Christopher Daniels is nearly synonymous with Ring of Honor. He’s been with the wrestling promotion since the very jump and helped build it into what it is today.
Heading into his 10th Final Battle event on Friday at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, Daniels caught up with Cageside Seats to chat about a number of topics, including his first-ever singles match with Marty Scurll, how he stays at such a high level in his lat 40s, his uncertain future in the promotion, what his friends in The Elite might have planned next and much more.
ROH Final Battle airs at 8 p.m. ET on traditional pay-per-view and Fite TV. It’s also free for HonorClub VIP members and being sold at a 50-percent discount for HonorClub Standard members.
(This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity)
Marc Raimondi: Are you keeping track of how many Final Battles for you now? I think this one is No. 10.
Christopher Daniels: I wasn’t keeping track. That seems about right, though. That seems about right. Not bad. I don’t think I’ve won at a Final Battle. This will have to be the first one, I think.
MR: That was actually my next question. I don’t think you’ve won since 2002, the first-ever Final Battle.
CD: What match was that, do you remember?
MR: It was you and Donovan Morgan against The SAT.
CD: Oh, OK. All right. You know, you always go into the ring hoping you’re gonna win. And in the end if you don’t, you go back to the drawing board. But this one is pretty important for me to win. I’m definitely putting effort into this one. I don’t think I’ve ever had a match at a Final Battle for these kind of stakes. I’ve never wrestled for the world title on a Final Battle.
MR: Do you ever look back and think how much ROH has changed over the years? You’re like Mr. ROH. You’ve been there literally from the start. You were in the main event of the first-ever show.
CD: Honestly, so much of the important stuff is still the same. The feeling that Ring of Honor always had from the beginning was just trying to celebrate pro wrestling at its essence, getting away from all the gimmickry and the rigamarole that sometimes pro wrestling is mired in. Ring of Honor, I felt, always put that pure pro-wrestling feeling out there. That’s never changed. You get talent that comes and goes and other talent comes in. A lot of guys truly find their footing for the first time in Ring of Honor. A lot of guys catch fire and become real popular in Ring of Honor for the first time. I don’t think that feeling has changed.
Ring of Honor over the years has become a destination for guys that are great professional wrestlers, so it’s been cool that that has been the case from 2002 to now. It’s become synonymous with professional wrestling. It’s become synonymous with high-level, excellent professional wrestling. And that’s never changed.
I think the changes have been more about the business plan and marketing of Ring of Honor. It started out with DVDs, it started out with the tape traders and now it’s become this streaming, television-centric production that I think is awesome. But it’s never really changed. The way we sold the product has changed, but the product hasn’t changed. It’s always been about the in-ring action, the professional wrestling.
MR: This will be your first time in a singles match with Marty Scurll. You’ve been in tag matches with him and multi-man matches with him. What do you like about working with Marty and are you excited to get a singles match with him?
CD: Absolutely. I’ve never had a singles match with him, this will be an historic night. I think Marty is great. He’s one of the most popular guys on the planet for a reason. I knew Marty back when he was flirting with TNA. To see the difference between Party Marty and The Villain, it’s not even night and day, it’s like apples and cinderblocks. It’s completely different. He’s become this character that knows how to rile a crowd up, knows how to get that emotional investment out of a crowd. And I think that getting in there with him is gonna be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to having that first-time one on one with him.
MR: How do you manage to maintain such a high level at 48 years old? It’s pretty remarkable.
CD: A lot of it is just the fear of shame. I don’t want to go out there and embarrass myself. I’m busting my ass in the gym. I’m constantly watching guys’ old stuff, I’m watching my old stuff. Just to sort of find different ways to keep doing stuff. It’s sort of a dare to myself. Like, I dare myself to continue doing well and being able to get in the ring with guys that are 10 years younger than me, 15 years younger. I wrestled recently against a guy who wasn’t born when I had my first match. That’s a challenge.
MR: Are there dream matches left for you? You’ve been in the ring with a who’s who at this point. Are there still matches that you wish you had or you wish you still could have?
CD: Absolutely, man. The one that I always go back to is Jericho. I feel like a lot of times people compare me to him in a very positive manner, in terms of reinventing myself and staying in shape and staying relevant. And I mean, he’s the master, man. I’m doing what he’s doing, just on a smaller scale, as far as surprising people and staying relevant and staying in shape. And being at the top of your game at such a late period of your life, in your career. That’s a dream match, I would love to get in there with him at some point.
This match with Marty is kind of a dream match, too. The last few years since he’s been in Ring of Honor, we’ve somehow avoided locking up and finally we get the chance to do it [this] Friday. There’s still stuff that I want to do, there’s still things. I mean, if I decided to call it quits tomorrow, I can’t say there’s anything I didn’t do that I wanted to do. Part of what keeps me going is just the idea that I still want to do this. At some point, I know I’m gonna have to stop wrestling. But it’s not so close to me now where I say, OK, I’ll do another year or six months or whatever. It’s still an open-ended number to me. I don’t see an end in sight. I’m sure it’s close. But if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you a day, I couldn’t tell your a timeframe.
