The Almighty, Ring General- these are just two of the myriad of names that can be attributed to Ring of Honor’s Christopher Daniels. A veteran of twenty four years in the professional wrestling business, the savvy grappler is at the forefront of one of the most recognizable wrestling companies in the United States, as both a competitor and locker room sage. Passionate in and out of the ring, Daniels is equally impassioned about the release of a comic book that he has collaborated on with Aw Yeah Comics as he is about competing at Center Stage in Atlanta this Saturday.
Daniels is a highly decorated wrestler, holding tag team championships and singles titles alike in his storied career that began in 1993 and has been a stalwart for Ring of Honor for much of the company’s 15 years in existence. His work has oft garnered him the derision of the fans for his dastardly ways, but few are more respected as a performer and backstage presence.
As he heads in Atlanta’s Center Stage this weekend to compete in the Decade of Excellence tournament, a tournament that will grant the winner a ROH World title shot at the company’s 15th anniversary show in February, Daniels spoke about his career, his role at Ring of Honor, and his new comic book project.
How soon after you began training did you have your first match?
I had my first match after about 4 months training and it wasn’t soon after that, that I was working all of the shows that Windy City Wrestling was running at that time. I quickly ended up becoming like the trainer, or one of the trainers at the school. From there, I learned on the job, which is basically the best wrestlers learn, you go out and work as quickly as you can with as many people as you can.
You mentioned that you became a trainer early on, helping others hone their craft and get over. What would say is the most rewarding aspect of working in your role at Ring of Honor in grooming newer talent?
Well, I always wanted the respect of the people that I worked with and I feel like at this point, the people that are in the Ring of Honor locker room respect my opinion, they respect my experience. I am very fortunate to give my opinion to guys that want to hear my opinion. And I tell them all the time, most of the advice that I give is my opinion and is my experience and my opinion and experience isn’t going to work for everyone. But if you lay those experiences out and give them a frame of reference, a sort of point of view, guys can use all the experience either for their benefit or something that they don’t do. Do you know what I mean? The stuff that doesn’t work for me or does work for me, may not work for someone else, but if they hear it, at least they have that point of view on their mind and have a different perspective on Pro Wrestling. I would not have gotten where I am today if it wasn’t for guys like Mike Moran and Terry Taylor. Guys that helped me out like, Jim Cornette, in my formative years. Without their advice, I don’t know where I would be. Hopefully, I can give that same advice when I am at Ring of Honor and help them along as they helped me.
As of late, you’ve spoken about wrestling a safer style, allowing you to perform at a high level, without risking injury. At All Star Extravaganza you competed in a Ladder Wars match that saw you put it all out there and both give and receive some serious punishment. How did you feel the next morning?
I was sore, but it was not anything that I didn’t expect, it was ok. I mean, we know what we sign up for when we become Pro Wrestlers. Over the course of professional wrestling’s evolution, the addition of these matches, which are more like stunt shows, you know, tables, ladders and chairs and ultimate acts that take wresting and add sort of a hard-core element to it. We know what we are in for when we walk through the ring. We know it’s going to be a rough night, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle, it wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do again, if given the opportunity. So yeah, we are well aware of the dangers and the possibility of pain and injury in this stuff and if you are not prepared for that sort of stuff, then Pro Wrestling is not for you.
One of the things that came out of ASE was an organic change in your demeanor. Before the event you cut an amazing promo about how much the tag team titles meant to you.You seemed to have softened your stance on the code of honor, which is something that you are famously known for not adhering to, as you were the first not to do so at one of ROH’s earliest events. Where do you see your character moving forward after this change in attitude?
I feel like, it’s not so much that I have softened my stance, I still feel the same way I feel about Wrestling and Ring of Honor and the guys, but I feel like I have earned the respect of the people around me and they in turn have earned my respect. So I feel like as I wrestle now, I know that i’m not in the beginning of my career, I know that it’s closer to the end now, so I know that these matches are going to be fewer and far between now. However, I still want to go out there and wrestle at the top of my abilities, and if the people respect me and if the people cheer me , you know, that’s their prerogative. But I feel like people look at me and they look at the length of my career and I guess the work that I have done in the past and they respect me. So I can’t help but reciprocate back the same respect back to the fans and to the company after everything that I have been through.
That seems to be a running theme in your life, as you have dedicated yourself to ventures outside of wrestling as well, applying the same fervor as you show in the ring. What has the experience of playing Deacon as a part of the Waterworld stunt show at Universal studios been like?
