Christian: One More Match

Two years ago, ironically at SummerSlam, Christian lost the World title which began a campaign for ‘one more match’ for the World Heavyweight Championship. The match never happened due to his career suddenly becoming blighted by injuries. He became so injury prone that it seemed to rule him out of ever being considered for a World title match, certainly not at one of WWE’s big four pay per views.

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Much has changed while he’s been away with the title not having quite the same value it did when he last contested for it. Some believe Captain Charisma could be the man to give it the boost it needs. If he were to win at SummerSlam it would be a fairytale ending for a man who’s been stuck on the sidelines for the last 3 WrestleMania’s.

10 years into his career no one envisaged Christian would be a two time heavyweight champion in WWE. Although both reigns were sentimental due to the retirement of his best friend Edge, Christian made the most of his opportunity. He was so entertaining in his role as a cowardly heel that plans for a short run in the main event scene turned into an extended run, only stopped by injuries. Christian has a habit of making the most out of any situation given to him.

Debuting in 1999, the purpose of Christian was originally only meant to be a stepping stone to help fellow newcomer Edge. Adam Copeland had the good looks but fortunately for Christian and Gangrel at the time he was struggling in the personality department. With Edge unable to connect with the 18-30 male demographic WWE swiftly changed Edge from feuding with the Brood to him joining the vampires.

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In any group though one always turns out to be (as the Miz likes to say) ‘the Marty Jannetty’. Few had doubts that long term Edge would be the star when the inevitable split happened. The real life Jay Reso would have to hear this for most of his career. While he would go on to hold a more then respectable 22 championships, it was dwarfed by what his childhood buddy would achieve. But to sum up why he is so respected by both his peers and fans, there was never any bitterness, he was happy for his partners success. Indeed from school the two Canadians had made a promise to do everything possible to help one another realise their dreams of becoming professional wrestlers. When Copeland had no money to travel down for his meeting with WWE, it was Reso who made the long drive to Stamford. Similarly when Copeland got his developmental contract he gave money to help Reso follow him. Reflecting now, it’s a heartfelt story. Not that the two didn’t have to kick many doors down once they were there.

Creatively WWE seemed unsure where to go with the gothic trio. When they joined the likes of Viscera and Mideon in the Undertaker’s stable it underlined that they had become expendable. The attention they once had for their blood baths and cool music was now being paid to the suddenly pushed, former jobbers, The Hardy Boys. With their high flying moves and association with Lita they were fan favourites with any age or gender. With their natural crazy hair and attire they were also easy to market.

While the brothers from North Carolina stole their thunder for a while Edge and Christian would benefit long term from what many refer to as the golden era of tag team wrestling which would later include the Dudley Boys. This was when WWE were at their apex creativity, where any talent, wherever you were on the card were encouraged to reach for the brass ring.

Realising they had to get themselves noticed again the two from Toronto did something that the Hardy’s didn’t have in their repertoire, the ability make fun of themselves and make people laugh. Helped greatly by Kurt Angle the duo played the role of Bill and Ted, two annoying dorks who hilariously thought they were cool. To the surprise of many the ‘for the benefit of those with flash photography’ segments became one of the highlights of Raw and Smackdown.

The booking of Edge/ Christian, The Hardy Boys and the Dudley’s summarises what was different about WWE to WCW in the height of the Monday night wars. WWE pushed their youngsters giving them the attitude that Edge said was, ‘Six young men who wanted to steal the show’. They did that in numerous ladder matches, table matches and eventually the unforgettable TLC matches. While fans at this point had seen many classic ladder matches (can you have a bad one?) this was the first time WWE presented it with multiple people. The double teaming and risks the six men would take were mind blowing. More impressive was that in each rematch you assumed it was impossible to top the last one. Yet they kept finding ways to raise the bar. Edge would later say, ‘too high’.While Bubba Ray and Devon broke many tables and the Hardy’s provided the OMG spots it was Edge and Christian who won at the two WrestleMania’s and SummerSlam matches. This spoke volumes of how they were now perceived going into the future.

Having surpassed their goals there was nothing else to achieve in the tag team division, they had won the tag titles and stolen the show at two WrestleManias, they had to split up. Many feared for Christian long term when he attacked Edge in their home town on an episode of Raw. While Christian would beat his storyline sibling in their first encounter it was largely overshadowed (as most things were) by the WWE vs. Alliance storyline.

While Edge went on to win the King of the Ring, the Intercontinental Championship, teaming with boyhood idol Hulk Hogan to win the tag titles and wrestling great matches with the likes of Kurt Angle, Christian was living off scraps.  He won the European and Hardcore titles while being given the unflattering cry baby gimmick. But where some would have complained about their lack of push, Christian, never one to have an ego in reality, made the best with what he had to work with. Realising he was making a lot of money while living his dream Christian was going to make it work for him. And the truth is, he was pretty damn good at the whole cry baby character.

