Musings of a Mark #12
The Instantly Classic Christian Catch Up
By: Scott Webster
Musings of a Mark #12: The (Instant) Classic Christian Catch-Up
With Christian once more on the World Wrestling Entertainment payroll, I figured it would be appropriate to dedicate this week's column to re-acquainting ourselves with this solid performer. It's been over three years since Captain Charisma last delighted his ?peeps? on WWE broadcasting, meaning a great number of fans may be questioning what all the hype is about. As you read on, I?ve covered three significant periods in Christian's career that highlight some of his strengths, a few of his weaknesses and in general his place in the history of professional wrestling. This isn?t by any means an essential list of his output, nor is it the absolute go to source on everything relating to ECW's newest star. All I intend for this edition of ?Musings ?? is to present a snapshot view on Christian's career thus far, and perhaps explain why his recent return is something to be excited about. Enjoy!
The Benefits of Flash Photography (2000 ? 2002)
As the new millennium arrived, then World Wrestling Federation produced a ?boom? in their tag team division. Three teams upheld this beloved era of tag wrestling, one team to which Christian belonged. His partner was Edge, and they mostly worked as heels. Early signs of Christian's potential as a stooge / opportunistic heel were evident here (the same applies to Edge), though they also were over-the-top in their antics at times. Whilst the Rated R Superstar wouldn?t completely do away with this aspect of his character, I?d argue Christian became a more grounded, sleazy heel in the years to come. I?ll refrain from commenting too much more on this period, as this was early days for Christian and tag wrestling isn?t the ideal scenario for evaluating one's talents. Here's a teaser review from this era to help guide people? tastes who have yet to explore this point in history:
Edge / Christian ? vs. Matt Hardy / Jeff Hardy, WWF Tag Team Championship Steel Cage Match ? Unforgiven 2000
Though the epic ?Tables, Ladders and Chairs? contests receive much of the fanfare for this era, I consider this cage match to be its high point. What's intriguing about the cage gimmick is how it presents a notion of ?confinement?. How the various characters negotiate with this ?confinement? is a large part of the cage story, and this battle doesn?t deviate in the slightest. Here Jeff Hardy is deliberately knocked to the outside, leaving his brother to face two men alone. As Edge and Christian dominate him, Matt's plight adds to the idea that he is trapped, especially without the support of Jeff. He bleeds, and takes some impressive bumps to convey his dire straits, whilst Jeff desperately climbs up the walls to reach him (only to be knocked down repeatedly). This mode of interaction (the inability to escape from Matt Hardy's view, and the inability to climb inside from the view of Jeff Hardy) makes for a suspenseful, dramatic performance.
I wouldn?t want to ruin the climax, as watching Jeff Hardy attempt to overcome the confining presence of the cage is the match's highlight. There isn?t much to comment on in regards to Christian's individual performance, but what this performance does represent is a fantastic match from a great era in tag team wrestling. Check this, and the following recommendations, if you haven?t yet experienced the new millennium ?boom? of the tag division.
Edge / Christian ? vs. Matt Hardy / Jeff Hardy vs. Bubba Ray Dudley / D-Von Dudley, WWF Tag Team Championship Triangle Ladder Match ? Wrestlemania 2000
Edge / Christian ? vs. Matt Hardy / Jeff Hardy vs. Bubba Ray Dudley / D-Von Dudley, WWF Tag Team Championship Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match ? Summerslam 2000
Bubba Ray Dudley / D-Von Dudley ? vs. Matt Hardy / Jeff Hardy vs. Edge / Christian, WWF Tag Team Championship Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match ? Wrestlemania X-Seven
Rise of the CLB (aka ?Creepy Little Bastard?) (2003 ? 2004)
What is clear from his years tagging with Edge is Christian's competency as a heel. Therefore when he received a push as a singles performer (after achieving hardly anything in the initial years of the brand split), it was only natural for him to extend upon the persona crafted during his stint in the tag division. In my view, Christian reached his best (thus far) in early-to-mid 2004, whilst engaging in a soup-operatic feud with former tag partner Chris Jericho. He was a smug, slimy character without the exaggerated antics that were common when accompanied by Edge. These attributes were exacerbated by Trish Stratus, who betrayed a smitten Jericho to side with Captain Charisma at Wrestlemania XX. It's my belief that even in this age of the ?Ultimate Opportunist?, a comparison between Edge and Christian at the heights of their singles heel pushes would reveal that the mannerisms and mere appearance of Christian worked far more effectively. Hence the CLB moniker given to him! (Don?t interpret that as an insult to Edge, just an expression of preference in favour of Captain Charisma.) The following review focuses on a match that serves as evidence to my point of view on Christian's strength as a heel, and is also one of my favourite performances of this decade:
Christian vs. Chris Jericho ? Wrestlemania XX
Were it not for the great encounter between Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, in addition to the main-event (which I still adore), this would?ve stolen the show easily. And honestly it's probably just as good as the two heavyweight championship bouts. Jericho and Christian engage in a fierce rivalry between former friends, which results in a performance that's both stiff and fast-paced. As it progresses, every action and moment speaks of the extreme distaste these two now have for each other, as the match resembles a degenerated brawl more than a wrestling match. Exchanges like the first stiff punch by Jericho, to a reckless back suplex over the top rope, to Jericho holding onto the Walls of Jericho even as his opponent crawls outside of the ring help create this intense aura for the performance. There's no redundant fluff involving chain wrestling, or methodical limb work. It's a deeply felt fight between two former friends, which is achieved without resorting to copious amounts of blood or ridiculous spots / weaponry.
