Kings Road Now That's What I Call Wrestling

Now That’s What I Call Wrestling #9: The Backdated Editions – The Captain Returns (Part 2)

The turning point in Christian’s solo career came during his old mate The Rock’s highly entertaining Hollywood heel run in 2003, in a backstage segment where he asked the action hero to sign a copy of The Scorpion King. After Rock signed it, ‘To Christian, my favourite wrestler”, ‘The Great One’ took time out to give some advice. Telling him “Carpe diem”, Rocky delivered a motivational speech encouraging Christian to “seize the day”. Christian seemed to take this advice to heart winning his second Intercontinental Title at Judgment Day 2003 in a Battle Royal consisting entirely of former Intercontinental Champions (he lost and regained it from Booker T. over the course of that summer). Sporting new shorter-hairstyle, wardrobe, and cocky-cool persona, he began referring to himself as ‘The New People’s Champion’ and his fans as ‘Peeps’ and the ‘Peepulation’…

< PART 1

Author’s Note: Please note that the following edition of NTWICW was written several months ago.

The Rock: “When you walk into a room you need to own the room. Own the room. You know what I mean?”

Christian: “Yeah, I got it kinda like this…”

The Rock: “Well hold on! Not this room. This is my room. This is The Rock’s room. Another room.

An Injection Of ‘Vitamin C’

The turning point in Christian’s solo career came during his old mate The Rock’s highly entertaining Hollywood heel run in 2003, in a backstage segment where he asked the action hero to sign a copy of The Scorpion King.

Christian: “Its not for me it’s for a friend of mine”

The Rock “That’s cool take the glasses off for this, baby yeah! (The Rock throws his sunglasses onto the settee) Who’s it to?”

Christian: “Erm, Christian.”

After Rock signed it, ‘To Christian, my favourite wrestler”, ‘The Great One’ took time out to give some advice. Telling him “Carpe diem”, Rocky delivered a motivational speech encouraging Christian to “seize the day”. Christian seemed to take this advice to heart winning his second Intercontinental Title at Judgment Day 2003 in a Battle Royal consisting entirely of former Intercontinental Champions (he lost and regained it from Booker T. over the course of that summer). Sporting new shorter-hairstyle, wardrobe, and cocky-cool persona, he began referring to himself as ‘The New People’s Champion’ and his fans as ‘Peeps’ and the ‘Peepulation’. Completing his heel look Christian was nicknamed the ‘Creepy Little Bastard’ by Raw Co-General Manager (with Eric Bischoff) giving fans the ammunition for chanting ‘CLB’ at his expense during matches. The transformation seemed to pay off as he quickly re-established himself as one of the most interesting acts on the Raw roster, giving the show a much needed “injection of Vitamin C”.

Over the next two years he picked up a third Intercontinental Title maintaining his reputation for consistency, having good matches with the likes of Booker, Jericho, Rob Van Dam, Goldust, Jerry Lawler, Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Benoit. The ladder match with RVD remains one of the most intelligently worked solo ladder efforts of the post-Michaels/Ramon era and was arguably the best match on Raw in 2003. The Intercontinental Title defense against ‘The King’ was one of my favourite Lawler matches in WWE. Taking advantage of his promo skills, he debuted ‘The Peep Show’. Not to be confused with the Channel 4 comedy of the same name, this was Christian’s own interview segment which would occasionally replace Chris Jericho’s ‘Highlight Reel’, whenever Y2J was away. If there was an award for ‘Best Dressed Wrestler’ he’d be a shoe-in for that as well. Having helped promote the fashion for ridiculously oversized sunglasses back in the early 2000s, it seemed like he now set out to become something of a 21st Century Fashion Plate.

In keeping with the rest of his career, what really stood out about Christian was his uncanny knack of being able to take a small angle and turn it into something good. Much like The Rock but on a smaller scale Christian was able make little segments like being backstage on his mobile to his aforementioned Hollywood Movie Star friend, the Spin-A-Roonie contest with Booker (“Who ordered the pizza with extra Peeparoonie? Hit the music!”), or having to wrestle Shelton Benjamin whilst wearing a ‘Captain Charisma’ costume (complete with C-shaped antennas) to his show-stealing role delivery in the Basic Instinct skit with Jericho, Benoit and Stacy Keibler into segments that are still remembered very fondly today.

