By Scott Fishman, Miami Herald Writer
Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds internet pay-per-view in May closed with a video featuring Christopher Daniels, announcing his return to the promotion for its Best in the World spectacular on Sunday, June 22 from the Nashville Fairgrounds.
That event will also be ROH’s debut on traditional pay-per-view.
The “Fallen Angel” proves the old adage that you can always go home, ready to begin his latest stint with a promotion he knows all too well. This comes after closing his three-year chapter with TNA Impact Wrestling, who decided not to renew his contract.
“When my contract expired with TNA, Ring of Honor was the first place I thought to inquire about continuing my career,” he said. “I always had a really good relationship with that company, even when I left in 2011 I knew the door was open. So it made perfect sense for me to go there. Now with so much new talent and fresh match-ups for me, it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Daniels is a veteran known throughout the industry for his dedicated work ethic to put on tremendous matches. He shared this passion with his longtime friend and tag team partner Frankie Kazarian. The two members of “Bad Influence” were consistently one of the most entertaining parts of TNA each week. You never knew what they would do next, making them a popular part of the show. In the last year, though, TNA decided to focus on other acts, fazing them out.
“Nobody ever explained to me why that was,” he said. “So I was disappointed, but these decisions are made above our heads basically. We really don’t get an opportunity to get the real story behind a lot of them. It is what it is.”
The veteran who performed all around the world during his more than two decades in pro wrestling isn’t one to sit on the sidelines. Daniels excited to step back into ROH, which since he was last there acquired new talent and given familiar faces a push to the top.
“You look at two guys like Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, who were just tagging together and just started picking up speed together as a team during my time,” he said. “Three years later, one of them is the world champion and the other is one-half of the tag team champions. That says a lot that in the three years they have grown to the point where they’re putting on great matches and headlining internet pay-per-views and putting on match-of-the-year candidates. It’s really cool to know that so much has happened for them in such a short amount of time. I look forward to getting the opportunity to working with either one of those guys.”
Daniels is taking the wait-and-see approach as to his role in the current landscape of ROH. Given the teaser that aired at War of the Worlds, he isn’t coming alone, and the reception has been largely positive from the often strongly opinionated fans of the product.
“I think Ring of Honor fans have always appreciated hard work,” Daniels said. “I don’t think I ever had a reputation of phoning it in, no matter where I’ve gone. So I think they appreciate the fact that when I get there I will do my best to wrestle at that top level like I always have been. I think there is an excitement to see these new match-ups and have opportunities that I didn’t have three years ago the last time I was there. Especially, like the Young Bucks and looking at redDRagon and the Forever Hooligans, there is a really deep tag team scene right there. It will be interesting to see what happens when I get there with my ‘mystery partner’ and I’m holding up air quotes as I say that.”
(ROH announced his mystery partner. It is Kazarian.)
Daniels, not lacking confidence, was given further inspiration from his long-time friend and rival AJ Styles. Rather than continuing with TNA, he decided to explore other pro wrestling ventures. So far that has paid dividends as Styles stands the IWGP heavyweight champ for New Japan Pro Wrestling and is a regular in ROH.
“Knowing that AJ took that step away from TNA, and it was a tough step for him,” he said. “I know there was a lot of thought that went into his decision to not re-sign with TNA. It was a risk. He knew what was really outside of TNA was a mystery to him at this point. So it took a lot for him to make that decision. I feel like looking at the last couple of months, I think he thinks he made the right decision. I think he has done some great stuff and look forward to sharing a locker room with him once again.”
The Appletini connoisseur has a busy schedule with Kazarian. Daniels refers to working with Frankie as one of the best things to happen in his career.
“I think Frankie will say the same thing,” he said. “He and I have been friends since the late 1990s. To get the opportunity to be a tag team and work in TNA those last couple of years was a lot of fun. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what we can do as a team. We’re looking what we can do on the independent scene, Ring of Honor, internationally. There are a lot of fresh match-ups for all of us out there. We want to show we are one of the best tag teams in the world today.”
On top of his wrestling appearances, Daniels is promoting a comic book he wrote that includes him and Kazarian. The collaboration with Aw Yeah Comics, a respected brand within the industry, is a dream come true for the comic book die-hard.
“I’ve known [Aw Yeah Comics founders] Art [Baltazar] and [Aureliani] Franco for a couple of years now,” Daniels said. “I literally just had an idea to write a story about Frankie and myself and their comic book characters. I sent a completely unsolicited draft to those guys wondering if they would be interested in making it. To my delight, they decided they would. It’s the equivalent to a guy who had never done a movie before sending a script to Pixar and having them decide to do it.
“I was very lucky those guys wanted to get involved with it, and their name carries a lot of weight in the comic book world. They are an Eisner award-winning artists and creators. It’s that credibility a lot of guys don’t get to experience. I’m very proud of the book and the fact I wrote it. It is something I will always have.”
Daniels was looking at the comic as a way to have them resonate with younger audiences and broaden the team’s appeal past the 18-34 demographic. His plan was to have it sell at TNA live events, standing out among the other typical merchandise at the stands. However, just as the comic was getting printed his contract expired. Daniels has hopes ROH will be more receptive to it. The writing process gave the grappler even more respect for those who do it full-time.
“It’s a lot harder than you think,” Daniels said. “I was lucky enough to be inspired to write the first story, but if I had a gun to my head and had a monthly deadline I don’t know if I could handle it. I appreciate what it is to put out even one issue of a comic book.”
Daniels is formulating a follow-up that is slated to come out later this year. However, don’t look for the 44-year-old to hang up the boots anytime soon. He is still as motivated as ever to stay in shape and more than hold his own against opponents who may be 10-15 years younger than him.
“I love doing what I’m doing what I do now,” Daniels said. “I tell my friends the minute that I can’t keep up and it’s not fun anymore, I will get out.”
Looking at his latest series of matches he is filling both prerequisites just fine.
• Follow Daniels on Twitter @FACDaniels
• Daniels makes his official return to Ring of Honor as the company makes its pay-per-view debut 8 p.m. EST Sunday, June 22 for Best in the World 2014 at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.