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TNA Finally Gets Some Charisma
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There’s an old saying, “All good things come to those who wait.”

However, there’s also an old saying, “You control your own destiny.”

No one knows these two adages better than Jason Reso, better known to millions of professional wrestling fans as “Captain Charisma,” Christian Cage. After dedicating his life to the business, Cage (then known simply as Christian) shocked the world when he left the WWE in October 2005 to sign with Vince McMahon’s rival company, TNA. While rumors swirled about why he did it--money, being held down by the creative team at the WWE--one factor loomed above the rest: the Superstar and fan favorite never had a legitimate shot at the WWE Championship. But despite never fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming champion, Cage insists he didn’t leave the company because of a title run.

“It was a little bit of everything, really,” Cage says. “It was never in my thought process, though, to leave because I didn’t have the [title] belt. I just felt I could contribute at a higher level. Creative would always let me get my feet wet and then they’d pull me back. They never let me take the ball and run with it. And I knew based on the crowds’ reactions that fans thought I could perform at a different level. But I was always bumped back and never knew why. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful about it, though, I figured I would explore the other opportunities out there. Plus, being on the road 250 days a year for eight years straight, it takes a toll on your body. I was looking forward to a fresh start, and it’s so rare for someone in this business to leave on their own terms.”

Christian Cage made the right decision. Just three months after making his in-ring debut at TNA’s “Genesis,” Cage won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Jeff Jarrett at February’s “Against All Odds” Pay-Per-View. After 12 years in the business, Christian Cage finally took his rightful place as champion, and both he and his “Peeps” couldn’t have been more excited.

After giving both Jarrett and Gail Kim the Unprettier and then pinning Jarrett for the 1, 2, 3 count, Christian Cage not only became the fourth Canadian in history to hold the most prestigious title in professional wrestling, but also the first Canadian to hold the belt since 1987. Fans were ecstatic and quickly rushed into the ring, rising their new NWA World Heavyweight Champion onto their shoulders. It was a moment unlike any other in sports entertainment history, and one Cage won’t be forgetting any time soon.

“There was definitely a lot of emotion involved,” he replies when asked about that night. “After 12 years there comes a time when you start to think that you’ll never get the opportunity to hold the World Title. I didn’t know the chance would come so soon, either. It gave me a real sense of accomplishment. Ever since the first day I stepped inside the ring I dreamt of being World Champion. And then when the fans rushed into the ring…what an amazing sight. They were so genuinely happy I had won. They were picking me up on their shoulders, wanting to shake my hand…”

“There were never any initial plans that I would have a title run when I signed with TNA,” Cage clarifies. “We all decided to let it fall where it may and see how the fans would react to me on a TNA stage. The response was so positive, though, I was taken aback. I always prefer to let the fans get what they want, and I knew then that this was the right choice. But there were never any set plans from the beginning.”

When Cage made his TNA debut, fans were wondering if he would continue being heel like his WWE character and join Scott D’Amore’s Team Canada contingent or finally be face after his cocky persona and humorous promos made him one of the most celebrated heels in recent WWE history. Cage came in face, marking yet another change for the former WWE Superstar.

“I’ve never wrestled baby face before, so it’s an adjustment,” Cage states. “But I had to be careful not to alter my style too much.”

Cage admits that being face is just one of the many changes he’s been dealing with these past few months at TNA, the most obvious change being his professional name. After spending eight years making a name for himself as Christian, the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion went back to the name he wrestled under before signing with Vince McMahon’s empire--Christian Cage--when joining TNA because Christian was property of the WWE.

“Christian Cage was my name,” he explains. “I even trademarked it to be safe.”

At the time, Cage thought he would also be leaving behind his Captain Charisma days as well. While still under contract with the WWE, Cage was told there were some legal issues with using the name Captain Charisma, and rather than paying an undisclosed amount to keep the Superstar’s nickname, Cage was told to simply stop using it. When he signed with TNA, though, he looked into the situation further and discovered that the name wasn’t trademarked--but it is now.

Despite all these changes, Cage couldn’t be happier at TNA, although he admits that even though he is the face of the company as its current champ, he still feels a bit like “the new kid in class.”

“It’s hard. When you’ve been at the same place for eight years you develop this level of comfort,” he states. “I’m still trying to familiarize myself with everything. But change is good--it definitely brought my passion [for the business] back.”

Cage couldn’t have joined TNA at a better time, either. The wrestling promotion that less than a year ago didn’t have a TV contract and had to stream its weekly show, “iMPACT!,” on its Web site recently announced it’s going primetime, airing Thursday nights at 9 p.m. beginning April 13 on Spike TV. The announcement comes on the heels of TNA inking a
video game deal with Midway Games, and announcing a series of traveling house shows throughout 2006.

“The guys are excited,” Cage states. “Orlando will still be our home base [where “iMPACT!” tapes at Universal Studios], but we’re going to be branching out and taking the show to the fans. We’re starting with live events at different locations, but one day it might be ‘iMPACT!’ or a Pay-Per-View. We’re taking baby steps for now, though, as we set the groundwork for our future. We just want to keep this momentum going.”

If there’s one thing TNA knows to be careful of it’s becoming the next WCW. Right now TNA is the only mainstream competition the WWE has and, as its popularity continues to grow, Superstars like Cage are seeing it as a legitimate option for where to continue their careers when their WWE contracts are up for renewal. However, Cage doesn’t seem too worried about TNA expanding too fast or stealing some the WWE’s most prominent Superstars and billing them as its own. Unlike WCW, Cage says TNA won’t forget its roots.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing, and that’s providing wrestling fans with an alternative,” he says. “We’ll always have the high impact matches and the younger stars. TNA doesn’t need an influx of WWE talent. You can’t turn your back on the guys who got you to where you are. But hopefully soon we’ll get another hour, or even a half-hour, for ‘iMPACT!’ and wrestlers will be aware that there’s another place to test the waters--that they shouldn’t be afraid to take that step.”

And no one knows that better than Christian Cage. Just a few months ago fans were wondering if Cage knew what he was doing when he jumped to TNA. Now, Cage has the NWA World Heavyweight Championship around his waist, is closer to home [Cage resides in Tampa with his wife, Denise] and has enough time to pursue one of his other dreams, acting.

“Acting has always been intriguing to me, and [now that he’s not always on the road] I’ve been working with some coaches,” Cage states. “I actually start shooting a role in an action film starring Clive Owen this March in Toronto.”

The only question is, when Christian Cage makes his big screen debut, will he still be the NWA World Heavyweight Champion? Regardless of whether or not he still has the gold, Cage is looking forward to his future in TNA--and showing the members of TNA’s roster just how Captain Charisma rolls.

“I can’t wait to get in the ring with Monty again,” Cage says of his “Destination X” opponent, Monty Brown. “He’s such a tremendous talent and has such a big future ahead of him. Other than that [Cage’s World Heavyweight Title Match at the March Pay-Per-View], I’m really looking forward to getting in the ring with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Abyss…it’s pretty much a blank canvas right now.”
*Credit- Heather Turk, SoCal.com Movie/TV Editor*