|Jay Reso's Journey to the Federation
by Aaron Williams
In the everyday world, Toronto's Sully's Gym lies about six miles from SkyDome, and the trip from the small gym to one of the world's great stadiums takes about 15 minutes. In the sports-entertainment universe, the distance might as well be six light years and the voyage can take decades, if it can be accomplished at all.
Back in September 1994, an aspiring young wrestler by the name of Jay Reso enrolled in wrestling school at Sully's, fully aware of the long odds on fulfilling his longtime dream of becoming a World Wrestling Federation Superstar. The thought of wrestling before 70,000 hometown fans never even
entered his mind. But seven and a half years later as WrestleMania X8 heads to SkyDome, Reso, better known today as Christian to millions of WWF fans, is about to complete his journey. It hasn't been easy, but just ask the hard-working Reso, and he'll be sure to tell you that it's definitely been worth it.
Jay Reso's foray into sports-entertainment began in the fourth grade. Confined to his house after breaking his shoulder while playing hockey, he turned on the television one day and saw a Federation program. He wasn't quite sure what it was all about, but he was instantly hooked.
Soon, he was spending every Saturday watching his favorite brand of entertainment. The only problem was that his shoulder was still injured, and for a very active child who had a hard time sitting still, not being able to emulate his favorite WWF Superstars was frustrating.
Once his shoulder began healing, he'd sneak out of the house and wrestle in the yard with his two brothers and assorted friends. The time spent wrestling set his recovery back, but the bug had bitten him and the joy of wrestling ended up being worth the pain he endured at the hands of his
brothers and friends.
From then on, Reso knew that he either wanted to be a professional hockey player or be in the sports-entertainment business. He loved to perform, and he loved athletics.
Helping spur on the young Reso's passion for wrestling was another young Ontarian, Adam Copeland (Edge). As close as any two brothers could be, both boys would continue motivating each other over the years to eventual superstardom.
As Reso grew older, he realized that he could never thrive in a 9-to-5 office job. He was a very good goalie, but knew that he probably wasn't good enough to go professional. His passion for hockey began dwindling. Sports-entertainment was another matter, though. The more he watched, the more he wanted to be a part of it. While most high school students were preparing for college, Reso was dreaming of ways to enter the business.
He ended up going to college in Toronto, but his goal of becoming a sports-entertainment performer remained foremost in his mind. When Copeland, who at the time was his roommate, won an essay contest to be trained as a wrestler, Reso got his first glimpse inside the business.
"At the time, I couldn't afford wrestling school," Reso remembers. "But I'd go to watch him train with the idea that as soon as I got the money, I was going to start training."
That training would start in his second year of college when he took a portion of his student loan and enrolled in wrestling school at Sully's. He had never had a hard time picking up sports and didn't find the athletic element of wrestling overly difficult. The physical pounding, however, was
"The first day was the hardest thing that my body had ever gone through," he recalls. "I remember taking a back bump my first day and getting the wind knocked out of me. After that first day, I was incredibly sore. The next day I woke up and could barely get out of bed. I looked at my arms and they were bruised from my shoulders to my elbows. I couldn't swallow any food for a day or two because of the beating I took."
Despite experiencing a level of pain he had never before felt, his mind stayed strong and committed. Reso returned the next day and, for the next nine months, he spent three to four hours every Saturday and Sunday honing his skills.
On July 7, 1995, he had his first match in front of about 15 people at Sully's.
I was actually terrified, and I knew most of the people in the crowd. But, it was a good experience and a lot of fun."
Reso kept going to the gym, but he knew that he needed to gain experience wrestling different opponents before an audience. So he started going to independent shows with local talent who had been in the business for a few years. He'd watch these performers and let the promoter know that he had
been trained and had performed in a few shows. Reso's networking paid off, and soon he was getting booked in shows.
He traveled with Copeland and a few others. Soon they were journeying out of Ontario and into the United States, most notably Michigan and New York. They also took bookings in western Canada and earned even more experience wrestling on Native American reservations. Sometimes there'd only be 20
people in the building, sometimes there'd be 300. They slept on mats in gymnasiums and sometimes had to carry food in their duffel bags because they were so far off the beaten path. It wasn't a luxurious life by any means, but Reso, Copeland and the others made it enjoyable.
"Looking back, those times were really, really tough, but we made it fun. And when I look back, I don't have any bad memories. I laugh when we reminisce. Those were character-building days that make you appreciate what you have now. It's rewarding to know that you didn't have anything handed
to you, that you earned it."
