ROH World Champion Christopher Daniels spoke to Ring Rust Radio ahead of ROH/NJPW War Of The Worlds. You can check out the full interview at this link and above, and the transcript below.
Ring Rust Radio: On March 10, you defeated Adam Cole to win your first ROH world championship, 15 years after you first debuted with the company. What was that experience like for you and what kind of reaction have you received from your peers?
Christopher Daniels: It’s very surreal. When the three count finally went down and I realized that my journey to that goal had finally been completed, I felt a sense of relief and a sense of accomplishment. It also sort of washed over me in that moment of time. Hearing the crowd’s reaction, seeing the streamers and having my friend Frankie there to help me along. All of that is just something I will always remember and something I will always hold dear in my heart. As far as the reaction from my peers, literally 20 minutes of every hour of the first two days after I won the championship, I spent on Twitter or my phone responding to tweets, DMs and messages from people that I’ve worked with over the course of 24 years that were reaching out to congratulate me on my big evening. For me having worked with so many different people over the course of my career and to have them reach out on my big night, that meant the world to me. I was happy to know that my experience with all those guys was positive enough that they felt compelled to reach out to congratulate me when I became champion. It was very cool and it was a great feeling to know that I have the respect of so many of my peers.
Ring Rust Radio: Fans have long thought that you deserved to be a world champion, but it seemed like there were questions about whether the right circumstances would come together for it to happen. From your perspective, were there ever any doubts that it was going to happen, and would you have felt a void if it didn't?
Christopher Daniels: I feel like looking back at the way it all unfolded, I feel like it was the perfect set of circumstances to win it when I did. After 15 years, after spending so much time as a tag team wrestler with Frankie, getting this opportunity when I did I think a lot of people felt like it was a good time and that it fit the narrative of my career. Me personally, I felt like if I had won it early on or my first run at Ring of Honor or in 2010, it would’ve made this particular victory a little less significant. I think that part of the reason everybody responded to me the way they did when I won the belt when I did is because I failed so often before. So, with all those failures and opportunities before that I didn’t get the championship, it made this victory that much more important to me. I think if you had asked me a year ago if I would retire without ever being the world champion, I probably would’ve told you that I would have been okay. But now that I have the championship, I realize that was just me trying to find the silver lining and I’m glad now that I don’t have to think about what my career would’ve been like if I never won the championship. That victory and that accomplishment is going to be something that I will always cherish and always happy to have gotten.
Ring Rust Radio: Your title win against Adam Cole was awesome, but your emotional promo leading into the match stood out to me and is arguably the best promo of the year. Can you explain what led up to the promo; how it came about and how important that was for you entering the match?
Christopher Daniels: Actually, a lot of that promo came from the promo that I cut previous to Ladder Wars. There is a period before Ladder Wars happened where I sort of realized that tag team championship I held with Frankie at that point that could’ve conceivably been the last world championship I ever held. As much as Frankie and I are alike in terms of our mindset and our wrestling and as close as we are as friends, the big difference between us is I’ve been wrestling six years longer than him and I’m going to retire before him. I don’t expect him to hang it up at the same time I do. He’s got many, many years ahead of him and I feel like my career is pretty close to being over. I’m not going to put a timeframe on it, but I know that I’m talking probably in terms of months probably when you think about it. I went into that promo thinking what am I going to do to keep the things that I have if I realize this is the last time I get to hold it. So, after Ladder Wars and the opportunity to become world champion came up, it was a whole different mindset. Talking about the tag team championship was something that I had before and I always had a level of success at, but talking about never being world champion and something I never held, and the possibility of never holding it. Those sacrifices I made to try and hold it and the sacrifices I made and then the idea of never holding that championship, it all came into play when that promo came around. It was a lot of reality and a lot of real moments in that promo. Things that I think about not when I’m in front of a camera not when I have a microphone in my hand, but when I’m by myself and thinking that I have a little bit left to do in this career that I’ve been proud of for 24-plus years. So that all came out in that promo and that was as real as it gets.
Ring Rust Radio: As someone who has been around Ring of Honor and the wrestling business for a long time, who are some of the younger stars you have seen recently that have the potential to be top stars in the future?
Christopher Daniels: I’ll talk about Ring of Honor. You talk about the guys that are coming up like Dalton Castle, Jay White, and Flip Gordon. A tag team like War Machine who has only been together for a short period of time but have already been Ring of Honor tag team champions and now they’re currently IWGP champions and there is a bright future for those guys as far as a tag team dominance. Guys like Marty Scurll and Will Ospreay who just recently in the past year joined Ring of Honor and continue to show innovation and a creative mindset for pro wrestling that I think Ring of Honor fans are very happy to have on our roster. I think they will continue to grow and become great characters and great contributors to the history of Ring of Honor.
Ring Rust Radio: ROH has long been known for cultivating rising stars in the wrestling business. As a veteran, how do you strike that balance between helping groom the up-and-comers, but at the same time looking out for yourself and ensuring that you're still relevant and near the top?
Christopher Daniels: For me personally, the idea of staying relevant and staying on top is just a matter of getting in the ring with the guys that are up-and-coming and trying to prove that I’m still able to wrestle at that top level. For Ring of Honor, you have to understand that for a good percentage of the roster, Ring of Honor is the first opportunity for them to be seen by a national fan base. It’s very important that Ring of Honor continues to cultivate that mentality that this is the spot and this is a destination for young up and comers to come to and be seen and to be discovered. When you’ve got that sort of mentality, that’s when you get guys that yearn to come to Ring of Honor to join the roster and put their best foot forward when they walk through the ropes and into the ring. I think that those young wrestlers that want to be a part of Ring of Honor, they also become better by wrestling veterans like myself, Bully Ray, Jay Lethal and Jay Briscoe. When the Hardys were here, the teams that got an opportunity to work with them in that short period of time learned so much from them. Those guys that have gone on and been champions and held titles and main evented all around the world, the young guys get opportunities and they get to learn from being in the ring with veterans like that and that experience is invaluable to them.
Ring Rust Radio: Who would you put on the Ring of Honor Mt. Rushmore?
Christopher Daniels: Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, CM Punk and Nigel McGuinness. I wasn’t going to put myself on there. As much as I’ve contributed to Ring of Honor, those guys did as much or more and certainly deserve the recognition. It’s nice to think that people think I deserve to be top four like that and that sort of sense of what they’ve done for the company, but if I found out I was number five on the list out of four, I wouldn’t be disappointed. You look at the track record of those four guys and what they contributed to the company in the time when they were champion, I don’t think my current run compares to the stuff they’ve done yet. You can try to build a title reign that stands up and when you lay it side-by-side with what Joe, Punk, Bryan or Nigel all did, that’s my goal is to try to be comparable to those guys and it’s a long road ahead of me to do that.