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Seemingly born-again Christian buried again in WWE

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Real-world emotion: Christian at last climbs the ladder of success in WWE.

After Edge announced his retirement on the April 11 RAW–the longest running episodic program in history (coughs)–Twitter was speared with thousands of tweets speculating on not only whether it was a work but also what this meant for Christian if indeed his best friend was stepping aside as the top babyface on SMACKDOWN.

Despite a very natural charisma, entertaining promos and superior workrate, Christian reportedly has never been viewed by Vince McMahon as a top-teir singles superstar, despite his success with Edge in the tag ranks. My point has always been that the same could said for Edge until he was given the chance to run with the ball and develop his character as a singles star to the point he became one of the slimiest heels in the business.

In fact, despite being beaten several consecutive weeks on RAW in 2005, Christian was getting over as Captain Charisma–a classic case of the fans overruling WWE Creative  and getting behind a guy despite his lack of a push. Following Christian getting squashed by Kane in May 2005, I wrote, “All Christian needs is a strong six-month push. Hell, even with all the jobs he’s done of late on TV, the fans–his so-called “peeps”–are increasingly into his corny Captain Charisma gimmick. The guy’s got a bright future as a heel or a babyface down the road.”

The night of the 11th, I tweeted that this represented a golden opportunity for Christian, even though I know he probably didn’t want it at the expense of his buddy no longer able to physically perform and continue living their boyhood dream together.

When World title heir-apparent Alberto Del Rio was drafted to RAW–and Cena was drafted to SMACKDOWN and back again to the flagship show–it appeared that a change of plans was in the works. Instead of “fulfilling his destiny” as World champ on SMACKDOWN, Del Rio seemed destined instead for a SummerSlam main event showdown with Cena, who most expected to regain the WWE championship from Miz at Extreme Rules. With Del Rio already booked for a ladder match for the vacant World title with Christian, who was stepping up in place of his retired former tag partner, it seemed that Jay Reso would finally get his opportunity to reign as the top guy, albeit on the secondary brand.

I speculated on Twitter that if Edge were at ringside for Christian’s coronation,the result would be one of those emotional events that WWE creative struggles to create but seldom fulfills. Not only would Edge and Christian feel the moment, but the joy would permeate throughout the crowd and the “WWE Universe” (ugh) watching on PPV. I’ll give WWE credit: They gave us that moment. Christian’s exultation when snagging the Big Gold belt he’d seen Ric Flair strut around with in the late ’80s as a young fan in Canada was as real as it gets. Realistically, there was probably no way  Christian was going to eclipse Edge’s shadow with the two on the same brand unless he turned heel, but at this point in their careers, I don’t think the fans would have bought into such a scenario. Ironically, Christian’s moment in the sun had to come with Edge riding off into the sunset.

According to Dave Meltzer at The Wrestling Observer, we almost didn’t get this moment. After the draft, the impromptu plan was for Del Rio to go over and then drop the belt to new SMACKDOWN draftee Randy Orton two nights later. Apparently, McMahon was sticking to his steroid-enhanced guns about Christian’s lacking the “it” factor. But that would mean Del Rio still be appearing on SMACKDOWN to defend the belt, with the result clearly spelled out for the fans and further diluting the already weak concept of two “separate” brands.

World beaten: Former NWA champs Christian and Tommy Rich have World title reigns that collectively lasted six days.

Instead, Christian’s powerfully emotional win is erased after a mere 48 hours as champ, suddenly making Tommy Rich’s NWA World title run appear a lot more prestigious by comparison. In his first SMACKDOWN appearance as champion of the world last week (taped last Tuesday, airing on Friday night), Christian dropped the strap to Orton, who has been overexposed in World title match appearances on PPV to the point of ridiculousness.

