Christian Cage

Christian Cage Is Doing The Best Work Of His Career! AEW, Coming Out Of Retirement, Adam Copeland

Christian Cage (@christian4peeps) is a professional wrestler signed to AEW. He is also known for his career in WWE where he was simply known as Christian and was part of a legendary tag team with Edge (Adam Copeland). He sits down with Chris Van Vliet at West Coast Creative Studio in Hollywood to talk about his legendary career that started in 1995, getting into the best shape of his life at 50 and why he created Pure Plank with Adam Copeland, doing the best work of his career right now in AEW, pushing the envelope with his patriarchy character, how he was able to come out of retirement after 7 years, his WWE return in 2020, being part of the Royal Rumble in 2021, signing with AEW a month later, the reaction to his debut, being part of the first ever TLC match, memories of his WrestleMania 18 match against DDP in Toronto, what made him leave WWE for TNA in 2005, proving himself as a singles wrestler, how much longer he wants to wrestle before retiring and much more!

Quote I’m thinking about: “Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.” – Roy T. Bennett

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On the turtleneck:

“I mean, I’ve managed to bring the turtleneck back into fashion. And nobody wears it the way that I wear it, obviously. But you can see my influence, you’re starting to see it sprinkled out throughout not just wrestling, but also in pop culture. People starting to pull out the turtleneck.”

On accepting retirement and mental struggles:

“I accepted it only for the fact that I had a young child and because it was concussion-related injuries, I didn’t question it. My only thought was, I wanted to be able to have a conversation with my daughter when she turned 13 years old. So I took it at face value. I didn’t explore it any further and realised later on that I could come back, but that was the reasoning. Plus I managed to stay busy outside of wrestling, I was doing other things, managing to stay busy. I was doing a show on Fox at the time, Backstage, I was doing the pay-per-view pre-show panels, I was doing a number of other things outside of wrestling. Then when the pandemic hit, much like everybody else, everything that I had that I was working on went away, it all went away. So I found myself, it was a tough time in my life. I had just gone through a divorce, feeling pretty low after that. I’m a pretty private person so I haven’t talked about this much in public but I think it’s an important part of the story for Pure Plank. And yeah, I was going through a very dark period as far as that goes, my work had gone away. My marriage had just dissolved and now on weeks where I didn’t have my daughter, I was literally alone 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it was a very, very lonely existence. I found myself trying to do things to keep busy, I went on my old man walks at night, I would just put my headphones on and just go outside and go for a walk just because I had nobody to talk to, nobody to see, anything. And I got into a little bit of, I was probably a little bit of depression, I’m sure. Feeling low and down on myself and just feeling sorry for myself and I started making unhealthy choices. A lot of that was with the food choices, I was eating not great, I would sit down on the couch at night and what’s better than half a box of Cheez-Its? That’s pretty much what happened on a nightly basis at my house. Maybe drinking a little bit too much, and other things like that. Like I said, I just wasn’t making healthy choices. And my body was feeling it. One day, I happened to walk past a mirror without a shirt on and I did not like what I saw.”

On outworking everyone:

“I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, I’ve always felt like [I’m] not being the biggest, the fastest, the strongest. I always felt like I was going to have to work a little bit harder. I used to have a saying every time I went into an arena. I would get out of a car, whether it was a live event, a pay-per-view or a TV, I stepped out of the car. And in my head, I would say to myself today, they’re going to know how good you are, and that was just something to motivate myself because like I said, I always felt like I was fighting from underneath, so to speak. And that was just my mindset that I was gonna just keep fighting.”

On fans who preferred Edge during their tag team days:

“Well again it’s just I go out there and you can’t control [the reaction]. You have to have thick skin in this business or any [business] when you’re out there in front of people because you’re gonna read things about yourself that aren’t flattering, that you don’t like, or people are always gonna have an opinion, especially now with social media. People just will say whatever they want and say things about you and think that. How do you convert them into being fans? You just got to keep going out there and doing your thing, putting in hard work and grinding. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. If people appreciate it, they do, if they don’t, they don’t. That’s where I’m at at this stage of my career. If people don’t like me, I don’t really care.”

