By Ryan Penagos
Say the words "pro wrestling" to any number of people and you're sure to elicit a bevy of responses, most of which don't focus on the athleticism and theatrics. Then again, say "comic books" and you may have a heard time getting past the "just for kids" stigma and into the art, history and culture of the medium. Fortunately, "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels doesn't worry about any of that. The veteran pro wrestler and nearly life-long comic fan has mastered his craft, having won championships, international recognition and a place among the top wrestlers of his generation, yet still geeks out when the latest issue of New Avengers
hits stands. Knowing a kindred spirit when we see one, we chatted up the TNA Wrestling X-Division Champion days before defending his title at the December 10 Turning Point Pay-Per-View Event. Read on to learn about the charismatic show-stopper and the passion he carries for comics and wrestling.
Marvel.com: Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels! Before we explore your geektitude, give me some backstory on your career in the squared circle.
I've been wrestling now for 14 years. Prior to getting into TNA, which started in 2002, I did a lot of work overseas. I did a lot of work on the independent scene. I was with WCW for a really short time. I've done stuff with WWF, but I never had a contract, so it was just attempted try-outs and a little bit of a relationship with them. I more or less just did a lot of the independent stuff before TNA opened up. My tenure with WCW was a little less than a year. A lot of the creative people that were at WCW went on to do TNA, so that was kind of how I got in there. They opened up in the middle of 2002 and I've been with them since then.
Marvel.com: That's awesome. You're currently the TNA X-Division Champ, correct? Do you take the belt places with you?
Oh yeah. [Laughs
] It's always a fun time pulling it out at security at the airports. I always get strange looks, weird questions and, "Hey, what the hell?"
Marvel.com: Where's the most fun place to wrestle--best crowd, most energy?
"Fallen Angel" leaps through
Hmm. Well, doing the stuff at TNA, we've been at Universal Studios for close to two years now. I'm more familiar with that place now. There're a lot of good places to go. There's a place in Japan called Korakuen hall that I got to wrestle in a bunch of times over my career. That's the big hardcore wrestling fan place to go in Japan, so going there was pretty cool.
Enjoying what you do, everywhere is cool. Especially if you can get fans that are into what you're doing. I've been lucky enough to do it all through the states and a couple different countries, so it's hard to pick one place that's my favorite.
Marvel.com: That's good, though.
Yeah, man. That's awesome. It's not a 9-5 job and [I] get a chance making a living doing what I love doing. But you know what that's about, working with comic books rather than doing forms and crap for eight hours a day.
Marvel.com: Tell me about it. I couldn't do anything else. Speaking of comics, have you been a long-time Marvel fan?
"Yeah, I'm a geek--wanna fight?!"
Since I was a youth!
Marvel.com: Do you remember what your first comic was?
My first one? Ooh. I think one of the first comics I remember having is the issue of Hulk that Wolverine debuts in. Which kills me that I don't still have it. You know what's funny? I actually think my mom threw it away because the last panel of the book has Wolverine saying something to the effect of damn or hell and she got mad because there was a swear word in the book. And she threw it away. Can you imagine?
Marvel.com: Oh man.
How horrible is that? I remember having that book. I can't remember my exact first one, but I know that I used to have a lot of Spider-Man and Fantastic Four. I didn't really have a favorite up until junior high school. That's when I started paying attention to what I was reading, getting into artists and the characters more than just, "Hey, look at the pretty colors."
Marvel.com: And at this point, who's your favorite character?
"The Fallen Angel"
in all his glory
Over the course of my life, it's been Wolverine. But that's a lot of guys' favorite. Remembering what I was reading up until now, I'd have to say Wolverine.
Marvel.com: You're a big X-Men fan, then?
Definitely. I remember getting into it just around the time that John Byrne and Chris Claremont were really doing their best stuff. That was really cool to watch that when it came out. I want to say I stuck with X-Men
for a hundred-and-some-odd issues straight. There was a period of time when I stopped collecting comic books for a time and then I got back into it. I want to say from the 120's all the way up to...The funny thing is I got out of it right when Jim Lee started drawing full time, which kills me again! [I was] trying to get the back issues at that point when they were like 30 bucks a pop or some ridiculous, outlandish number! I wish I had just stuck with it!
So yeah, X-Men was probably the one that I kept with the most.
Marvel.com: Do you have a favorite villain?
I really liked the Hellfire Club, the period right before the Dark Phoenix stuff. That was pretty cool stuff. And I dug the idea of Proteus. That was always cool.
Marvel.com: That was such a short storyline, but it was so cool and creepy, that it's very fondly remembered.
puts a hex on
Yeah! I liked that character and then the stuff they just did in Exiles
was great. That's one of the books that I collect now. I'm digging all the different stuff and stories that they keep going back to redo or retouch. That's cool. When it was the same characters for the first storyarcs and when they started switching people out. That was cool. Having Heather Hudson Sasquatch was cool. Having Noctourne in it was cool. Blink has become one of my favorite characters.
