By Chuck Carroll
Imagine working for the same company for nearly 20 years. You come to work every day and give everything that you have trying to give the company an edge of the competition. You follow orders, you do everything right and you genuinely care about the success of your employer. But despite your loyalty, you’re passed over time and again for a promotion.
Such is the story of Christopher Daniels and Ring of Honor. “The Fallen Angel” was there on day one and has seen it grow from being a small promotion trying to fill the void of a collapsed ECW to becoming what is arguably the second biggest wrestling company in the United States. Yes, Daniels has explored other options outside of ROH, but he’s always been synonymous with the brand.
And for his loyalty he’s been rewarded with a handful of tag team title runs and one television title run, but the top prize has always eluded him. For whatever reason the ROH decision makers haven’t seen fit to put the world title on him. But maybe they’ll finally take a gamble on him and his luck will change next month in Las Vegas. The 46-year-old has a guaranteed world title match at the ROH 15th Anniversary show, presumably against Adam Cole. Cole is nearly 20 years Daniels’ junior but is the only man in history to have won the ROH World Championship on three occasions.
It seems that in an industry that thrives on storylines, no better script could be written than for the veteran to at long last win his first world title at an anniversary show. But whether it happens remains to be seen.
Perhaps it’s that uncertainty that’s help motivate Daniels to pursue outside interests. He and longtime (spoiler alert: former) tag team partner Frankie Kazarian are releasing their second comic book. And although they are (were) thick as thieves in the ring, the cover of the latest comic hints of dissension in the ranks. “The Fallen Angel” is busting out of a bank with bags of cash in his hand while Kazarian is calling for him to be stopped.
In reality, Daniels is hoping that there will be enough people buying the comic that he won’t actually have to resort to a life of crime. He’ll probably wind up on the right side of the law, as he’s following a wildly successful business model in wrestling. He’s appealing to kids. Daniels, a father himself, is hoping to fill a void on the independent scene where, unlike WWE, most merchandise is geared toward older fans.
This is actually his second comic release. It’s called Aw Yeah Comics Team Up with Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian; Number 1.
You’ve been wrestling for a long time and were with Ring of Honor at its inception. Do you feel like you’ve paid your dues, and a title reign is overdue?
I think I paid enough dues a long time ago. But circumstances are what they are, and sometimes matches don’t go the way you want them to go. Certainly going into the 15th Anniversary Show I feel like there’s a lot of momentum on my side right now. If the fans’ feelings are that it’s about time I’ve had the championship, I’m not going to argue with that. It remains to be seen what happens. March 10th is a ways away, and a lot can happen between now and then. I’ve gone into every title match that I’ve ever had with the idea that I’ve worked hard enough to get there and can carry the title that I’m competing for if I get my hand raised at the end. That’s the same mentality that I’m going into it this time.
Have you been frustrated that you haven’t been elevated to the top position in ROH?
Not specifically frustrated. Things go the way they go. It’s not up to me to say this is a good direction or a bad direction. It’s just the way it was. All of us as pro wrestlers try to put ourselves out there as the best product we can be. It falls to people above us to decide that’s the best direction for the company to go. Personal frustration aside, I’ve always done what the people above me thought was best for the company. If that’s what happens on March 10th then great. If not, then I’ll continuing doing what I do, which is work to the best of my ability to be a compelling performer and entertaining wrestling character.
WWE will reportedly be adding more external content to their network, such as European promotions and perhaps EVOLVE here in the States. Is there concern that they will monopolize the wrestling world online as they did with traditional platforms?
I’m not afraid of that, only because there will always be places like Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground. There’s always going to be a market for an alternative. Even as diverse as the content is on the WWE Network, with the Cruiserweight Classic and 205 Live being different from NXT which is different from RAW and SmackDown. There’s still always going to be a market for an alternative to all of that… I don’t feel like WWE is ever going to become the only place for professional wrestling, even if they call it something different, and it’s all under the same WWE umbrella. It will end up being WWE at its core.
