Christopher Daniels
King of the Indies...But For How Much Longer?
February 14, 2003 - by E-Gore

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Christopher Daniels, the self nicknamed "Fallen Angel," is undoubtedly one of - if not the - number one overall wrestler surfing the independent circuit. The impre ssive list of his title reigns, tournament wins, heated feuds, and classic matches seem to go on forever, making it a wonder why he has never found sufficient success in either of the "big three" promotions (ECW, WCW, and WWF/WWE), even though he's worked for all three at least a few times before. Recently, though, WWE invited him to a training camp ran by their main developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling. He and several others will all train in OVW for about a week or so and will be evaluated by OVW trainers and WWE scouts. It'd be a great present for him if he were to become a regular performer in WWE, seeing as how, just last year, he celebrated his 10-year anniversary as a pro wrestler.

However, if Daniels does make it to the spotlight attraction of WWE TV, this wouldn't be his first tenure there. Back in 1998, he was under developmental contract with the company and he, along with Kurt Angle, Shawn Stasiak, "Vicious" Vic Grimes, Erin O'Grady (now Crash Holly in WWE), Devon Storm (formerly Crowbar in WCW), Matthew Bloom (formerly Albert and now A-Train in WWE), Andrew Martin (now Test in WWE), Steve Corino, and others, trained under Dory Funk Jr. and Dr. Tom Pritchard at the Funking Conservatory. While working there, he had a tremendous series of matches with, among others, Steve Bradley. However, he, Corino, Storm, and a few others weren't picked up by WWE and were released from their developmental contracts.

Daniels, though, had surprisingly little trouble making a living on the indy circuit. He was in high demand by several different promotions, but not just in the U.S. - promotions ALL across the world began calling for him, too. Before mid-1999, Daniels had primarily worked in the U.S., but it was around this time that he first worked in England, in Puerto Rico, and in Japan. In Japan, he worked for MPW (Michinoku Pro), NJPW (including an appearance in the promotion's 2000 Super J Cup Tournament and on its May 2002 Pay-Per-View), BattleArts, Shinjuku Pro, and the debut show of Eiji "Hayabusa" Ezaki's WMF promotion.

Of course, while he was receiving exposure in Japan, Daniels was still cruising the independent circuit back in North America and enjoying it to its full advantage. He worked with a diverse roster of performers in ECWA, UPW, IWA-MS, WCPW, IWC, APW, PCW, PWF, and other promotions and won several different tournaments. After working a few ECW shows mid-2000, Daniels wrestled for WCW a few times in late 2000 and early 2001. He was seen several times on WCW Worldwide TV on more than one occasion and even made an appearance on the 1/23/01 Nitro edition (taped the previous day), where he wrestled Michael Modest to a very good bout that ended in a No Contest when Scott Steiner interfered and attacked both men. This makes him one of the VERY few U.S. independent wrestlers to work in ECW, WCW, and WWF/WWE.

Of course, even after being released from his developmental contract back in 1998, Daniels stayed in touch with WWE and has worked several tryout matches for the company in the last few years (he even seen working on the now defunct Jakked/Metal and Shotgun shows several times), but nothing in the form of a job offer seemed to come of any of those appearances. As 2001 slowed to an end transitioned into 2002, Daniels worked a few shows for the newly debuting WWA and XWF promotions, but soon found a home in Ring of Honor, his current home promotion, so to speak. There, he engaged in stiff combat mixed with a variety of different competitors, many of whom he hadn't worked with before. He also periodically works for NWA-TNA and has received some Pay-Per-View exposure through that company.

Now, Daniels has been given the chance to work in the big leagues - in WWE. The question, though, is whether he'd be better off in WWE or on the indy circuit. For most other pro wrestlers, an offer to sign a contract with WWE would be instantly accepted without hesitation. With Daniels, though, deciding whether to accept this offer may be more of a challenge. For about the last four years, Daniels has been a primary attraction on the indy circuit in more than 45 different promotions and six different countries (the U.S., Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and England).

Becoming a full-time WWE wrestler would be a major change for him and one that he would be intelligent to strongly consider before accepting an offer, if one ever comes. AJ Styles surprised everybody by rejecting a WWE contractual offer a year ago, citing WWE's chaotic schedule, which sees each wrestler on the road an average of two hundred days per year, and sometimes more. Believe it or not, though, Daniels is already on the road that long, if not longer, each year, so that's far from the primary issue.

Judging by history, though, it's rather unlikely that WWE would ever push him past midcard status, at least until they've built him up for a couple of years. Daniels may very well be the uncrowned "king of the indies," but success on the indy circuit and success in WWE are two completely different things. The list of very sound workers who were never pushed to their full potential in WWE range from Al Snow and Cheif/Sean Morley (Val Venis) to Perry Saturn and Bob "Hardcore" Holly (no matter how you feel about his involvement in the "Tough Enough 2" beatdown incident, it doesn't change the fact that he's a very talented wrestler) to Jerry Lynn and Christian and Lance Storm. Each was never given his fair chance to shine and was put into undercard angles and matches.