Marvel.com: Are you excited for the upcoming Exiles Annual where the current team battles the original?
No, I didn't know that was coming up! I have to keep an eye out for that.
Marvel.com: Aside from the X-Men, what else are you into?
As a kid, it was mostly the X-Men stuff. Then I picked up a lot of stuff that dealt with the artist rather than the characters, like when Byrne was drawing Spider-Man and stuff like that. These days, I read New Avengers
, I read Young Avengers
. I'm big into the Ultimate line--just about everything in the Ultimate line, I'm picking up.
Marvel.com: Do you get to read a lot on the road?
"The Fallen Angle"
wants his belt!
I don't carry them with me a lot. I try and take good care of them, so it's hard to travel with stuff you want to take care of. I get a chance to read a lot at home. I mean, it's tough, with kids, to actually sit down, read a book and not have to deal with them, but I'll give it an hour or two every once in a while to sit down and just blow through some stuff. The tough thing is, when I sit down and read them and put them down, it's hard to keep interested from month to month. Sometimes I have to go back and reread [a few] issues at a time so I can catch up in my head where I was.
Marvel.com: You mentioned Young Avengers, New Avengers, Exiles...
Yeah. See, I think back when I was a kid, I was a mark*
for who was drawing the stuff. These days, I'm more half and half with who's writing it versus who's drawing it. I'm picking up a lot of J. Michael Straczynski. I'm not as big into Bendis as I am into Straczynski, but I like Bendis's stuff. Especially the Pulse
. I was big fan of Alias
and the Pulse
when it was out.
Marvel.com: Alias was phenomenal!
Yeah! I was so...not pissed...but disappointed that it ended up changing over to regular Marvel [from MAX]. I really dug what he was doing. When it became the Pulse
, it wasn't the same. It wasn't as good.
Marvel.com: Are you into Ultimate Power? It seems like the perfect book for you.
Yeah, I picked up the second issue not too long ago. I thought it was pretty good. Greg Land. That's one of the artists I'm really digging right now. I was following him when he got off of Ultimate Fantastic Four
. I thought that was a really good run. None of the guys stay forever on the given books they do. I really enjoyed his stuff, though, and Ultimate Power
is one of the stories that I'm picking up right now.
Marvel.com: Have you been following Civil War?
Daniels digs the
but has no
comment on the
] Civil War
is tremendous! You know what's funny, too? Everybody was hyping 52
before it came out and how good that was gonna be and I've been picking up that and Civil War
. Civil War
is like eating apples off the top of 52
's head! [Laughs
] It's ridiculous how good it is! The big pop*
was the end of #2 when Spider-Man unmasked, but just the idea of [that is] so monumental.
I've enjoyed how all the [characters in the] spin-offs and tie-ins have had such different outlooks and different viewpoints. None of it is right and none of it's wrong in that sense. I think it was in one of the Front Line
issues where the reporter was interviewing, I want to say Firestar. That was a big pop*
to me. Her little scene was such a good scene and so well-written. It made perfect sense! Ahh! [Laughs
That's the kind of stuff that's going to last way past the end of the series. I'm really looking forward to how this all ends. I can't imagine having it end with a pat ending. I can't see how they're going to get out of this without wacky ramifications for years to come. I'm looking forward to all of that.
Just the thing with Spider-Man alone, they'll never get back. They can't put that back in the box. It's done the way it is, that's never going to change. Where do you go from there? You have to respect a writer that's willing to take such a leap, to basically change the mythology of the character. That was a big deal for me. I really popped*
Marvel.com: Hell yeah. Are you the only guy on the TNA roster who reads comics?
No, there's a bunch of guys! Raven, for sure, but I think everybody knows about Raven. Samoa Joe reads some stuff. Alex Shelley reads. Homicide reads stuff. I've passed some stuff back and forth with those guys, a lot of trade paperbacks. I think Frankie Kazarian gets into some stuff. There's different levels of fandom there.
Samoa Joe, I know, reads a lot of different stuff. We're passing stuff back and forth. He's pitching stuff to me and I'm pitching stuff to him.
Marvel.com: Is there anything you really liked that he told you to check out? Or visa versa?
Daniels nails fellow
with a steel chair
He likes [crime] stuff. We did a trip to Australia where I bought the entire paperback run of Ultimate Spider-Man
. We read that on the trip over and he popped*
big for that.
Marvel.com: That's an amazing run.
And when you read it all at once, it's just awesome. I'm one of those guys who, if I don't catch it at the beginning, I'm too proud to [jump in] in the middle. Ultimate Spider-Man
came out and I missed the first five issues. I was too proud. "I'm not gonna start at number six. I know it's good, but I'm not gonna do it! I'm not gonna do it!" So, finally, I had this trip coming up and I wanted to read something, so I bought the entire trade paperback run and ran through it.