Impressing management with his attitude Christian was made cool by association when he aligned with Chris Jericho. As the first ever Undisputed Champion Y2J was clearly the star out of the two but unlike other former champions was laid back enough to take a break from main eventing to act like a clown. Basically Jericho replaced Edge in the Bill and Ted routine. While their tag contests were good to watch, their segments were one of the best on Raw. One where Jericho bet 1 dollar to ‘nail’ Trish Stratus turned out to be the biggest push he would receive to date. When Jericho and Stratus became close Christian grew jealous. When he attacked his partner it set up what is a very underrated match at WrestleMania 20. Wrestling a guaranteed future Hall of Famer in Madison Square Garden on the 20th anniversary of WWE’s biggest ever event was not just the most significant singles match of Christian’s career at this point but his finest performance. It just lacked the interest from the audience, who perhaps didn’t yet believe Christian was a serious challenger to someone of the calibre of Y2J. When Trish turned on Jericho, revealing to be Christian’s girlfriend the whole time, it gave Christian something he had never seriously had, heat. The new romance did wonders for both Canadians. With their own bodyguard Tyson Tomko, the two walked around like they were genuine superstars.

There was a new confidence about Captain Charisma, like he believed for the first time he belonged higher up the card. In fact he was stealing the show with Jericho week in week out. Whilst the supposed destined for greater things Edge was struggling to connect with Smackdown crowds.

2005 proved to be a significant year for the WWE. With Stone Cold retired, Rock in Hollywood and Goldberg and Brock Lesnar ending their business relationships with the WWE family, Vince McMahon was willing to push new talent to be the face of his company. It became clear following the result of the Royal Rumble that the two he had earmarked for the role were John Cena and Batista.

It was also apparent to the rest of the talent that now was the time to step up. Edge was booked to win the first ever Money in the Bank Ladder match while Randy Orton was given the Legend Killer moniker. Many felt that if those two were being pushed to break the glass ceiling that Christian belonged in their company. For the first time Christian was acting like a man who believed he could offer something fresh to the product.

In famous promos with John Cena it became clear he did indeed have peeps out there. When Christian took part in only Cena’s second ever title defence the fans vocally made it as clear as possible that they wanted Captain Charisma to be rewarded with a huge push. While WWE did recognise his increase in popularity by releasing his own merchandise and giving him his own talk show, ‘The Peep Show’, in the ring he was thrown into a mid-card feud with Booker T.

Realising that he at the peak of his career but still in the mid card he refused to sign a new contract. Where he was smarter than say Matt Hardy was, he left amicably, smart enough to leave a job open to him down the line.

Of course joining TNA was always going to be a case of being a big fish in a small pond but star aura is star aura and being a former WWE employee meant that his signing was rivalled only by Kurt Angle in terms of being celebrated. Now named Christian Cage, he enjoyed the perks right from the off, having the most mic time and wrestling in the main events against the likes of Angle, Sting, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and others. All this without the stress of the WWE travel schedule. Of course his biggest milestone was winning the NWA title. Although not having anywhere near the value of the days when it was worn by the likes of Ric Flair, it was still a big accomplishment.

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Christian had proved his point to WWE, he was able to headline for a company, albeit on a smaller scale. Just over 3 years later Christian resigned with WWE.

WWE planned to throw their new capture straight into the main event by having him be responsible for sneak attacks against WWE Champion Jeff Hardy. With news of Christian resigning all over the web these plans were apparently scrapped. If it had happened it would have led to exciting matches with Hardy who at the time was WWE’s most popular babyface.

McMahon tried to compensate by giving him a run with the ECW title in a final attempt to launch interest in his C level brand. As the face of the show, Christian was tasked with getting the best out of young talent such as Jack Swagger and Ezekiel Jackson. When challengers included veterans Tommy Dreamer and William Regal it became clear WWE cared little about the brand or talent.

Christian was no doubt relieved when ECW was dropped in place for NXT, now he could appear more frequently on the two more established shows.

Christian found himself in the Money in The Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 25 where he was simply there to make up the numbers. However the audience made their feelings clear by booing winner CM Punk in protest of their choice being overlooked.

This became a frequent occurrence, especially when Money In The Bank was given its own pay per view. Along with old foe Matt Hardy, Christian was built as one of the greatest never to be champion or as JBL liked to say, ‘a main event waiting to happen’. This allowed a memorable segment on the Peep Show between Hardy and Christian as the two reflected on their careers. Both had had to watch their partners go on to have title reigns while they were in the midcard, both with much fan support.

