WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 25: The Charismatic Crumble of Christian

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistDecember 30, 2012

Christian as Intercontinental Champion. (Courtesy of WWE.com)
Christian as Intercontinental Champion. (Courtesy of WWE.com)

Over the past month, I've analyzed the controversial careers of a variety of past and present WWE Superstars as a part of my weekly "Pushed to Punished" series. With this being the final edition for the foreseeable future, I thought there'd be no better topic to tackle than someone who has experienced a number of pushes over the course of his career that never seemed to stick.

Of course, I'm referring to the one and only Christian.

In late 2005, Christian departed from WWE after he declined to have his contract renewed. He was featured in numerous high-profile matches over the course of that year, but his singles career was basically treading water, so leaving the company to rejuvenate and refresh was his best bet.

He jumped ship to TNA shortly thereafter, where he quickly won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Jarrett. Sure, it was seen as a major milestone in his career, but it wasn't the same as winning WWE's "big one," something he never had the opportunity to do while in the company.

Over the next three years, Christian would be utilized correctly for the most part, but he would depart TNA in November 2008 after it became public knowledge that he had re-signed with WWE. Rumors ran rampant among the IWC as to what he could be potentially doing once he arrived, but no one knew for sure.

At first, it was reported that he'd return at the 2009 Royal Rumble event, either winning itself or interfering in the Edge vs. Jeff Hardy WWE Championship match. Once the plans were leaked online, it's strongly believed that the assailant behind Jeff Hardy's various ambushes was immediately changed to Matt Hardy instead, leaving Christian without a solid storyline to return with.

On Feb. 10, 2009, Christian made his shocking return to television on the ECW brand as a fan favorite. Despite Todd Grisham's lackluster reaction to Captain Charisma's comeback, quite a few fans (as well as Matt Striker) seemed to recognize him and gave him the homecoming pop he deserved.

In his first WWE promo in nearly four years, Christian announced his intentions to win the ECW Championship. He was successful in defeating then-ECW Champion Jack Swagger in a non-title bout later that night (albeit with some help from Finlay), but failed to capture the gold when it was on the line two weeks later.

However, Christian managed to qualify for the annual Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 25 by winning a last-chance, tri-branded battle royal on the March 10 episode of ECW. Although he was the odds-on favorite to win, he came up short of capturing the briefcase.

Following the show of shows, he resumed his feud with Swagger, whom he defeated at Backlash to win his first ECW championship. The two worked very well together and produced a number of entertaining matches, but it seemed as if his title win was an attempt to raise the ratings for the Tuesday night program.

At Extreme Rules, he'd drop the belt to Tommy Dreamer in a Triple Threat match also involving Swagger. However, Christian regained the title a mere month later at Night of Champions and successfully defended the strap in an Extreme Rules match against Dreamer on ECW a few short weeks later.

While ECW champion, Christian would take part in several marvelous matches and ruthless rivalries with the likes of William Regal, Zack Ryder, Yoshi Tatsu and Shelton Benjamin. In February 2010, Vince McMahon announced the brand's closure to make way for the "next evolution of WWE," later known as NXT.

On the final episode of the Land of Extreme, Christian surprisingly lost the title to Ezekiel Jackson in an Extreme Rules match. Regardless, Christian will forever be known as the longest-reigning ECW Champion in the company's history.

Due to the brand's closure, Christian subsequently signed with the Raw brand, where he defeated Carlito in his debut match to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 26. Similar to the prior year, Christian came close to capturing the opportunistic briefcase, but ultimately came up short.

Meanwhile, he was named one of the premiere Pros on the inaugural season of WWE NXT. He mentored Heath Slater, who lasted until the final four before being eliminated from the competition.

In late April, Christian was sent packing to SmackDown via the 2010 WWE draft. Upon his move to the blue brand, he was placed in a tournament to crown a new Intercontinental Champion, where he was unsuccessful in defeating Kofi Kingston in the finals.

For the third time since returning to WWE, Christian competed in the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match at the event of the same name that July, but the result was the same. It's a shame, too, since his exchanges with Matt Hardy about how he'd never won the World Championship in the weeks leading up to the pay-per-view went to waste.

Despite a few teasers, Christian never turned heel and his feud with Hardy never came to fruition. It wasn't until September that Christian was finally placed in a program with Alberto Del Rio, but it was over before it even started due to Captain Charisma suffering a torn pectoral muscle.