The most obvious of these opportunities to shine was the memorable ‘Love Triangle’ angle with Jericho and fellow Canadian Trish Stratus culminatint at WrestleMania XX when the ‘CLB’ scored arguably the biggest high-profile win of his WWF/E career after Stratus turned heel on Y2J. The match itself was good despite a couple of botched spots the audience reacting well for the double-cross at the end. Trish’s decision to side with Christian, after she decided she wanted “someone a little rough, someone a little dirty”, made for one of the most entertaining heel couples in WWF/E history. ‘Trishtian’, as they became known, were later joined by Christian’s ‘Problem Solver’ Tyson Tomko. Unlike Trishtian this was a partnership many felt would devalue the former Intercontinental Champion’s standing. Instead, what started off as an odd partnership with a stereotypical 2000s-style green monster heel, developed into another success due to Christian’s charisma (bringing out the best in Tomko) and the chemistry that developed between the them.

In-ring, the feud with Jericho led to a superior inter gender  handicap match at Backlash 2004, a thrilling Cage Match on the 10th May, 2004 Raw (he suffered a severe back injury, putting him out of action for almost four months) and a violent Ladder Match for the vacant Intercontinental Title at Unforgiven 2004. Outside the ring, Christian continued to evolve his character. Always on the look-out for the next angle, he began referring to the ‘Christian Coalition’, and naming himself ‘Captain Charisma’ gimmicks that, along with Tomko, remained staples of his act after leaving WWE.

‘Captain Charisma’

Christian: “Tomko give me a beat!”

Tyson Tomko: “No.”

WWE Royal Rumble 2005

If Victor Frankenstein had set out to create a mid-card wrestler for the 2000s the end result would have looked like Christian. In 2003-05 Christian seemed to have it all: the look, the character, the in-ring ability, the mike skills and the charisma. With his contemporary hairstyle and fit not overly-muscular look, Christian had something fresh about him giving fans a character they could relate to rather than looking like an inhuman muscleman or a relic from the 1990s. It seemed that the only thing missing was that chance to step-up and face one of ‘The Big Boys’ on pay-per-view.

The best and most obvious example of hs being given ‘a chance’  was a backstage segment during the drawing for the 2005 Royal Rumble where he ended up exchanging battle raps with John Cena, as Christian proclaimed: “Just like Dracula comes from Transylvania, I’m winning the Rumble and going on to WrestleMania”. A fun segment, one of the highlights of the PPV (the only ‘problem’ was Christian’s rap far, far, far surpassed Cena’s effort) but it is also unlikely that it was intended to lead anywhere. At the time Christian was a mid-card heel on Raw, whilst Cena was the heir apparent to JBL’s WWE Title on SmackDown! Yet it was something fans, both casual and hardcore, remembered and continue to mention. Cena vs. Christian was a match they wanted to see.

Following another standout performance in the first (and by far the best) annual ‘Money In The Bank’ Ladder Match at WrestleMania XXI that played off the dynamic of four highly skilled workers with a wealth of ladder experience (in himself, Edge, Jericho, and Benoit), one Monster in Kane and a stunt-specialist in Shelton Benjamin,  Christian and WWE’s Creative DepartmentTM used that one small segment planted the seeds from which they were able to grow an entertaining storyline in the build-up to 2005’s version of the annual draft. Doing a better job at making the Draft seem like an exciting and unpredictable event than the entire Marketing DepartmentTM normally manages, Christian delivered raps (at Backlash 2005)and promos (on Raw) at the expense of the top stars on both Raw (“You got Triple H and Ric Flair their legend still grows 26 titles between them and the world’s biggest nose”)and SmackDown! (“Have you heard the one about JBL? You know the rich guy on SmackDown! Well I hear his taxes are still soaring, but he’s no ‘Wrestling God’ just a ‘god of boring’”). Adding the speculation, that ‘The Captain’ would soon be working the  30th May edition of Raw saw him take ‘The Blue Brand’ to task for having Mexicans, Japanese, French, stutters and even “a rapping hip hop poser champion that couldn’t make me say ‘I Quit!’ if he made me listen to his lame ass CD” before informing them “what they’re missing, what they don’t have is a Canadian!” in a promo that got a standing ovation from the crowd in Calgary… Alberta, Canada.