It’s been great, it is sort of a return for me in my acting roots. My degree from college is in theater and my plan originally was to become an actor and I sort of segwayed into a very physical form of acting. So living out in California, there is opportunity for acting and stunt work. I was very fortunate to be able to transition into working at the WaterWorld stunt show and working with a lot of great stunt performers and stunt coordinators and hopefully it’s something I can do a lot longer and sort of branch out into once my wrestling career is done. So it has been a lot of fun so far, and I look forward to continuing that.
You’re also working on a joint venture with Aw Yeah Comics, the second time you are releasing work with them. The first comic was most recently at Final Battle and the Aw Yeah comic shop in Harrison, NY the day after. How did this project come to life?
Well, the guys that run Aw Yeah Comics – Alt Baltazar and Franco, they have been friends of mine since 2011, they are wrestling fans, in addition to being Eisner Award Winning Artists and Cartoonists. In 2012 they started the Aw Yeah Comics Brand and after reading the first couple of issues of the characters of Action Cat, Adventure Bug and Awesome Bear, I completely unsolicited started writing a story about Frankie and myself sort of interacting with those characters and sent it to them and wondered if they would be interested in making it. Surprisingly they were, they were very interested with the story and they decided to publish the book and actually that book was published in the middle of 2014 and so when you saw me fighting in Final Battle, that book was almost 2 years old. I wrote the sequel not long after that book came out and have been waiting in an opening in Alt Baltazar and Franco’s schedule, because they are so popular right now and so busy with doing stuff for DC and Dark Horse Comics and other things. But we finally got the Aw Yeah Comics Team #1 ready to go and hopefully we will have it prepared and ready for sale at the Atlanta event on January 14. But it should be available at www.awyeahcomics.com, www.artbaltazar.com, and Comixology as well. Hopefully we will have it ready for the fans and they will like it as much as they liked the first book.
You’ve also worked with Mike Kingston of Headlocked comics, writing the foreword for one of the issues of his comic book.
I also wrote a short story for one of his kick starters as well. So I worked with Mike on and off since the first book came out and he has been a real good supporter of our stuff. I am glad to see that his book is doing so well and there is always a good following for the Headlock Brand and I look forward to more stuff from his issues coming out soon.
As a comic book fan, which characters speak to you the most?
Well I have always been a Marvel guy. The thing that got me into comic books is Chris Claremont and Jack Burns on X-Men. Their run back in the day. I have been a Wolverine fan for more than 30 years. Reading right now, the stuff I like the best is – I am a big fan of Brian Michael Bendis – his Iron Man, his Jessica Jones, his Guardians of the Galaxy that I read religiously. I just finished reading his Civil War II and I was real happy with that book. I dug that all the time. I currently reading the Inhuman Sources X-Men Crossover and all the ties that comes with that. There’s a lot of good stuff out there for Marvel fans and I’m lucky to be able to read all of it and enjoy all of it.
Do you think that Logan will actually stay dead?
I think they have written to a point where Logan stays dead, but then the old man Logan still has the presence of Wolverine in the Marvel Universe. So yeah, that’s a permanent thing. But I mean it’s as permanent as anything in comic books. As long as there is a creative way to bring the character back and it works, I like it. It’s all meant to further the story, so what one guy writes and thinks it’s going to be permanent another author can take it and spin it in another direction and take it. That’s one of the things that I like about comic books is that the different writers and the different authors can take the characters and move them in different directions. It’s always fun to see where each character goes and where the ladders are going to take them.
Recently you quoted Dylan Thomas, saying that you do not plan “to go gently into that good night”. That seems to tie into the Decade of Excellence and the event at Center Stage in Atlanta. What does it mean to you to be able to participate in this tournament?
I was very fortunate. This was an opportunity that I did not know that I would get. To be in the finals of the Decade of Excellence Tournament where a title shot at the 15th Anniversary Pay-Per-View is at stake. You know, my job is not done yet. I still have to wrestle Jay Lethal or Jay Briscoe. But I am very confident in my abilities and right and I feel that I am on a good streak. We will see what happens. I know that either one of those guys would be a test but I think that my experience will be the thing that carries the day for me and then being able to wrestle for the World Championship, if that’s what happens, it’s been awhile since I have wrestled for a World Championship. But it is something that has eluded me up to this point and I feel that I know that those chances don’t come very often, so I am going to take full advantage of it, if I get it.
Is it special going down to Center Stage and wrestling at that arena?
I wrestled it for Ring of Honor in 2010, it was a great atmosphere and I look forward to the Atlanta Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor has always had a good following in Atlanta and I think it has a good history and will be a good thing all the way around.
You can follow Christopher Daniels on Twitter @FACDaniels and you can always watch Ring of Honor at ROHWrestling.com.