After wrestling independent shows for a few more years, Reso's first break with the Federation came by chance. Copeland had already signed a developmental contract with the World Wrestling Federation, and during a tour of Canada, Copeland was asked to compete in a dark match. Copeland
asked Reso if he wanted to come along and he jumped at the chance. Having learned that you never know what might happen in this business, he brought along his gear. His preparedness paid off. The next day, he was asked to wrestle Copeland in a dark match at a television taping in Cornwall,
"I was real nervous before the match. I had never performed before such a large crowd, but I knew it was a great experience. I wasn't kidding myself, though. I didn't expect to go out there, have a match, and then go to the back and have a contract waiting for me. I looked at it as an opportunity
to maybe get another chance and then eventually get here."
After the match, Copeland and Reso were greeted enthusiastically by Jim Cornette, but while Copeland returned to developmental training with the Federation, Reso continued on the indy circuit.
A few months later, however, Reso received a call out of the blue from Cornette. Cornette told him that he hadn't forgotten about him and that he wanted Reso to keep him updated on what he was doing. Reso expressed his gratitude and started calling Cornette once a month, letting him know what
he had been up to.
Seven months later, Reso returned from the gym late on a Tuesday night. When he came home there was a message waiting for him, saying that Cornette had called. Reso phoned him right back.
"When I called him, I got his answering machine and started to leave a message. Suddenly he picked up the phone and said 'Dammit kid, I've been waiting for your call all night. Listen, what are you doing on Saturday?' I told him that I was doing a show in Delaware. He said, 'Okay, but we got you in the next training camp.' I was speechless and couldn't thank him enough."
Reso worked the show in Delaware, then traveled to Stamford, Conneticut, late Saturday night so that he could begin training camp early the next morning. Like his first dark match, he didn't put too much pressure on himself. He went in there to do what he knew and prepared to do his best.
Wherever the chips fell, he wasn't looking at this like a do-or-die situation.
He performed very well during the week, and on Thursday, Bruce Prichard asked him if he'd be open to signing a developmental contract." I tried to keep myself composed and not seem too overwhelmed. My insides were screaming, but I kept it in a told him, 'I'd like that very much.' They told me to keep doing my independent dates, and they'd bring me up when there was an opening. It could be next week, it could be eight weeks or six months. 'Until then, at least you'll have some steady income, and we'll
keep bringing you back to the training camps.'"
Two months and two training camps later, Reso was asked to come to the Break Down pay-per-view in Hamilton, Ontario. Bruce Prichard had a little fun with him, at first refusing to tell him what he'd be doing there. Eventually, Prichard relented and informed Reso that he would be making his Federation debut by coming to ringside during Edge's match. It might not seem like much, but given all the effort that he had put in since entering wrestling school, it was both incredibly rewarding and exciting at the same time.
One month later on October 18, 1998 at his first pay-per-view match, Reso (competing as Christian) defeated Taka Michinoku for the Light-Heavyweight Championship at Judgment Day.
With eight tag team, an Intercontinental and and European title to his resume, it's safe to say that Christian has made his mark in the WWF. This March, his journey will take him home to Toronto where he will perform in front of 70,000 fans at SkyDome - six miles from Sully's Gym.
MADE IN THE SHADE
No one in the World Wrestling Federation accessorizes better than Christian, and perhaps his most famous accouterments are his sunglasses. The idea to sport outrageous shades actually came from a conversation with a fan.
Reso was in a restaurant when a young fan came up to him and asked for an autograph. The fan was wearing big goofy glasses, and Reso told him that they looked pretty cool. Reso tried them on and asked where he got them. The fan gave him directions to a store, but Reso explained that he was from
out of town and didn't know the city, so the fan simply gave them to him. Reso appreciated the gesture but felt bad just taking the glasses, even when the young fan told him he had another pair. Reso ended up giving the fan $20 for the glasses. He wore them the next night on television and has made quite the fashion statement ever since.
TOP FIVE MOMENTS
1. Winning the Tag Team titles for the first time at WrestleMania
XV. "At that point I didn't know if we'd ever win them."
2. Ladder Match with the Hardy Boyz at No Mercy. "Matt Hardy said it best,
'We all went from being WWF wrestlers to WWF Superstars.'"
3. When I won the Intercontinental title from Edge.
4. When I turned on Edge in Toronto. "There was such a long buildup and it
was a very emotional scene."
5. Coming home for WrestleMania X8. I get chills just thinking
*credit RAW March 2002*