Ajax and Righteous Indignation: The Tragedy of Chad Gable

Photo Credit: WWE

In Greek mythology, Ajax was a warrior of size and physique. The Iliad describes him as only second to Achilles in power and courage. During the Trojan War, he battled Hector, a notable Trojan warrior, only to be defeated. Ajax became embroiled in a fight with Odysseus over the right to win Achilles’ armor. Ajax believed that due to his bravery and hard work, he deserved the armor over Odysseus. When Ajax loses the honor of Achilles’ armor to Odysseus, his failure makes him so angry, it drives him to a place of delirium. Ajax’s plight is, at its core, a story about how one’s disposition, and human nature in general, can be changed in the relentless pursuit of achievement.

Despite being an accomplished and decorated tag team champion, Chad Gable is widely regarded to be one of the best professional wrestlers, on any roster in any company, who has never held a singles championship.

“I’ve been asking for a chance to prove myself as a singles guy for a long time,” Gable told me in August 2023, ahead of SummerSlam. “I felt like I’ve been ready, and if this is my chance, trust me, I’m not going to squander it.”

In the Iliad, Ajax is described as showing great strength and courage during two very notable fights with Hector. During these bouts, Ajax almost overtakes Hector, who is considered the greatest warrior in Troy, but falls short at each attempt. Ajax, beaten but not defeated, retreats after their third encounter after realizing he is not favored by the council. 

Courtesy: Foundation Radio

Gable’s path mirrors the story of Ajax, fighting multiple great battles with Gunther – his Hector – in his quest to win the Intercontinental Championship. Gable continually came up short, beaten and embarrassed in front of his children on Monday Night Raw. Gable maintained that he would be rewarded for his strength, agility, and perseverance with the opportunity to topple his Hector in Philadelphia, only for the reward to be given to his Odysseus, Sami Zayn. Just as Ajax’s failed pursuit of Achilles’ armor drove him to his death, Chad Gable’s sacrificing of his moral authority in favor of his self-righteous indignation in pursuit of the Intercontinental Championship could be his undoing.

From a creative standpoint, Chad Gable was stuck in neutral on the WWE roster for several years after American Alpha, his tag team with Jason Jordan, split in 2017. After successfully teaming with Shelton Benjamin and Bobby Roode in pursuit of tag team gold, Gable was saddled with the nonsensical and embarrassing “Shorty G” gimmick just prior to the beginning of the Performance Center Era during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While his matches with King Corbin made for great television, Gable was never able to live up to potential with a silly gimmick like Shorty G stuck to him. 

Like many Superstars during the PC/Thunderdome Eras, most famously executed by Roman Reigns with his reboot as “The Tribal Chief,” Gable successfully reset his character arc with a newly repackaged Otis and created Alpha Academy, a heel duo that dominated the tag team division before eventually turning face thanks to success from an unexpected catchphrase.

“I stole from Pauly Shore from ‘Encino Man,’” referring to his popular “Shoosh!” “It’s my favorite stuff of all time, so I’m gonna do that on TV and I don’t care. I’m finally getting a chance to talk, I’m gonna do it, and then lo and behold, the one thing that I enjoy and that I loved my whole life is what everyone found and connected with.” 

With the “Shoosh” movement in full swing and Alpha Academy gaining popularity, fans and the higher-ups saw what Gable had been trying to show them for so long: he was one of the best in his field. Crowds continued to root for the Academy, which allowed Gable the opportunity to pursue something that had eluded him through his career with WWE – his Achilles’ armor: the Intercontinental Championship. Gable’s sights were now focused on dethroning “The Ring General,” Gunther, who surpassed the Honky Tonk Man’s record as longest reigning Intercontinental Champion on September 8, 2023. 

“The plan is to do what I’ve been doing which, in my opinion, is just overdelivering,” Gable told me ahead of the Royal Rumble this past January. “No matter whatever you’re given, whether it’s a 30 second backstage, a 5-minute match, or 10 – whatever it is, don’t just give them something good, just don’t give them something great, but over-deliver to a degree that they just can’t ignore you anymore…. Eventually, the cream rises to the top.”