Vince McMahon has always proved to not be fond of taking stars from other promotions and placing them at the top of his cards and instead building them up gradually and, if they get over enough, eventually moving them up into the uppercard, a formula that he followed with former-WCW stars like Booker T, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho and former-ECW stars like Rhyno (before his neck injury, he was getting a huge push), Rob Van Dam, and Steven Richards (he got a lot of TV time during the Right To Censor storyline).

However, on the brighter side of things, Daniels is already one of the most polished workers on the entire U.S. indy circuit and can easily adjust to practically any style that he is required to. He has put on tremendous matches with competitors of just about every style there is. He and the 400-pound Vic Grimes recently had a excellent bout in Southern California's CWA. His work in ROH cemented the fact that he can hang with the stiffest submission artists of them all, like Low Ki, Bryan "American Dragon" Danielson, and Samoa Joe. He has worked with high-flying aerialists like The Amazing Red and Jody Fleisch and produced exciting spotfests. He and guys like AJ Styles, CM Punk, Michael Modest, Donovan Morgan, Doug Williams, Scoot Andrews have produced scientific clinics on several different occasions.

Plus, Daniels's experience in Japan, Mexico, England, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, and of course the U.S. gives him an important advantage over most of WWE's current roster. He's able to communicate very well in the ring with performers of all different nationalities, which would serve him well if he were to enter WWE and work with foreign workers like Eddie Guerrero, Nunzio (formerly James "Little Guido" Maritato), Tajiri, Funaki, William Regal, and Rey Mysterio. Daniels would be one of the relatively few competitors on the current WWE roster to have had the opportunity to extensively work in several other countries throughout the world.

While Daniels hasn't had the chance to work with most of the current WWE roster (with the exception of a select few), there are several performers who would prospectively make solid opponents for him. The first few that come to mind are guys like Billy Kidman, Jamie Noble, both of The Hardy Boyz, Lance Storm, and The Hurricane. Of course, there are a few other uppercarders in WWE that he'd match up to far better than most of the other aforementioned workers, specifically guys like Chris Jericho, Edge, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam, and Kurt Angle (who Daniels has actually worked with before while in UPW), but most likely, he wouldn't be pushed to uppercard status too quickly and would have to duke it out with undercarders and midcarders.

Even if he were to be hired by WWE, getting more than one or two minutes on Velocity or HeAT is anything but a given. He very well may just work on those second and third tier shows as a jobber. WWE has recently opened up its doors to several independent stars, like Michael Bucci (formerly Nova in ECW), James Maritato (now Nunzio), and Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, while other indy standouts like Bryan "American Dragon" Danielson, Michael Shane, and Xavier have been rumored to be close to receiving developmental contracts. If he wanted to maintain a spot in WWE, stars like those aforementioned - while many of them are close friends of his in real life - would become rivals for him to keep his job.

Even with the competition that comes with maintaining a spot on the WWE roster, Daniels - if he was to receive a WWE contract as a regular on-television superstar - would probably be even better off than he is now. He already works three or four shows per week and travels all around the U.S. and sometimes even to England, Japan, and other countries, whereas - as a WWE wrestler - he'd be working mainly in the U.S. and getting paid much better than he already is. Plus, he'd have the chance to work with and learn from the greatest grapplers in the world, from Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle to The Dudley Boyz to Christian and Lance Storm.

All in all, there's really no reason for Daniels not to receive a WWE contract. After analyzing his current schedule, the travel that he would probably have to endure in WWE would most likely not be much of a problem. He has nearly perfected his craft over the past decade and is one of the most tenured grapplers on the indy circuit. So, if - and that's the most important question of all - WWE is willing to hire Daniels as a full-time performer, there's really no reason for him to turn down that offer, as long as it's enough for him to support and maintain his home and family life (which it would most likely be more than successful in accomplishing).

Even if Daniels weren't kept on the WWE roster for more than a few months, but received at least some TV exposure during that period, he'd be greatly benefited. K-Kwik received less than a year of exposure on WWE TV (and most of that exposure came on second-tier shows like HeAT) and soon after being released, found a home in the new NWA-TNA and - as Ron Killings - won the prestigious NWA World Heavyweight Title, which he held for three and a half months via an entertaining and respectable title reign. Daniels could be released from WWE three months after being put on Velocity or HeAT (which he'd probably have no problem at all getting onto, seeing as how WWE already puts no-name indy performers on those shows each week), he'd receive some decent exposure and would quickly be able to return to his former home promotions on the indy circuit, like FWA, MPW, ECWA, ROH, NWA-TNA, etc.

There's no question that Daniels is ready to enter the big leagues and he's arguably been ready to do so for the last few years. He's as seasoned an indy veteran as one can be and is one of the most well-rounded performers not just in the U.S., but in the entire world. For a WWE career for Christopher Daniels, the time is now and I, for one, wish him the very best of luck for a successful career in the biggest stage of them all, that of World Wrestling Entertainment.

by E-Gore @ [email protected]



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