Christian and the Bizarre Deal Between WWE and TNA in 2012

WWE has mostly ignored TNA (or Impact Wrestling as it’s known today) over the years, but in 2012, WWE and TNA negotiated a deal involving Christian that created history!

Christian (the then WWE Intercontinental Champion) at the TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view on June 10, 2012.
Christian (the then WWE Intercontinental Champion) at the TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view on June 10, 2012. [Photo: Impact Wrestling YouTube Channel]

The One Night Trade Between TNA and WWE

In terms of viewership and where the big money is, WWE has always been at the top of the pro wrestling mountain. That said, there’s no denying that TNA / Impact Wrestling has been a genuine alternative for many fans over the years.

Although WWE won’t ever publicly acknowledge Impact as competition, WWE has strict rules not to mention them on air. Instead, Impact has been referenced in cryptic ways. See for yourself below:

With WWE essentially ignoring TNA’s existence over the years, it was truly a bizarre timeline on June 10th, 2012, when the WWE Intercontinental Champion showed up at TNA’s Slammiversary pay-per-view!

What led to this one-night-only rare occasion consisted of a bit of swift business between the two companies. This wasn’t a case of Christian going against WWE orders and randomly appearing in TNA. This inevitably would have led to legal issues. Instead, a plan was put in place that benefitted both companies at the time.

In 2012, WWE was inducting The Four Horsemen into the WWE Hall of Fame. The problem was Ric Flair, although coming to an end of his TNA contract, was still under contract, and TNA wasn’t going to let him appear without getting something in return. To Christian’s surprise, he was told that he was going to be a key part of this deal. In order for Ric Flair to appear for WWE, TNA wanted Christian back for one night.

Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, JJ Dillon, and Ric Flair (while still under TNA contract) at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame.
Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, JJ Dillon, and Ric Flair (while still under TNA contract) at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame. [Photo: WWE.com]
TNA’s side of the deal was the most intriguing to come out of this. Ric Flair wasn’t active in the ring at that point and would wind up making a WWE appearance later that year in December after being relieved of his TNA contract. Christian, on the other hand, was very active and a champion for WWE. This created an extraordinary dynamic.

Watch: Ric Flair, Under a TNA Contract, Appears on WWE Television

Christian on Getting the Call to Appear For TNA in 2012: “I thought I was being ribbed!”

Reports at the time claimed that Christian was quite uncomfortable with the idea of appearing in TNA. If it were up to him, he wouldn’t have done it. But being a key part of the deal, Christian was told to cooperate.

Christian has since refuted these reports of negativity.

“Yes, I was surprised,” Christian explained on his podcast. “I didn’t expect that to be the phone call I got that day and I was kind of confused as to what was going on. I thought I was being ribbed!”

Christian continued, “I thought it was an honor they asked for me in return for Ric. I thought that was obviously a sign that I meant something and my contributions to that company were important. I didn’t look at it as a negative at all.

“I know for me, there was a ton of paperwork that had to be signed by a lot of people. It was a pretty big deal behind the scenes. It was one of those things. It was kind of cool and should maybe even be talked about more than it is.”

Watch: Christian, Under WWE Contract, Appears for TNA / Impact Wrestling in 2012

Looking back, TNA President at the time Dixie Carter didn’t use this negotiation with WWE to TNA’s full advantage. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that WWE would have allowed TNA to promote Christian’s appearance ahead of time on their go-home show leading up to the Slammiversary. Nevertheless, Dixie chose to keep the announcement exclusive to Twitter to get the internet buzzing, even though she could have done that as well as promote Christian’s appearance on television.

Why Christian Returned to Impact Wrestling

It wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense for TNA to do a swap deal with WWE for a wrestler that didn’t have any history with them. WWE would have likely turned down any idea of that ever happening anyway. As he was known in TNA (and now in AEW), Christian Cage was a choice that made perfect sense for this one-time agreement due to his pedigree with the promotion.

Christian’s run with TNA began towards the end of 2005, debuting at their Genesis pay-per-view.

It was in TNA where Christian’s potential as a main eventer came to fruition. He showed that he could indeed be at the top of the card consistently, and he won two NWA World Championships in the process.

By the back end of 2008, after three years of being one of the top performers in the company, Christian’s TNA contract expired, and he would make his return to WWE a couple of months later, a return that was infamous for some awful commentary.

Christian’s time in TNA was the first time he had a chance to prove himself as a main eventer. His tenure in TNA was so well-received that there was even speculation that he would be the inductee into their Hall of Fame on the night he was appearing as a WWE contracted wrestler. However, that honor instead went to Sting, and Christian was brought in to make the announcement.

Ric Flair and Christian, the two men that WWE and TNA organized a swap-deal for.
Ric Flair and Christian, the two men that WWE and TNA organized a swap-deal for. [Photo: WWE]
After returning to WWE in 2009, Christian won two World Heavyweight Championships before his premature retirement in 2014 due to concussion issues. Still, it is not remembered nearly as fondly as his World Title reigns in TNA. The two World Heavyweight Championship reigns in WWE totaled less than a month combined, and even as a World Champion, Christian never got to compete for them at the main event level as that was reserved for the WWE Championship.

Christian Shares His Thoughts on his Time With TNA / Impact Wrestling

Christian’s impact (no pun intended) in Impact Wrestling was a positive one for him and those who worked closely with him. Former TNA President Dixie Carter was reportedly gleeful at a Q&A session in 2014 when she was asked, “Who would you most like to see make a return to TNA?” Without hesitation, she answered: “Christian.”

On the E&C Pod of Awesomeness, co-hosted alongside life-long friend Edge, Christian had this to say about his time in TNA:

“I’m not ashamed of my time in TNA at all. I’ve talked about it before. I was very proud of the stuff I did in TNA. I enjoyed my time there. I thought TNA was at its best at that time, not because I was there, but with all the talent they had.”

Christian continued, “You look at the talent; they were young in their career, look at where they are now. It did a lot for me and gave me a lot of confidence to go and prove to myself that I could be a main event guy. So for that, I always thank them for the opportunity that they gave me there. Dixie Carter treated me very well.”

Christian as NWA World Heavyweight Champion with TNA.
Christian as NWA World Heavyweight Champion with TNA.

With Christian ending his retirement and returning to full-time competition for AEW, Christian has a chance once again to shine in the main event. And with AEW president Tony Khan admitting that Christian is one of his all-time favorite wrestlers, it’s going to be fascinating to see how things play out over the next couple of years. With AEW and Impact Wrestling having a working agreement, perhaps we’ll soon see Christian Cage back in the Impact Zone!

As for whether or not WWE would ever work out a deal like this with their competition again, well, stranger things have happened. In the current climate, nothing appears impossible!

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Braeden Farrell
Braeden Farrell is a senior writer for Pro Wrestling Stories. He is a long-time fan of wrestling based out of Adelaide, Australia. He can be reached on Twitter @braedenfazza.