In fact it was John Cena who ended upbeing moved over to Raw which seemed to set-up the match we had all being waiting for. Interestingly, despite Christian already being positioned as the natural first opponent for Cena, the expected one-on-one match never happened. Instead, his old pal/rival Chris Jericho was added to the match making it a Triple Threat bout at Vengeance 2005 where Christian did the job after taking the FU from the WWE Champion.

It was at this point Conspiracy Theorists began speculating that Christian had hit the glass ceiling and was being “held back”. These reports were backed by rumours that Christian was apparently frustrated at WWE Creative Team’s inability or unwillingness to capitalize on his over ness by giving him a stronger push – in this case a one-on-one title match. Those rumours are no longer rumours as Christian has admitted his frustration at not getting a title shot in various interviews since his departure from WWE. In the interest of fairness there was an alternative reason?

Jericho in Issue 139 of PowerSlam magazine, when asked about Christian expressing these frustrations in a previous issue, claimed the real reason he was added to the bout was because management were worried that the fans would side with ‘Captain Charisma’, so adding him to the mix gave them another heel to play-off. Said Jericho, “Jay had done such a great job of getting over as a cocky, entertaining heel that the fans were ready and really wanted to see him taken to the next level. The longer WWE refused to take Jay to the next level, the more frustrated the fans got about it. The fans were prepared to turn on absolutely anybody who got in Jay’s way.” Perhaps he has a point: Cena was already hearing boos and even the most slow-witted viewer must have noticed that Christian had been getting ‘cool heel’ pops for a while. The reaction he got during his match with World Heavyweight Champion Batista during the 25th April, Raw meant the production crew had to edit out the crowd due to the babyface pops he got from the live crowd in Birmingham, England. Of course there are two sides to every coin and it was around this time, that his critics in the IWC began to note that he “can’t be that good a heel if he was getting cheered”. The fact remains; there was something that fans in the live audience identified with about Christian positive or negative since House Show reports from the period point to him getting one of the biggest reactions almost every night.

Both explanations (Jericho’s and that of the Conspiracy Theorists) for Vengeance are equally possible.  Christian’s luck went from bad to worse before he got the chance to “beat that Ali G rip-off” in a re-match, Christian found became the next ‘Draftee’ to SmackDown!

The Other Brand

 Free from former partners Edge and Jericho, both being positioned as strong heel, some felt the move benefit Christian especially since the two men who were planned to carry SmackDown! Singles champs were staunch babyfaces (Batista and Chris Benoit). Christian’s excellent Valentine’s Day Raw match with Randy Orton had been the in-ring highlight of Orton’s disastrous babyface run and there was a good chance he could do the same with Batista,struggling in matches against JBL (Batista himself has admitted the two “have no chemistry whatsoever”). At the very least a U.S. Title feud with fellow Canadian, Chris Benoit ,seemed likely, not less because his victory over Benoit in a stellar match on the 11th April edition of Raw that year. Neither happened.

His first night in (the 30th June, 2005 SmackDown!) Christian was revealed as ‘The Mystery Man’ in the six-man Elimination Match Number One Contenders Match and was allowed to shine, eliminating Booker T. and being the final two participants before falling victim to JBL’s Clothesline From Hell, but from thereon in it seemed like his role on SmackDown! was limited. Resuming his feud with former rival Booker, he did the job to BT’s scissor-kick in his SmackDown! PPV debut at Great American Bash ’05 before seemingly dropping off the radar.  Although ‘The Peep Show’ was turned into a regular segment giving him a vehicle to antagonize babyface guests like Batista, he wasn’t really placed in another proper feud and went from being in his first WWE Title Match at Vengeance just two months earlier to not even being on the card at SummerSlam. There was a lingering feeling that Christian status had suffered as a result of the very Draft that he had helped hype. The most noticeable example of this drop down the card came when he found himself jobbing to Mexicools… without having even his entrance shown on TV.

Behind the scenes, things were going even worse. The move to SmackDown! had done nothing to shake the Conspiracy Theory, apparently believed by some inside the business, that Christian was getting punished for getting over when he wasn’t supposed to … Or at least get as over as he did. They claimed that segments like the one in which Vince McMahon threatened to make him ‘Captain Unemployed’ were designed to devalue his stock as a performer as punishment for getting over “above his station”. In a funny way, this criticism of VKM personally holding back talent is something of a refreshing change. Over the past decade it has become customary that when isn’t used to their full-potential, it is inevitably blamed on Triple H’s politicking. A lot of times it might be exaggerated. A lot of times it’s probably true. In this case if Christian is being held back then it’s by The Big Boss Man himself. And I don’t mean the late Ray Traylor.

