TNA does a good job of driving me absolutely crazy with their weekly TV show. I recently started to DVR the show again because there were so many guys I love to watch. Samoa Joe. The greatest tag team in wrestling today, The Motor City Machineguns. Jay Lethal. AJ Styles. Homicide. Hell, pound for pound I think Jeremy Borash is the best ring announcer in wrestling. Unfortunately, every week I'm reminded of why I gave up watching TNA a while ago. The amount of stupid skits and screwy match finishes are enough to drive even the most tolerant man out of his mind. I believe the last iMPACT alone had like 75 skits with Kurt and Karen angle. Forget firing the writers. Fire the guy who looks at the finished script and doesn't question whether anyone's lost their mind.
Anyway, another guy I really enjoy in TNA is Christian Cage. No one loved WWE's Attitude Era more than me (well, maybe Vince Russo as he's unfortunately digging TNA a grave by copying stuff a decade old) and my favorite part was not Austin or the Rock, it was the Hardyz and Edge and Christian. These are the guys who took me from being a guy who liked wrestling to becoming a rabid wrestling fan. They were something fresh and innovative. Christian has gone from being the silent part of the Brood (delivering those cool as heel Blood Baths) to one of the best talkers in the business. Cage also improved his look ten fold with a sharp hair cut and better physique while having good matches with a variety of opponents. It was about time he was given a chance to develop his breakout character rather than just being another high profile job guy in WWE after they realized Edge was the guy they were going with.
So I was looking forward to watching my first TNA DVD in a long time. Christian Cage: The Instant Classic: Separated into two main parts (Matches and Interview), the DVD starts off with seven full matches featuring Cage taken from various PPVs and iMPACT shows. The matches include the following:
1) Christian Cage vs. Jeff Jarrett (for the NWA world title) from Against All Odds 2006 - This match took place in February 2006 and came not too long after Cage made his TNA debut in November of 2005. That was a pretty big deal as Cage was the first significant jump from WWE single's star to the greener pastures of TNA. Making his debut in this match was referee Earl Hebner, the most famous and infamous referee in the history of professional wrestling according to Bret Hart's new book. The Hebners (Earl and his brother Dave, who also works for TNA) were unceremoniously let go from WWE in July, 2005 after some sort of bizarre merchandise scandal that is still almost impossible to get the definitive truth on. Jarrett had the strap going into the match and had held the belt for over two and a half years of TNA's four year existence. Everyone in the crowd and watching at home was dying for Jarrett to drop the belt and then hopefully drop off the face of the planet. Shockingly, Jarrett did lose to Cage in one of TNA's most memorable moments as the fans hit the ring to celebrate with Cage as he finally "shattered the glass ceiling," according to Mike Tenay. Readers of my long time Wrestling Enjoyment Index will note that I suggested they take the show closing image of Cage being swarmed by fans and make a t-shirt with the phrase "Join the Christian Coalition!" TNA ignored that idea, but they did end up using the Coalition name about a year later.
2) 8 Mile Street Fight Cage vs. Rhino Bound For Glory 2006 - This took place in October of 2006 and the story of this match was that it was two former friends battling as both Cage and Rhino had traveled the long roads of Canada and the Northern U.S. as they were starting their careers. In fact, Rhino was actually the first wrestler in the ring to congratulate Cage on his title win over Jarrett in the match above. This PPV also took place outside of the Impact Zone in Orlando as it was taped in Detroit, Michigan, where Rhino was the hometown favorite. This made for a nice visual and I think everyone agrees that TNA needs to tape at least half their PPVs outside of Florida. Above average hardcore street fight that started outside the arena as the guys made their way towards the ring. Anything and everything was used during the match, including Rhino driving a Zamboni into the arena.
3) Barbed Wire 6 Sides of Steel Grudge Match: Christian Cage vs. Rhino (iMPACT Nov. 16, 2006) - As is often seen in TNA, there are seemingly a million rules for the match and I just wanted to scream when Don West was going over them. Apparently in the weeks leading up to this match Cage and Rhino won a bunch of things they could use during the match (Cage could use bolt cutters while Rhino had keys and a straight jacket. Yes, a straight jacket). The refs would slip these weapons to the wrestlers during the match. This was the first time barbed wire was put on top of the Six Sides of Steel and it visually looked pretty cool. Bloody and brutal match with a Russo-ific finish in which Cage gets gored through the cage door for the win. Good stuff overall.
