The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 10, 2022

Christopher Daniels: AEW's Fallen Angel Is Ageless

Christopher Daniels: AEW's Fallen Angel Is Ageless


Christopher Daniels (@fachristopherdaniels) is a professional wrestler and also the Head of Talent Relations for All Elite Wrestling. He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about going through the forbidden door to New Japan Pro Wrestling for his match against Gabriel Kidd at NJPW Strong RIVALS on Thursday, February 17 in Hollywood, CA. He also talks about wanted to be an actor before training to be a pro wrestler, working developmental matches for WWE, signing with TNA wrestling, being part of the only 5 star rated match in TNA history at Unbreakable 2005 with Samoa Joe and AJ Styles, his job as head of talent relations for AEW, his thoughts on retirement and much more!

 

To get tickets for NJPW Strong visit: http://njpw1972.com

 

For more information about CVV and INSIGHT go to: https://podcast.chrisvanvliet.com

 

How’s the eye doing?

“Yeah it’s still pretty much the same. But it’s alright, it is a flesh wound as they would say in Monty Python. It’s more cosmetic now than anything, I’ve been checked up and my vision is fine, it’s just gnarly looking. When I talked to the doctor, he said it can happen on occasion where haemorrhages don’t heal or drain. But it has nothing to do with the iris itself, it is just the white of the eye that is discolored. It could dry up in a week or it could be a while. I’ve had haemorrhages before, but for some reason this one is just sticking.”

This happened with your match with The Young Bucks on March 12th.

“Yeah we are coming up on 9 months now.” 

But in that time, you have opened the forbidden door.

“Yeah I have the key to the door and I have opened it up in a couple of different places. I had the match with Jay White in New Japan, and that was my first experience with them. They have a great setup going on there, and Jay White is an amazing wrestler. I didn’t get my hand raised that night, but I felt like I gave him the best fight that he had in a while. So yeah it was a good experience overall.”

So are you still on the road with AEW, even though we are not seeing you on AEW TV?

“Yes. I travel every week, there is a lot of behind the scenes stuff that happens. Whether it is coaching or talent relations stuff. But yeah I am on the road every week, and if I have indy bookings at the weekend, that’s where I go.”

If AEW is coming to your town and you are an aspiring wrestler, what is the best way to get onto AEW Dark?

“Honestly, the best thing for an independent wrestler to do right now is to do the work on the independents. If you can get buzz around your name now, then Tony Khan will find out about you. I get emails from guys saying ‘Hey I would love the opportunity, I am willing to travel, give me the chance…’ I wish I got paid for those, because I would be a rich man. But if you can get Tony’s attention with the work that you do outside of AEW, Tony is more likely to give you an opportunity to be seen. It’s really a matter of going out there and being seen. If you can be viral, Tony will figure out who you are and will reach out to see what you can do in an AEW ring.”

So going back, you signed a developmental deal with WWF in 1993?

“No, that was the rumour. I had met with Jim Cornette along the way, and he had offered me an opportunity to work in the Funkin’ Dojo with Dory Funk Jr. which is really the precursor to the Performance Center. They had camps at Titan Towers with Dr. Tom Prichard, Jim Cornette and Dory Funk. So he [Cornette] offered me a chance to go to that. I did that for a week, and this was the same year as the 50th anniversary of the NWA show, everybody in the dojo was involved in that show. I did that and a few independents, but that was never a developmental contract. It was never a try-out, it was an opportunity to work with Dr. Tom. Also in the camp was Kurt Angle and Dr. Death Steve Williams, Test, Steve Corino. There were a bunch of guys trying to get a job or go from developmental to television. The truth was I was just there for a week and went back to independents. When WWF came to town I would do extra work off and on, which I did until 2002. Then ROH and TNA became a thing, so I stopped doing try-out stuff.”

So there was never an interest by WWF to get you signed?

“If there was then they never said it to me. Honestly at the time, they were not buying what I was selling, and I get that. If you look at the way that the light heavyweight division was not emphasised, it’s all about timing. When I was available, there was not space for guys like me, they were struggling with guys like Taka Michinoku and the other smaller guys. They were on television, but they were struggling. But then it’s 2010 and they are like well let’s get the smaller guys and give them opportunities. At that time, I was entrenched in TNA and ROH, so there wasn’t much there for me.”