On doing the best work of his career:

“So like I said, when I got my career back after being retired for seven years, it was a gift to get it back. And it wasn’t just enough to get it back for me. Okay, I got it back, that’s great. Now, it’s like, how far can we push it? How far can we go with it? I had seven years of lost time to make up for, I didn’t feel like I had accomplished everything that I accomplished. Was I content with what I accomplished? Yes. But did I feel like I’d accomplished everything that I could accomplish? Not even close. So the goal was even to prove at an advanced age that you can still go out there and do it if you apply yourself and you push yourself. It’s taking chances and risks to write. Sometimes you have to go and do things that other people are unwilling to do to stand out and that’s what I’m doing.”

On being allowed to say what he says in his promos:

“I’ve never told anybody what I’m gonna say. Never had it cleared with anybody. I’ve never asked anybody, I just go out there and do it. It’s one of those things, you have to be willing to go places that others are unwilling to go in order to stand out, especially in this day and age. I saw an opportunity that I could jump on, I took it and I rode it, and sometimes things happen you’re not expecting to happen. I said one phrase and it turned into a wildfire. I just embraced it and ran with it.” 

On ‘Go f*ck yourself’:

“When he hugged me, and most of the time, 99.9% of the time, you’d hear somebody say no, yes or no. I wanted to leave people’s jaws on the floor with my response, something so out of left field that they weren’t gonna believe that was my response to my childhood lifelong friend. Closer than friends, brothers. I just wanted something that would just get people talking, and it did. I was at a Tool concert. I went in to watch soundcheck and guitarist Adam Jones. I could see him whispering to his security guy that knew that I was there. And he pointed over to me. He’s playing, getting ready for his big show. He looks at me and goes ‘Go f*ck yourself’ from the stage.”

On targeting late fathers: 

“Yeah, like I said, I don’t even know how this happened, it just did. It’s like when a shark senses blood in the water, you attack it. So that’s what happened. I saw an opportunity in that and I attacked it. Like I said, the only way to stand out to me in this day and age is to be different. And it’s hard to be different when a lot of things have been done or are being done, and it’s very much a copycat business, if something’s working, you see people start to do it. I’m seeing the influence that a lot of characters not just on our show, but on other shows as well. So when that happens, you start saying, Okay, what I’m doing is working here.”

On where the viciousness comes from:

“I don’t know. It’s like something happens when you step through that curtain, you can’t explain it. I don’t know, I’ll just like look for one thing or one response from the crowd. And then we’ll just kind of roll with that. And go with it.”

On being told he couldn’t wrestle again:

“So the last one [consuccion] that happened, I was kicked in the back of the head. I didn’t lose consciousness but I did have spins, I was spinning, I couldn’t stop spinning and things like that. So they sent me to the concussion center at USF University of South Florida in Tampa. At that point in time too I’m pretty sure that I had post-concussion syndrome. And I probably should have maybe even rested before I started to do these other tests, because I was still having issues, obviously. And anyway, I failed the tests. And I didn’t think anything, they didn’t tell me that I failed them at that point in time. So then I had to go to Washington and this was right before WrestleMania. And I think I was in some sort of multi-man match. I can’t remember what it was. But I saw all the names on the board except for mine for this match, and I was like, that’s weird. So I went into the training room, and I was like, does anybody know why my name is not on this list? And they said I think somebody’s going to talk to you a little bit later. I was like, that doesn’t sound good. So yeah, we got pulled aside a little bit later and they said they were going to medically disqualify me. So it was taken out of my hands, I had no choice in the matter. I couldn’t say, okay, yeah, do you want me to rest for six months? [They said] We’re medically disqualifying you, you’re not allowed to do this anymore.”

Were they saying this was permanent?

“They said it was permanent. I never was sent back to have it reassessed after any amount of time, to be honest with you, so that’s why I took it at face value. I just thought that was probably what was best for my health and all those sorts of things. So then when I got myself back in physical shape at where I wanted to be, I decided that I will go back to that same place that retired me at the USF concussion center and that I wouldn’t tell anybody about it and I would just see what happened from that. So I did the tests and the doctor came in after the test and he said, your test scores were great, you were above average on everything. You weren’t below average on any of your test scores. He said, What are you looking to do? I said I’m looking to finish my career on my own terms, if you’re telling me that I’m crazy, then it’s fine. I’m in no different position than I was when I woke up this morning. But if you tell me that I can do this, it’s opening up doors and opportunities for me. He said I don’t think you’re crazy at all, If you want to do this, you can do it. So then I was motivated even more to get myself back in shape. I’ve never been of the opinion to be like, Hey, if you do this for me, I’ll do this for you. I’ve never been that kind of guy. I’ve always been like, this is what I bring to the table. So then I was super motivated to get back in the best shape of my life, and then go back to whatever entity it was and say, I’m ready to go. If you hire me, this is what you get, instead of hey, if you hire me, I’ll get back in shape in a couple of months. You can’t do that. That’s not the right way to approach it.”

