The ring general not only signed a new deal with the company, but has also added a new entry to his already impressive resume.
Daniels, 45, was cast in the Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular at Universal Studios Hollywood. The consummate entertainer portrays Dennis Hopper’s villainous character, Deacon, in the stunt show, based off of the 1995 Kevin Costner action movie, Waterworld.
Before he even started wrestling, Daniels always had a passion for acting. This is his chance to expand into another realm of performing. He finished training in February and now does 2-5 shows a day.
“It’s a lot of stunt work and bit different than wrestling,” he said. “One of the things about being a pro wrestler is body control. That helped me sort of pick up what I needed to pick up with the stunt work. Stage combat is a very specialized form of acting. So I had to go through the training. It took me a couple of weeks to pick it up. It’s basically for two fights that last, like, two minutes. It took some time to get to the point where I felt comfortable in doing it. Because I’m a wrestler and have that body control, I sort of had that point of reference of what I needed to do.”
The veteran grappler appreciates the opportunity to spread his wings and hopes that more doors in Hollywood open up for him. However, Daniels remains dedicated to ROH and to helping the promotion excel. Even though the athlete is in the ring with guys who are often a decade or more younger than he is, he holds his own. Daniels attributes this to the pride he has for himself and his craft.
“I said if I couldn’t perform at a high level I was going to get out,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to admit the time is coming close. It means I have to work harder. Part of it is being able to play to my strengths and hide my weaknesses, and that comes with experience. It’s one of those things of being smart, knowing what I can do and what I can’t do and wrestling around that. Working with Alex Shelley at the pay-per-view, Alex is a phenomenal wrestler and is in phenomenal shape. I think I proved I can go out there with a guy of Alex’s caliber and put on an entertaining match and tell a good story and do my job.”
Along with his commitments as a wrestler, he has taken on a more active role behind the scenes of ROH.. one that can be likened to a creative consultant or coach on the sidelines. He is there as a resource.
“I feel I have a good handle of what works and what doesn’t work,” Daniels said. “I think that is part of the reason they wanted me to sign that contract. They wanted me to be that guy helping younger talent become better performers for the company as a whole. Helping with matches, fine tuning performers and their acts and finding what works and what doesn’t work with finishes. Nothing too specific, but basically lending a hand where I can.
“It was this way even before I signed a new contract. Guys would come up asking for my opinion and for me to watch their stuff and to lend constructive criticism. That was part of the deal for me. It sort of builds a foundation for what is going to happen to me after I’m done wrestling in the ring. It was a good fit for me to do this now while I’m continuing to wrestle and get a head start.”
Daniels considers the idea of mentor as a responsibility taken on as a way to give back like those before him.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for guys like Mike Moran of the Texas Hangmen, who was one of the first who took me aside and tell me how to work and help me out. Terry Taylor was someone who helped a lot in TNA. Jim Cornette helped me out a lot not just in ROH, but even before that when he tried to get me in WWE in the late 1990s into early 2000s. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those guys.
“I’ve taken interest in guys like Dalton Castle and Silas Young. I think those guys are very talented performers. If I see something that I think could help their act get better, I certainly offer those suggestions. I feel like two guys that might not need my help, but certainly are asking and getting my opinion are the Young Bucks. Especially, the last couple of years where I’ve sort of become a tag team wrestler with Frankie [Kazarian]. I feel we interact a lot and kick back ideas about what would be different and interesting. There are so many guys like Will Ferrara and Cheeseburger, ACH and Cedric Alexander. These are guys I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with at one time or another to give my opinion.
“Not necessarily of what’s right or wrong, but give them a different viewpoint on stuff. This is an art form that can be done so many different ways. So I never say my way is always the right way. I do certainly say to give this a try and if it works, great. If it doesn’t, move on. So much of what we do is trial and error. Nothing is set in stone. I just sort of give ideas and the chance to take that advice and try to use it. If it works, then I’ve done my job.”
Daniels has witnessed firsthand that the landscape of pro wrestling has drastically changed, especially in WWE and its shifting ideas of how a prototypical superstar should look.
“One of the things that has changed is the mentality of who’s ready for developmental and what they can bring to the table,” Daniels said. “I feel like five years or so years ago someone on the independent scene may have been looked at as too experienced to come into a place like NXT. So a lot of guys who made the rounds and gone overseas and has this wide body of work weren’t necessarily considered to go into WWE at that point. It seems like the attitude was that they’d rather build them from scratch than to take someone who has been around and tweak their skills into their mold.
“The last couple of years, you look at guys like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins. Guys that worked on the independent scene and around the world that when they finally went into the WWE system, they found ways to make what worked for them on independents work for them. Now you look at Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and now AJ Styles, who are now getting those opportunities that five years ago they might not have gotten.”
Daniels has made appearances for WWE at various points of his career. He could see the sports entertainment juggernaut being more interested in him if the past had more like today’s environment in the past.
“I think that the time where WWE might have been most interested in me as a performer and character was when I was under contract with another company,” he said. “So I think the timing wasn’t right. When I was released in 2010, if they had that same mentality that they have now, maybe it would have turned into an opportunity for me to go into NXT or the equivalent of that. I think the times where I was firing on all cylinders as a performer and character were times I was under contract. It’s just the way timing worked out.
“So I didn’t, really recently, pursue it. I knew so many guys younger than me who told they were a little too old. So I sort of guessed what the answer was going to be. At this point I wasn’t really ready to get back out of the ring, either. I would have entertained the idea of being a coach, but it’s not up to me to offer that opportunity. It’s up to them, so I never really went after it. There are guys who never really had what you would call a run in WWE that are doing training at the facility now. But I figured my background was Ring of Honor anyway and the history I have with this company, I saw continuing to go the route I did.”
As half of the fun duo The Addiction with Kazarian, Daniels is enjoying his career. He is still driven by the goal of being ROH world champion if that’s ever in the cards. However, Daniels is concentrating on the incredible tag team scene the company has at the moment.
“I feel like we are doing a good job with that,” he said. “Even with the reformation of the Motor City Machine Guns, that’s another team you can add to the list with so many high level tag teams out there. We want to be at the top of the list. That’s our main priority right now.”
So don’t look for a Christopher Daniels appletini retirement tour in the near future.
“When I say the time is drawing near, I don’t think it’s any time soon,” Daniels said. “I just know that it’s coming. We are closer to the end now than we were to the beginning. It could be two years from now or five years from now. I’m still open-ended. Using my powers of deduction, though, I would assume it’s closer than further away.”
As for thoughts on a final opponent, Daniels says, “The guys that would be the obvious choices are in other spots right now. I don’t have a ‘perfect final guy’ in mind. I would have to call Vincent K. to see if AJ is available, but I’m sure he will be busy that day doing something.”
- Watch Ring of Honor Midnight ET Wednesdays on Comet TV, in syndication via Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates or visit ROHWrestling.com.
- Christopher Daniels will be part of the Supercard of Honor X in Dallas Texas on April 1 and 2.
- Follow me on Twitter: @smFISHMAN.
Photos Courtesy: Ring of Honor