There is a more logical alternative, than Vince getting annoyed at someone over than he/she should. It may be that or may simply be that for whatever reason, McMahon didn’t see Christian as a money drawing entity. Reports in to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter claimed that it was McMahon himself who nix ideas that were brought up regarding Christian. Apparently, the WWE Chairman only “only saw Cage as an upper midcarder” and was especially critical of his looks, to the extent that “Vince even said in meetings that Christian had no star aura about him and that his head shot promotional photo was one of the worse he had ever seen.

What was surprising, given their normal habit of copyrighting anything and everything they can get their hands on was that WWE’s normally crack Merchandising DepartmentTM ran into trademark issues regarding the use of the ‘Captain Charisma’ nickname our hero had been using for almost a year. Apparently, and unusually, WWE had not trademarked the name and worse still reports claimed that in fact the trademark belonged to “someone else”! Coming mere months after WWE and Hulk Hogan’s out of court settlement with Universal over the name ‘Hulk’ it seemed odd that no one in WWE thought to challenge this or try to copyright the name before using it on official merchandise. . As a result, WWE had Christian’s nickname pulled from the ‘Raw Deal’ collectable card game in production and his popular ‘Captain Charisma’ tee shirt (which had been out for months) was suddenly listed as out of stock on wwe Shopzone. Allegedly this left WWE Creative DepartmentTM to think up a new name for ‘The Captain’. Those who were already on the conspiracy theory side of things saw this as an excuse for WWE to end his push, whilst he was ‘repackaged’. Whilst even many of those who had previously denied he was getting a de-push, took this as evidence that WWE didn’t want to invest in Christian. True or not, considering the difference merchandise revenue makes for mid-carders, in this case definitely can believe reports that Christian was too happy about that either.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Reso’s WWE contract expired on Hallowe’en, 2005 and he opted not to resign. As the weeks went by more and more reports surfaced that he was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of push he was receiving. According to some reports he was asked to sign a new contract on the spot before a match but declined. Over seven years after his official WWF/E debut, Christian worked his final match for the company at the tapings for the 4th November episode of SmackDown!.

The Other Side

Quashing rumours of alternative names (“Chris Jin”, etc.), no sooner had Reso left the company than it was soon reported he had “trademarked the name “Captain Charisma” in addition to “Christian Cage” so he will likely use both names in the future.”Which begged the question why WWE hadn’t been able to do that in the first place? Now admittedly most of the reports at the time claimed Christian had only copyrighted the name with “regards to pro wrestling” but then couldn’t McMahon have done the same?

Returning to his original ring name of Christian Cage, our hero made his triumphant debut to an impressive reaction at TNA’s Genesis 2006 in a segment in which he interupted Team Canada, a group managed by one of his oldest friends from the Canadian Indy scene (and then TNA Head Writer) Scott D’Amore. They tried to get him to join their gang, at one point Scott D’Amore even performed a Stu Hart impression, only for him to turn down their offer much to the crowd’s approval. Later that night after fellow recent ex-WWE employees Rhino (formerly Rhyno) and Team 3D (formely The Dudley Boyz) found themselves on the receiving end of a Team Canada beating after they defeated Jeff Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted, Christian made the save delivering an Unprettier to D’Amore and helping 3D smash Jeff Jarrett through a table. On his first night in Cage looked like a star. Unfortunately it wouldn’t last for long.

From a business perspective it is easy to see why he made the jump. The Orlando, Florida based Total Nonstop Action offered him a good salary in return for a reduced travel schedule (TNA were not touring that much) and weekly tapings in an area local to him since (much like fellow Canadians and former partners Edge and Chris Jericho) he lives in Tampa, Florida. It also offered him the chance to headline. On 12th February, 2006 he realised his ambition when he defeated Jarrett to win the NWA World Title.

This lesser travel schedule allowed him to try his hand at acting (something he had apparently wanted to do whilst in WWE) appropriately enough, again following in Rock’s footsteps on a much smaller scale. Reso had roles in the action film Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) and horror-comedy film Dark Rising (2007), the latter nominated for a record six Canadian Comedy Awards, with Reso nominated for Best Actor.