Were you cleared when you had that unsanctioned match on Raw?

“I was not. [But you took a punt?] Probably not the smartest thing to do, but there were ways around it at the time in the Performance Center. So that’s what we did. But I was not happy about that day, because I felt that I could do more. And then when the ratings came in, it was the highest-rated show in a long time. I was like, wow, people really thought I was gonna wrestle and they were excited to see me wrestle. I feel like I kind of let them down. So that was another thing that was in my head that is this how I want to go out? It was unsanctioned. Do I want that to be the last memory people have of me being in the ring?”

On not returning to WWE full-time after the Royal Rumble return:

“I think we were back and forth a little bit and we never got as far as numbers or anything like that. I think it was more like scheduling stuff like what I was willing to do. I think we were trying to get some traction there. A friend of mine, Jon Moxley, called me and we were talking and when he found out that I wasn’t signed he was blown away by that. And he said you should have a conversation with Tony Khan. I was like, I don’t know. And he said, Well, you’re actually an idiot if you don’t, you hold all the cards here. He said you have the ability to pick where you refinish your career.”

On his hyped AEW signing:

“You know how wrestling fans are, right? Nothing’s ever good enough. So when my name was announced, there were some people that were thinking it was going to be somebody else, maybe hoping it was going to be somebody else. I mean, there were a lot of people who were happy with me too. But when you do something like that, that’s not a surprise. When you hype something, you’re giving people the opportunity to have an opinion. Either good or bad and they’re gonna voice that after. I heard all those things that were said after, that maybe it wasn’t big enough for the hype and all those sorts of things. When we were doing these press conferences after I took the TNT Championship, which was basically thrown on the scrap heap, and I revived that title to make it at one point, I’ll die on this hill, that it was as prestigious, if not more prestigious than the world title when I had that run. We were main eventing WrestleDream with it. We were sitting in the scrum after and I had my opportunity to basically say there were people and there’s a lot probably a lot of people in this room that thought that the signing was overhyped, and I just wanted to make them eat their words.”

On when he will retire:

“I always said that I would do it till it wasn’t fun. And that was my barometer on it. How can I not be having fun right now? have no timeline, I signed a contract. I think I have another three years left on this contract. So we’ll get to the end of that, and then see what happens. But you know, I feel like, I have a lot of knowledge. I feel like I don’t know everything, but I know a lot. And I feel like, I think the business differently and I layout matches and I see matches differently than other people do. I would like to, at some point, when the time is right to obviously give back to the business that has done what it’s done for me.” 

On having his original finisher stolen:

“Marc Mero stole my TKO. So funny story, he was training to come back from an injury and I was training at Bret Hart’s place in Calgary. When we were training, I did a version of the diamond cutter where I would scoop the guy up onto my shoulders, but I’d spin them off and hit a cutter out of the air. So I did it in the match. And Mark was sitting on the floor watching. He said hey, can you do that again? So I did it again and then he said to me, Hey, man, you want to grab a bite to eat And I was like, Sure. So when we grabbed a bite to eat and then we were just talking about some Japanese wrestling and some different stuff. And then he said, Hey, I’m going back in about a month. I said, okay, cool. And he goes, would you mind if I use that finish? I was like, this is a guy that’s already signed. This is when he was coming back with the boxer gimmick with the shorts and the jacket and the whole deal. So I was like, what are you supposed to say? This guy’s is where I want to be. I said Yeah, I’ll think of something else go ahead and use it, take it. And so he was nice enough to buy me dinner. But like I said, Everything happens for a reason and this finish suits me much more.” 

What is Christian Cage grateful for?

“Me, myself and I.”

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