disgusted. ‘He goes, ‘Well, kid. That’s what you’re doing’ and turns his back to me and just walks away.”
Cage said he had decided to just make the best out of the situation. That was until he had met Laurinaitis again, and Laurinaitis offered him a contract. But Cage believes there were still mixed signals he was receiving from Laurinaitis.
“I was like, ‘Oh damn,” Cage said. “He was so happy the day before. Like we’re signing this this kid for sure. Then it was like get the hell out of here. Man, and I was like depressed for a moment. I was like, whatever. I wanted to come here and just do a good job and hopefully get booked again. I had RAW the next day because we recorded two SmackDown’s for the tour in Australia. And I figured, well, I’ll go eat some catering. I’ll hang out, whatever, like make the best of it.
“I did do some ring work that day because I guess some people on RAW didn’t know I was concussed. As soon as I leave, he came up and he tapped me on the shoulder. Pulled me to his room and he goes, ‘Sorry, I was a dick to you. You said sorry to interrupt you. Technically, you are interrupting. But I’m glad that you did,’ which also sends mixed signals. Like, hey you shouldn’t have done that because you are interrupting me, but I’m glad that you did because it shows you’re persistent. So I’m gonna offer you a contract.”
Cage revealed that he had told people growing up that he would sign with WWE by the time he turned 24. He did that but would eventually get released. Cage said his life has been better after he decided for himself that WWE was not the be all and end all.
“He goes, ‘Are you willing to go to Florida?’ I’m like, yeah,” Cage recalled. “He goes, ‘go find Carano. Welcome to the team.’ I’m like, ‘Did I just get signed? What the hell just happened.? I was 24 then. I told everyone through high school and junior High I guarantee by time 24, I’ll be signed with WWE, and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t go on to main even WrestleMania obviously, but the whole WWE accomplishment was checked off, and I got to experience that and it’s cool.
“As soon as I let go of the desire and that need that I had to be there, my life personally and professionally just went so much better. I’m not like some like super anti them like f them, but I’ve done well without them. If I never have to go back there, then I’m happy with that.”
Schiavone then moved on to Cage’s next steps in his career going from WWE developmental to PWG and the indie scene that led to him signing with Lucha Underground. Cage revealed that he had originally tried out for AAA but circumstances were not ideal at the time. He recalls thinking that Lucha Underground would be a short-lived promotion like Wrestling Society X.
“So when I moved to LA, after I got released from FCW. There was a AAA tryout in Van Nuys, California, and I kind of thought it was fake,” Cage admitted. “I went there, and Konnan was there. It was legit, and I killed it. He was stoked on me, and he wanted to bring me in. It was real bad financial times for AAA then, and that’s when like a lot of big drug stuff and killing was happening in Mexico. He’s like it’s probably not best, but don’t worry, we’re actually working on do something to bring AAA to the states.
“It took several years, but it eventually became Lucha Underground. So he told me quite a few months before it happened. It’s finally happening. Here’s the deal, and even then, it seemed so uncertain. I think Ricochet just said this too about how it seemed like WSX-ish. I thought it’d be a really short lived thing. It’d be kind of a cool blink of an eye. Maybe a quick payday, and that was that.”
That would not be the case, and Cage compared how AEW treats it’s wrestlers to how Lucha Underground treated it’s wrestlers saying that they felt important and weren’t just wrestlers that could be replaced at any time. Cage said he felt like he achieved his ideal vision of a pro wrestler that he imagined when he was a kid at Lucha Underground as opposed to WWE.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Cage said. “It was so cool. My first day there was tremendous. I would relate it to my first time at AEW once I was there for Double or Nothing to Lucha Underground. The treatment wasn’t like you were a replaceable wrestler. You were somebody. Like AEW, it kind of feels like they’re treating you like a professional athlete, and Lucha Underground is like a lot of TV production stuff. It felt like they treated you like a professional actor. The treatment was just above that for a wrestler.”
“Even though I accomplished the whole WWE thing, which I feel like was everybody’s dream when you were growing up, but it wasn’t until I got to Lucha Underground that I felt how I thought I’d feel at 10 years old to be a pro wrestler,” Cage admitted. “It was great. So I signed with WWE when I was 24 like I wanted to, but being in Lucha Underground was like, oh this is what it’s supposed to feel like.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.