Friday 30 March 2012

(Captain) Charisma Vacuum

When Christian was sidelined with an ankle injury last November I wrote that it was a blow to SmackDown and WWE in general (read more on that here). A talented performer who’d been through one of the best years of his career was out of action at a time when the company desperately needed him. I stated that the positive thing was that he would likely be back in time for the Royal Rumble.

That didn’t happen. Christian was not seen on our screens again (besides a brief appearance on the Slammy Awards edition of RAW in December) until Elimination Chamber in mid-February. On that show he came to the ring to endorse John Laurinaitis’s campaign to become General Manager of SmackDown (and, presumably, permanent GM of RAW).

Up until this week’s RAW Christian was scheduled to wrestle on Team Johnny at WrestleMania XXVIII. Storyline-wise that will no longer happen because of a beating he received at the hands of CM Punk. In reality his ankle still has not healed sufficiently for WWE’s medical team to be comfortable with him working a match.

That’s a disappointment and a questionable ruling. Christian was deemed fit enough to take a pasting from the WWE champion so surely he’s capable of walking to the ring in tights and standing on the apron for the majority of a tag bout. With Team Johnny v Team Teddy being a twelve man match it would have been incredibly easy to have ‘The Instant Classic’ tag in just once or twice for key spots, leaving his teammates to carry the bulk of the match.

He may not be in action on Sunday but he is at least likely to remain a part of proceedings at ringside. For a man of Christian’s ability level that should be enough. The guy doesn’t need the spotlight, he works fine as a bit part player. With CM Punk having been credited for putting Christian back on the injured list there’s a good chance they’ll be feuding when the Canadian returns to TV. That’s a big positive too.

Of course, WWE doesn’t have to write him off of TV again after WrestleMania. There are numerous things a guy of Christian’s talents could do without being an active wrestler. How about trying him out as a commentator? I’m not proposing he start calling RAW, but he could be given a month-long run on Superstars to see if it’s something he’s good at and wants to do. Jerry Lawler’s not getting any younger and WWE needs to start hunting for a replacement. Booker T is amusing and as a former World champion brings credibility to the role, but he isn’t lead colour commentator material.

This should be a regular scene until Christian's ankle is better
Were NXT operating under its old rookie-pro dynamic (as I’ve advocated before) Christian could excel on the show. A thirteen week season (as NXT used to be before the current, never-ending, fifth season began) would give him enough time to heal up while still contributing to WWE’s television product.

More realistically a win for Team Johnny could see Christian return to our screens in some sort of on-air authority figure role until he’s ready to begin wrestling again. A pro-heel Christian helping to run SmackDown would give the guy something to do and help to reinvigorate the brand. It would also be a less predictable approach than simply having Laurinaitis rocking up on both shows ruling in favour of the bad guys on a weekly basis.

One final option: make Christian a manager! The manager role is incredibly undervalued in the modern wrestling business in general but nowhere more so than WWE. When used correctly managers help to disguise the weaknesses of their charge by talking for them and drawing some of the crowd’s attention with their antics at ringside. ‘Captain Charisma’ is regarded as one of the best talkers in wrestling and is brilliant at riling up audiences. A lower card heel would benefit greatly from an association with the former World champion. Personally I’d pair him up with The Mid-Card Mafia and start using the unit on SmackDown in addition to NXT, but that’s just me.

A nagging ankle injury has kept Christian from our screens for four months now. WWE should be looking for a way to make use of him in any way they can. He’s too good to be sitting at home waiting.

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