Marvel.com: A worthwhile purchase.
Definitely. You should have seen the guy at the comic book store when I bought them all up. He was like, "Yes! It's Christmas Day! Woo!" [Laughs] He was thrilled. "14 trade paperbacks, yeah!" That was a big day for him. [Laughs]
Marvel.com: What about the Marvel movies? Have you seen all of them?
Daniels: I haven't seen "The Punisher." I saw "Fantastic Four," the last "X-Men." It's hard to go see [everything]. I've got kids at the age now that all they're really interested in is the animated stuff. We hit "Curious George" when it came out. "Flushed Away." My wife just took my daughter and my son to see "Happy Feet," so it's really rare that I get to see something without them. The last time I got to go see a film it was "X-Men: The Last Stand" and I popped* big for that.
This weekend I saw "Casino Royale" and it had the trailer to "Spider-Man 3" which was tremendous. That's gonna be awesome!
Marvel.com: Are the X-movies your favorite?
Daniels: Yeah, I'd have to say so. I really liked "Spider-Man." I saw the original "Spider-Man" in Japan. Over there with the exchange rate, it's like 20 bucks to see a movie. I couldn't wait to go home and see it in the States. I saw it in Japan. That was like the best 20 bucks I spent.
the X Division
I really liked the two "Spider-Man" movies, but I think the progression of the three "X-Men" movies was really good. Even though Bryan Singer didn't do the last one, I thought it was real well done--the idea of killing Cyclops, killing Professor X, that whole thing. Going back to the stuff about Civil War, you've got to respect guys that know how to take that leap where you're gonna do something you can't go back from. It's tough to pick a favorite between the "X-Men" and the "Spider-Man" movies.
Marvel.com: Of the movies on the slate, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," "Spider-Man 3"...
Daniels: The "Ghost Rider" movie. There's been a lot of trailers for "Ghost Rider." I was really happy that they got Nicolas Cage for it. I thought that was a big step to have legitimacy. I'm looking forward to it.
Marvel.com: Are you looking forward to any one more than the others?
Daniels: Probably "Spider-Man 3." I want to see "Ghost Rider" do well. When "Daredevil" came out, I liked the attempts at it, but I was kind of disappointed at the end result because there were some things that didn't jibe. But you appreciate that Mark Steven Johnson went through the effort doing what he did, trying to make it as close as he could. He took some risks that some people didn't like, but I appreaciated his effort. So I'm hoping that "Ghost Rider" is accepted better than "Daredevil" was.
Marvel.com: Right on. If you could play the role of any superhero in a film, who would it be?
Daniels: Ooh. Okay, I have to go off of what I look like. Let's see. Wow, that's tough. You know what, I'd be thrilled to play Deadpool in a movie.
Marvel.com: Dude, that'd be awesome!
Daniels: That would be tremendous. And I could fit the part, so there.
Marvel.com: You've got the gravelly voice.
Daniels: I do have the gravelly voice. And I'm bald, so I don't have to worry about hair.
Marvel.com: Do you collect Marvel Legends, statues or anything?
Daniels: Not really. I probably would have back in the day. There was a point in time when I was collecting in the idea that the stuff was gonna be worth a lot in the future, you know what I mean? It actually coincided at a point when I was working at comic book store, before I even started wrestling. That was the era of the foil covers, the holographic covers and all that stuff. People were getting 30 copies of everything. I probably would have put money down in that point in my life to collect that stuff.
Christpher Daniels in
action figure form
But now, I enjoy more the reading of, rather than the owning of. The Marvel statues thing is not something that necessarily appeals to me. I like the stuff. You have to appreciate the effort that they put into stuff, like the Randy Bowen stuff.
Marvel.com: Well you've got your own action figure, courtesy of the fine folks at Toy Biz. Is that weird for you or your family?
Daniels: It's weird because it looks uncannily life-like. I was in the second group that was released and of the four, mine was the one that looked closest to my face. We had it backstage and people would say, "Wow, its eyes are following me, that's so freaky."
As a pro wrestler, it's one of those signs that you've sort of made it. I've got an action figure! No matter what happens to you in your career you can say, "Well, I have an action figure, you know." That's one of those self-fan moments where you're like, "Yeah!" We have a bunch of my own action figures at my house. It's a big deal to my kids. They're like, "Hey look, it's daddy."
Catch the "Fallen Angel," Christopher Daniels on TNA "Impact!" Thursdays at 9pm on SpikeTV.
*Not sure what pop and mark mean here? Don't worry! Those are wrestling terms and here's a quick guide for the uninitiated:
Mark: a big fan of something, almost bordering on obsession.
Pop: a sudden reaction, usually excited, startled or amazed.All Images courtesy of TNA Wrestling and Christopher Daniels.