Welcome back to The Grevas Report, my pro wrestling column here on Sports Obsessive. Last week, I discussed AEW & I didn’t plan to make week 2 specific to Tony Khan’s promotion but watching the premiere episode of AEW: Rampage, it became crystal clear what I would be writing about this week. Christian Cage winning the Impact Heavyweight Title from Kenny Omega was a simple, yet the brilliant form of booking that serves so many purposes all at once. Let’s get into it.
Anything Can Happen!
The first thing to bring up here is that AEW premiered a brand new, weekly television show with a major title change. Right out of the gate, they told viewers that this isn’t a “B Show”. This isn’t a show you wait to read results for after it’s aired. If the AEW World Champion can lose a championship on this show, this show is important. It’s simple, almost subliminal messaging.
AEW Rampage is a show I need to watch because anything can happen.
Wrestling used to be full of booking like this, before the sterile, mostly repetitive era we currently live in. Give people something to talk about, something that defies their expectations & they will remember, and more importantly, they will tune in next week. Wrestling at its best is a combination of work rate, characters, and clever booking. This was definitely clever booking.
All Out Is Now More Important
Fans were both shocked and disappointed that Adam Page wasn’t getting his long-awaited title shot against Kenny Omega at All Out. The reaction on Twitter when it was announced that it would be Christian Cage challenging for the title and not Page, was telling. People assumed that it would be an angle and that Christian Cage wouldn’t be the one challenge. That it was somehow a setup for CM Punk’s arrival in the land of Khan and not an actual title match. Little did people know that the angle would come before the match, not during it.
Having Christian Cage be the one to finally put a dent in the armor of Kenny Omega made Christian Cage to an audience that may not be familiar with his best runs. Or fans that might’ve thought that he didn’t have a main event level run in him here. Cage is one of the best storytellers in the business today and he brought out the best in Kenny Omega on Rampage.
So now, the conversation isn’t going to be about waiting for CM Punk to show up but rather, about how Christian Cage was the one to take some belts away from “The Belt Collector”. The main event at All Out is now significantly more important and interesting. We’ve seen champions lose non-title matches to contenders who weren’t thought to be much of a challenge to them before but this was more than a non-title match, it was for a prominent company’s top title. We now have a Champion vs Champion PPV main event.
The AEW / Impact Relationship
Many fans have been under the impression that AEW had gained more and Impact much less out of this new relationship. This title change puts a stop to that. Make no mistake about it, Impact gained a lot here. They have one of their company’s biggest legends, fresh off a win over one of the hottest wrestlers in the world, holding their title again.
If Cage starts going back and forth between the two promotions, then he can be in a position to get in the mix with Impact before he eventually puts over whatever star they want to build next and potentially, even after he loses the title. The Forbidden Door being open is a great thing my friends and Christian Cage working for Impact when he can is great for the company.
The difference between Omega and Cage holding the title is that Omega was always seen as an outsider and Cage is an Impact legend. Even though he’s signed to AEW currently, he spent years in Impact and is “one of their own”. This title change allows the companies to continue working together while giving Impact a sense of credibility back.
Christian Cage & His Legacy
Christian made it clear that he came to AEW because he wanted his final run to matter. He wanted to have the best matches he could, not be regulated to a supporting role, and give back to the business. Beating Kenny Omega in the first match of AEW: Rampage was certainly a career highlight. The quality of matches he’s been having far surpass what he would be doing had he signed with WWE. Being part of a multi-promotion story is significant and allows him to give back to two companies and their locker rooms.
This is what the final run of a wrestler who never got the credit he deserved should look like.
It’s unclear how much longer Cage will be performing in the ring. With his injury history, he’s on borrowed time for sure, but he’s making the most of it. And while he’ll always be remembered for teaming with Edge, this run with AEW, by virtue of their working relationship with Impact, is making his original Impact run more significant, or at least better remembered. Somehow, that run seemed to have been lost to the sands of time and that was a shame. Christian Cage was the first major star to choose Impact over WWE and went on to have a several-year run, working with the likes of Sting, Kurt Angle, Abyss, AJ Styles, and more, that was extremely good. It was always unfortunate that people seemed to forget about that run but opening the forbidden door on this large scale is going to change all of that.
The Adam Page Factor
There will inevitably be some who resent this story between Omega and Cage because they feel like this should be Adam Page’s spot. That’s fair, as it did seem to be the direction this long-term story was taking us. Why AEW teased it only to swerve us, is unclear.
That being said, I don’t think Adam Page is out of the picture. Maybe he shows up in Impact to challenge Cage for that title next? Maybe he costs Omega the title and they finish their feud first before Page makes his run for the AEW gold? Maybe the company didn’t want him to be overshadowed by the impending debuts of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and potentially more? There’s a lot of ways this story can still play out but I do hope that AEW doesn’t wait too much longer to pull the trigger on Page.
There’s a risk of him cooling off or fans investing elsewhere if they wait too much longer.
Simple Booking Is Good Booking
AEW has shown here that storylines can be most effective when they’re simple. Christian Cage winning the Impact title from Kenny Omega made Rampage a can’t miss show, strengthened the relationship with Impact, and made their upcoming PPV more exciting. There was no sense of “oh Omega can never lose under any circumstances” booking. He was protected with the finish and they told their best story. They didn’t need anyone else to interfere or to rush a major debut for the new show. They told a simple story perfectly and got multiple things over at once.
I’m genuinely invested to see where things go from here. I want to see what Cage’s run looks like. I want to see if Omega blames The Bucks. I want to see how the new arrivals factor into these stories, if they do and how and when Adam Page re-emerges into the title picture. AEW has several characters that are of major interest right now and that’s all been achieved through simple, yet logical and exciting stories. I’ve missed that in wrestling.