Christian is magnificent in his prescribed heel role, taking no breaks in portraying an opportunistic wrestler not above utilising questionable tactics. It seems as though every moment he's in control, Captain Charisma is punching, screaming, choking, taunting, pulling tights, manipulating the ropes for an illegal advantage, pulling hair, ripping at facial features or slapping his opponent. It's a total heel overload, and it adds to an already intense performance. He doesn?t perform anything ?new? per sae, but Christian's dedication to his heel role is admirable. And considering the nature of the match's finish, he also comes across as one creepy little bastard indeed.
Christian vs. Chris Jericho, Steel Cage ? RAW 2004
As with my previous steel cage review, the notion of ?confinement? is ever present in this performance. It's my belief that Christian outperforms Chris Jericho here, as Y2J doesn?t perfectly conform to his face role. Wouldn?t Jericho relish the chance to further punish Captain Charisma inside a seemingly impenetrable structure, not to mention strive towards an honourable victory? Jericho looks to escape just as much as Christian early on, which goes against what (as the ?face? performer) he should be doing. Christian and co. perform to character much better, either adding to the ?confinement? of the structure (i.e. Tomko waiting for Jericho outside with a steel chair) or emphasising entrapment (i.e. the fantastic finish that sees Christian so close to victory, but ultimately succumbing to being trapped and submitting ? aided by the fact that he's trapped in the Walls of Jericho at that point in time).
Trish is a distracting presence, which is a key point of the feud. Her involvement also highlights Christian's slimy, bastard persona, as his unhesitant reaction to Stratus being caught in Jericho's submission finisher is to immediately scale the cage. This is such a fun performance, featuring drama and excitement within its constraining walls. Check it out as it's almost as good as the ?Mania XX match itself.
Christian ? vs. Rob Van Dam, Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match ? RAW 2003
Christian / Trish Stratus vs. Chris Jericho ? Backlash 2004
Captain Charisma's ?Hiatus?* (2005 ? 2008)
* otherwise known as his prominent stint in TNA.
Christian departed from World Wrestling Entertainment in late 2005, apparently seeking new pastures that offer him a greater chance to be pushed. The place he ended up in was Total Non-Stop Action, were he subsequently became a two-time World Heavyweight Champion. The final year of his stay in the company saw Christian Cage turn ?face?, feuding with the likes of Team 3D (aka the Dudley Boys ? how he has progressed from to good old days, aye?), Kurt Angle and Booker T. Admittedly, I?m not well-versed with the TNA product (for good reason) but I did have a chance to catch much of Christian's ?face? run. The result was solid, although it's tough to measure his effectiveness with such a routinely small crowd. It's much easier to garner how the larger crowds at World Wrestling Entertainment react to him, but alas his stint in TNA wasn?t completely redundant. He was prescribed a cunning, now-veteran character that employed his agility and mind games to overcome his opponent. Or so he was meant to. His series of matches with Angle immediately show these qualities, yet also largely dismiss them. Unfortunately they are the only matches I can go by for this period in Christian's career, so here we go:
Kurt Angle ? vs. Christian Cage, TNA World Heavyweight Championship ? Against All Odds 2008
I remember enjoying this performance when first viewing it, but it hasn?t survived these past twelve months. It's superior to the first match at Final Resolution, which was horrendously Angle-y with a million Ankle Locks (to the point where no one cares when he locked in the supposed ?finisher?) and a distinct lack of competent selling by both performers. Here we have an improved story, where Angle rightly dominates via his extensive wrestling ability (something that Christian was capable of going toe-to-toe with a month earlier!) whilst Christian uses his speed and experience to outlast his opponent. Unfortunately, the mind games employed in the first encounter don?t return, which was perhaps the only aspect of that match that was good.
The selling once again is iffy, with Christian failing to convey the draining effects of rest-holds and Angle generally being himself running at 1,000 miles per hour without any inclination of damage sustained over the performance's duration. Furthermore the match takes key moments from the first match (the dangerous overhead belly-to-belly over the top rope, Angle's misguided shoulder barge into the ring post etc.) without developing much on them. There are learned spots, conveying familiarity, but for the most part this match is same without a ridiculous amount of Ankle Locks. The presence of Samoa Joe as special enforcer does contribute positively to the match, providing development on the previous match (via his interaction with AJ Styles, stopping him from attacking Christian) that the actual performers in-ring fail to do. At times the spotlight is directed too much on who is outside, but ultimately his interaction with the characters adds drama to an otherwise average match.
NB: I?d much rather stab myself in the eye repeatedly with a fork before recommending almost anything produced by TNA. You would be able to find superior professional wrestling in close to any other promotion.
As it stands, I?m not convinced Christian works fantastically as a ?face?. Obviously my limited experience with TNA constrains my impression here, and his disappointing performances with Kurt Angle are largely the fault of the Olympic Gold Medallist's style than anything else. He's charismatic, and the character he forged in the second-rate promotion was interesting. But in my view, his best period was as the ?creepy little bastard?, as it combines magnificently with his look. Christian is a charismatic performer, and realises what it takes to provide a satisfying heel persona, which was enough to get the Rated R Superstar over. There is hope that Captain Charisma may follow suit.
His abilities in the ring are solid, without really providing anything special. Nevertheless Captain Charisma is certainly capable of producing a great match, and I would rate him superior to his kayfabe brother Edge in that respect. In the end, I would dare to suggest that Christian has the potential to reach main-event status in World Wrestling Entertainment, but at the very least his presence on the roster bears far more positives than it does negatives. He's a decent utility performer at the end of the day. Ultimately though it all depends on how his ?peeps? receive him in the long run.
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