Last weekend, Ring of Honor returned to pay-per-view for their All Star Extravaganza event in front of a packed house in Lowell, MA. Among the highlights of the stellar show were the PPV debuts of Shane Taylor and Keith Lee, a tag team that could evolve the role of heavyweights in the sport. There was also the tremendous Kamaitachi/Dragon Lee contest, the latest in a series of matches that has thrilled audiences literally around the globe with bouts in CMLL in Mexico and New Japan before it was imported to ROH.
Despite the shining moments of young stars that have a bright future in the business, it was a seasoned veteran that arguable stole the show with a display of incredible passion for the industry.
At the top of the card was a three team “Ladder War,” a rarely booked stipulation, but one that lives up to the hype and has produced some memorable results, as competitors push the limit in the risky match. The tag team championships were only the line when The Addiction, The Motor City Machine Guns, and The Young Bucks showcased their skills in the main event.
Christopher Daniels, a 23 year veteran of the squared circle, wore a crimson mask for a majority of the match and took bumps that most competitors half his age wouldn’t be willing to take, even on pay-per-view. At 46, Daniels can still go inside the ring ropes and quite frankly, in a match with five other wrestlers, he didn’t have to take the bumps he did. A nasty backdrop onto a ladder and crashing into a guard rail from the apron were only a few of the moments that stunned the live crowd. Why didn’t this seasoned pro use the vet card and allow his younger contemporaries to take the extra risks? Simple, because that’s not his style and it would be a difficult task to find a match where he mailed it in. Christopher Daniels always gives it 100% because of his dedication to the sport, a dedication that probably hasn’t been acknowledged as much as it should during his career.
After pursing a degree in theater for a potential acting career, Christopher Daniels trained to become a pro wrestler at Windy City Pro Wrestling in Chicago, where he began his career in 1993. The rest of the 90s were a flourishing period for Daniels, as many opportunities came his way, but in what became somewhat of a recurring theme in his career, he just didn’t seem to be at the right place at the right time. In 1998, he debuted for the WWF, working a series of dark matches and secondary TV appearances during the next few years, but at the time, the company didn’t feature many lightweight wrestlers and he ultimately didn’t land a contract there. The following year, he had a brief stint in Extreme Championship Wrestling, appearing in half a dozen matches during the span of a few months, and also became a mainstay on the west coast for promotions such as All Pro Wrestling, the independent group that was featured in Beyond The Mat. It was also in 1999 that Daniels achieved notable success in Japan under a mask as the colorful Curry Man persona when he worked extensively for Michinoku Pro. In 2001, he worked a match on WCW Nitro and was offered a contract after the contest. WCW, a promotion that did focus on the cruiser weight style, was seemingly a place that Daniels would’ve worked well, but he was released shortly before the organization was sold.
Despite his work being praised by national and international promotions, Christopher Daniels was a victim of circumstance in some ways, as his national exposure in the United States was cut short when Ted Turner’s wrestling group imploded. However, the character of “The Fallen Angel,” a cult leader of sorts, continued to garner notoriety by wrestling for many different independent promotions across the United States. In 2002, Ring Of Honor was launched and Daniels is considered one of founding members of the company. ROH generated an underground following and Christopher Daniels is one of the main reasons the company got off the ground in the early 2000s. A combination of aerial grace and technical ability allowed “The Fallen Angel” to stamp his name in ROH history as one of the most important figures for the group that now broadcasts on syndicated TV as well as pay-per-view.
The same year ROH began, Total Nonstop Action was started after former WCW champion Jeff Jarrett launched a weekly pay-per-view series, and when the company was looking for athletes to innovate, The Fall Angel was added to the roster within the first few months of the launch. After nearly a decade in the industry, Daniels finally had a semi national platform between the diehard fan base of ROH and the increasing exposure of TNA. The history of what would become Impact Wrestling is complicated, but Daniels always delivered quality matches there, either as a part of Triple X in the early days or his lengthy feud with his real-life best friend, AJ Styles.
Speaking of Styles, the WWE champion had such a storied rivalry with Daniels that it could be argued that The Fallen Angel helped him evolve into the WWE star he is today. In some ways, Daniels almost played second fiddle to his younger, more charismatic opponent, even though they were equally as talented bell-to-bell. I always thought that TNA missed the boat on Christopher Daniels because he was rarely booked to defeat Styles during their numerous contests. After a certain point, an AJ/Fallen Angel match was guaranteed to be fantastic, but the result wasn’t in doubt. Obviously, there are similarities between the two and as mentioned, it could be said that they are equally talented so I don’t think there was any reason that Christopher Daniels didn’t get a run as heavyweight champion during his time in TNA. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but I will say that it seemed as though for some reason, Daniels just didn’t connect with the crowd completely during his time at the Impact Zone. Maybe it was because he put such an emphasis on delivering solid performances that character development was secondary? That said, Daniels can undoubtedly identify with an audience, but it was actually using the Curry Man character so maybe the different dynamic allowed him to work more toward the crowd? It’s somewhat ironic that at 46 years old, the “Almighty” spin that Daniels added to his character in recent years seems to work the best for him, as his mannerisms and promos are arguably the best of his career.
Regardless of any perceived lack of crowd interaction there might’ve been, it’s absurd that Daniels was released from TNA in 2014. You won’t find a sub par Christopher Daniels match and that’s why he’s always an asset to any promotion. His TNA career was really a mixed bag, sometimes they booked him correctly, sometimes they fumbled it, but it’s unquestionable that he contributed substantially to the promotion. Shortly after his TNA exit, Daniels resurfaced in ROH, the promotion he helped build, and along with Kazarian, the duo have done well there.
Christopher Daniels didn’t have the typical size of a pro wrestler when he started in 1993 and he didn’t make a name for himself cutting promos, but he has over twenty years of a track record as one of the most consistent performers in the sport. He made a name for himself as one of the most graceful and skilled athletes of his era, accomplishments that he often didn’t received the proper credit for at various time. If anything proves how talented Christopher Daniels is, it’s that he’s one of the few active competitors that has wrestled for every major promotion of the modern era. Each team deserves a lot of credit for the effort they displayed in the ladder match, but it also highlighted the reason that Christopher Daniels remains a credit to the wrestling business after such an extensive career.
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Until next week
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