How has there only been one 5 star match in TNA?

“I think people don’t recognize how important crowd response is to the atmosphere of a match. I think I might have mentioned this before but I was in New Jersey for [ROH] Final Battle where Low Ki wrestled KENTA. The match itself was amazing and I remember thinking that this is a 5 star match. I remember seeing it get 4 and a half, but if that was in the Impact Zone, it would have been 6 stars. But because it was the New Jersey Rec, it didn’t sound like people were going crazy. But the Impact Zone with that crowd, it was the perfect spot at the perfect time, that atmosphere added to the enjoyment of the match. You can hear it on YouTube and it sounds like 10,000 people, but it’s like 1,000 tops? I think that whole package added up.”

It’s been 3 years now, how do you think AEW is going now compared to back in 2019?

“I think it’s going well. We have grown and we have established an identity. I feel like for the first year we were a well kept secret that was being spread around, then a lot more people knew about this than I thought. Before the pandemic hit, we were filling arenas and having sold out shows and big shows. The pay-per-view before the lockdown, it was sold out in Chicago, it was great. Now we are on the other side of the pandemic, we are selling well, but we have also added so many people that the landscape has changed. At any moment we can throw some guys out there and give you an amazing match. We had no idea that CM Punk and Bryan Danielson would be a thing, and we made so much noise that CM Punk said that this is a place to come back to. We had no idea it would be the case 2 years ago, but here we are.”

So when you come back I am assuming it will be as a singles wrestler. When you have teamed with Frankie Kazarian for so long, can you be ready for it to be broken up?

“Not really, we were not looking forward to it. But it was a calculated risk to make that offer. At the time there was a wide variety of tag teams in the company. I felt like there was an opportunity for us both to do some stuff as singles. I wouldn’t mind and I would love to tag with Frankie again. But if singles is the way to go, we were both accomplished singles before SCU. I know Frankie can go, I am looking for that opportunity to do the same.”

Last time we spoke in person you were the Ring of Honor Champion. What did it mean to finally accomplish that?

“I feel like it was like, you know, you don’t think you can tell a story over 15 years. The circumstances, we had no idea when Ring of Honor started that I would be around and be a contender for the World Championship. But the way with previous circumstances and precious bookers decided to use me, it just sort of fell into place. Honestly, the discussions of me being a champion didn’t happen until after Ladder War. The reaction to the match between me and Frankie, The Young Bucks and The Guns, a lot of people went ‘Wait a minute. This might be the time for Christopher Daniels.’ Someone mentioned it backstage after the match to me, and it sort of turned me into a babyface. The effort and punishment in that match, there was a ground swell that these guys are good and they can wrestle. That was where it all began.”

You were making waves in the 2000’s. Did WWE ever come knocking back on your door?

“No, and honestly the only time they could have, I was fired from TNA at the beginning of 2010. I made a phone call and no one got back to me. But right after that, Jim Cornette made a phone call to me and Ring of Honor reached out. The good thing about ROH is that they always treated me like family, so when that call came, it wasn’t hard to say yes. I had my best matches with El Generico, Kevin Steen, that year was so much fun. It culminated with me going back to TNA, because ROH was bought by SInclair, so I offered to do both. But at that time, Jim Cornette, and rightfully so, said that he couldn’t trust TNA to book me in the same strength that ROH would. I think TNA would have been very forgiving, and if they booked me badly, they would boo TNA and not boo Christopher Daniels. But that was the argument that was made and lost.”

So what’s next for you?

“Firstly there is New Japan Strong, where Gabriel Kidd and I face off for the first time. But I feel like for me it is facing a lot of younger guys who are trying to make a name for themselves at my expense. I faced Nick Wayne recently, who is like 20 years old, I have wrestling boots older than he is. I feel like my life is wrestling guys who are 10-20 years younger than me looking to get better by beating guys of my stature. They are going to be faster or stronger than me, but I will always have experience in my favour. I know what I can do that they can’t. I know what it takes to win, because I have been doing it for a long while. Part of the excitement for me is going in there with someone who is younger, stronger and faster, and then keeping up with them.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are you grateful for?

“I have avoided the plague like the plague, I have been COVID free. Also during the pandemic I worked for Tony Khan and the friends I have in professional wrestling.”