On February 26th Ring of Honor celebrates its ninth birthday in style with a loaded card that will be available worldwide through gofightlive.com. At the heart of the event is one of the founders of the promotion and one of the most accomplished performers of the post-Monday Night Wars era: Christopher Daniels.
â€˜The Fallen Angelâ€™ wrestled in the main event of the first ever ROH event and is understandably delighted that the organization is still going strong nine years later and has become â€œalmost synonymous with top quality wrestlingâ€ in that time. In Danielsâ€™ eyes, ROH has allowed wrestlers who donâ€™t fit exactly into the WWEâ€™s vision of a pro wrestler the chance to â€œto perform and show everybody what they can do.â€ To him, the success of the promotion is a testament to the â€œhard work and talentâ€ of its roster who he says are all still â€œyoung and hungry, and eager to prove themselves.â€
On the ninth anniversary show, Daniels will make his first major defense of his ROH Television Title, a belt that he won only recently on the promotionâ€™s HDNET program. Daniels explains that he feels ROH gave him a real â€œvote of confidenceâ€ by putting the belt on him, saying that it shows the promotion had faith in him as someone who was still relevant and able to go at the pace set by a younger roster. Daniels explains that while he may not always be able to match them in athleticism, heâ€™s only ever found it an enjoyable challenge to use his decades of experience and in-ring knowledge to bridge the gap through ringsmanship.
On Saturday he will be facing Eddie Edwards, someone he highlights as one of the favorite opponents he has faced since returning to the organization last year. Edwards was the first ever Television Champion and Daniels is keen to give due credit to the stellar job Edwards did in establishing the belt, saying that he hopes to continue to build on that work and develop the championshipâ€™s profile. To Daniels the build for the twoâ€™s match on Saturday is typical of ROH in that itâ€™s not about gimmicks or trash talking but the â€œthe love of competitionâ€ and the fact that they both want to be the TV Champion.
Focusing on the championships in such a way has become seen as being old school in pro wrestling with WWE in particular downplaying the importance of all their belts. Daniels is not afraid to admit that he often reaches into the past for inspiration, drawing on what he learned from being an avid fan of Mid-Atlantic. He tells me that for much of his career he was inspired to follow the example of such North Carolina stars as Tully Blanchard and Ric Flair. He is however adamant about the importance of updating â€˜old schoolâ€™ methods to the modern day, as while itâ€™s important not to dismiss what happened in the past, itâ€™s equally important to take into account changing fan tastes. The example he gives is that â€œmany veterans I speak to tell me that they were able to go out, put a hold on, and keep the crowd captivated for fifteen minutes, but today the fans just wouldnâ€™t accept thatâ€ which therefore requires more spectacular, high impact moves.
Whilst interviewing him, the passion Daniels has for ROH is clear, particularly when heâ€™s talking about how the locker room is full of â€œfans who became wrestlersâ€ and how they are all trying to push the boundaries of the sport. Of all the matches on the special Ninth Anniversary Card, the one heâ€™s most looking forward to other than his own is the Dream Tag Match between The Briscoe Brothers and Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. Daniels praises the Briscoes as â€œone of the best teams, not just in ROH but wrestling historyâ€ but focuses on what coming to ROH has meant for â€˜The Worldâ€™s Greatest Tag Team.â€™ He tells me that having been friends with Haas and knowing the passion and knowledge he has for the business, itâ€™s great to see him get the chance to showcase how good he really is. Especially as that was always difficult in WWE due to their lack of emphasis on the tag team division. â€œROH knows it has several world class tag teams,â€ says Daniels, â€œand so can really specialize in tag team wrestling.â€
Daniels also believes that many people benefit from the creative freedom and the platform to perform to your fullest potential that ROH gives its workers. When asked who from the WWE he believes would most benefit from that he quickly answers â€œDolph Ziggler; itâ€™s clear heâ€™s a student of the game, works hard and I really find him enjoyable to watch.â€
We close our interview by talking about what he hopes to achieve in 2011. He tells me that in addition to the usual goals of staying healthy and continuing to do a job he loves, that he hopes this year can be the year he finally wins a world title. Yes as incredible as it may sound, the man who has lit up ROH, TNA, Japan, Europe and the American indie scene has never held the world title and he is determined to â€œhold the ROH heavyweight title, even for one day.â€ After all heâ€™s achieved in pro wrestling, few would bet against him; and after all heâ€™s given to pro wrestling, few would want to.
You were given the nickname â€œKing of the Indiesâ€ so presumably you can share with us some crazy road trip stories?
(laughter) Noâ€¦I donâ€™t think so. The crazy stories happened but I kind of have been promised not to tell anybody about them.
Will you ever write an autobiography?
My wife actually keeps telling me to do one. But Iâ€™m worried that Iâ€™ve forgotten too much of my career. Trying to piece it all together seems very daunting
Have you ever considered writing a comic book?
Iâ€™ve got a couple of ideas Iâ€™ve toyed with. Iâ€™ve told people in Marvel that when Iâ€™m able to develop [these stories] Iâ€™m coming to ask for the opportunity to write them.
What gave you the biggest thrill â€“ being in a video game or having an action figure made of you?
Both were great but not being a big video games player Iâ€™ll have to say the action figure. Itâ€™s cool to walk down the stairs and see your kids playing with figures of yourself.
What would be a bigger thrill â€“ the action figure made of you or a Fallen Angel comic book?
Oh Fallen Angel comic for sure! That would be awesome, [In response to question about who would be the creative team] Brian Michael Bendis as writer and Tony Moore as artist.
Chris Daniels faces Eddie Edwards in a Two out of Three Falls Match for The Television Title on Saturday 26th February at the Ring of Honor â€“ 9TH Anniversary Show. The event is available worldwide on I-PPV on Go Fight Live.