Christian Cage has discussed his contract status with WWE and the misconceptions he felt surrounded it before joining All Elite Wrestling.
Cage stunned the wrestling world when he debuted for AEW as the ‘hall of fame worthy’ surprise that was promised by Paul Wight. Making his debut appearance at the Revolution pay-per-view, Cage made his way to the ring before signing his AEW contract then and there.
Speaking to Chris Jericho on the Talk Is Jericho podcast, Cage stated that he thought many people assumed he still had a deal with WWE. However, that was not the case.
Christian Cage explained:
“I think that was a misconception for a long time that I was [under contract with WWE]. Because I had done so much stuff with WWE still. The Fox deal was separate from WWE but I had always been around and done different things. I was just kinda on a nightly [deal]. I was never under a contract so I just think that maybe because I was always around people just assumed that was the case but it obviously wasn’t.”
Jericho then asked Cage about his Royal Rumble appearance in January 2021. Cage went back further, to the summer when he first received medical clearance to get back in the ring.
Christian Cage described going to an old friend to help get back inside the ropes:
“So to backtrack a little bit more, going back even further. When I got that [medical] clearance, it was mid-pandemic and everything shut down. Adam [Edge] had a ring up at his house in North Carolina. So I talked to him and said ‘hey why don’t I just drive up there for a few days and I’m gonna get in the ring and see how I feel.’ This is before I even started working out, literally I had just got my clearance a week or two before.”
“I went up there and I got in the ring for about 45 minutes to an hour. Adam was hurt so it was myself and Beth [Phoenix]. Beth was beating me up [laughs]. We didn’t really do a match or any of that but I just took some bumps, hit the ropes, and just kinda rolled around. I did a few things and just got the feel for it. I was winded and sore and banged up just from that. Your body kinda builds up a callus from all that repetition from taking bumps and obviously all that was gone from not doing it for 7 years. So my neck was sore, my shoulders were a little sore, I felt it for a while after. Then I started on the training and the diet.”
Cage expanded on this, stating that he didn’t want any setbacks in the ring slowing down his ultimate goal to return:
“In my head, I was like I’m not gonna get back in the ring because I need to get myself physically where I want to be. If I’m in the ring I risk you know, jamming a shoulder or getting hurt and that sets the other part back. So why don’t I get myself physically how I want to be and then we’ll have plenty of time to get back in the ring. I’ll probably have a few month’s notice and that point and I can get back in and get the reps in. I was solely focused on getting back in shape, not so much the in-ring part.”
Cage then discussed the rumours and whispers of him returning at the Royal Rumble. Eventually, the decision came at the last minute for Cage to be a surprise entrant in the men’s Rumble match.
“All these months past and I’d heard a little bit of rumbling of something in the Rumble but then no, that’s not gonna happen. That was probably a month out so just didn’t really think about it again. Then the Rumble was on the Sunday night and so Friday night at about 7.30 pm I get a phone call saying ‘we don’t think there’s a big enough surprise in this Rumble, would you wanna come back and do it?'”
“And I thought about it for like a second and all the things kinda go through your head you know, I don’t have any kind of deal or anything like that. But I always bet on myself anyway. I legit hadn’t been in the ring since June, that was Edge’s place. And before that, it had been 7 years. I was like ‘hopefully it’s like riding a bike and I’ll just pick it right back up.'”
“So what I did was, they obviously have rings backstage in different areas. I was like ‘maybe I’ll be able to sneak in the ring and hit the ropes and this and that’ but there were people in those rings all day. So I couldn’t even do it because I’m the surprise. Legit, I didn’t get changed until the match before the Rumble was in [the ring] and I got changed and walked out and everybody in the hall was like ‘oh my God.'”
Stars making surprise appearances are sometimes kept separate from the rest of the locker room. Even stowing away on a tour bus so word of their attendance doesn’t leak out. Cage noted how this wasn’t a concern as those backstage were so familiar with him being around.
“I wasn’t even on the bus, I was there hanging out for the day. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for me to be there. I was there like 3 weeks earlier doing stuff for the WWE Network. It’s not like I’m not around so people were used to seeing me around.”
“When the match actually started I knew I had about 40/45 minutes before I had to be in there. I got in a ring, hit the ropes about 5 times, took about 5 bumps just to get that initial shock into your system. Then I was like ‘alright, that’s gonna have to do it.’ Then I went out there and did it.”
Jericho then asked Christian Cage how it felt to go to the ring not surrounded by screaming fans but rather by giant screens instead. The Royal Rumble emanated from the WWE ThunderDome. Where fans appear on giant screens to replicate a crowd during the pandemic era.
For Christian Cage, it was as good as could be without actual fans there:
“Well, it was obviously not the same but it was still cool because you could still see faces on the screen – you can more so see the faces on the screen than you could with a live crowd. There’s noise and you can see the reaction of the people on the screens so that’s cool. I’d done a couple of things in the Performance Center obviously with that unsanctioned match, which was super weird when there’s nothing there. It’s strange. But it was as good as an environment as you possibly could put without an actual crowd being there so I appreciated that.”
“It was a good feeling, it felt great. I thought I was gonna be nervous before I walked through that curtain. I stood there and I was cool as a cucumber man. It was like I was born to do this. There’s nothing to be nervous about because I put the work in – other than getting in the ring. But yeah, it wasn’t like going out and having a singles match, the Rumble it’s a different kinda animal. So I went out there and thankfully it went good and got a lot of positive feedback. People saying ‘you look like you never missed a step’ which was great and that gave me some more confidence. It just kind of rolled from there.”
During the podcast, Chris Jericho also revealed that TNT has told AEW they don’t want any more surprise debuts on their show. Rather TNT wants prior notice so they can advertise any appearances in advance.
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