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SO FL SUN-SENTINEL
Things Heating Up For Caribbean Cool
November 5, 2004
His family is well-known in the wrestling business, but Carlito Colon has wasted no time making a name for himself in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Colon enjoyed one of the most high-profile debut matches in WWE history last month, pinning John Cena to win the U.S. title on Smackdown (8 p.m. Thursdays, UPN).
Because Cena was going to Australia to film a movie tentatively titled The Marine, WWE felt the need to put the U.S. title on someone else. WWE chose Colon, whose only previous Smackdown appearances were in vignettes showing anti-social behavior to push his Carlito Caribbean Cool character.
Part of WWE's reasoning could be the desire to promote a fresh character while also appealing to Smackdown's large Hispanic fan base. But Colon admits he's not sure why WWE decided to place him in such a prominent position at this point in his young career.
"I've asked myself that," Colon said. "Maybe they feel my style is different than everybody else's. I've found a way to mix and blend different styles into my own unique style.
"It was impressive [to defeat Cena]. I did not expect that, but it was a great deal for me."
Colon's quick rise is even more surprising considering he was not among the best students training at WWE's Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory in Louisville, Ky. Colon was accustomed to working a style that relied more on brawling while performing in Puerto Rico for the World Wrestling Council, which is run by his father Carlos. And at 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, Colon is among the smaller performers on WWE's talent roster.
"I feel in OVW I was able to fine-tune my skills and adapt more to the American style of wrestling," Colon said. "You go through your ups and downs and sometimes can lose faith. But you've got to keep it together and stay positive and just realize that when you're ready, the time will come."
While his technical skills are still developing, Colon has benefited from having a strong wrestling persona. Carlito Caribbean Cool is a modern-day version of the Razor Ramon gimmick that helped make Scott Hall a major WWE star in the early 1990s. Whereas Hall tossed a toothpick at those he disdained, Colon spits out a chunk of an apple he chews.
"The character is kind of my style," said Colon, 25. "I'm laid-back and relaxed, but I can turn it up when I need to. I can really identify with Carlito. He's kind of a smart aleck who likes to have a good time."
But Colon's cocky attitude toward others on WWE programming doesn't mean he lacks respect for the wrestling industry. Not only was Carlito raised in the business, Carlos Colon is the most storied grappler and promoter in the history of Puerto Rican wrestling.
Carlito Colon said he didn't grow up planning to become a wrestler and instead went to college preparing for a job in business management. But when he struggled to find employment, Carlito decided to follow in his father's footsteps and debuted in 1999 for WWC.
"My dad discouraged me," said Carlito, whose brother Eddie wrestles in Puerto Rico. "I guess being with all the things he's seen, he wanted other things for me. But in the end, I was the one who made the decision, and he's all for it.
"It's a double-edged sword. Many doors open for you because of your name, but you have to perform because there's a lot of pressure and you're always going to be compared with your father.
With my father being the legend he is, that's a very tall mountain to climb."
WWC revived its slumping business earlier this year by working a family feud between the Colons. Such a story line is right up WWE's alley, as the promotion has pushed internal squabbles between such legendary clans as the Harts and Guerreros.
Carlito Colon said he could see WWE trying to incorporate the rest of his family into a similar scenario. But for now, Carlito is trying to establish himself on his own merits.
"I think I am stepping out of the shadow of my dad [in WWE]," Colon said. "I feel we have two different styles of working and wrestling, and my character is different from his. I feel I'll be able to separate myself because of that."