PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It is WrestleMania season, the most exciting time to be a wrestling fan. Though, Philadelphia is not hosting this year's Super Bowl of sports entertainment (we're not hosting next year's either, by the way), the City of Brotherly Love will hold House of Hardcore 8.
This independent wrestling event will take place at the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia, former home of Extreme Championship Wrestling, - hence its former alias the ECW Arena - on Saturday, March 7.
The House of Hardcore promotion is run by former WWE and ECW superstar Tommy Dreamer, who made a name for himself in the 90s wrestling in dangerous matches in Philly.
One of the featured matches at HOH 8 showcases the legendary tag team of Team 3D, known as the Dudley Boys in WWE, taking on the tandem of Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian.
6abc.com had a chance to talk with Christopher Daniels about his career, his time in Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling, former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, just released from TNA Samoa Joe, and, of course, comic books.
Christopher, you wanted to be an actor but ended up being a wrestler, something you loved to watch as a child. Looking back at all you've done in your career, are you happy with your legacy, especially as an independent wrestler?
I feel like being an independent wrestler as I've been off and on over the past 22 years, it's given me the opportunity to travel abroad, much wider of a base than I would've had if I was stuck in one positon or one company for very long.
I've had the opportunity to tour Japan, tour all over Europe, and everywhere in the United States, as well. I can't envision that I would have done as much traveling if I hadn't got into wrestling. This particular form of performance, since I enjoyed it as a kid, I think of how I felt watching it as a kid and try to elicit that response to the people who are watching me now.
If I step back and look at all things that I've had the opportunity to do and if you have told a young Christopher Daniels when he was like 19 years old that this is what he was going to be doing for the rest of his life, I'm sure he would be astonished.
You've had many nicknames, but because of all the promotions you've been in and the time you've spent in Ring of Honor, you've been known as the 'King of Indies.' Do you take that as a compliment?
I don't think I can call myself that anymore, even though I just recently returned to the independent scene after leaving TNA, but I felt like when people called me that I felt it was just pointing out that I had traveled to as many independent companies as I could and performed well in each one that I went to. It also felt like a representation that if a promoter booked me that they were going to get a quality product, basically, which is myself.
That's not being boastful, that's you knowing you put on a show.
I've always known that as a professional wrestler you yourself are your product so if you're going out there to sell yourself the best way to do that is to go out and perform at a high level and get that repetition amongst the promoters around the world that you're worth the money, you're worth the time that a promoter is going to invest in you to promote you and build shows around you. That's something I took great pride in that I very rarely had issues with promoters who were disappointed with the level of work that I brought to them.
You spent a very short amount of time in WWE. Was your ultimate goal to work for WWE?
My original goal was to make a living doing this. WWE would've been the place where I probably had the most success if I ever made it there. But circumstances that are out of my hands, it never really materialized that way. I would've loved the opportunity to go to WWE for a long period of time, but that just wasn't the way the path I took led. I'm disappointed that I didn't get that opportunity, but at the same time, I'm not disappointed in the things I did get the opportunity to do such as working in TNA and working in Ring of Honor for as long as I did and getting the chance to tour around the world.
It would've been a completely different career had I been in WWE, but, as I said, that's not really the way things went out, some of those things were out of my hands, and it's just the way my life progressed.
Talking about all the promotions you've had the opportunity to wrestle in, as well all those that exist now, ROH, TNA, Chikara, New Japan, Lucha Underground - would you say the state of wrestling is healthy today?
Absolutely. I think it's probably healthier now than it has been for a very long time. I think there's a lot of opportunities for guys coming up to be seen by a wider audience, whether that's in companies like TNA and Ring of Honor that have been established for a very long time or for younger companies like Lucha Underground or WWN Live, there's a lot of great stuff happening in terms of television exposure and pay per view exposure for a lot of different companies around the world. In the end, the more places there are to work, the more opportunities you get to see and more wrestlers you are going to get exposed to and as a wrestling fan that appeals to me greatly.
And they all offer different styles.
To me it harkens back to the time period where you had WWE, WCW, and ECW. They were all professional wrestling, but there were different things and qualities about each one that made them different enough that you wanted to seek them all out. I don't think watching a WWE product or watching a WWE show is quite the same as watching a Ring of Honor show or a TNA show or a House of Hardcore show. If you're a pro wrestling fan, and you're a fan of good professional wrestling, you should be able to go out and seek all of that and enjoy all of those products with the different characters and the different matches you are going to see in each one.
You mentioned you are back in the independent scene after leaving TNA. Did you have an overall good experience in TNA?
