In All Elite Wrestling’s pay-per-view revolution on March 7th, owner Tony Khan teased a Hall of Fame talent who had signed with the company. He wasn’t kidding: it was Christian Cage who shocked fans as a surprise entrant in the WWE Royal Rumble less than three months earlier.
The decorated performer (real name: Jay Reso) retired due to concussion injuries more than six years ago before being reassessed by doctors. 47-year-old Cage is looking forward to continuing his career and challenging himself and competing against the hungry young stars of the AEW. TV Insider sits down with the hot acquisition to talk about his first impressions of the company and more.
What do you think of your debut at AEW?
Christian Cage: Complete transparency, our first conversations surprised me. I think Tony felt different. The thing is, wrestling fans can be moody, especially on social media. You want the backstage bullets. If you do [mystery] Announcement like this, you have people who want it to be their choice. They will always be people who are super happy or super disappointed. All you can do is control what you can and trust Tony’s vision.
How did Edge’s return to the ring after you retired inspired you to do the same?
It got the seed into my brain that it would be good to go back. It’s hard when something is taken away from you, something that has been all your life. It can be hard to accept.
Was there something that rekindled the spark for you?
When I played the unapproved match with Randy Orton that summer, I was on the “no-contact list”. I thought, “Wow, I’m so fragile that I can’t be touched?” It didn’t suit me well. I felt great. I decided to go to the University of South Florida on my own, see some doctors, do tests, and have a long conversation. I told the doctor I wanted to step back in the ring to end my career on my terms. When he said I could, it opened a couple of doors for me. My test scores and results were good. I did another round of more rigorous testing in Pittsburgh and the doctor there said the same thing, and here we are today.
How did you prepare for the ring?
It was physical training. I was in shape, but when you retire, enjoy barbecuing a little more on the weekends. I had to dial everything back in. I got my diet to the point. I built a small gym in my garage and started getting the job done. I got in the ring probably in late June [last year]. And to be honest, I didn’t get back in the ring until the Royal Rumble. I put in a little more pressure every time.
What do you think of this age discussion based on the trend we’re seeing of veterans in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s wrestling?
There is no other feeling of being in the ring in front of a live audience. We live for that reaction. It’s our bread and butter. With the schedules now very different, it is easier for older talent to continue working at a higher level.
What can young talents do from their short time at AEW to improve their game?
It goes across the board, not just AEW. Everything is going so fast now. It would be great to see them take in the moment more and get more miles out of the things that are being done. This is such a young squad and since they want to stimulate their thirst for knowledge I think everyone will keep improving.
Someone in AEW that you are particularly impressed with?
MJF understands and always understands what it is trying to convey. He has this attitude and confidence that is difficult to teach. He just got it. I look at Darby Allin who has that cool factor about him that Jeff Hardy feels where people just put him on. It’ll be interesting to get this more recent Jeff Hardy-type feud against Darby. I look at the women. Jade Cargill has all the tools to be a big star. Britt Baker does great things. She is the face of the women’s department. She really impressed me and Thunder Rosa. Their match was amazing. The future is pretty much prepared here in AEW.
Do you consider worker Kenny Omega your ultimate challenge?
I think there are some fans who would never have thought of seeing us face to face in the ring. He’s a special talent. We could take each other to a higher level at some point.
AEW has taken some big steps lately, signing you and Paul Wight – people who have been with WWE for decades. Do you think this is what sends the message over the other options that are out there?
I was a free agent. I haven’t been locked up anywhere before [signing with AEW]. I had the opportunity to explore all of my options and did so. When I left WWE [for Impact Wrestling] In 2005 I believed in betting on yourself. You can’t go wrong in doing this. You need to make the best choices for yourself as a person and a performer. For me that choice was AEW.
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