Christian Cage Talks Joining AEW, Advice from Jon Moxley and Vince McMahon, More
On January 31, Christian returned to WWE at the Royal Rumble and shocked fans around the world. Just over a month later, he shocked us again when he was revealed as the newest star to sign a contract with All Elite Wrestling.
After being cleared to compete again, Christian Cage immediately became the hottest free agent in pro wrestling. Any promotion would jump at the chance to work with the former world champion, but AEW was the company he chose after weighing his options.
His first match with the company took place on the March 31 episode of Dynamite against Frankie Kazarian. Since then, he has entered into a feud with Team Taz.
We spoke with Christian ahead of his match with Will Hobbs on Wednesday. He covered a variety of topics including the process of getting cleared, why he chose AEW, his goals and much more.
When Christian had to retire in 2014 due to concussion issues, he thought his career was over.
Like Daniel Bryan, though, he worked hard to defy the odds and prove he was still healthy enough to compete.
"It was a pretty long process," Christian said. "I had been asked so many times over the years if I was ever going to come back and the answer was no because that was the legit answer. When Edge came back at the Royal Rumble last year, even though we had different injuries, it put a seed in my brain that this might happen.
"I was doing other things at the time that were keeping me busy. As we got into the pandemic, I was not in the best shape physically. I wasn't in bad shape by any means, but I was happily living a retired life. When I got a call to do the unsanctioned match with Randy Orton, I felt good. I didn't feel like I was fragile and needed to be careful with every movement.
"When it was announced that I was going to be wrestling, people were legitimately interested to see if I was going to wrestle. In a sense, I felt like I let them down because it wasn’t a real match. We had to be careful because I was on the no-contact list."
Working that bout with Orton last June got Christian thinking about what it would take to return as a performer, so he took it upon himself to see a doctor and find out his status.
"I went on my own to get the testing to see where I was at. I kept it very close to the vest," he said. "I went down to the University of South Florida for their concussion testing and sat down with the doctor. He said, 'You did great on these scores. You were at or above average on everything. Your physical tests were great.'
"I told him if there was a chance to get back in the ring and close out my career on my own terms, I wanted to do it. He said I could do it if I wanted to, so it went from there. I decided I had to start putting the work in and come back the right way. I hired a nutrition company, and I was dedicated to getting in the best shape I could be at 47 years old.
"I went to the gym a couple of times, but I couldn’t concentrate because I was so paranoid about people getting close to me or touching me. I built a small gym in my garage, and it was the best thing I ever did. I started grinding away and putting in the work in solitude. I brought it to the attention of WWE in the fall and they said they wanted to keep it kind of quiet.
"They sent me to the medical center in Pittsburgh and put me through a workout in the gym. It was very thorough. The doctor said the same thing as the doctor down in Florida. It put me in a great headspace from there to keep pushing forward."
Returning to Wrestling and Signing with AEW
Captain Charisma's return at the Royal Rumble was one of the few genuine surprises of the night, but one of the reasons WWE was able to keep it under wraps was because it wasn't planned too far in advance.
"I went back to do the Royal Rumble, and it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. They [WWE] called me at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and asked if I would be in the Rumble on Sunday. It was less than 48 hours' notice and I hadn't been in a ring for seven years. It was kind of like riding a bike. I felt great once I got back in there."
Many people naturally assumed Christian would sign a new deal with WWE, but he was technically a free agent when he appeared at the Rumble, so he was able to consider every option available to him.
"The Rumble happened and there were some ongoing discussions with WWE," he said. "I have friends who work with both companies, and one of my good friends is Jon Moxley. We were talking and he said 'Listen, you’re a free agent and it’s probably going to be the last time it happens for you. You have to weigh all your options. You hold all the cards so you should at least have a conversation with Tony [Khan].'
"I thought he was right, so I had a conversation with Tony. We talked for a couple of hours and we hit it off. Hearing what he thought I could offer the company and what I thought I could bring to the table, it just seemed like a perfect fit at this stage in my career. That’s what this is about, having the proper platform for this final chapter of my career.
"What I appreciate about Tony is his honesty and what a legitimately good person he is. That goes a long way with me. This is about what I can do to help the company and what I can do for the next generation of wrestlers."
First Singles Match in 7 Years
Christian faced Orton in an unsanctioned match on June 15, 2020, but it was a glorified storyline segment that was designed to make The Viper look dangerous.
Technically, his first real match in seven years took place on AEW Dynamite against Kazarian.
"Tony and I talked on the phone about a week before that match happened," Christian said. "I said 'My shirt says outwork everyone, so I should probably start putting in the work soon.' The first person's name out of his mouth was Frankie Kazarian. I said that’s what I was thinking, too.
"I’ve been painted with the underrated brush for a lot of my career where people say I’m underappreciated. I think Frankie is truly a guy who has been underrated for his career and brings a lot to the table. He's a good friend of mine, and it meant a lot to me to have that match with him and to remind people how damn good he is, too. I wanted to have that kind of match where it doesn't matter if you win or lose, both guys come out of it looking better. I think we accomplished that.
"Every chance I get to step in the ring is icing on the cake at this point. I have accomplished a lot, but I didn't come back to do a greatest hits tour. I didn't come back to slap my chest, put my hand over my eyes and look at my peeps in the crowd.
"I came back to do the best work of my career, and that was why it was important for me to go out there and put on a real match. I think it was close to 20 minutes. I want to put on quality performances. My goal is to go as far as I can in AEW and to be in the main event competing for a championship."
