Onward, Christian soldier – WWE champ headed to B-N

If Bloomington was ancient Rome and the U.S. Cellular Coliseum was that OTHER Coliseum, they’d be feeding the lions to Christian this weekend, with no table scraps.

Despite a marquee name that suggests tender mercies and the turning of other cheeks, Christian would only be turning necks.

Clear ’round… wrung clean.

As for the kings of the jungle… have a rec room wall in need of some mounted kings’ heads?

Born William Jason Reso 38 years ago, Christian isn’t the WWE’s reigning Intercontinental Champ for nothing — and certainly not for being a pussycat to bigger pussycats.

In short, there’s no turning of other cheeks for this Christian.

But extreme head-banging?

Now we’re talking the kind of doing-unto-others that we love and expect from our WWE Smackdowns.

That includes the one pummelling its way into the Coliseum at 5pm Sunday, along with Christian’s fellow head-banging brethren, like Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Kane.

Chief among them: the man who would be intercontinental king, Cody Rhodes, who’ll challenge Christian’s reign in one of the Smackdown’s most anticipated face-offs.

As Christian reminds us, the regal titles he wears at the moment are merely the latest in a long line over an 18-year career —22 total titles, including six times as world champ (among the latter, two-time NWA World Heavyweight Champ and two-time ECW Champ).

Still, he agrees, “It’s kind of cool to be Intercontinental Champion,” even at the relatively mature age he’s reached in a career approaching two decades. “It means a great deal.”

In a reflective, non-combative mode, Christian flashes back to his days as young Billy Reso, growing up in Orangeville, Ontario.

A long way from the 6-foot-1 stature he would one day attain, Billy harbored dreams of pro wrestling glory in the way a dreaming kid might do it: “I used to make my own title belts out of cardboard and attach them to the back of my weightlifting belt, then hold it up in the mirror and practice my posing.”

The net result of that dreaming speaks for itself.

“My thought was that if you believe you’re a champion and work hard at it, you’ll finally get to that point.”

There was, however, a moment when it looked like that native Canadian sport of hockey might trump the implications of the adorned weightlifting belt.

“I loved playing hockey growing up as a kid, but the first time I stepped into a ring, it seemed natural to me, like home,” he says, adding no such reverberations were transmitted while facing down a puck on ice.

“The first day of training, I was a kid thrown into the ring, and the minute I hit the ropes and the mat, it felt comfortable.”

Or at least as comfortable as hitting ropes and mats with brute force can be.

It didn’t hurt that he had a best friend in high school, name of Adam Copeland. Like Billy Reso, Copeland felt the need to be a lord of the ring.

The mutual admiration society led them onto the Canadian independent circuit as a tag team variously known as High Impact and The Suicide Blondes.

In 1998, Copeland was signed by the World Wrestling Federation; Reso followed on his heels. The best friends found themselves pitted in a try-out match which the former was booked to win.

The end result: Copeland signed with the WWF, with Reso — championed by his best friend — following suit.

They were now fully formed pro wrestling entities, with Copeland adopting the name of Edge and Reso starting out as Christian Cage (an amalgam of actors Christian Slater and Nicolas Cage), then downsizing to just Christian.

The rest is tag-team history, with Edge and Christian adopting assorted ring personalities as they racked up multiple tag team championships before heading their separate ways.

Over the course of their boyhood-to-manhood run, “we kind of helped each other and pushed each toward the same goals,” he recalls. “We made each other better because we were on the same wavelength.”

And, just at the point of burnout, “we decided when the time was right for us to go our separate ways.”

Alas for Edge, that way led to a serious neck injury a year ago that forced Christian’s best friend from way back into early retirement.

“Yeah, I was the first person he called after he got the news (about the injury). It was one of those things where I had to listen and be there for him,” Christian recalls. “I could tell he was upset about it once it sunk in. I told him that if was writing the end to his story, this was the perfect way to finish it off, just winning the WrestleMania (XXVII) world championship, the biggest show of the year. You can’t write a better ending than that.”

As for his own final chapter?

Despite a serious, side-lining ankle injury of his own in the past year, Christian is still ready to chow down on any lion who would be king.

“Having a long career with real lasting power has always been a goal,” he says. “So as long as I’m physically able to do what I do, I’ll keep doing it.”