In storyline, Del Rio ambushed Christian backstage to explain his absence. It was later stated by WWE.com that he'd be sidelined for four to six months, thus putting a hold on a rivalry between the two for the time being.

At 2011's Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, Christian made his shocking WWE return by attacking Alberto Del Rio and saving his best friend, Edge. Christian proceeded to connect with the Killswitch on his ruthless rival before being escorted out by security.

This would signal the start of a breakout year for the former ECW Champion.

In subsequent weeks, Christian would appear alongside then-World Heavyweight Champion Edge and defeat Del Rio in a number of matches. Despite that, he wasn't placed in the World Heavyweight Championship match between Del Rio and Edge at WrestleMania 27, but rather was in his former tag team partner's corner at the event.

In a shocking turn of events, Edge announced his retirement from in-ring competition due to injury eight days later on Raw. With the Rated-R Superstar hanging up his boots for good, that rendered the World Heavyweight Championship vacant.

On the April 15 edition of SmackDown, Christian outlasted 19 other Superstars to qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship ladder match against Alberto Del Rio at Extreme Rules. The two traded blows and provided an excellent match, with each competitors getting an extra edge over the other.

Once the smoke cleared, Christian was standing atop the ladder with the World Heavyweight Championship in hand. He shared the monumental moment with Edge, who returned to distract Del Rio from capturing the title belt.

That scintillating sight of Christian holding his first World title high above his head is one that will forever be etched in the minds of those who watched it live. Rumors ran rampant for years stating that Vince McMahon never had faith in him as a top star, hence why he never had a run with the World title belt, but yet Captain Charisma had just achieved the impossible.

On the subsequent edition of SmackDown, Christian cut a promo at the start of the show saying how happy he was to have finally won the World Heavyweight Championship. However, before he could continue, then-SmackDown general manager Teddy Long arranged a title match between him and Randy Orton later that evening.

Although the match itself was fantastic, the finish was what most fans had a problem with, as Orton scored the three-count on Christian to win the World Championship. Christian's first-ever reign as champ came crashing down five days later (two if you count the day it was taped), which was a treacherous travesty in the eyes of most members of the IWC.

As you would expect, the entire Internet practically imploded in rage the night that SmackDown was taped. After working 17 long years to win that prestigious prize, Christian had it taken from him after five measly days.

However, I'll never forget the tweet from Chris Jericho that week that basically said not to worry and just to wait, because WWE probably had something much bigger in store.

Orton and Christian formed a bond as a sign of respect shortly thereafter going into their title rematch at Over the Limit. Once again, Christian put forth a strong effort against the Viper, but was unable to reclaim the title he once held.

Following both loses, Christian displayed obvious signs of despair, foreshadowing an inevitable heel turn that would eventually see him snap. After losing the No. 1 contender's match on the subsequent edition of SmackDown due to inadvertent interference from Orton, Christian was fed up and had enough.

With Christian as the appointed special guest referee, Orton successfully defended his World Championship against Sheamus on the June 3 edition of SmackDown. During the post-match celebration, Captain Charisma retaliated by smashing Orton over the head with his own title belt, completing his transition to the dark side in the process.

This would mark the first time Christian had portrayed a heel since 2005, when some would argue he was at his best. This heel turn would breathe new life into Christian's stagnant persona as well as allow his feud with the Legend Killer to continue.

Not only that, but Christian was seen as one of top heels of the company at the time of his turn. Sure, he'd eventually be overshadowed by the whole CM Punk saga that summer, but perhaps this was the "bigger picture." 

He failed to defeat Orton at Capitol Punishment, but given the fact the referee didn't notice his foot on the rope, the rivalry stayed alive. At Money in the Bank, Christian tricked Orton into getting himself disqualified, winning his second World Heavyweight Championship in the process.

Sure, it wasn't in the fashion most people hoped for, but it was a title win for Christian nonetheless. This put Orton in chase mode, which made the feud much more fun.

However, one flaw of the feud that remained consistent throughout was the fact Christian was simply incapable of defeating Orton cleanly. Of course, such a feat was unheard of for heels, but Christian couldn't even score a pinfall victory over Orton via dirty tactics most times.

Although he pinned Orton in tag team action on the Aug. 5 edition of SmackDown, it just wasn't enough. I was sure that valiant victory would come at SummerSlam, where the two were scheduled to face off in a No Holds Barred match for Christian's World Championship, but I was once again proven wrong.

