This Sunday at TNA's Bound For Glory pay-per-view event, tag champs Christopher Daniels and Kazarian will defend in a triple threat match against AJ Styles &
"The Fallen Angel" -- approaching 20 years in the pro wrestling game -- has had a very interesting road in the business. My colleague Jimi Kee and I had a chance to speak with Daniels:
I know you have a busy weekend ahead, so let's get right into it.
I'm actually packing for this weekend you're talking about, sir. It is a busy weekend and I appreciate your forthrightness, so let's get to it!
Can you tell us a little bit about how you began your career in professional wrestling?
I was born a small child on a sharecropper's farm in North Carolina…that's not true. Actually I grew up in North Carolina, and I was a big fan of the Mid-Atlantic promotion; I grew up watching guys like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, you know, watching actual wrestling happen. And then fast forward to after I graduated college, I lived in Chicago and I always joked with my girlfriend at the time that if this acting thing, which is what I got my degree in college in, I could always be a professional wrestler. Well she found a school in Chicago, Windy City Pro Wrestling, she found the school, made the appointment for me to meet the owner, his name was Sam DeCero, and I went in and talked to him for a short bit of time and my wife says I came out with stars in my eyes. She said I was hypnotized and I decided I was going to give it a shot. I felt like if I went to that wrestling school and failed, at least I could tell my kids, "Hey guys I tried this for a short period of time, it didn't work out." But as it happened, because I was such a fan way back in the day, I had a really good frame of reference for my training. I started my training in January of 1993, I had my first match in April of 1993 and the rest is history.
You were a prominent figure in the beginning of the 'X Division' in TNA. What made that division special then and where do you see it going now?
Well I think that at the time there wasn’t anything like the ‘X Division’ on television. You just had ECW and WCW sort of close down in the last year or two before TNA came to prominence. And so WCW and ECW, those were the places where you would see guys like Taka Michinoku or Rey Mysterio, Psicosis, or the cruiserweights from WCW; that is where you saw that fast-paced hybrid of Japanese style and Mexican style of Lucha Libre. Once those two companies closed, there wasn’t really an outlet for that style, that fast-paced athletic style. And so, when TNA came around at the middle of 2002, they put emphasis on guys like Low-Ki and Jerry Lynn and A.J. Styles and the Amazing Red. It was different from what you were seeing in the
You mention A.J. Styles. You guys have had a storied history in TNA. What is it about the two of you that makes you both gravitate towards each other in the business?
I don't know. Ever since A.J. and I met back in 2001, we wrestled at the NWA 53rd anniversary show and not soon after that we wrestled again at the APW 'King of the Indies' tournament. I feel like those two matches put us both on the map in terms of what we could do if given a chance to wrestle each other. And so, from those two matches and the birth of Ring of Honor and the birth of TNA, where we had an opportunity to work with each other there as well, I feel like the independent promoters felt like they were going to get their money's worth if they booked that match. So we wrestled each other all over the United States, we wrestled each other overseas, we wrestled each other in Australia, we wrestled each other in Ireland and England -- so many different places. And now almost 11 or 12 years later, I don't think there's another person in this world that I've had as many matches with as I've had with A.J. and I feel like to this day, despite the fact that we've wrestled each other so many times, we both have such pride in our work and our work ethic that we go out there and try to make it different. We try to make each match new and different for the fans who may have been following us for this long, who may have had a chance to see us wrestle each other in Ring of Honor back in 2002 or watched us wrestle for the 'X Division' title in 2005 when I had it. It's us trying to show the world that we're still growing, still improving as wrestlers and when we face off against each other we try and show the world that we still are two of the best in the world.
You bring up a good point about keeping things new and fresh. You've always been someone who's been able to re-invent yourself as a character. With few talents in the business that are able to that, someone like C.M. Punk comes to mind, how do you find your success in doing so?
It’s just trying different things. I’ve been fortunate in the past year, year and a half where I’ve had a lot of support from the creative team here in TNA. Guys like Eric Bischoff and
Before we switch gears here … "Appletini"… where did you get the idea? Where did it come from?
That actually all came from an idea from a promo we did at ‘Slammiversary’ where Frankie (Kazarian) and I raised a toast to our team, and I thought to myself, “Well, what drink could I have that would be instantly recognizable and instantly get some sort of reaction from the fans and the first thing I thought of was the ‘appletini.’ A lot of people mention it was a big deal in the television show “Scrubs." I was a big fan of that show, but I don’t recall specifically thinking, “Oh, it worked for
You were part of TNA during the early days and now obviously part of its current product. What is the most important thing for TNA to do to continue to grow and take it to the next level so to speak?
I just think it's a matter of getting more eyes on the product. I think our locker room is the best locker room in the world. I feel like we've got the most talent, but if people aren't watching, and they're not aware that this show is going on then it doesn't matter. It's like if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it actually make a noise? So I just feel like we're doing the best we can to get the word out that TNA is available to everybody, we're only 10 years old, so a lot of casual fans aren't aware that there's another wrestling product other than the WWE. So it's our job to let everybody know that there's a place where guys like Kurt Angle, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray, all these guys, whether they're stars from the past in WWE or stars that are homegrown like Bobby Roode and James Storm in our company, you know it's up to us to go out there and try and let everybody know and make everybody aware that there is an alternative to WWE. Like doing this interview with you, doing interviews in the past week. I must have done 30 interviews regarding 'Bound For Glory,' and hopefully if I can get five new fans from reading about me in the newspaper or hearing these interviews that I do on podcasts or radio stations. ... If we can get those fans to watch our product just that one time, I think that if they're real wrestling fans they're going to stick with the product and the word of mouth is going to spread sooner rather than later and we will have that audience that we desire.