In-ring, Cage’s run in TNA was a mixed bag and it seemed to take him a while to find his niché as he changed from babyface to heel and back again accumulating two runs with the NWA World Title and had good matches against the likes of Jarrett, Rhino, Abyss, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Team 3D, Kaz, Robert Roode, Monty Brown (Marquis Cor Von), Chris Harris (Braden Walker), Tomko, and Booker T. in singles, tag, six man, eight man, three-way, Cage, Tables, King of the Mountain, ‘Eight Mile’ Street Fight, Barbed Wire Steel Cage, Full Metal Mayhem, and Lethal Lockdown matches. At twenty three and a half months he also compiled the longest undefeated (defined in TNA as not being pinned or made to submit) streak in company history before eventually losing to Joe in a heated match at Bound For Glory 2007. On the other hand, the buzz generated by his jump soon wore off, partly because of his own struggle to get over as a legitimate main event player and partly because his debut was soon overshadowed by the arrivals of Sting and later Kurt Angle.

Christian’s departure for TNA also coincided with the death of Eddie Guerrero. As a result, Cage started using a Frog Splash in tribute to his fallen friend. The move attracted some criticism, mainly from internet fans, not for the thought but because they felt the move was poorly executed. In fact, for the first time in his career Christian’s wrestling ability really came into question as many felt that his choice of moves were not compatible with his main event status. In my last article, I mentioned how in 1998 Christian had “one of the coolest finishing moves in the business” in the Tomikaze/Impaler/Unprettier/Killswitch. Ironically, that very move has been one of the reasons Christian was criticized during his TNA run. It is one of those moves I thought looked great when I first saw it, especially with the rather fancy way of getting into it. Trouble is, that was about twelve years ago and it now seems like its one of those moves that everyone loved in the late 90’s but seems to have lost something over time in that it seems to get criticized a lot ten years later. Another one would be the Flatliner/Downward Spiral which I thought was a decent enough (albeit nowhere near as cool as the Tomakaze) finisher for Chris Kanyon (WCW)/Edge (WWF) in 1998 due to their tall, lanky physiques since it didn’t involve having to pick your opponent/over-power them and so could be hit at anytime (also I don’t think a submission move would have suited either of their finishers at that point)… Yet a couple of years later everyone started doing it and it lost most of its appeal largely because no-one had been able to get the move over as theirs’. Next thing you know it is one of the most mocked moves in wrestling. It is hard to explain because stuff that has been used time and time again like the DDT and the Lariat are still really credible finishers and they don’t get much more basic than that. I think this all goes back to my pet theory that unless a move has gotten over with a  wrestler and becomes associated with him/her as their move then it stands less chance of been taken seriously as a credible finish.

Backstage, he faced the same issues as in WWE. In addition to bigger stars joining, Christian’s profile falling seemed to coincide with changing to the company’s booking team. At the time Christian was brought into TNA, Scott D’Amore was allegedly the main one pushing for him to be treated as a main eventer. Unfortunately for him, some sources claim there were few besides D’Amore who saw Christian as a legitimate main event player. Once D’Amore was removed from power and replaced by Vince Russo the following year, Christian’s profile began to drop. Russo, like his namesake McMahon, apparently didn’t see Christian in that light either. Like McMahon Russo supposedly regarded Christian as a good talent, but a step below the true headliners.

Mid-way through his TNA run, Resso had a run-in with former employers over the ‘Captain Charisma’ name, which WWE now claimed “to have the rights to it in relation to pro-wrestling. WWE doesn’t have a specific trademark on the name but they claim that their contract with Christian included clauses that stated that any nickname created for Christian’s use while he was in WWE would be the property of WWE.” They challenged his right to trademark the name, claiming by continuing to use the ‘Captain Charisma’ monikor, Christian  would cause “confusion in the marketplace”, meaning  WWE would suffer damages from it because the name was created whilst he was working for them. As a result, Christian began referring to himself as ‘The Instant Classic’ for his appearances in TNA, although he would still wear his ‘Captain Charisma’ ring-jacket at House Shows and Indy events.