Kenny Omega in an interview recently compared WWE to McDonalds. It’s a pretty good analogy in the sense that it’s world famous and it’s everywhere and everybody loves to eat McDonalds. But they can’t eat McDonalds all the time.
Cody Rhodes is working for both TNA and Ring of Honor. Would you be interested in doing a double-dip like that?
It would have to be a situation that would call for something like that. Honestly, right now I don’t see anything that would make me want to go to TNA. I wouldn’t say I’m not going. It would have to be something creatively that would spark an idea. At this point, I’m really happy working with Ring of Honor. If the landscape were to change, where some sort of partnership between Ring of Honor and TNA would be beneficial for both companies, I would certainly be open to that. But I don’t see it that way yet, and we’d have to adjust that answer if something were to come up in the future.
TNA has been undergoing a massive overhaul in recent months with turnover and new ownership. Did you have the feeling that this was something that’s been on the cusp of happening for years and you’re surprised it took so long?
I can’t really comment on it with any sort of intelligence because all I know is the same thing that everyone else has seen and read. I know how it was when I left in 2014. But the truth is even from then to now it’s probably changed so much, with the shakeups and going from Destination America to Pop TV. I’m not really familiar with the players behind the scenes, so I can’t tell you whether it was overdue. I know when I left that I felt like there was some upheaval in management. But I couldn’t tell you everything that’s gone on. I’ve seen what everyone else has with the ratings and mishaps that have gone on.
Are you surprised that it took so long for your former TNA colleague Samoa Joe to wind up on WWE’s main roster?
Not so much surprised, I’m just happy that it finally happened. I feel like one of the reasons that it took so long is that they were waiting for the right moment. Certainly him debuting in a situation against Seth Rollins in the current story between Rollins and Triple H. It makes sense and it’s certainly a high profile debut for Joe. I’m glad that they waited until they thought [they] would properly put the spotlight on him. I’m certainly interested to see where this goes. Coming off the Royal Rumble to go toward WrestleMania, I would think that would mean Joe is in a prime position to have a high-profile match at his first WrestleMania.
Wrestlers are creative people, both in and out of the ring. Some people are musicians, some are artists, but you’re a comic guy. How did all of that come about?
I had the idea to make a comic book with wrestlers in it to bring to the merchandise tables at the shows. Pro wrestling merchandise is geared toward that 18-34 year-old. There are a lot of DVDs and t-shirts, but nothing specifically for a 10 or 12-year-old at the table. We wanted to make as much stuff as possible for the families that are coming to the shows. So, I wrote the book hoping they would be interested in making something like that. And to my surprise, they were. So, a couple of years ago we put out the first comic and now we have the second.
Is this a sequel to the first or an all-new adventure?
It’s a brand new adventure. The first one was really only meant to be the one story. But I was inspired and had an idea for another story I wanted to put down, and that’s what ended up becoming this comic. If I get inspired again and have another good idea, I’ll certainly return to the drawing board and team up with Art and Franco.
On the cover you look like a nefarious character. You’re robbing a bank and your tag team partner, Kazarian, is saying you must be stopped. You’re a tag team… what’s going on?
I don’t want to give too much away. I’m not 100 percent ready to retire, so am I looking to add a couple of zeros to the end of my bank account? You’ll have to pick up the book to find out exactly what’s going on. It’s worth picking up to check out.
Growing up, you’re either a DC Comics guy or a Marvel guy. Which were you?
I was Marvel, 100 percent. I grew up reading Marvel comics. The first comic that really got me hooked was Uncanny X-Men. That turned me into being a guy who just picked up what he could get to, scouting out certain issues and going to the comic shops and finding back issues to get the complete run. Ever since then I’ve been a collector and reader. Hopefully someone reads my book and gets that same mentality and thinks this is fun and is something they’d like to continue to read and see what else is out there.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.