Q&A with TNA star Christopher Daniels
I conducted a phone interview Wednesday with TNA star Christopher Daniels, who will face A.J. Styles in the main event of Sunday’s Destination X pay-per-view:
How much do you and the other X Division guys look at Sunday’s pay-per-view as an opportunity to prove that your style of wrestling not only has value but can be a focal point of the company?
I feel like that point’s already been proven – it just doesn’t always follow what the people in charge believe. I feel like the X Division, when it first started out, it was the thing that made TNA different than everything else that was on the scene. It was also the thing that brought a lot of the buzz around TNA in the very beginning. So I feel like that point’s been proven, but it doesn’t always follow suit. Sometimes things are misinterpreted and [those in charge] feel like it’s better to go in different directions. But it’s funny that they always seem to keep coming back to the X Division. When it comes down to putting marquee matches in the ring, the X Division is usually called upon, whether it’s the three-way between me, [Samoa] Joe and A.J. [Styles], or just a singles match between me and A.J., or Ultimate X, or any of those things. When they want a sure-fire way to grab people’s attention, a lot of times the X Division is called upon. Having said that, I feel like all of us that are on this show are looking forward to the opportunity to show that an all-X Division pay-per-view can certainly grab the wrestling public’s attention and make them want to shell out some cash to see it.
Why do you think it is that no matter what company we’re talking about – TNA, WWE or WCW – the X Division guys or light heavyweights or cruiserweights – whatever you want to call them – always end up getting treated as second-class citizens? And do you think that TNA has an opportunity now to change that perception?
I can’t really comment on why it seems to be sort of put in the background, other than the fact that it sort of flies in the face of what stereotypically professional wrestling has been. There’s always the argument that professional wrestlers are supposed to stand out and turn heads when they walk through an airport, but at the same time, look at someone like Georges St. Pierre, who is smaller than me, yet he is the top [MMA] fighter in the world today. His last fight drew record numbers. It’s not necessarily the size of the fighter, but for some reason, it seems like when the X Division or junior heavyweights or whatever it’s called has a resurgence, at some point there’s a lull in that movement for one reason or another.
For those who don’t know the history, can you talk a little bit about your friendship with A.J. Styles? And what’s it like to work a match with him on a big show given how close the two of you are?
A.J. and I met at the NWA 53rd Anniversary show in 2001. That was the first time we ever wrestled each other, too. That match got enough buzz around it to where independent promoters started booking the match itself all around the United States. So there was a period of time in which A.J. and I were wrestling each other almost exclusively. He and I got to become real close, traveling, hanging out and working with each other. Right around that time, TNA and Ring of Honor started up and we were both involved with both companies. Coming up in both of those companies and sort of watching ourselves grow from guys who were names on the independent scene to guys who were names with either company, sharing that experience and then the fact that in our private lives, we’re both married and have kids about the same age now, that whole experience has brought us closer together as friends. Being able to work with your best friend in the main event of a pay-per-view is a special feeling. You know that you’re both sharing the opportunity to reap the benefits of your hard work.
You mentioned being involved in both TNA and ROH during the early days of the companies. You’ve been in a unique position as of late by working simultaneously for both of them. What is your contract status and your future with each organization?
I can’t really comment on any of that right now to be honest with you. All I can really tell you is to wait and see what happens. I don’t want to give away anything or tip my hand one way or the other.
Fair enough. What are your general thoughts on ROH getting bought by Sinclair Broadcast Group and how it will affect the wrestling landscape?
I think it’s a great opportunity for Ring of Honor to widen the spotlight on them and get more eyes on them. I was actually just asked in an interview if I thought that this would help them become more competition for TNA, but I really don’t see that happening because of the fact that TNA is on cable and Ring of Honor is going to be on broadcast, the times are going to be different, the channels are going to be different. I just feel it’s an opportunity for wrestling fans to get more wrestling. I don’t feel like one’s going to take away from the other. If Ring of Honor consistently puts out the product that they’re capable of putting out, they can’t help but grow. And it’s the same thing for TNA. I feel that if we keep putting out the type of product that we’re capable of putting out, we’re going to move forward. I’m glad that Ring of Honor has that opportunity. I look forward to seeing how it prospers with [COO] Joe Koff, who is an admitted wrestling fan and has had dealings with wrestling in the past. When you get guys who are passionate about the product in charge, you can’t help but succeed. So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens for Ring of Honor in the next couple months.
When Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff first came to TNA, you quickly went from headlining pay-per-views in world title matches to jobbing to Val Venis. When you left, was it your choice or theirs, and did you think you’d ever be back?
First of all, it was not my choice at all. It sort of blindsided me, actually. I was under the impression that something was in the works for me, and found out that there wasn’t anything in the works for me. So I was disappointed at that, but at the same time, right away when I was let go, I was told that there were plans for me to come back, it was just a matter of time and circumstance. So I wasn’t sure when I would come back, but I was told that at some point I would. It took a little while longer than I thought it was going to. But I was always in discussions with them. I kept in touch with them to sort of see what the landscape was and if there was a position for me there, and it ended up coming into play in March. I was lucky that things went a certain way and the position opened up for me.
You certainly came back in a good spot – as a member of Fortune.
Yeah, I’m lucky that while I was gone, A.J. and Frankie [Kazarian] and Beer Money went from being the second of two heel factions to being the top group of good guys in the company. So I was lucky that happened and the fact that I came in affiliated with them certainly didn’t do me any harm.
What match at Destination X are you most looking forward to seeing?
I think one of them would be Samoa Joe and Kazarian. Having worked with those guys in the past as much as I have and being friends with them like I am, I know that their attitude is that they’re going to take this opportunity to steal the show. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do. I know it’s been a while since I’ve seen them together in a high-profile singles match. Being a Southern California guy, and those guys were in Southern California, there were many nights when we were all in the same locker room and those guys put on some great matches. Now here it is 2011 and they’re getting an opportunity to go at it one more time and it’s on pay-per-view.
Any final thoughts?
I’d just like to say thanks to the fans of Impact Wrestling and TNA that have stuck with us through a couple of tumultuous months since all the big sweeping changes have happened. Those are the fans who have stuck with us and made it possible for us to continue doing what we’re doing, and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be where we are. So thanks to them, and we’re going to have a great show at Destination X.
Photo courtesy of impactwrestling.com