Jay "Christian" Reso Swaps Spandex For Suits Of Armour On 'Knight Fight'
Professional fighting is perhaps more popular than ever. Anthony Joshua is filling stadiums for his boxing world title defenses, meanwhile over in the UFC cage Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor brought the world to a standstill in their recent clash. This combat boom has led to Knight Fight, a medieval fighting competition where competitors brawl the old way, clad in armour and carrying heavy-duty weaponry. The show lands on HISTORY in the US tonight, with a UK airing planned in February. Hosted by former WWE World Heavyweight champion Jay "Christian" Reso, the show is all action and more than a little brutal. While the first rule of Fight Club dictates you do not talk about Fight Club, Jay was more than happy to talk to SPORTbible about all things armoured combat.
"It's an armoured combat competition show on HISTORY, it's been called Medieval MMA or Knight Fight Club. It's this kind of underground sport that's given us this big platform to come on and show the world what they're all about. It's this real-life thing, they fight in their own suits of armour and they use full scale weaponry from the periods, obviously the weapons are blunted. But it's all out action, it's hard-hitting, it's brutal and it's beautiful all at once."
Blunted or not, if you get hit in the head with an axe you are going to feel it. It certainly takes a special kind of competitor to submit himself to this very special kind of combat. Jay explains how the fighters were selected for this historical throwdown.
"There's some novice competitors in here who had to jump through some certain hoops to get into the competition but they're limited as far as their experience goes. But some of these guys have been doing it from one year up to twenty-five or thirty years. There's a whole array of experience. A lot of them fight out of the Armoured Combat League, which one of our judges Andre Sinou is one of the founding members of. They fight all over the world. They go away and compete. The ultimate goal of this show is for one knight to be left standing in the end and to be crowned the first ever Knight Fight champion."
Joining Reso will be expert judges Andre Sinou and John Clements. The pair bring untold experience and expertise to proceedings and add invaluable context to a sport many viewers will be seeing unfold for the first time.
"Andre was one of the founding members of the Armoured Combat League. He's fought in these kind of events all over the world, he's fought on the US national team. There's a lot of experience, he knows a lot of these knights personally. He knows what they're going through. These guys are in there fighting with 80-100 pounds of extra weight on their body with the armour, so there's a real-life description of what the viewer is seeing and why such techniques are being used and why guys are choosing certain weapons. John Clements is an instructor of medieval and renaissance weapons and he's just a genius when it comes to the different types of weapons and how to use them. He has a real knowledge of the history of all these weapons and what they were used for."
Through his research for the project, Jay delved into the world of this hard-hitting underground sport. He found a real appreciation for what these knights go through, one that is sure to be shared by anyone who watches these competitors fight.
"I knew of it but I wasn't real schooled in it, so to speak. When I found out I was doing the show I had a bunch of footage sent to me, and I ended up looking up some of my own and got a sense of what it was and a real sense of appreciation right off the bat for what it is these guys do. But nothing compared to what the appreciation was when I got there and I saw these fights happening right in front of my eyes. Just the passion. How much these guys put into these fights, what it means to them, how ingrained in their DNA this type of thing is. They have a real passion, a real love for this. The camaraderie they have after the fights as well is something special in my opinion."
Professional fighting, whether boxing, MMA or in any other form, is a dangerous pursuit. Add weighty armour and authentic weaponry into the equation and injuries are bound to happen. Knight Fight is no different in that respect.
"When you have a competition that's physical and relentless and at times brutal. Guys are brandishing these huge weapons, some of these guys are huge, some of these guys are giants. It does happen, it's like any contact sport. It's bound to happen and it does happen in the show for sure."
As someone who has put his body through intense situations in a professional wrestling ring in his time with WWE, the man known to millions as Christian can certainly appreciate what these fighters are putting themselves through. However having retired from the ring, Jay was more than happy to be in the position of host rather than competitor.
"Did I wanna get hit? No I'm good over here! I'm good on the sidelines. I've taken my lumps in the ring, I'm 45 years old so I think I've paid my dues in terms of getting thrown around, beat up and hit with things. These guys do it and I'm good with watching it and appreciating how much they put into it."
The parallels are evident with life between the ropes though, and Jay could certainly see some current WWE superstars being cut out for the world of armoured combat.
"I think of a guy like Seth Rollins who loves Game Of Thrones and those sorts of things. He's pretty pumped too and if he grabbed one of those swords he'd be pretty crafty. He's that more agile type athlete so I'd choose him off the top of my head. Or a guy like Braun Strowman who just looks like the big vicious guy who's almost 7 feet tall, 300 pounds. He's just a monster you know? Off the top of my head I'd pick those two guys."
The physical aspect is not the only transferable skill that can aid a WWE superstar in this environment. Jay captivated millions of people each week with his ability on the microphone, earning the nickname "Captain Charisma" for his hilarious verbal jousting with his wrestling opponents. This quick-thinking in front of the camera is something that has served him well in the transition to television hosting.
"I was a pretty shy kid actually, I was terrified of being the kid who got picked in class to answer questions. I was that kid who was just scared to talk. When I stepped into wrestling I had that fear and if you ever want to tackle something you're scared of then go after it. Don't run away from it. That's how you conquer that fear. Once I got out there I was so nervous talking in front of people, and there was cameras everywhere and you almost become a different person. There was so many reps and I gained this confidence and this comfort level. It's just a confidence that I gained from all those years performing to different audiences. Every audience is different in every city, you never knew what reaction they were going to give to you so you had to be on your toes in terms of being able to change things verbally to get them to react the way you wanted them to. So in that sense on a thing like this where you never know what's going to happen, my ability to think quickly on the fly helped a lot and I think it will help me a lot going forward in terms of hosting and things like that."
WWE fans are of course no strangers to their own annual form of regal combat. With the Royal Rumble just around the corner, Jay offered up some of his favourite elements of WWE's annual 30-man battle for supremacy.
"I love the surprises, when the surprise entrants show up. Whenever Kofi Kingston is in the Rumble I always appreciate when he nearly gets eliminated and finds a way to land on the barricade or on a chair or the stairs or whatever it is. I always end up hoping Kofi gets thrown out so I can see how he gets himself out of being eliminated."
Knight Fight definitely sounds like something fans of WWE, boxing or MMA are going to want to check out. Don't take my word for it, let Captain Charisma himself convince you.
"If you like physical, hard-hitting, competitive sports. This is for you. It's relentless, it's hard-hitting, it's action-packed, it's brutal, it's dramatic and there's a real beauty to all of it. There's something in it for everyone. If you're a history buff there's lots of historical elements throughout the show in terms of calling back to different historical periods. I really think that this type of competitive show is really something different. If you're looking for something different, Knight Fight is really the show for you."
Knight Fight premieres Wednesday, January 23 at 10PM ET/PT on HISTORY in the US. The show premieres Tuesday February 19 at 9pm on HISTORY UK.