In a class move, Christian delivered a hell of a performance in dropping the title, seemingly proving a point. The fan reaction to the abrupt title switch was overwhelmingly negative on Twitter, although the live crowd popped like crazy, perhaps more so for the fantastic bout than for Orton regaining the World title he won for the first time at age 24. (Obscure fact: Rich’s victory over Harley Race on April 27, 1981, made him the second-youngest man to win the NWA title, also at age 24.) Perhaps the title win also served to placate Orton, who was probably not thrilled with being moved from the higher-profile live RAW show. Regardless, I think it stinks that Christian didn’t at least get a buildup over the next few weeks to see what his win might mean to the ratings and to the fans. In my not-so-humble opinion, it seems like a misread by McMahon & Co. to not give Christian a chance to defend the title at least once on PPV.

McMahon’s reaction to the criticism will probably be one of defiance: Orton will reign as World champion, while Christian most likely will not even get a PPV rematch and will be relegated to mid-card status by the summer.

Some will argue that McMahon made the right call, as babyface Christian flopped in his reign as NWA champion despite a thrilling win over Jeff Jarrett years back. But that was in TNA, where stars go to die. With the right push by the WWE marketing machine and riding the emotional wave of Edge’s retirement, Christian could have thrived at least short term on top as champion. Supposedly, the whole idea behind the recent WWE Draft was to “shake things up.” But with Cena as champ on RAW and Orton carrying the Big Gold belt, it sure seems like the same old shit to me.

  1. May 9th, 2011 at 10:56 | #1

    at least by being on Smackdown, he got a 2 day reign, as opposed to people like FOley and Kane, who won the title on a PPV Sunday and lost it on Raw the next day.

  2. May 9th, 2011 at 16:11 | #2

    What will probably be the title win of the year gets dampened by possibly the most disappointing title run in WWE history.

    There are things I like about Cena and Orton but I am just so tired about them being on top, bored even. At least with them on separate shows we won’t see them face each other for the 1,000th time with it being touted as a big rare deal.
    This is the type of thing that makes me want to stop watching the product again.

  3. Tyler from Charlotte
    May 9th, 2011 at 16:41 | #3

    I don’t get the fascination with Orton. He doesn’t really move the meter at all as far as I am concerned. I always liked his dad though and the sad thing is that I bet Randy has already made twice the money in his short career as his old man made in 30+ years in the business. Any time I see that guy on the stick I just want to turn the channel…I’d rather be forced to watch Cena than Orton and that is saying something considering my loathing for sports entertainment and pretty much anything that has been done in the last 12-15 years. The guy has been pushed to the moon and is still barely over. He does get a decent pop but he has arguably been pushed as hard as Cena. It is obvious that they are trying to recreate the loner/tweener antihero ala Steve Austin but it just ain’t happening. I have always thought that to really get over you have to be able to talk. I don’t care how good you are in the ring, the guys that made the most money and sold the most tickets (Austin, Rock, Flair, Hogan, etc.) could all talk. Orton is weak at best on the stick and his monotone voice puts me to sleep. Point is I’m just not sold on the guy…maybe I am missing something or likely because I miss most of his stuff due to the fact that I am paying more attention to the Sudoku I am playing than the E’s latest program…

  4. Sal
    May 10th, 2011 at 19:42 | #4

    I was a huge Christian fan back in 2004/2005. Back then, he was the most entertaining wrestler in the business. I still remember being at Wrestlemania 21 live, in my Captain Charisma shirt, marking out like crazy when it looked like Christian had a chance of taking the Money in the Bank.

    Fast forward to last week and I was legitimately excited at the news that Christian had finally won the big one in WWE. I haven’t watched Smackdown in ages, but planned on catching the show to see Christian as champ. That is, until I read the spoilers and found out Orton had won the belt. I don’t think Christian has the potential to be the wrestling world’s biggest star or anything, but I think he’s a great talent and it’s frustrating to see him get his legs kicked out from under his legs (tm Owen Hart) by WWE creative. It’s hard to get into a product that kills anyone who gets over by themselves.

  5. Mike
    May 11th, 2011 at 18:29 | #5

    I just saw Orton’s dad wrestle at an indy show the other night near St. Louis. The “Ace” still has tons of ring presence that he never bothered to include in his son’s DNA.

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