4) Cage vs. Sting (iMPACT Nov. 23, 2006) - This was a number one contender's match and the winner would fight the monster Abyss for the title. Sting wore a t-shirt throughout the match and it reminded me of the stuff from his movie, The Moment of Truth. God what I wouldn't do for TNA to put out a special edition of that film classic. Jim Cornette did guest color commentary for this match, and he was fantastic, but the match itself didn't actually last for that long. Less than six minutes. This match was also the debut of Tyson Tomko, who ran to the ring and completely destroyed Sting for the finish. I never cared for Tomko in WWE, but I have to say that he's growing on me with his work in TNA.
5) Christian Cage (w/Tyson Tomko) vs. Abyss (w/James Mitchell) vs. Sting (for the NWA Heavyweight title) from Final Resolution 2007 - The winner of this match would not only hold the NWA title, but would go on to face Kurt Angle at the next PPV. It took place in January, 2007. Tomko was barred from ringside and locked into a small cage. An ongoing storyline was that Sting and Jim Mitchell were battling for Abyss' tortured soul. Surprisingly, the champion Abyss was the first man eliminated in the match. Cage ended up winning the match and earned his second title reign to much less fanfare since the finish was a clustermess to end all clustermesses. If you had one match to describe what is wrong with TNA, this would be it. I can't even imagine why this would be on a Best of Christian DVD outside of the fact that he won a title in it. There is no possible way Cage looks back at this match and thinks, "now that was a good one." Overbooked nonsense.
6) Christian Cage (w/Tomko) vs. Kurt Angle (for the NWA World Heavyweight Title) Samoa Joe at ringside as "unofficial enforcer" From Against All Odds 2007 - From February, 2007. Great intro for Angle as he rose up through the stage with a flag draped over his head. Like 25 members of TNA's Goof Squad (a/k/a "Security") escorted Tomko to the back as the crowd chanted the "Goodbye" song. Solid stuff. About a minute later Samoa Joe came to the ring with his own intro. That seems pretty official for an "unofficial enforcer." Joe came out in a t-shirt, jeans, a backwards baseball cap and looked like a fat Sonjay Dutt. Hey, I love Joe, but that's not a good look for him on TV. Solid match between the two until the end in which a million and one things happened. AJ Styles ran to the ring and was chased to the back by Joe. While this was happening you could hear a huge THWACK~! The camera cut back to Kurt Angle lying motionless in the ring. Apparently Christian hit him with a chair. There's a lot of things you could possibly change in TNA, but whoever directs their shows has got to be the first guy out the door. I've never seen so many basic shots completely missed. Imagine watching a football game and the camera pans the cheerleaders as you hear the crowd roar and you find out that a team scored a touchdown. Multiple ref bumps followed. Tomko came back. Scott Steiner ran to the ring. Angle slams. Ankle locks. Ref down through all of this. Christian used a lead pipe shot followed by an Unprettier for the win. It certainly was something, just not in a good way.
7) Christian Cage vs. Samoa Joe (for the NWA World Heavyweight Title) from Destination X 2007 - Joe had his elaborate entrance with dancing women and guys twirling fire. Neat stuff. Joe also had a bunch of streamers thrown on him when he entered the ring for another cool visual. Now THIS was a fantastic match. Hard fought battle that had the crowd going insane for a near fall at the end when Joe hit Cage with a Muscle Buster for a two count. The actual finish was straight out of that WrestleMania when Bret Hart leveraged a sleeper hold from Roddy Piper into a pin. For this match, Joe had The Choke locked on, but the two fell to the mat and Christian ended up pinning him with his feet on the ropes. This was actually pretty damn inventive and Cage was Jack Evans-like in that his legs were over the head of the ref during the pin. I loved it and wouldn't mind seeing them go at it again.
Following the matches, which ran for over two hours and fifteen minutes, came the interview. This is very well down except that it is maddeningly separated into a bunch of different chapters, each with their own title and theme music. The interview is done with Christian talking to a person who is off camera and it is filled with old photographs and video clips. Just fantastic material to work with and Cage is a good storyteller. Here are the chapter titles: The Story, Cage's education, Cage's first jobs, Cage becomes a fan, Cage meets Adam, Cage chases the dream, Cage breaks in, Cage's injuries, Cage's road stardom, Cage on love and marriage, Cage's Downtime, Cage makes the jump, Cage's favorite moments, Cage's motivation, Cage on TNA and beyond, and Cage hangs them up? You get a ton of great stories, starting from when Christian was a young kid, all the way through his early jobs and what led him to wrestling, up to and including his stints in WWE and TNA. It was great listening to Cage talk about going into go-nowhere retail jobs and accomplishing in the first week what people who had been doing the same job for ten or fifteen years were doing. An eye opening experience that made him realize he had to make something out of his life.