Again, the matches between Orton and Christian were amazingly awesome and some of the best we saw that year, but the results of those bouts were either predictable or poorly done. SummerSlam was no different, as Orton regained the World title from Christian despite the former TNA star attempting to get help from a returning Edge.

Unfortunately, this would be the final time that Christian would be featured in any headlining match at a pay-per-view, as he'd go on to lose the Steel Cage rematch on the Aug. 30 edition of SmackDown. He'd enter a feud with Sheamus shortly thereafter, but was on the losing end of every single one of their encounters.

It's safe to say that Christian lost all his edge as a heel, which is why the ankle injury he sustained that November might have been a blessing in disguise. Taking some time off was probably the best thing for him.

Although it was widely rumored he'd be back in time for the Royal Rumble, he didn't resurface on television until Elimination Chamber, the same event he returned at a year later. He appeared in a segment with John Laurinaitis, whom he supported to become the new general manager of both brands.

Once Christian was announced as a member of Team Johnny at WrestleMania 28, he also demanded Laurinaitis for just one more match for the World Heavyweight Championship. The man formerly known as Johnny Ace promised Christian a title shot if his team were to win, a stipulation that would later be completely forgotten.

Six days prior to the show of shows, WWE Champion CM Punk brutalized Christian before their match could even initiate on Raw. This would lead to Christian getting removed from the multi-man tag team match at WrestleMania 28 and from television as a whole.

In reality, management felt Christian wasn't yet 100 percent ready to return to the ring. If that was the case, why bother bringing him back to television in the first place?

Of course, Christian never received his rightful title shot despite the fact Team Johnny went over at WrestleMania 28. Sure, he wasn't a part of the actual team, but a promise is still a promise and it's a storyline that should've been addressed.

At Over the Limit, Christian surprisingly returned in the pre-match battle royal and ended up emerging victorious, which meant he'd have the opportunity to contend for either the Intercontinental or United States Championship later in the evening. Although he originally chose to fight Santino, he then shifted his focus to Rhodes after he insulted him backstage.

He'd go on to defeat Rhodes later that night and pick up his fourth Intercontinental Championship in the process. In embracing the live crowd, he had seemingly reverted back to his face persona as well.

As great as his matches were with Rhodes in the months that followed, there was hardly a story behind them, so it was difficult for the crowd to invest in their various bouts with one another. After failing to capture the SmackDown Money in the Bank briefcase at the July pay-per-view, he'd lose his Intercontinental title a brief eight days later to The Miz on Raw 1000.

Christian invoked his rematch clause for the title on that week's edition of SmackDown, but came up short. He was sparingly utilized in the weeks that followed before disappearing from WWE television altogether in August.

At first, it was reported that WWE was holding off on having Christian return to television until TNA Bound For Glory in October, since it was believed he'd be appearing at the event. When that didn't happen, it was then revealed he had undergone surgery on his shoulder, as seen during his brief appearance via satellite on the Sept. 14 edition of SmackDown.

It's since been reported that he's due back in January, but I would count on him returning sometime in either February and March. Rarely ever has he come back sooner than expected, so I have my fingers crossed we'll be seeing Captain Charisma once again somewhere on the road to WrestleMania 29.

In one of his final matches before departing, he was on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of Antonio Cesaro in early August. This came after Christian gave his first singles loss in WWE, so I hope to see these two engage in a feud over the United States Championship once he returns.

There's no one real reason why Christian's pushes have fluctuated in recent years, but to say he's been underutilized would be a massive understatement. He deserves a lengthy reign as World Champion after nearly two decades of dedication, but to have that cut short in favor of a failed heel run still baffles me to this day.

One may argue that his various injuries have held him back since returning to the company, and I'll admit, he doesn't seem to have many years left in the squared circle. However, if that's the case, WWE should use him to his full potential while also putting younger guys over meaningfully.

I fully understand that another shot at the golden prize for Christian might be out of the question now, but at least give him something to do each week on television. Whether it be a feud or a chase for a championship, as long as he's involved in something that will benefit both him and whoever his opponent may be.

Thanks for reading and make sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Christian's reluctant rise and fall in the last few years. While this may be my final edition of Pushed to Punished for the foreseeable future, look for the column to return at some point in the new year with another set of topics to analyze.

GSM out.

Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.

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