How Edge & Christian's Respective World Championship Pursuits Mirrors Their Success In 2006
The 47-year-olds find themselves as World Title challengers once more...
The following things have taken place in the world of sports in 2021:
* Tom Brady, now 43 years old, became not only the oldest player to win a Super Bowl, but also the oldest-ever Super Bowl MVP. His very first Super Bowl victory (as well as MVP honors) came all the way back in 2002.
* Phil Mickelson (who won his first golf major way back in 2004) became the first man aged 50 or over to win a major tournament, when he captured the PGA Championship in May, at exactly age 50.
* Helio Castroneves, at 46, became the fourth-oldest winner of the Indianapolis 500 in May. A four-time Indy winner, Castroneves first won this race back in 2001.
While none of the three are quite old enough to collect social security, their recent successes in sports that tend to favor youth leads me to dub 2021 "The Year of the Old Man".
If only Chris Jericho still reigned as AEW World champion.
Alas, there are two other aging Canadians in the World title scene that we get to talk about here today.
It only seems appropriate that 47 years old apiece, Edge and Christian Cage have their respective sights set on World titles presently held by much younger men.
While I don't expect Edge to bring down "Head of the Table" Roman Reigns, or Christian to be the one to end Kenny Omega's stranglehold on the AEW title, it is cool to see one of the Attitude Era's most transcendent duos continue to thrive in a big way, even if they're thriving in separate worlds.
It's also pretty impressive to see just how much of Edge and Christian's lives have mirrored the other. Childhood friends in Ontario, came up on the Canadian indies together, were signed to the WWF within a year of each other, left their mark as a duo, left their mark as singles stars, endured long periods of forced retirement due to injuries (nine years for Edge, seven for Christian), and each made a surprising return in a Royal Rumble match.
So it's only appropriate that their respective first World title wins occurred just five weeks apart.
Fifteen years ago, across two different promotions, the men once billed as brothers enjoyed milestone moments in front of wildly-cheering crowds, as each stood atop of a national promotion for the very first time.
Let's begin with Edge.
Earmarked for future greatness from the time he'd appeared in those oddly-tinted debut vignettes in 1998, Edge possessed an undeniable "it factor" - right height, rock star good looks, and obvious physical charisma (though we wouldn't get to appreciate his mic skills for some time).
Paired with Christian, we saw one of the best versions of Edge ("Long live the stream." "Long live the 'zoo."), but a break-up was going to inevitably happen - after all, each had potential as singles stars. And the taller, more bombastic Edge was a bit closer to a WWE main event prototype than most others.
Singles accolades piled up for Edge, but...something was missing. By 2004, Edge was main event-adjacent, but something was keeping him from crossing that last bridge, and becoming the top guy that seemed to be his destiny.
As a singles babyface, Edge was great at antagonizing heels like Kurt Angle, William Regal, and Eddie Guerrero, but his antics felt very "upper midcard". Playing it more angry and straightforward in 2004, Edge warred with the likes of Kane and Randy Orton and, while still well-regarded, the angrier, hellacious bent he'd put on felt just that - put on.
Edge is better served as an antagonistic sort, but there had to be a better way to harness that charisma, a way that would crystallize him as a true main eventer.
Character bitterness led to a necessary heel turn in late 2004. But the real juice came from some real life acrimony.
While not a pleasant topic of discussion, Edge's real-life affair with Lita inadvertently put the final puzzle piece in place. When the public realized what had transpired away from the kayfabe construct, both Edge (already a heel) and Lita (still a babyface) earned tons of open disdain from arena crowds.
Making the best of a non-ideal situation, WWE put Edge and Lita together as an unapologetic power couple, imbuing them with a sleazy rock star motif that each played to a hilt. Now the boos fit the story, because Edge and Lita were self-absorbed villains, a sort of Bonnie and Clyde-meets-Tommy Lee and Pamela.