While the DVD has to pussy foot a bit when talking about WWE, Cage walked us through how he met Adam Copeland and their rise from the indys to the big leagues of professional wrestling. I totally marked out when Christian was telling his story of being the popular kid in school because he had a ninja throwing star. God, I remember how popular that dumb shit was when I was growing up. It was also cool to hear Cage's perspective on how The Brood started up and realizing how different he was as a performer back then as compared to today. Seeing Cage's TNA debut again was a nice moment and I remembered how refreshing it was at the time to see TNA get a WWE guy that didn't have to leave WWE, but did so on his own terms.
Overall the interview segment was entertaining to watch, but had two key flaws. The first flaw was the fact that it only ran about forty minutes. A guy like Cage needs more time as he knows how to tell a good story. It covered, in some decent depth, the history that I already knew along with a good look at Cage's formative years. A definite no-brainer for fans of Christian and Edge as the DVD has a ton of early pictures and video of those two doing their indy shows. Christian also took the high road and, while he didn't praise WWE, didn't burn any bridges or come across as some sort of bitter ex-employee like so many others have. The second flaw was breaking the forty minute interview into fifteen separate sections, each with their own title screen and music loop. I guess it's not that big of a deal, but after about the tenth one I did start day dreaming of strangling the DVD producer.
BONUS FEATURES: The first extra on the DVD is a feature that takes a look at Christian's home ala MTV Cribs. To start off, Christian talked about how he always dreamed about owning a Porsche when he grew up, so he was especially fond of his 2006 Porsche Cayman S, "a childhood dream come true." Cage then did a quick tour of the outside of his house, "big palm trees, that's Florida" and he pretty much nailed that. As a person from New Hampshire who moved down to Florida last year, it's shocking how many of the houses just look the same down here. The same colors. The same style. The same god damn palm trees. No one has a basement and very few have houses that have a second floor. It's one of the most architecturally boring places in the world. On the section leading to his front door, Christian pointed out that this was where Abyss attacked him before they fought through his house. "I still haven't forgotten that," said Cage. Inside, Cage went through his house room by room and let's just say, he's doing well. Fans will note that in Cage's office he has, among other things, replica title belts. Animal lovers will be glad to hear Cage has four cats and there was a great shot of one of them hiding under the blankets in Cage's master bedroom. Cage went through his walk-in closets and it was looking in a mirror as his wife's was neat and orderly and his was trashed. The only difference at my house is that I don't have anywhere near the amount of shoes that Cage had. That was an Imelda Marcos amount of footwear. Cage went on to the kitchen and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt he's Wade Keller's favorite wrestler as he talked about how much he's into veggie burgers now. Cage also admitted that his four cats eat four different types of cat food, firmly establishing who is really in charge of the household.
In Cage's workout room he had a ton of cool stuff and the TNA BLURRING machine went into overdrive as it had to blur out all the WWE action figures. Cage has a full collection of everything from Jakks or his new TNA figures. In a great bit, Cage showed this goofy gigantic doll of him that was a "one of a kind" because the voice chip was for a Kevin Nash doll. In an odd bit, Cage pointed out two cheap looking plaques for "2005 Memorable Moment of the Year" and "2006 Breakout Star" as voted by TNAWrestling.com fans. These plaques reminded me of the cheap ones I used to win when I played an play by mail wrestling game over a decade ago. Odd seeing a house decorated with so much cool and expensive stuff (Cage's wife is in school for art restoration) and all of a sudden there are two plaques which cost all of $3.99 on the wall. Cage went to his "theatre room" and it was awesome. This is exactly a type of room I would have. Cage even had some movie posters on the wall with lights showcasing them. Shawshank Redemption was one, and had me marking out. Scarface was another. The other high profile one? Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Seriously. "Classics to be sure," said Christian. Hey, I loved all three Pirate movies, but I certainly wouldn't have them as one of three movie posters in my house. For God's sake, Cage, where's Jaws?! Incredible room despite that one bizarre flaw. This turned out to be an awesome twenty minute feature.