It’s startling to think about the different direction their lives would take following that moment. Matt it seemed no longer believed the opportunity existed, he stopped looking after his physique and gave in to the demons which ironically he had spent his life helping his little brother stay away from. The more Matt tweeted, the more bitter he became until he burned all bridges with the company, deciding to go down the TNA route.

Ever the company man Christian got on with it, winning mid card titles and seemingly taking on the role as teacher. As a solid worker who never seemed to say no Christian’s job was to work with the next generation, win lose or draw the idea was to make them look good. Like Hardy at this point he seemed a million miles away from any World title shot.

Christian tore a pectoral muscle at the worse timing, when the announcers were again acknowledging what a ‘sentimental favourite’ he was. But the injury was a blessing in some ways. On television it was explained by an attack from Alberto Del Rio who would go on win the Royal Rumble and challenge for The World title. Logically it meant that when Christian returned to seek his revenge (which transpired at Elimination Chamber) that he would be as close to the World title picture as ever before.

Of course Del Rio already had a date with Edge at WrestleMania meaning Christian had no one to work with. He would instead be in his friend’s corner with his rivalry with Del Rio on hold. It was felt that once WrestleMania was out of the way, Christian would be added to the feud, maybe a triple threat or even the long awaited Edge vs. Christian WWE title match. No one will ever know what the original plans were had Edge not been forced to retire as champion due to more neck complications. The cruel irony was that if his best friend didn’t have to experience such heartbreak, Christian probably would never have become World Champion. WWE capitalised on the situation with the backing from Edge to pay recognition to the contribution his best friend had made to the business.

Christian’s triumph was one of the most emotional World title wins in WWE, although he hasn’t connected with fans as much since. To fans disappointment Christians 11 year journey lasted just three days, to further imply it was merely a favour to their stricken ex-employee. Fans were generally outraged when Orton won the title, something new and fresh had been replaced by the same old faces on top. Little did he know it at the time though it would be the making of Captain Charisma. With the thrill of the chase, fans were more interested in his matches than ever before. Knowing this was a once in a life time situation Christian saved the best time to put in the finest matches of his career. Any one of his clashes with Orton throughout that summer could have been a contender for match of the year. With the pressure at a maximum Christian showed he could deliver with the lights on bright. A story was also being told, each blinding match Christian just missed out each time becoming more and more desperate. Slowly but surely the baby face was morphing into the character he performs best at, the cocky slimy heel. The same character which saw him lose to DDP for the European title at WrestleMania 18 was the same one which would trick Orton into getting disqualified so he could become a two time champion at Money In The Bank.

Christian lost the title in a rematch at SummerSlam but had done enough to assume that he was a permanent fixture in the Smackdown main event. That was until he suffered a legitimate neck injury at the hands of the Big Show. While recuperating Christian would show up at the Slammy Awards and Tribute to the Troops show. He also began a war of words with Teddy Long which was meant to lead him taking part in WrestleMania 28 as a member of ‘ Team Johnny’. Having not wrestled at WrestleMania 27 he was relieved to have made it back to full fitness just in time. Heartbreakingly though he wasn’t medically cleared after re-injuring himself on the Raw WrestleMania go home episode. While injured he had kept up his, ‘one more match’ gimmick but this was where it became doubtful if it would ever happen.

Not that Reso did not have a busy weekend. The night before WrestleMania he inducted Edge into the Hall Of Fame. Out of character the speech was so heartfelt that it was impossible for him not to return now as a babyface, even though his most effective work had always been as a heel.

That was highlighted when upon his comeback he beat Cody Rhodes to win his 4th Intercontinental title, nice but a comedown to where he was before the Big Show encounter.

Another injury occurred, worryingly keeping him out from July 2012 to June 2013. Worryingly because reports stated he was free to come back at Royal Rumble, when that didn’t materialise or at Elimination Chamber it became apparent WWE was waiting for Mania season to finish. Whatever the true date of recovery was it was clear that he wasn’t a priority. With the World title never more inferior to the WWE title then it is now, Christian having ‘one more match’ wasn’t a priority.

Thankfully WWE have treated Christian with nothing but respect since his return. Approaching 40 and with injuries piling up perhaps the company realise there is not too much mileage left in Captain Charisma. With him being one of the few babyfaces who actually gets a reaction from the crowd, it is worth getting the most out of him before another neck or shoulder injury. He is currently on a winning streak which includes having The Shield’s number.

The fact that he has faced Del Rio twice in the same month as the pay per view tells you where this match stands in their priorities. Did we see any John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan matches?

The lack of affection for the World Title could be the only reason Christian is getting this match. Unlike his last SummerSlam World Title Match this is in the midcard. If anyone can rescue the World Title and get fans to care about it again it is Christian.

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