When Paul Wight made the announcement that a hall of fame worthy talent would be joining All Elite Wrestling at Revolution, the wrestling community went wild. It was as predictable as it was entertaining. Honestly, I was as taken with the excitement as anyone was, though perhaps just a fraction more measured in my expectations. I read the clues like we all did and made my prediction, but within my heart only one name was going to do my imagination justice.
Wrestling tells us stories, and there was only one I desperately needed to be told when it came to that announcement. Only one that made enough sense. It had to be Christian Cage.
I heard all of the rumors beforehand. I read the report that he was still signed to a WWE contract, though the details of said contract were ironically never revealed. Did it really make sense that WWE would allow someone like Christian to walk away after only just being cleared to compete? After the 2020 Royal Rumble and Edge’s emotional return, 2021 didn’t disappoint as the hearts of so many in the wrestling community burst seeing Captain Charisma walk down the aisle once again after seven years away. There were so many possibilities with one of the best to ever lace up his boots back in business – endless stories to tell – yet here we stand with not the Christian we expected after the Rumble, but Christian Cage in All Elite Wrestling. Wrestling is truly wild, y’all.
Anyway, during the lead up to Revolution we were presented with an almost incessant rampage of theories and already frustrated fan complaints. If it isn’t Punk, I’m done! If it isn’t Lesnar, I want my money back! Angle, Batista, CENA! I understand the desire for all of these names, but the arguments against them all are many, both logistically and literally. In Christian, we have a man who is widely regarded as one of the best workers in the history of the business, and before overzealous and angry Twitter fan points out my “silly” claim – just ask around.
When his familiar music hit, the pop within my heart was deafening. Seeing his face, the undeniable emotion engrained in that unmistakable expression and his ever focused – if only slightly nervous – eyes, was everything! It’s funny. He walked to the ring like he had never left it, owning the moment completely, but the appreciation for something he thought he might have lost forever was tangible. I saw gratitude and excitement in his eyes as he gazed across the record crowd for a wrestling show since the pandemic began, at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville.
In Christian Cage, All Elite Wrestling gains a mind widely thought of as generational in the wrestling business. He can immediately impact positive influence and change on a roster packed full of impressionable performers. At a stage in his career he may have never thought he would be able to live, he isn’t just a mind to utilize for advice and knowledge – he’s a literal example as well. As valuable as legends and veterans are to a company, the ability to step foot through the ring ropes and lock up on live TV with those same kids you’re mentoring is priceless. He has that chance now. He can look to the future and ensure AEW has an even brighter one, but he’s also not finished himself. In a strange and wonderful way, this is again just the beginning.
Sitting down with Renee Paquette for a recent interview on the Oral Sessions Podcast, Christian admits what I have appreciated about him for years. He acknowledges that he has always thought of himself as having a bit of a chip on his shoulder and a desire to prove himself as a result. Nothing has changed, even as he walks into the ring seven years later to jumpstart the last stage of his legendary career. Seven years away from doing anything is a long time. In a wrestling ring, it’s an eternity. Constantly evolving, with fans as impatient and as vocal as ever before, the business isn’t what it was when he was forced to walk away. Then again, in many ways, not much has changed at all.
Hard work still rises above. Great minds still reign supreme. Talent shines as brightly as it ever has. Time has moved on, but those of us who appreciate what truly makes wrestling what it is – heart, passion, commitment, and dedication – we’re still here. As much as Christian sees all of us as he stands on that corner turnbuckle shielding the bright lights from his eyes, we see him too. We remember all he has given and all the memories he has blessed us with, and with one single look into the hard cam, we trust in all that he is and all he has yet to show us.
It’s rare that a talent is as multifacetedly gifted as Christian is. Draped with gold for tag team wrestling and as a singles star, including as one half of what is arguably one of the best tag teams of all time, his resume speaks for itself. Yet, that doesn’t begin to describe who he is as a performer. He’s done it all. Portraying everything from a horror show vampire apprentice, to a cocky comedy act, to the underdog we all loved to lift up, to a tag team master, to a TNA madman finally allowed to run free, he has proven that there is nothing he cannot do. That ability to adapt and evolve is how someone spends upwards of thirty years in a business that eats some others alive.
Understanding how All Elite Wrestling does business and appreciating the fact that largely men and women are allowed the opportunity to steer their own ship, I cannot help but to giggle when I imagine what we may see from Christian. It’s an absolute dream scenario.
I find a part of me saddened hearing him say he still walks with a chip on his shoulder, but I understand that mindset completely. It’s one thing to feel it and another altogether to USE it. Many of us have felt at one time or another that the weight of whatever it was we were fighting was becoming too heavy to bear. Many more can still feel how we felt we were perceived in times of struggle or in times of success. It’s impossible to not allow those feelings in, but what Christian has taught me during his incredible career is that we are not defined by those feelings if we allow ourselves to be fueled by them instead.
The things we love are impossible to run from completely. They occupy a permanent space in our heart and the pull never fades to nothingness. It’s beyond fitting that Christian found himself missing that piece and decided to seek it out once more. Knowing that there was a decent chance he’d be left with the same answer he was given years before, he pushed on anyway. He faced the unknown with open eyes and an eager heart. This is what he had loved since he was a child, and if there was a chance that he could live his dream one last time, he had to. Who can’t relate to that?
Beyond the superstar always lies the human. I write features by tapping into my heart and making connections to those who have inspired me and made me feel things. The humanity of those we hold in such high esteem in this business matters a great deal to me. In all reality, it matters now more than it ever has in this age of unprecedented personal access and social media coverage. We know more about these people than we would ever need to know. I mention this because during a time when it sometimes feels as though the bad outnumber the good (they don’t and never will, by the way), Christian is a literal good one. A wonderful person, a dedicated father, a loyal friend to those he cares for, and a loving husband.
So, back to that story I need to be told. I don’t know where it will lead. What I do know though? With the man himself assisting in authoring this last chapter, I have no doubt it will be as wonderful as the others. I cannot express enough the emotion that seeing his face on screen in January, and then again at Revolution, elicited. Well, maybe I can. Just search “ugly crying” in your gif browser and that should be fairly accurate. I am who I am, even in my blubbering, emotional, “crying over professional wrestling” state, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Examining his former theme song, which is one of my all-time favorites, the lyrics exist as ironically as anything knowing what we now know about his journey thus far and what is yet to come.
“Deceived by my eyes,
And all I was told I should see,
Opinions not mine,
The person they taught me to be…”
“Inside me a light was turned on,
And I was alive…”
“In the darkness, light will take you to the other side,
And find me waiting there,
You’ll see if you just close your eyes.”
It’s time to open those eyes once more because the dream isn’t over after all, not for any of us. Welcome home.