Most fans eventually forgot about the real life motivation for their connection, and came to view the two as one of the best acts on Monday Night Raw. It was the boost Edge needed, however unintentional.
And Edge, he may as well have been a babyface the night of January 8, 2006.
It was that night in Albany, NY, at WWE's New Year's Revolution, that "The Rated R Superstar" became the first person to ever cash in a Money in the Bank briefcase. With WWE champion John Cena bloodied and belaboured following an Elimination Chamber match, Edge picked the carcass clean en route to his first ever WWE title.
Young Adam Copeland may have had elaborate daydreams of winning the belt after a long and gruelling match, but the real-life occurrence took less than two minutes. The wildly-cheering crowd probably made up for the dearth of action, however, as the Albany fans wildly cheered as "literally anyone" beat Cena.
He'd only reign with the belt for three weeks, dropping it back to Cena at the Royal Rumble, but there'd be ten more World title reigns to follow. And arguably, this was the Edge World title win we remember the most.
While Edge was preparing to take the air out of Cena with one more spear, "little brother" Christian was getting primed for his own star moment.
A few months previous, Christian parted ways with WWE, leaving Edge and so many memories behind. After a seven year run in New York, Christian began to realize that there was an impenetrable ceiling hovering overhead that he wasn't quite permitted to break. Though he had the charisma and the in-ring ability, and had demonstrated great chemistry with all of WWE's top guys (especially new made man Cena), Christian wasn't getting greenlit for a World title run any time soon.
With that in mind, come the dawn of November, Christian officially walked away from WWE at the expiration of his contract. Less than two weeks later, "Captain Charisma" debuted at TNA's Genesis pay-per-view, making his debut entrance to what's virtually the same theme song he uses today in AEW.
Contrary to the weaselly, snivelling, obnoxiously-sarcastic heel he'd played for years in WWE (those adjectives are complimentary, by the way), Christian Cage came into TNA as a focused, brave-hearted hero, a star attraction with the foundation of a white-meat babyface. He may have been minus some of the quirks that made the WWE version so fascinating (especially the penchant for "ironic" freestyle rapping), but this Christian was one a growing TNA, and its fanbase, could groove to.
Immediately, Christian was pushed as a top guy. Quickly, he began piecing together a considerable win streak, besting the likes of Monty Brown, Bobby Roode, and Chris Harris of America's Most Wanted. He also enjoyed an on-screen connection with the legendary Sting.
And before long, he set his sights on NWA World champion Jeff Jarrett.
While TNA has certainly been criticized for the swiftness with which they swipe aside their homegrown guys in order to push an outsider to the top, you can't really blame them for going all in with Christian in this period. Considering all of his upside, the lack of already-established main eventers, and the need to appeal to WWE fans, Christian was a great representative for the title.
The match was set for Against All Odds on February 12 in Orlando. Referee Earl Hebner made his TNA debut in this match, lending credence to the notion that maybe, just maybe, Hebner's proclivity toward screwing over Canadian heroes might rear itself at the worst possible time.
But it didn't. Instead, following a bit of classic TNA main event overbooking, Christian overcame the typical onslaught of chicanery, planting Jarrett with the Unprettier (Killswitch) to snare the gold.
It may not have been a 20,000 seat arena, or a WrestleMania stadium setting, but seeing 800 Impact Zone fans practically devolve into a wild mosh pit following the three count made for great copy.
Just like that, within the first six weeks of 2006, both Edge and Christian won their respective first World titles. They were each 32 then, hitting the primes of their wrestling careers.
In 2021, both aged 47, they're knocking on the doors of the modern champions. And again, while I'm not holding my breath on them unseating Reigns or Omega, there's just something quaint about seeing this synchronicity of their careers pick up once again.
And as Brady, Mickelson, and Castroneves have demonstrated, there really is something cool about seeing "the old guy" continuing to win in a young man's game.
Neither Edge nor Christian wrestles like an old guy, of course. And I suspect that will remain evident when they have their matches against the top guys in their respective organizations.