A finishing move in the world of wrestling is crucial. Something that can make or break a pro wrestler, often the coolest looking moves don't click, while something as goofy as "The People's Elbow" becomes iconic. Each wrestler has a different method to their madness when landing on their signature, match ending match up. In this series, "Making A Finisher," Fightful.com will go in depth with wrestlers as they explain their moves, discuss how they were developed, who took it the best, the worst, why they stopped doing some of them, and the psychology behind them.
"The Fallen Angel" was once pitched as WWF's Higher Power in 1999, but he's made quite the career for himself even without WWF's help.
Two decades later, Christopher Daniels has stamped his place in the history of Ring of Honor and TNA Wrestling, in addition to making over 100 NJPW appearances and help establishing Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Along the way he's won ROH World, TV, Six-Man and Tag Team Titles and was a four-time X-Division Champion, often finishing his opponents with a beauty of a move. Now he's hoping to use it to make his place in the new All Elite Wrestling.
"The Angel's Wings," as its become known because of Daniels, is a double underhook sitout facebuster -- or that's how it's performed by most people who aren't Daniels (he'll explain why). When Daniels talked to Fightful.com about his finishing technique, he said he had other plans in mind originally. He says the move was just to be a part of his arsenal, that he used way back dating to his appearances in WWF.
"It's funny, the Angel's Wings started out as a transition move for me to get into a submission move that I tried for a short amount of time that I decided didn't fit me. I started doing Angel's Wings to get into the move, and when I dropped it, I started to realize that that particular move was high impact and I could get it on pretty much everyone I wrestled. It sort of became my go-to. Along with the Best Moonsault Ever, I've gone back and forth and made both of them strong enough where people believed either one of them could be the way that I end of the match," said Daniels.
The move requires the opponent to have both arms chickenwinged essentially, and put their legs straight, landing flat, face down, without much room to protect themselves. Daniels pointed out two particular foes who were able to stand out above the rest.
"I've been very fortunate. AJ Styles is one of those guys that could take it great. He committed to getting his legs up in the air. I've had a lot of guys that went up super light for it and let me get their body around. There have been plenty of guys. Jay Lethal, people like that who do it really well," said Daniels.
As mentioned, there's not a lot of room to protect yourself on the Angel's Wings move, but Daniels can only remember one instance when it went awry, and that was well before the landing.
"There's only been one time when I lost the guy in the middle of it. I don't even know how it happened," Daniels remembered. "I picked this guy up, and his arm came free from me, and just sort of spun around and landed on his shoulder a little bit. Most of the time I keep pretty firm control of the guy and nobody gets hurt from that particular move. To me, that's a sign of a good move-- the fact that you can do it with people and no one gets hurt from it and everyone comes out of it unscathed."
The old adage "don't ask anyone to do something you wouldn't" applies to Daniels himself. He's found himself on the wrong end of his own signature move. He was also quick to admit that it's not always the smoothest of rides, either.
"Pretty surreal. It's one of those things, you take it and you say ' Oh! That's what everyone goes through.' I've been up in it a couple of times, it's pretty devastating. It was rough on me, so I can imagine how rough it is on everybody," said Daniels, who has taken the move from Styles himself, among others.
But what about the emulators? The move is synonymous with Daniels. However, not anyone else does it quite like the man himself. Daniels explains why that is, but also speculates as to why people don't use the exact version of Angel's Wings.
"The thing about the Angel's Wings is, if I can get him up and spin him all the way around, it just add to the dynamics of the move itself," Daniels told us. "I know Tommaso Ciampa does a version of it, and he doesn't do the spin, either. It's one of those moves that a good number of people have tried, but nobody does the spin like I have. I don't know what the mentality is, if they're trying to keep it different from me. People are told all the time, don't do other people's moves and make people think of the other wrestler, so maybe that's what it is. They want to emulate the move, but don't want people to think they're taking directly."
After 15 years of doing the Angel's Wings, don't look for Daniels to give it up. Instead, he'll employ psychology to keep the move fresh, and keep all of us guessing when it will arrive.
"There's always tendencies to want to try different things. Once you've established a move -- as a performer, you want to give people what they expect, but give it to them at times they don't expect it. To me, the hallmark of a good wrestler are the guys you've seen over and over and over, and you can tell they're going to do their stuff, but have the ability to throw people off their scent. To me, that's constitute a great performer, the ability to change their game around and keep people guessing when they're watching their matches," Daniels said.
While we will save the elaboration on the aforementioned Best Moonsault Ever for a future edition of the series, the "Fallen Angel" offered up valuable advice to young wrestlers about longevity and how the 'Best Moonsault Ever' looks so smooth every time out.
"I've been very fortunate, very lucky to not have injury. The few times I get banged up, it's stuff I can work through. That shoulder injury I had, that was probably the last injury I had that made me take a match off. I got in the habit of working smart in the sense that I never did anything I didn't think I could do every time I tried it. I'm all for trying for innovation and taking risks in a ring, but mine have always been calculated. Mine are things I can do three minutes into the match, or 30 minutes into the match," Daniels closed.