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Brian Cage’s journey from AEW to Ring of Honor and back to AEW

AEW, Brian Cage, Taz, Ricky Starks, Ring of Honor Tony Khan

When Jonathan Gresham exited the tunnel for his first solo match on AEW Rampage ever, a bout for the Ring of Honor World Championship versus Lee Moriarty no less, a familiar face flanked the blue-dressed man in a Cthulhu-looking octopus mask that got the internet buzzing.

No, it wasn’t ex-FTR/Shawn Spears manager Tully Blanchard or even his current tag team employees Kaun and Toa Liona, known collectively as the Gates of Agony. No, it was “The Machine” Brian Cage, who returned to AEW for the first time since October in support of “The Octopus.”

Wait, you may ask, what gives? Wasn’t Cage released, or at least sent home Sasha Banks-style to wait out his contract? Well, in case you missed it, Cage actually had his contract option picked up earlier this spring, and actually made his debut in Ring of Honor earlier this year as the lone solo performer in Tully Blanchard Enterprises. According to Tony Khan, Cage does, in fact, have a place in the two promotions’ future, and, if his time away is of any indication, the performer returning to the AEW/ROH is a much better worker than the one who left, with big-time bouts and a fun inter-promotional tag team to his credit alongside the “Most Blessed” man in MLW.

Brian Cage has found a way to elevate his name outside of AEW.

As crazy as it may sound, Brian Cage is the longest holder of the FTW Championship, outlasting Taz for the honor by a full 158 days.

… what? That isn’t surprising to you, what with how excruciatingly long his time with the belt felt? Well, you aren’t the only one.

Since debuting in All Elite Wrestling as part of the Casino Ladder match at Double or Nothing 2020 live from Daily’s Place, Cage was attached at the hip to Taz. Initially brought in to take care of Darby Allin, who refused to work with the ECW legend presumably in the hopes of a Sting debut, Cage was awarded the FTW Championship on July 2nd, 2020, and kept it for 377 days until the 14th of July 2021, when he lost it to Ricky Starks in a South Philly Street Fight. Over that tenure, Cage was used as a big, brooding baddie who feuded with everyone from Allin to “Hangman” Adam Page, and eventually his former Team Taz teammates, but through it all, his portrait was rather one-note, with little of his individual personality sticking through the cracks.

But once Cage lost the belt, and wrestled out his four-match commitment on the 2021 Jericho Cruise Triple Whammy in October of 2021, “The Machine” officially found himself without anything from creative and thus had to find a way to keep himself engaged with the wrestling masses. Fortunately, AEW allows its performers to wrestle outside of the promotion if they so choose, and Cage opted to do just that, performing for CCW, XPW, FSW, CCW, VxS, MCW, Revolver, FSW, and most prolifically Warrior Wrestling, where he has wrestled at eight shows, before returning to a Tony Khan-owned promotion at Supercard of Honor 2022 back in April. Over that tenure, Cage wrestled everyone from TJP to Willie Mack, Alex Hammerstone, Joey Janela, Buddy Matthews, and Will Ospreay – who called him someone who should be wrestling on TV every week – and even formed an odd couple tag team with KC Navarro, who he would eventually mentor on his way to the becoming the Warrior Wrestling champion.

Though he didn’t win every match, and actually lost some of his most prolific ones, Cage got over in a big way with indie fans who were surprised to see a big-time AEW star perform in their local venue and actually embrace having a chance to showcase his abilities as a, dare I say it, borderline babyface.

Despite being surprised that Khan picked up his option, Cage took his opportunity in stride, embraced wrestling in ROH, and even told Chris Van Vliet on his show that he would embrace wrestling for both ROH and AEW moving forward, as you can read in his answer to the question ‘ would you like to wrestle in AEW and Ring of Honor moving forward,’ as dictated by 411MANIA.

“Absolutely. I feel like you are correct. I know there is a lot of talk and rumors about Ring of Honor, what’s next, what’s going to happen. There’s stuff I know, and there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know. There’s a lot of stuff a lot of people don’t know. It does look like we’ll hopefully be doing both at the same time, and I’ll be part of it. I’m never one to turn down work. That’s why I feel like I’m one of the most working AEW contract guys as far as working on the independents and taking on all this extra stuff. I love this business, and I love to go out there and have amazing matches. That’s usually what I do too. When I take an indie booking, I want an awesome, fun match where I can go out there and shine. That’s my addiction, that’s my high, that’s my drug, if you will.”

Goodness, why does Khan insist on giving Cage a manager, he can totally speak for himself just fine.

Was Brian Cage’s return to AEW television simply a way to advertise the forthcoming Ring of Honor Pay-Per-View and he will inevitably fade back into the background when the show is over? Or will “The Machine” make his way back to AEW, maybe in a program with Hook that fully separates him from the previous “monster for hire” vibes he had in the promotion? Either way, the path of Cage has never stopped, even if it wasn’t always televised.