Next bonus feature was a match from early in Christian's career as he faced Lance Diamond, who would go on to become Simon Diamond in ECW and "Irish" Pat Kenney in TNA. The match took place for Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling and there looked to be about 100 people in the crowd. Dear god I'm having Super Chico flashbacks. Both Cage and Diamond did color commentary for the match and were a blast to listen to. The match originally took place in 1997 and right away Diamond pointed out he was being managed by Dawn Marie, "of ECW and WWE fame." Diamond then wondered if he could say WWE on this DVD. Apparently so. Dawn has to be seen to be believed as she looked to have a gigantic ass at this point in her career. Diamond told a great story of how cheap he was back at that time. Diamond bought spandex so that he could cut out and sew his own shapes on his trunks rather than pay for it. "A Malenko-Guerrero classic," Diamond called the match before adding that this match took place before Cage became a "sports entertainer" and could still bring it. Christian pointed out that he was distracted due to the very obese woman in the front row that took up two seats. Fun little match and these two were great to listen to.
Next up was an old promo that happened to be Cage's "first ever on-camera interview" with his partner Adam Copeland. They were known as the Suicide Blondes. To set up the tape the DVD had the disclaimer: Cage told us about the significance of the find when we spoke to him by phone. "I completely forgot that was on those tapes – that interview must have been brutal to watch," he said laughing. "We probably used every wrestling cliché in the book." It's actually a fun video to watch as the audio starts off screwed up and doesn't synch up to the video, so it's like watching some badly dubbed Japanese movie from the '70s. A very young Cage and Copeland (WWE's Edge) than cut a goofy promo that included Edge saying, "we're here to kick some booty!"
The last bonus is a series of still photos set to Cage's theme song. Hardcore Christian fans and Cage's wife will probably find this tolerable. Actually, it only last a minute or so – and even that seemed like ten – so I guess it's not too bad. I never understood why they put still-photo galleries on DVDs. Who watches this stuff besides idiots like me?
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Christian Cage: The Instant Classic is an interesting release from TNA that has me looking forward to future non-PPV DVDs from the company. It certainly helps that the spotlight is on Christian Cage, a guy who has been damn entertaining ever since he broke out with Edge back in his WWE heyday. I've been a huge fan of Cage for a long time, and it has been an amazing ride seeing him turn into one of wrestling's most charismatic stars. A good interview section, some good to very good matches (and several with must-see-trainwreck-booking), and a great bonus section make this a worthwhile purchase. I would have liked to see other guys interviewed for the DVD (such as Rhino - a guy who traveled with Cage a lot on the indy scene – or Jim Cornette, who Cage credits with giving him his big break) and increase the run-time of the interview segment at the expense of some of the matches. I also have to say that after hearing it approximately two million times on the DVD, I'm really starting to dig Cage's TNA theme song. I have to get an MP3 of that for my iPod.
CLICK HERE to get your copy of Christian Cage: The Instant Classic delivered to your door. Or head on over to www.TNAWrestling.com for more information. And man, after watching this DVD, I'm dying to get my hands on TNA Wrestling: Year One. I'm going to throw a penny into the wishing well and hope for a chapter on Cheex or the Johnsons…
Guest Booker with Gabe Sapolsky DVD
Roddy Piper in HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN DVD
Ultimate Insiders Presents: Doin' Time with New Jack
The legendary IWA-Japan King of the Death Match tournament featuring Mick Foley and Terry Funk
DVDs: Guest Booker with JJ Dillon, Wrestling Society X: The Complete First and Last Season, XPW TV: The Complete First Season, Before They Were Stars: Samoa Joe, Shoot Interview with Scott Hall, Shoot Interview with The Sandman, Rey Mysterio: Biggest Little Man.
Books: Brody: The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel, , Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. James Hold's Remember the Aloe, Moe.
COMIC BOOKS~! Headlocked, Scarface: The Devil in Disguise.
Derek Burgan can be seen wasting everyone's time with wrestling DVD and comic book reviews over at Wrestling Observer and the world famous Wrestling Enjoyment Index at Figure Four Weekly online~! Don't forget about his Opinion Pieces at World Wrestling Insanity and goofiness at WrestleCrap as well. Whew! Derek can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).