Yeah, overall. First and foremost, I had the opportunity to make great friendships there and wrestle great matches. I don't think I'll go a day as a professional wrestler without remembering the good parts of my TNA career. That really is the bulk of my career that people are aware and familiar with. A lot of that is TNA. It would be very ridiculous for me to focus on the negative on that when there were so much positive to enjoy and to remember and reflect on.
To this day, if a wrestling fan comes up to me, one out of two times they are going to say something about wrestling with AJ [Styles] or wrestling against Samoa Joe or the tag team I'm doing now with Frankie Kazarian, the matches Elix Skipper and I had with America's Most Wanted early on in the run of TNA. There's a lot of stuff that people were entertained by and that have stuck with them over the years; that means a lot to me that fans remember stuff that happened in 2004, 2005.
It's amazing what wrestling fans can remember.
When you're a wrestling fan that stuff touches you to the point where you continue to watch hoping that you're going to recreate those feelings every time you're watching professional wrestling. A great match touches you and it stays with you. You're always hoping to recreate that moment and getting that feeling back -whether it's watching the television shows or the pay per view or actually going to live events, I think every wrestling fan wants to see that five star match, to see that experience, and keep it with them for as long as they can.
Let's talk about Samoa Joe. You've wrestled against him and teamed with him numerous times in various promotions. He just left TNA. Rumors are circulating about the possibility of Joe joining WWE. Do you still stay in contact with Joe and do you think he would fit in with Vince McMahon's company?
Absolutely. I do keep in contact with him. I think any company that gives Samoa Joe an opportunity is going to benefit and be happy. I think Joe is a great performer. His last 10 years in TNA is just a testament to that. I think he's one of those guys that didn't fit the stereotypical mold, but that's what makes him such an appealing performer. I think whether it's WWE, the independents, or overseas, wherever he goes, he's going to make an impact - no pun intended - and he's going to continue to show the people why he's one of the most famous wrestlers and one of the best wrestlers in the world.
Right now, this is a perfect opportunity, there's so much being talked about in terms of the Performance Center in WWE. With the signings of guys like Kevin Steen and Fergal Devitt, if Samoa Joe were to go NXT, go through the WWE system the way that guys are going now, I think there's a high probability that he would succeed, as well. It's really just a matter of is that what Joe wants to do, is that WWE wants to do, but to me, if I was WWE, I would certainly make an offer as soon as I could.
Another person you are familiar with - Daniel Bryan. You and Bryan were a big part of Ring of Honor's growth. What are you thinking when you see his popularity in WWE?
I'm so proud for him for all the hard work that he did and the struggles he had to get through to get where he is today, working the independent scene, going overseas for months at a time to hone his craft, even the difficulties and going from the developmental territories to the original NXT shows to the point where he's main-eventing WrestleMania. I always knew the drive was there, but you never can tell. So many things are out of your control in terms of your career and the path that it can take. I'm just glad that so many things happened for him in a good way to get him to a point where the opportunities that he had he took them and made the most of them and now he's reaping those benefits by being arguably the most popular professional wrestler in the sport today.
As they say, there's no such thing as luck, just preparation meeting opportunity.
Professional wrestling is such a subjective business, it's not always the best wrestler that gets the opportunity, and sometimes it's just guys chosen for one reason or another. It's sort of a gamble. Every wrestler that a promoter gives an opportunity to, it's a gamble that the promoter is taking. He's not sure how that professional wrestler is going to interact with the crowd or how the crowd is going to take him. Daniel Bryan, when he was given those opportunities by WWE and every promoter he's ever wrestled for, that promoter has been rewarded with the work that Daniel Bryan has done. It's a testament to his hard work and preparation, the stuff that he did on the independents and around the world before he even got there, now he's the top guy, all that hard work is paying off.
Onto House of Hardcore 8. What can the fans expect and what do you think you guys can expect from the fans?
I've always had great experiences in Philadelphia. The biggest part of my career in terms of Philadelphia was certainly starting in Ring of Honor there. It's a very hardcore fanbase. They're very passionate about professional wrestling. I think that's one of the reasons why Tommy Dreamer and House of Hardcore have done so well there, he knows as a member of the original ECW locker room and watching that company grow to the status that it had in the professional wrestling scene, watching those fans grow up with ECW and then grow up with Ring of Honor, he knows what that fanbase likes. He knows what's good for wrestling. I think that his shows have been stellar. He's only thrown 7 out so far, but they all have been well received and I think 8 is going to be the same way.
