April 13, 2007 - When Christopher Daniels tells you to go break a leg, the wrestler known as "The Fallen Angel" could be cutting a promo, then again the former theater major could just be wishing you good luck.
You see, before Daniels was jumping off cages or hitting people with steel chairs in a six-sided theater of pain, Daniels was a struggling actor rushing from audition to audition in Chicago.
"When I first started training to be a wrestler I was also trying my hand at acting. I was trying to get into the Chicago theater scene. It was tougher to get into the theater scene that I thought and I almost gave wrestling a try as an afterthought," Daniels told me as he explained his path from college to TNA. "I thought to myself that I'd try wrestling and if it didn't work out for me, then at least I could say that I tried it. But then I got into it and kind of got successful rather quick and I kept trying and kept working and before I knew it, wrestling became my career. It really snuck up on me. I thought it was just going to be something I did on the weekends."
So while Daniels never made it in Chicago theater, he now appears every week on Spike TV.
"It's funny how it all worked out, but I actually see a lot of parallels between acting and wrestling. It's all performance and my acting background made me very comfortable in front of people, in front of cameras. It helped me think on my feet in front of a crowd. A lot of guys who first start wrestling, they're nervous to go out in front of a crowd but that never really bothered me because I spent my high school years and my college years on a stage. Being the center of attention was never a problem for me. It helped me tell a story in the ring, project to the crowd, and just made me feel more comfortable performing in front of a lot of people."
But don't think Daniels took up wrestling just to make a buck. The grappler from North Carolina grew up a fan of The Four Horsemen and Dusty Rhodes and credits his passion for the business as one of the things that has given him an edge in his career. "I think the best wrestlers in the world are the ones who grow up watching it and have a love for it before they learn it's a business. You can tell the difference between the guys who grow up watching wrestling versus the guys who get into it as an opportunity to make a living. There's a different passion. There's a passion to the way guys work, to the way they improve, and how long it takes them to cross that hump from being average to being good. It was definitely in my favor that I grew up watching it and I think that's why I got into the ring so quickly after I first started training. It all just comes down to passion. If you don't have the passion for it, you're really fighting an uphill battle to be a pro wrestler."
These days, Daniels is using that passion for wrestling not only in the ring, but on the computer as he's one of the wrestlers Midway has hired to help consult on their new videogame, TNA Impact. In fact, Daniels, AJ Styles, and Senshi recently worked the first phase of motion-capture for the game, a job more time consuming than any of the wrestlers initially thought. "The graphics of the game look incredible, and from the characters to the arena, this game is looking as state of the art and as realistic as anything I've seen. After we went and did the motion capture, the people at Midway showed us what they have in the game so far, and even at this early stage, it really was incredible to look at. Funny thing is, after we did six or seven hours of motion-capture work, we found out that was only about 5% of everything that needed to be done. All of the stuff, all of the moves that we want to get in there…we've wrestled all across the world and there are moves that we've seen that we'd love to get in the videogame. We never realized how much time and patience it was going to take. You have to go through days and days of motion capture to really put together the type of videogame that would exemplify the type of wrestling we do at TNA, but that's exactly what we're doing."
Here's what else "The Fallen Angel" had to say as we talked X-Division, Six Sides of Steel, and how he continues to develop new moves.
IGN Sports: What is it about TNA's X-Division that you find unique to anything else that's going on in pro wrestling today?
Christopher Daniels: The company has put no restrictions on what we can do in the ring. The only limit we have as wrestlers is our own imagination. What we can physically do, what we can envision ourselves doing we'll go out there and try and nine times out of ten we'll be able to do it. Guys like Chris Sabin, Sonjay Dutt, and Jay Lethal, these guys can do some incredible flying. If they can think it, they can do it. That's what's so cool about the X-Division. There's so much innovation going on and guys are trying new things every day. The X-Division guys push themselves to try and do things the fans have never seen and that's really what the X-Division is all about to me, innovation.
IGN Sports: Are there any X-Division moves that blew you away the first time you saw them or is everything old hat to a worldwide vet like yourself?
Christopher Daniels: There are still moves that surprise me. Petey Williams and the Canadian Destroyer is the first thing that comes to mind because I had never seen anyone even attempt that move before and now Petey can do it to just about everyone in the X-Division. It's such a great looking move and really gets a rise out of the fans every time they see it. Another person that comes to mind is Sonjay. He's such a great high-flyer and his body control is so incredible and Senshi is the same way. The way Senshi mixes his martial arts background with his flying into one style, and as many times that I've worked with Senshi, I still can't get over the type of body control he has. He thinks it and the next second his body is doing it.
IGN Sports: You're tied with Chris Sabin for the most Ultimate X wins in history. The first time you heard about the match, what did you think of the concept?
Christopher Daniels: It's a daunting task to figure that all of the stuff we trained for as far as wrestling, none of that was going to prepare us for the actual deed of Ultimate X. I had been all around the world at that point and I had never seen anything like it. Nothing prepared me for climbing up cables and repealing across. It's something no one had a preconceived strategy for because at the time, no one had ever done it. Over the course of a couple years of its existence, we've all come up with our own strategies and style. I think Chris Sabin has done the most of these matches and he's only done seven. I've only done four and I've been wrestling for 14 years. None of us are old pros at that match yet because it's still such a new match, so I think we've only just tapped in to some of the stuff that can be done.