Pro wrestling is a funny thing to fall in love with. At times you can become disillusioned and frustrated as a spectator but every once in a while, no matter how much wrestling you begrudgingly consume a week, you simply get caught up in the moment. Sometimes it's due to personal attachment, other times because something was simply executed well enough to grip you that tiny bit extra. Either way, when Christopher Daniels revealed his t-shirt that proudly featured the word ‘destiny’ last Friday night, I was undeniably caught up in that moment. The moment had come after two and a half hours of wild, chaotic and thrilling action, as the quite spectacular ROH Anniversary event flowed with excitement in a fitting encapsulation of the promotion’s past fifteen impactful and innovative years.
We had witnessed Punishment Martinez’s coming out party, a hard hitting stunner between Jay Lethal and Bobby Fish, Bully Ray’s ROH in-ring debut and the absolute destruction of Roppongi Vice but now it was time for the main event as the 45 year old Christopher Daniels took on the champion Adam Cole, a man that is in many ways is his polar opposite. At just 27 years of age Cole stands as the only man in ROH history to hold the prestigious world title on three separate occasions, on the other hand, Daniels was still vying for his very first reign. On paper the story was a nice one, the beloved aging legend battling the cocky young champion, trying to achieve the one thing he had never before done. However, it was Daniels pre match promo that really captured the match’s gravity and at least for me personally, painted the full picture perfectly.
For over five minutes Daniels just spoke earnestly. It was real, genuine and honestly heart-wrenching at times. There was one concept that stood out though, the idea of Daniels running out of tomorrows as he so aptly put it, “this chance means more than all those other chances combined because those chances had tomorrow, the promise of tomorrow if they weren’t successful . . . Adam Cole you don’t know what this feels like . . . but one day you’ll realize that you’re running out of tomorrows . . . that will be your future but Adam right now that’s my present and it scares me. It terrifies me.” The reality was that after 24 years Daniels pro wrestling journey was finally reaching its final chapters and that aspect only multiplied the desperation of not only the character but his fans too, time really was running out.
A step ahead of his older challenger early, Cole played his part to absolute perfection, taunting and gloating at every turn. As sublime as a back and forth match like Lethal and Fish can be, sometimes there’s nothing better than the story of good vs. evil, hero vs. villain and here was a rare case of it in a ROH PPV main event. As the champion’s intensity quickly grew, it wasn’t long before Daniels emerged sporting the proverbial crimson mask. I appreciate and completely understand the criticisms of blood in professional wrestling but if done sparingly, it can add a very unique level of drama and urgency and this match was no different. As Cole’s overall dominance continued, it only made Daniels moments of offense all the more engrossing as the challenger’s desperation transmitted through the screen.
There was definitely some dueling chants amongst the live crowd but on a wider scale there seemed to be a rare feeling of overwhelming support for one man in that ring. Whether it be from fans watching at home or Daniels’ countless legendary peers scattered across the globe, everyone seemed to be hoping that ‘The Fallen Angel’ would finally hold that famous ROH crown. And it wasn’t because we believed that Daniels was genuinely in a fist-fight, it was because we believed that he as not only a character but as a human being deserved his moment of glory. For that to happen he had to win this professional wrestling match and so we rooted him on all the more passionately. I guess in many ways that’s a perfect explanation of what good pro wrestling is in 2017. Nonetheless, as the match began to reach its climax the drama only grew with the two men trading false finishes after stealing the other’s finishing maneuver.
Credit to the commentary team too, all three doing an excellent job of capturing the match’s importance and props in particular to Kevin Kelly, whose despair at the thought of Daniels losing to his own finisher really added to the man’s sympathetic appeal. The usage of a Styles Clash from Daniels not only gave the match a memorable moment but also heightened every watching fan’s excitement. The end was near as referee Todd Sinclair was inadvertently dropped by a Cole superkick and suddenly the coast was clear for some Bullet Club shenanigans, with that came the group’s newest member Frankie Kazarian, Daniels’ former tag team partner. Kazarian wasn’t here to sabotage Daniels though and in an instant, the ‘ring general’s plan was clear. To the crowd’s delight, Kazarian threw the title belt to the floor and ripped his new Bullet Club t-shirt to reveal the shirt Daniels sported earlier, with the word destiny standing bold over the day’s date.
Three ‘Best Moonsaults Ever’ later and it was indeed destiny, fifteen years after his first attempt, Christopher Daniels had finally claimed the ROH title. On an event filled with death-defying craziness, Daniels and Cole simply went out and told a story in a throwback main event match. The finish was a neat extra layer too, Daniels won it on his own but in a fashion befitting of his wily veteran nature, he and his companion Kazarian had outsmarted the champion and his Bullet Club backers. The ending itself had been gratifying but what followed was genuinely heart-warming. At times nowadays it feels like memorable moments are more forced on the audience rather than coming organically. This certainly wasn’t one of those occasions. As former ROH owner Cary Silkin also handed Daniels that elusive original title belt to go with the won he'd just won, the ring was surrounded by ROH’s stars of yesterday, today and hopefully tomorrow.
Each of them looked delighted for their locker room leader, the unsung hero had finally gotten his due. Social media only told the story further, as some of the world’s biggest wrestling names reached out in support of Daniels’ achievement. It was all so sincere. Regardless of title belts and wins and losses, it’s the universal respect from Daniels’ peers that surely best represents his immaculate career. Too often we only really celebrate the people we admire after they've gone, but I'm so incredibly thankful that last Friday night’s event in Vegas gave the wrestling world an opportunity to unite and recognize Daniels with well-deserved adoration and love. Those were their messages and as long-winded as it’s been, this is mine so salute to you Christopher Daniels, thank you for everything. Though at times perhaps under the radar, your impact is undeniable and more than that, genuinely appreciated. Thank you.
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