Facing Will Hobbs and Future Opponents
Following his match with Kazarian, Christian almost immediately entered into a feud with Team Taz. And after being ambushed last week, he will get to face one of his attackers on Wednesday.
"I’m wrestling Will Hobbs on Wednesday, and I think he has been super-impressive so far," Christian said. "I believe he is in the top five in the rankings. He’s made an impression since he stepped on the scene in AEW, and that's a testament to his talent and his drive to be better. He's gone pretty far in a short amount of time."
AEW is home to some of Christian's friends such as Chris Jericho, Big Show and Moxley, but he is also relishing the idea of facing some of the younger stars on the roster.
"I am looking forward to getting in there with a lot of young guys," he said. "You have Darby Allin, who just had a great main event with Matt Hardy. I look at a guy like MJF who can talk the talk. He is another young guy who I think is really talented. It’s scary to think of where a guy like that might be five years from now. Sammy Guevara has got a ton of talent and a lot of that is untapped.
"Coming to a young company like AEW, it’s a whole new set of goals. For one, it’s helping the company grow. We saw this past week with the great ratings, and we want to capitalize on that and keep the momentum moving forward."
Impact Wrestling and Samoa Joe
In recent months, AEW has formed working relationships with a number of promotions. We have seen talent from NWA, Impact and New Japan Pro-Wrestling cross over, leaving many to wonder if Christian will return to Impact at some point.
"I don't have any plans on [returning to Impact] right now. I am solely focused on AEW, but who knows what can happen in the future," he said. "I am relatively new here. I don't think my focus should get too far away from AEW at this point. I am committed to being part of this brand and helping it move forward."
Somebody Christian spent a lot of time fighting during his time in TNA was Samoa Joe. Like Captain Charisma, he is no longer with WWE after being released by the company last week.
"That surprised me," Christian said. "Joe is a super-talented guy. You see it in the ring, and obviously he has tremendous verbal skills. He was a natural as a commentator as well. When you have that kind of multi-talented individual who can wear a lot of hats, that’s invaluable. He truly is, in my eyes, a top performer. He's not going to have any shortage of suitors when the time comes, that's for sure."
AEW Deal and Plans for Retirement
Christian thought he was retired from competition, so being able to return to the ring after seven years has given him a new perspective.
He no longer has to figure out what to do instead of wrestling until he decides to retire, and he isn't setting a date for his final departure from the squared circle.
"I signed a multi-year deal with AEW. I am committed to getting through that and then we’ll see where I’m at," he said. "I haven’t put an exact date on it yet, but I know I am closer to the end than the beginning. In a way, my body has been preserved for the past seven years.
"I feel great in the ring so we will see what happens. Getting this back is a huge gift, and I won't take it for granted any time I step through these ropes. I am taking it one step at a time and am thankful for every moment I get."
Edge and Bryan both returned from injury-enforced retirement, but their schedules are very different. The Yes! Man wrestles almost every week, while The Rated-R Superstar has only worked a handful of matches over the past year.
When asked how often he intends to work, Christian simply answered: "I'll be wrestling on a regular basis."
Interests Outside the Ring
Like many pro wrestlers, Christian has dabbled in acting. He has appeared on shows like Haven, House and Murdoch Mysteries, and he hasn't ruled out further roles in the future.
"Acting is something I really enjoy doing," he said. "As wrestlers and performers, we like to create. When wrestling went away for a time, I was trying to find that creative outlet and get something out there. Acting was something I felt I could be good at and getting the chance to work with people who were better than me only helped. It was fun to have a new craft that I can sink my teeth into."
And what other activities motivate Captain Charisma outside of the ring?
"I enjoy running a lot," he said. "Well, I enjoy it because I hate it if that makes any sense. I started doing it when I was injured and I realized I wasn't very good at it and I didn't like it. For me, that's a challenge. I still do it a few times a week and I will throw on my headphones and listen to a podcast or some music and just kind of get in my own head for some alone time.
"I spend a lot of time with my daughter. We hang out and go swimming and those sorts of things. I am a huge hockey fan, so I love watching that when it’s on and just relaxing."
A Lesson He Learned from Vince McMahon
As we closed out the interview, we asked Christian to tell us about a lesson he has learned during his career. He told a story about Vince McMahon and how he helped him find more confidence in his promos.
"One time, I was doing a promo on Raw, and I had memorized words I was going to say," Christian said. "It was Edge and me, and Mick Foley was going to come out and interrupt it. Midway through talking and I just went blank and couldn't remember anything. Edge was looking at me like 'What's wrong with you?'
"I started fumbling words. They say you can't see the faces in the crowd, but trust me when I say I saw every face in that moment. I started to panic and it wasn’t good. When Foley came out, he said something like 'Did you forget your lines?'
"The next day, I walk in and I saw Vince. He said 'Great stuff last night.' I said ' Really? I forgot everything.' He said 'You’re a heel, right?. When you’re a heel, you can get away with anything. If that ever happens again, step back, take a breath and look at your partner. Ask him what you were talking about and go back to it. Act like these people don’t get to hear you talk until you’re ready.'
"It was a big lesson. From that point on, I stopped trying to memorize things. You have to go out there with your own voice and some bullet points of what you want to talk about."
Christian will battle Hobbs on Wednesday's episode of Dynamite. With Brian Cage and Ricky Starks likely lurking close by, he will have an uphill battle ahead of him.