That one incident aside, all things considered, it wasn’t all that surprising when Christian made the decision not to re-sign with the company after his contract expired last year. As his contract neared extinction speculation began that he was either on his way back to WWE or trying to negotiate more money from TNA by playing them against his former employer ‘Up North’. Speculation soon moved from “will he, won’t he” to “where and when” this ‘jump back’ would happen and the move was confirmed by TNA President Dixie Carter. Speaking to The Daily Star she stated “I’m very disappointed. I like him as a person as well as a talent. It’s interesting, he was the first big name to jump ship to us and he’s been the first to jump back. I wish him all the best.”

What Might Have Been

 Perhaps the most interesting question to me is how he would have done had he stayed put in 2005 and would he have achieved his ambition of winning a World Title? One important difference between now and then is that ECW wasn’t around when Cage left back in October of that year. I think there is a very good chance he would have been ECW Champion at some point by now (possibly more than once) since that belt is essentially a title for the upper mid-card and as such he’d have been perfect as the ‘face’ of the third brand. Realistically, when you look at guys like Rob Van Dam, John Morrison, CM Punk, Chavo Guerrero, and Matt Hardy they all are (or where) in similar to the position Christian was in back in 2005 both in terms of size and positioning on the card. Another point is that all of them have been in the ‘dog house’ with management at some point whether for drug suspensions (Guerrero, Morrison) or other reasons (Punk’s having to alter his style of working, Hardy’s firing) so I think he would have been just as likely as any of them to receive the opportunity. Okay, ECW Champion may not be headlining PPVs but a guy as over as him would have definitely gotten out of that jobbing streak he was on at the end of his run sooner or later.

He and Edge holding World titles at the same time certainly seems like WWE-type booking and the kind of thing I could have seen them do. In fact, it could have come sooner than later: imagine if when RVD got caught, they’d had Edge beat him for the WWE Title on Raw and then on Tuesday the other half of Edge and Christian beats him for the ECW Title on Sci-Fi. If not last year, then what about this year when Edge was World Champ on SmackDown! and they were playing off the ‘talent exchange’ between the two brands: what better way to do it than by having the former partners as their brand’s respective Champion.

Even if he’d stayed on SmackDown! the whole time he was in TNA (highly unlikely), I still think he would  have established himself in a strong upper-midcard spot feuding with the likes of Jeff Hardy,  Rey Mysterio and MVP. It’s not unfeasible to say he would probably have received a PPV Title shot against Cena or Edge by now, as well. If he’d played his cards right, I see no reason he couldn’t have gotten a transitional run on SmackDown! with all the injuries they’ve had. Remember when ‘Taker and Edge were both injured last year and they needed to have someone win it but not Batista (so he could win it off them)? Creative were seriously debating who to give the World Title to one out of Mark Henry, Great Khali, Kane, Finlay and Matt Hardy. I’m not saying he would have been given the nod, but if Christian had been around I’m 99% sure his name would have been in the mix.

It is also worth remembering a World title run doesn’t have to last six months. So even if they didn’t consider him a full-time headliner (and I think he could easily be the main man on ECW but that’s the third brand), I’m confident he could have pulled off a transitional reign without ‘devaluing’ the belt. The thought of Christian winning the World Title in sneaky fashion in a battle royal and holding it for a couple of months with matches against Kane, Batista, Matt Hardy and Flair, complete no doubt with some fun promos, before dropping it to Batista doesn’t sound that implausible. Who knows? He could have been a good pick for King Of The Ring either in 2006 or this year.

Coming back now, in an era where injuries to top-line stars are common and with Wellness test results leading to suspensions, then with his reputation for avoiding injuries, it could just be a matter of waiting for Hunter/Shawn/Batista/Cena/Edge/Orton to get their latest injury again and ‘Bingo!’ Christian finds himself being pushed up the card, if only for a little while. This brings us back to the current situation…

Into The Future…

“You want to know all about how I walked into Vince’s office … How we got into a huge argument, slammed the door – stormed out of the company, and maybe one day they’ll have a ‘Self Destruction of Christian DVD’? That’s what you’re looking for?  Well, that’s not what happened. The actual reason is… Well it’s a lot of personal reasons as to why I made the decision to leave WWE, and actually too many to get into, but I will say this . . . I gave everything I had to the WWE for eight years. I gave everything to the fans. I feel they gave me everything they had. But you know never say never in this business. Hopefully they won’t forget about Christian and we’ll see what happens in the future.”