MR: Are you surprised how well and how quickly SCU got over?
CD: Pleasantly surprised. I thought that it might happen, but I didn’t realize it would happen so quickly. It’s funny, like the last couple of months, especially at places like All In and the Jericho Cruise, just walking around a bunch of fans and just hearing SCU at the top of their lungs everywhere we go, it’s surprising and it’s gratifying and I’m just happy to be in that situation where we made something that people got so attached to so quickly.
MR: There was a report recently from Dave Meltzer, I believe, that you and Frankie Kazarian are not locked into 2019 deals with ROH. Is that accurate?
CD: It’s just a situation where we’re deciding what the best avenue is for us. It’s not a matter of disappointment with Ring of Honor at all. It’s just a matter of the end of our contract is coming up and we’re trying to see what’s best for our families. So, I’m sure we’ll make a decision soon and figure it all out. But at this point, nothing is set in stone.
MR: Will you guys stay together?
CD: Most likely. I feel like we’re of the impression that the act is better together than apart. If it came to a point where Frankie decided the best course of action for him and his family was to go off on his own, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge him that. And I’m sure the reverse is true. You don’t know, you never know. And Jan. 1 is coming soon and decisions will be made. He and I will certainly talk about that and we’ll see how it goes.
MR: You’ve been in this business for a long time. Is this the most unique time for non-WWE wrestlers in a good amount of time? It seems like there are more opportunities for a quote-unquote indie wrestler than there has been in a while, at least.
CD: Yeah, I think that just has a lot to do with the popularity of pro wrestling overall. Maybe it’s more independent wrestling as professional wrestling as a whole. But I feel like there’s more of an interest, there’s more of a desire to see new and exciting stuff. IN this day and age where it’s so easily found due to streaming and internet and youtube and stuff like that, I feel like more and more people are going out of their way to try and find their brand of pro wrestling. So yeah, when you’ve got a demand like that, supply has got to meet that demand. You’ve got guys finding more and more success in more and more different places.
It’s unprecedented just because of the level of technology and the level of talent out there on the independents. It’s all a perfect storm of wrestling right now.
MR: Two last things, man. And thanks for taking the time out. Much appreciated. The elephant in the room right now, what everyone has been buzzing about on the internet — which has become part of Being The Elite lately — is what are The Elite going to do? What are Cody and the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega and Hangman Page going to do? Where are they going to end up?
Have you spoken to them? You’re friends with those guys. Have you spoken to them about where they may up, that you might end up there, too. There’s talk of a whole new promotion. What can you tell us about what’s going?
CD: I honestly can’t go into a lot of detail, because I don’t know the answers to that. They’re playing their cards close to the vest. I’m sure that whatever they decide, they’re gonna be successful at. There’s still talk about WWE trying to find a way to work with them. That may happen, that may not happen. I can’t tell you. Whatever happens for them, I know they’re gonna be successful. It’s just a matter of picking their path and committing to it.
Whatever happens, I hope the best for them. They’ve been great. Working with them and doing what they’ve been doing, it’s been awesome. It certainly has benefited me to be a part of that crew, doing stuff with Being The Elite and them. It’s been a lot of fun and hopefully I’ll get a chance to continue to do that in 2019.
MR: Is part of you and Frankie keeping your options open waiting also to see where the chips fall so to speak?
CD: Well, it would be great if we were available for whatever Matt and Nick decide to do. It’ll just depend on what that is. It’s hard to make any sort of decision, because there hasn’t been a whole lot of actual facts out there. There’s lots of speculation, but you can’t really make decisions based on speculation. So, I mean that’s sort of the boat that we’re all in at this point.
MR: Last thing. There was news a few days ago that ROH signed a couple of new free agents, Brody King and PCO. What are your thoughts on that? I think PCO is even older than Christopher Daniels.
CD: PCO, he’s in his 50s, I think. (Editor’s note: PCO is 50 years old.) First of all, the fact that PCO has sort of jumped back onto the scene and made his name so quickly, that’s awesome, man. That’s great to see and to see the success that he’s had in the past year or so, for his name to be such a hot button and then sign with Ring of Honor. That shows me that no matter what happens in 2019, Ring of Honor is gonna be great. If all these people were to leave, there’s gonna be people to step into those spots. They’re gonna be different, but it’s gonna be great whatever. That’s one of the things Ring of Honor has always been great for, is trying to have their finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s great in terms of pro wrestling and offering that of their fanbase.
So no matter what happens, I think that 2019 is gonna be a good year for Ring of Honor. It might be a big year of change. It might be a bit of a tumultuous situation in terms of a roster, but that’s exciting, too. Because there’s gonna be opportunities for new matches and new feuds and new stories can be told. If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ve gotta be just itching for that idea.