Lutz's Blog: The second half of Christian's career has forced a re-examination of his legacy
By Jeffrey Lutz
A couple weeks ago I was browsing on YouTube when I stopped on Edge's WWE Hall of Fame induction from 2012. I found myself hoping for a delay in Edge's arrival to the stage, because I was enjoying the speech by his presenter too much.
That presenter, of course, was Christian, Edge's real-life best friend and the performer with whom Christian's career is most closely associated. That night at the Hall of Fame ceremony, Christian nearly stole the show with hilarious quips and stories about Edge and a commanding presence that set the tone for Edge's mostly light-hearted oration.
That night, to me, sums up Christian's career almost perfectly. He's talented, engaging and charismatic enough to carry a performance on his own, but he has always been a step behind Edge on the career path that started for the former tag-team legends in Toronto. It's difficult to say what separates Christian and Edge because they're so similar, but Edge capitalized on timing, opportunity, and circumstances that never afforded themselves to Christian. Because of that, Edge had a better career.
Christian's career, though, will probably end with his own Hall of Fame speech. Since returning to WWE from his stint in TNA in 2009, Christian has enjoyed multiple runs as a top-of-the-card player, including his current status as newly crowned No. 1 contender for Alberto Del Rio's World Heavyweight Championship.
In many ways, Christian has exceeded expectations by breaking through after being mired in the mid-card during his first WWE run. His recent success has forced a second look at Christian's professional legacy and made him difficult to classify, because few, if any, wrestlers from the past have followed the same career arc.
The DVD documentary about Edge that was released shortly after his 2012 retirement portrayed him as someone who, as a child, wanted nothing more than to become a professional wrestler and who would do anything to make that dream come true. Christian, more or less, was just along for the ride. He wanted to wrestle, too, but he didn't write an essay to earn free training like Edge did and hesitated to start training at all before finally being convinced by his best friend.
The slight advantage in passion for wrestling presented Edge with more chances to blossom early in his career. Edge was the mouthpiece for the Brood, a group that included Gangrel and Christian. Edge was more aggressively pushed when his tag team with Christian was broken up. Edge even received top billing in that tag team, Edge and Christian, which isn't unimportant.
Christian started at somewhat of a disadvantage as "the second guy" in a tag team. But there's a reason, with multiple secondary-title runs and time with the World Heavyweight Championship, that Christian is compared to other main-eventers of his time rather than someone like Marty Jannetty. Christian is more than just a guy in a tag team because he didn't fail as a single's star. Far from it.
Instead of allowing his own career to stagnate while Edge's took off, Christian worked his way up the card. His WWE career peaked in 2005, when he was in a triple-threat match for the WWE Championship against John Cena and Chris Jericho. Later that year, though, Christian went to TNA and was unable to build on the most important moment in his career, seven years in the making.
Going to TNA might have been a mistake, but Christian -- known as Christian Cage while with that company -- turned it into a positive. For the first time, Christian was a true main-event player. Even if it was with wrestling's secondary promotion, it forced fans to look at him as something other than Edge's sidekick and someone who struggled to rise above the level of Intercontinental Champion while in WWE. His return to WWE in 2009 was heavily anticipated and an immediate success, as he became ECW Champion on his first night back.
After Edge's retirement, Christian won the World Heavyweight title as the sentimental favorite against Alberto Del Rio. He had a productive program with Randy Orton, even though he was never cast as Orton's equal and lost multiple matches in the feud. Now, Christian is back in the title hunt, just as important in WWE's landscape as ever even after missing nearly a year due to injury and even though he turns 40 later this year.
Not only is Christian probably the best-ever "second guy" in a tag team, he's arguably the best utility player WWE has ever had. He can switch from babyface to heel on a dime, which he has done throughout his career, sometimes to his detriment. He can have above-average or great matches with anyone, and he has lived up to his "Captain Charisma" moniker because he has a gift for promos. Too often, though, he has been forced to fall back on catchphrases instead of allowing his natural verbal talents to shine, like they did in his Hall of Fame speech for Edge.
Edge became an all-time great because he deserved to. But he proved himself by coming back from a severe neck injury, and by capitalizing on a real-life love triangle with Lita and Matt Hardy that turned him into the best villain in the company.
Christian has just been consistent, gaining incremental progress throughout his career but never receiving the opportunity to carry a company. I think he could do it, though. Maybe not as a WrestleMania main-event star, but someone who could get WWE through lean summer months with an entertaining title run or by feuding with other top stars.
Christian hasn't been quite as successful as his contemporaries, but he has been successful, enough to become a likely Hall of Famer. He has defied expectations somewhat by making himself a main-event star after starting his career as the third-most important member of a faction. The fact that we now must compare Christian to the greats of his era, instead of those who couldn't hack it after the breakup of a tag team, means Christian is a great of his era. And it means that he has won.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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