What's it like to get smashed in the skull by a steel chair? "It doesn't tickle, that's for sure," laughs Jay Reso, the WWE daredevil whose followers (known as peeps) call him everything from Christian to Captain Charisma to The Instant Classic. "If it looks like it hurts, it did, that's the best way to put it," he says. "The way it jars you, you can feel it all through your body."
And Reso should know as throughout his career the man's been beaten in the face with everything from a stop sign to a microphone.
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In fact, it seems like every Wrestlemania he's involved in, he just happens to be in the show's most dangerous match. From falling from the sky in the bruising TLC battles (tables, ladders and chairs, oh my!), to getting catapulted face-first into the steel steps, there isn't much Reso won't do to earn the respect of peers and peeps alike, and if that means falling off the top of a ladder and through a few stacked tables on the floor, well, that's just part of the job description that makes the man smile and wince all at the same time.
This Sunday, Reso once again finds himself in the show's most hazardous brawl, this time a "Money in the Bank" ladder match that pits him against seven other competitors, including CM Punk, Shelton Benjamin, and the Terrell Owens of WWE, Montel Vontavious Porter, AKA MVP.
It's a match that Reso not only hopes will boost him on his way to his first WWE World Championship, but the ultimate showcase will once again give him the chance to try and steal the show on the company's biggest stage.
ESPN caught up with Reso while he was working out at the gym to talk about the upcoming event, why he decided to rejoin WWE, and his broken Xbox. Here's what he had to say:
ESPN: You recently left TNA to rejoin WWE. What's the free agent process like in wrestling as opposed to what most sports fans are used to seeing in the NFL and NBA?
Christian: I think the free agent process is a little bit different because other major pro sports like the NBA or NHL, you're looking at 30 teams. You have 30 options. You don't really have that in this industry. There is one name that stands above all else, and that's WWE. So to really be on top, that's where you have to apply your trade.
ESPN: Throughout the history of wrestling, when stars cross brands, it sometimes leads to these huge, unexpected moments. Hall and Nash and the Monday Night Wars obviously come to mind here. Do you see your return to WWE causing some big ripples in the near future?
I actually feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I'm a little older, a little wiser, and I think things are going to be a lot different for me this time around. I think this time I'll definitely reach my full potential, and at some point, I will be World Champion.
Christian: I never really look at things like that. I really had to sit down and weigh the options for me and my career. I'm just trying to do the best that I can and move as high as I can and my ultimate goal is to become World Champion. To be recognized as one of the best, you need to win that WWE title or the World Heavyweight Championship.
ESPN: Is it funny for you to come back and the guy holding the gold is your former partner, Edge?
Christian: Yeah, he's done real well for himself, and to be honest, it just feels really good to be back. I feel better than I have in years. I was gone for three-plus years from WWE, and coming back, I feel rested, and I actually feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in. I'm a little older, a little wiser, and I think things are going to be a lot different for me this time around. I think this time I'll definitely reach my full potential, and at some point, I will be World Champion.
ESPN: Why do you think it will be so different this time around? Besides being in better shape, what has changed that makes you think you'll finally get the push you deserve?
Christian: I think it's the overall package, but the biggest thing for me was maturing. I think that time away I was able to reevaluate and reassess what things were important to me and what exactly it is that I wanted in my life, in my profession. When I started in WWE, I was a 24-year-old kid and it was all kind of a whirlwind. I never had the chance to step back and look at it from the outside and assess things from a different level. That's what happened when I stepped away, and that's why I think you'll see a different performer this time.
ESPN: You come back and immediately have one of the best matches of the year against Jack Swagger on ECW. Was that a message to everyone that you're back?
Christian: I think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, but I think that's good. I think that if you challenge yourself, then you're going to get your best performances, and every time I go out there, I challenge myself to be better than I was last time. Every time I step foot through the ropes, I try to entertain and put on the best match possible. Swagger is a talented, young kid who is going to be one of the future guys in the WWE. He's going to be a big player. So it's fun to get in there with him and have a match like that because it really sets the bar for myself, that hey, this is what you're going to see, this is what you get with Christian coming back.
ESPN: What is it about Swagger that makes him stand out among all the younger workers?
Christian: He has presence, he has size and he has that amateur pedigree. He's a natural athlete so he picks things up real quick, and he's a strong kid. The sky's the limit for him.
ESPN: You're in the Money in the Bank ladder match in Wrestlemania this year. How come you always seem to be in the most dangerous match on the show?
Christian: [laughs] I don't know man, but that's cool. I was in the first Money in the Bank, so to be able to step back in within a few months of my return and get back to the biggest stage of the year is great. And it's a high-stakes match, with the winner getting a future title shot, and like I said, that's my ultimate goal in coming back. It's a risk/reward type of match, with the risks being the ladders and the unknown with eight different guys wrestling eight different styles and who are eight different sizes and speeds. Then you add in tables and whatever else might come into play. But then the reward is the biggest reward possible, a shot at the World Title, so it's worth it. Another huge risk in a match like this is one wrong turn, and you could seriously end your career.