How do you feel the transition has gone since TNA went live on Thursday nights?
I think it's been great, man. I think we sort of got pushed up against the wall in terms of we were surprised we were going live. There wasn't a whole lot of turnaround from the announcement to actually going live, so there wasn't a whole lot of preparation, it was just a matter of "Here we go!" But as far as we, the performers, are concerned, I mean we would do pay-per-view live once a month for the last seven years. So going live every week, there was a little bit of an added pressure, but it wasn't something we weren't familiar with already. We just needed to hit our marks; we knew what we had to do.
With a lot of talk in the wrestling world today surrounding the next generation of stars, how do you feel about TNA's 'Gut Check' program?
It's up to those kids that come in to do 'Gut Check,' it's up to them to be 100 percent and be ready for the opportunity to join the TNA roster. So sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. To me, as someone who wants to be on television for two hours straight, I look at the opportunity that's given to some of these guys and I think to myself, "They're taking time away from me." So I mean, if they're going to take time away from me, they better be ready to step up and be a part of TNA from that moment forward you know. So, that to me, if there's a problem with (Gut Check), it's that we got to make sure that these guys we're giving the opportunity to, they're ready to go. Sometimes they are and sometimes they're not, but it falls on them. Once they're given the opportunity, they have to sort of seal the deal. Some have it and some don't at this point.
Is there anybody in the company now though that you look at and say "he's our next guy" or "that's our guy NOW" going forward?
It'd be easy to say Austin Aries because he's had such a phenomenal year and a half since he returned to the company. I don't think anybody has skyrocketed as fast as he has and I think he's been very successful as the World Champion. And I think that no matter what happens at 'Bound For Glory,' whether he retains or loses the title, they'll never be able to take the fact that he is a World Champion now in two different companies. He's one of those guys that I think definitely has arrived and from this day forward he can build on his legacy how he sees fit. As far as other guys coming up, I feel like Kenny King is someone that, once he gets into our mix full time, I think he's going to turn some heads. He's someone that I've known from my days in Ring of Honor, where I was very impressed with him there. I think that once he gets the opportunity to show the type of athlete, the type of character that he is, that he's going to connect with the audience very quickly and I think it's just a matter of time before he shows everyone what he's all about.
Let's talk about 'Bound For Glory'. You're in a triple-threat tag team match with the titles on the line against the team of A.J. Styles and Kurt Angle as well as Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez. What can we expect from TNA's biggest show of the year?
Everybody in our locker room expects 'Bound For Glory' to be the culmination. We gear up for this for months. We know what's coming; we know that 'Bound For Glory' is the biggest deal of our year. And for myself and Frankie as the 'World Tag Team Champions of the World,' we know that the target is on us, and IMPACT Wrestling put us in a situation where there's not one but two teams for us to defend against, they've really stacked the deck against us. We don't even have to be in the ring to lose our own championships, and we fully understand that. But we are the best tag team, not just in TNA right now, but in all of wrestling today and I firmly believe that and so does Frankie and so do a lot of the fans. They feel like we are one of the best tag teams in the business and I agree. We're in a situation where we can show the world how good we are by defeating not just what could be the best mix of Latino strength and Mexican savvy in terms of Chavo and Hernandez, but also what has been referred to as a 'dream team' by Mike Tenay, by many wrestling pundits in Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles; former World Champions, future Hall of Famers. They're both outstanding wrestlers. But if we beat both of those teams at 'Bound For Glory', on the biggest stage of our year, we're going to come out of this show looking like the tag team we told everyone we are, the best tag team in the business.
Aside from your own match of course, what other match at 'Bound For Glory' are your most looking forward to?
I'm personally looking forward to watching Samoa Joe defend the TV Title against Magnus. I think that Joe has had a fire lit under him in the past couple of months. He had such a great showing in the Bound For Glory Series, and for him to finally lose at the end to the man who eventually won it in Jeff Hardy, I think that he showed a lot of determination in making it as far as he did. And to come around not three weeks later and win the TV Title when you're given the opportunity, I feel like he's firing on all cylinders. Now if there is anyone in the TNA locker room that knows Joe well enough to be a real threat, it's Magnus. These guys were former World Tag Team Champions, they were partners for a long time and they succeeded when no one else in the business thought they would. They were thrown together as a result of a mixed tag tournament sort of thing and they ended up becoming a great team and great friends. Now they find each other at odds and I think it's going to be a great match. I think Magnus has come a long way since his debut in TNA and I think he is a definite threat to Joe and his title.
So how can people get in touch with Christopher Daniels? Twitter? Facebook?
Christopher Daniels does not do Facebook. I have a Facebook page but I very rarely use it, because I don't go on the computer a lot at home. I've got two kids and they monopolize my computer time. I do have a smart phone so I'm on Twitter all the time @facdaniels. Fans can follow my schedule and buy my T-Shirts and the things they love about Christopher Daniels at www.fallenangelchristopherdaniels.com, probably the longest URL in internet history, but I'm proud of it. But that's pretty much it. Follow me on twitter, 140 characters of genius every time I tweet.
TNA's 'Bound For Glory' is this Sunday, October 14th, we look forward to you tearing the house down.
Thank you very much; Thanks to the fans for following along. Those of us in TNA, especially Frankie and myself , we understand that we wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for the support of the real fans and we're going to reward them with one hell of a show at 'Bound For Glory.'
With special thanks to Jimi Kee