(Jay ‘Christian’ Resso’s ‘final’ interview with following his departure)

Christian’s return voyage ‘Up North’ came as no surprise to me. To be honest, I thought he’d eventually return to WWE from the moment he left. Considering he left because he wanted a lighter schedule/a chance to headline, I think Cage probably an opportunity that if TNA (who had just signed a deal with Spike TV) really took off during his time there then he could have been in one of the top spots when it happened/become established as their top guy, but that if it didn’t work out he could always go back ‘home’ because he had left on comparatively good terms (compared to Team 3-D, Spike Dudley, Kurt Angle and others who left/were released in that same 2005-06 period).

He certainly seemed to do the all right things to keep a WWE return a possibility from putting over Matt Hardy in his last televised match, to turning up for both Raw and the next night’s PPV after his contract ran out just in case he got voted as one of the choices in at Taboo Tuesday 2005, to doing an interview with about his departure, to never badmouthing WWE in public after he had gone (in fact he has gone out of his way to praise his stint in WWE in every interview he’s done).

Often in wrestling, as in other businesses, what you are is secondary to who you know and it is worth remembering Christian has plenty of allies within the company. In addition to Michael Hayes, Christian on SmackDown! was the brand’s current World Champion, Christian’s former long-time former tag, best friend, and storyline brother Edge. Yet all of that could still prove to be null. For better or for worse, Edge isn’t the one running WWE. Neither is The Rock. Or Michael Hayes. Or even Scott D’Amore. The two most important people in the Creative process are, and will remain for the foreseeable future, Vince and Stephanie McMahon.

Everyone from Mick Foley to the late Curt Hennig have stated that when Vince McMahon becomes a fan of yours then that is when he really gets behind your push. Whether or not he can win over VKM is unsure but one look at Christian’s former tag team partners suggests it is possible. It is worth remembering that it wasn’t all that long ago McMahon was said to be not that keen on Jericho and also had seemingly lost faith in Edge at one point yet both went on to have very successful careers and hold various incarnations of the WWE/World Title. Question marks remain over whether Christian can recapture the public’s imagination the way he did in 2005 (bearing in mind the younger audience who are unfamiliar with him), whether he cut intense main event promos, and whether he can adapt to work WWE Main Event style.

So far signals have been mixed. On the one hand, his performances on the mike and in-ring have been nothing short of stellar. On the other, even after they decided which Brand he was going to be on the way that Christian’s comeback played out was changed at the last minute. The original plan was for the former ‘Instant Classic’ to not only interrupt Swagger but also feature in segments that had been written to be interspersed throughout the show with Christian meeting the talent thus putting him over as a big star. The match itself was booked as a “short sprint” with a different finish where Swagger would be counted out or they would fight to a no-contest. According to all reports, these ideas were nixed by the Chairman himself and what we did get was seen by those inside the company as Vince McMahon not having faith in Christian as a star.

It is too early to tell exactly where ‘Captain Charisma’ will fit into the current WWE landscape. Those who have already written him off may regret having done so. The Draft comes early this year and rumours are already circulating that he will be moved to one of ‘The Big Two’ (most likely SmackDown!). Or he may spend the next year working with new talent on ECW.

However far up the card he progresses, the fact of the matter is that WWE have gained a useful worker and Christian, after over three years away has finally ‘home’. No one is heralding Christian as the second coming of Hogan or Austin, but there is no doubt in my mind he could be a valuable and entertaining part of the show. Christian brings something different to the table. His character’s personality, style and image is different from that of current top acts John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, Batista, The Undertaker, The Big Show and even his former partner Edge. He is one of a select handful of men to be praised by smart fans, casual fans and their peers and whose character seemingly appeals to both sexes and all age demographics. He can work singles, he is a natural tag team wrestler, he can talk, he’s witty, articulate, has a unique look, and he’s not afraid to make a fool of himself to get an angle over.

Watching his character evolve from Gothic Lifestyler to Surfer Dude to Insecurity Complex-ridden psycho to Temper Tantrum-throwing crybaby to anti-American heel to Rock rip-off to cocky, conceited superstar pro wrestler has been one of the most interesting on-screen stories of the last decade. Whether being ‘Top Dog’ on the C-Show is better than being in the mid-card on the A-Show is open to debate. At this stage it’s really irrelevant. WWE has decided to put Christian on ECW and knowing his career-long track record for taking a little and making it work I have no doubt he’ll make the most of it. Now That’s What I Call Wrestling

Carl ‘TheBigBoot’ Robinson