For those you never attended a House of Hardcore, does hardcore mean every match has ladders, tables, and barbed wire bats?
No, no, no. Hardcore in this sense is just alluding to the fanbase's love of the wrestling.
Ok, just making sure. Last House of Hardcore, there were a number of surprises including former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio (Alberto el Patron). Any hints on surprises this time around?
If I knew them, they wouldn't be surprises. I don't know any new details, but even the stuff that is laid out on paper is pretty standout. Young Bucks vs. Austin Aries & Bobby Roode. Myself & Frankie Kazarian vs. Bully Ray & D-Von, Eric Young vs. Tommy Dreamer. Already it's a pretty stacked card and that's just three of the matches. It's going to be an event for sure.
Your opponents, Team 3D, are arguably the most popular tag team in pro wrestling history.
They are certainly the most successful. In the current era, you have to look at them as sort of the benchmark of tag team success. They are the most highly decorated team in probably the history of wrestling. Certainly, hall of fame the minute they get the opportunity. It's a big deal to go into Philadelphia, a place where they made their name and wrestle them in front of that fanbase. It's going to be a special match.
So fans will leave happy.
Tommy has a really good idea of what works in professional wrestling. He knows what matches people will be interested to see. He's throwing some really good first-time matches out there. He's throwing out a lot of talented performers, whether they are formerly from WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor, or currently members of any of those companies, he knows how to build a good locker room with guys that are passionate and guys that want to work hard and perform and entertain a wrestling crowd. For the first time ever, Young Bucks vs. Austin Aries & Bobby Roode. Honestly, this match with Frankie & myself vs. Team 3D, that's actually a first-time match, too. We've worked with them in different capacities, but we've never had a straight up tag match. It's definitely going to be interesting.
The fanbase that I've experience in Philadelphia. They come and they want to experience wrestling and they're so passionate about it, you can't help to turn your game up a little bit. They've seen a lot. To get them excited and get them invested in wrestling, you can't phone it in, it's cliche but you have to go out there and give them 110%. That's what Tommy had to look for.
Earlier, we talked about your nickname of being the 'King of Indies,' but your character has at times had its own nickname - 'Fallen Angel.' What is the origin of that name?
I took the name 'Fallen Angel' first, not really having an idea for a character, I just thought it was really cool sounding name. Then right around the time Dustin Rhodes started doing the Goldust character, I was real impressed with the way he took a character that across the board had a reaction from the fanbase. It didn't matter what race you were, if you were rich or poor, or where you lived, you had a really strong sense of your sexuality, so Dustin's character touched a nerve for people all around. So I had an another idea that might touch that nerve in the fanbase across the board would be religion. So I built this character, the idea of a cult leader, over the course of my career, I've had varying degrees of success and express that sort of storyline to the fanbase. To this day it's still going to be something that is going to be associated with my career to the very end.
Let's take a quick turn and change topics for a moment. I hear rumors you are a huge comic book fan.
(Laughs) Yeah, I don't think it's a rumor anymore. I think it's pretty well established.
So being 6abc, we're a Disney entity, as is Marvel. Recently it was just announced Marvel struck a deal with Sony and is bringing Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Were you as excited as I was about this news?
I think the Marvel Studios, their efforts, I've enjoyed every one of them. The fact that certain characters were prohibited from the cinematic universe that Marvel Studios has been putting together, it was a shame. I hope this deal that they did with Sony sort of opens the doors for the characters that Marvel has created and made successful in their books to also be successful in their movies. I feel like they have a really good sense of how they want to expand this universe and to present it to the movie fans.
Do you feel Marvel Studios has done an admirable job transitioning these characters from the comic book pages to the movie screen?
Adapting these comic books to movies is a difficult task for a lot of filmmakers because there's such a passionate fanbase for the source material that sometimes, when you are making these movies sometimes you have to think of fans other than the hardcore fans of the source. You want to appeal to newer fans and at the same time make the fans that made the original stuff so popular happy as well. It can be a fine line to walk to appeal to the broadest audience you can.
Sounds a lot like wrestling.
Definitely. You want the sport to evolve, but at the same time you don't want to get it too far away from what made professional wrestling popular with fans and the guys that become wrestlers. I'm always trying to remember how I felt watching wrestling, it's a challenge to elicit that response in the people that you wrestle in front of every night. It's difficult. It's hard to see how wrestling is going to evolve and what's best for pro wrestling and how to keep it fresh and still appeal to that fanbase.
House of Hardcore 8 takes place at the 2300 Arena on Saturday, March 7. For tickets and more information, visit Houseofhardcore.net.