ESPN: What's more dangerous, the Money in the Bank match or the TLC?
Christian: With the TLC, you're throwing in tables and chairs, but you never know what things come into play with Money in the Bank. I think Money in the Bank is actually more dangerous because there are more bodies flying around. They're both dangerous, don't get me wrong, but it's a tough call. And then we have a guy like Mark Henry in the match this year. I wouldn't want to be a 400-pound guy falling off a ladder, that's for sure.
ESPN: Do you have a favorite Wrestlemania you've been involved in?
Christian: My favorite Wrestlemania moment is Wrestlemania 2000 in Anaheim. Edge and I won the tag titles for the first time, and back then, we didn't know if we'd ever get the chance to win them, and it was our first real high-stakes match. I'll never forget standing at the top where we had a bridge built with ladders and a table across the top and looking down at the mass of people. It was an unbelievable feeling.
ESPN: What's the craziest bump you remember taking at Wrestlemania?
Christian: The last Wrestlemania in Houston, I was at the top of a ladder about to grab the tag belts and the ladder got tipped. I remember being tipped over, and I knew I was going to fall over the top ropes and onto the floor, so I tried to shift my weight to go over the ropes sideways so I could control myself. But at the last second, the ladder kicked and it pushed my feet out from underneath me. I was looking straight up at the ceiling while I was falling off of the ladder and over the top ropes onto the floor. I remember thinking in my head, man, this is going to be bad. [laughs] I hit and it knocked the wind out of me really bad, but I must've landed with my weight dispensed perfectly. I was laying there for a second trying to catch my breath, but I was thinking, wow, I think I'm alright. I'm still alive. That was the scariest moment for me. Not being able to see the ground, but you know it's coming.
ESPN: That's the crazy thing about wrestling. One second you're falling backwards off a ladder, the next you and Edge might bust out your five second pose and have the crowd in hysterics. You need to bring that back, by the way, at least once.
Christian: That's what WWE is all about. We kind of have a little something for everybody. It's entertainment, it's sports, it's a rock concert, and it's all rolled into one. To me, it's the perfect form of entertainment.
ESPN: Did you have a favorite Wrestlemania moment as a kid?
Every time you go out there on a big stage like that, your goal is to do everything you can to steal the show. That will definitely be in the back of my mind, to do something great, to have a great match, to entertain the fans, and to make my first Wrestlemania back a memorable one.
Christian: My favorite was the first Wrestlemania. At that point, it was on closed-circuit TV, it wasn't even on pay-per-view, and I had heard so much about it. So I called and reserved it the day it came out in the video store and invited a bunch of my friends over to watch it down in our basement. We watched it and we were so excited, we cleared all of the furniture out of the basement and had a big wrestling match and a battle royal right there in the basement. I just remember watching and Wrestlemania was the biggest thing I had ever seen, so to be a part of it all these years later is really a huge moment for me.
ESPN: Who did you pretend to be back then? Were you a Hulk Hogan guy or a Piper guy?
Christian: I was more of a Hogan guy. It was all about Hogan and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Those were usually the ones.
ESPN: With Mania meaning so much and having so many viewers, is it your goal to go out there and do something that steals the show and gets people talking?
Christian: Of course. Every time you go out there on a big stage like that, your goal is to do everything you can to steal the show. That will definitely be in the back of my mind, to do something great, to have a great match, to entertain the fans, and to make my first Wrestlemania back a memorable one.
ESPN: Are there a lot of peeps in Houston?
Christian: Oh yeah, there's a huge peepulation in Houston. And believe me, they are going to show up strong at Wrestlemania.
ESPN: I know you're a big gamer, while you've been on the road, did THQ take your pictures for "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010" yet?
Christian: Yeah, they just did it the other day. It should look really good. I'm excited to see it.
ESPN: What have you been playing lately?
Christian: My Xbox 360 broke, so I've actually gone back and played my PS2 for the last few months if you can believe it. I had a copy of "Hitman: Blood Money" that I hadn't even started yet, so I pulled that out and finished it. Now that that's done, I think it's finally time I go get this Xbox fixed. I definitely need to get everything squared away before "NHL 10" comes out. I think once I get home from Wrestlemania, I'm sending my 360 in for repairs.
ESPN: Until then, you're gunning for that title shot in Houston.
Christian: I really feel like a new man, like I'm reborn now that I'm back in WWE, and I'm ready to take that step up to the next level.
ESPN: Just watch out for those ladders slipping underneath you.
Christian: Sometimes those unexpected moments end up being the most memorable.