“Eventually” is the keyword here, and he says it optimistically, but with a definitive change in tone from the one he used only five months earlier. 

Courtesy: Foundation Radio

Gable assumed, wrongly, that his hard work, perseverance, strength, and structure would be enough on their own to be the catalysts for a championship match and win. Although Gable was the fan favorite to end Gunther’s record-breaking title reign, and after two incredible matches on Monday Night Raw, he failed. Gable never had the opportunity to challenge Gunther again for the title, as his loss in the Number One Contender’s match to Sami Zayn robbed him of the opportunity to take ownership of what he felt was rightfully his. 

Zayn beat Gunther in their match. 

Hector was toppled. 

Like Ajax, Chad Gable is a warrior who is seen as one of the strongest in his field, but not good enough in the eyes of the gods. 

Although Gable saw himself as the stronger and more deserving warrior, Zayn was awarded his rightful armor. Ajax’s failure repeated itself once again. With frustrations and dejection coming to a head, Gable’s disposition changed, allowing hubris to cloud his judgment. Gable felt slighted not just by the perceived failures of his stable, but also by Sami Zayn, the current Intercontinental Champion, the man he helped train and guide to victory over Gunther at WrestleMania XL.

Gable’s quest for the title turned hostile, completing the final step in his heel turn after his loss to Zayn on the April 15th edition of Monday Night Raw by brutally attacking Zayn in front of his wife. He justified the attack the following week as a necessary response to his perceived slights and stolen valor. 

Courtesy: WWE

Self-righteous indignation takes the place of discarded joyful exuberance, and Gable turns heel. He then turns his ire towards his own Alpha Academy, dressing down Akira Tozawa, Maxxine Dupri, and Otis as “disappointments” and “losers.” Gable’s rage and delirium increases week over week since then, showing cracks in the foundation of a once dynamic relationship between master and pupils. Chad Gable’s single-minded determination has all but erased his moral integrity and turned him into Monday Night’s greatest antagonist, expecting his former fun loving pupils to fall in line to help him achieve victory.

In the go-home edition of Monday Night Raw this week, Gable placed Otis in his own Kobayashi Maru test: An unwinnable trial of conscience, no matter the chosen option. 

Otis attacks Zayn and turns his attention to Gable, ready to finally break Gable’s chains of indignation and follow the path Zayn did two years ago against The Bloodline. Otis relents, but not without permanently altering the DNA of the Alpha Academy. 

Gable laughed to acknowledge Otis’ hesitation, knowing that he was still in control, even if just for the moment. Gable’s win, or Zayn’s continued title reign, depends entirely on whether Otis discovers James T. Kirk’s Third Option and beats the unwinnable trial at Clash at the Castle.

All great antagonists eventually become blinded by hubris and self righteousness before their downfall. Anakin Skywalker, Walter White, and Captain Ahab all fall victim to their own egos. All of these characters share one common theme with Ajax: Good men pushed to madness in the pursuit of honor, prestige and personal gain. While Skywalker and White find slivers of salvation before their own demise, like Ajax who found his salvation in self sacrifice, Ahab remains steadfast in his resolve to conquer the beast, and pays the ultimate price for it.

Chad Gable’s quest mirrors the tale of Ajax; two warriors consumed by the pursuit of honor and glory. By abandoning his morals and integrity, much like these well-referenced antagonists of literature and screen, Gable risks losing everything in search of his Achilles’ armor. 

Unlike Ajax, Ahab, Anakin, or White, though, he has another shot.

Will he succumb to vainglory, hubris, and delirium and suffer the same fate as Ajax, or will he find salvation before it’s too late? Clash at the Castle’s showdown will determine the next chapter in the Tragedy of Chad Gable –  good, bad, or indifferent.