Orlando Sentinel – September 1, 2000
By Ric Russo
Chris Daniels Seeks A Bit Of Heaven After WCW Debacle
The wrestling persona of Fallen Angel that Christopher Daniels created for himself is much darker than anyone or anything he portrayed while an actor with a Chicago children’s theater group eight years ago.
At that time, Daniels was a featured performer in such classic favorites as Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty. Acting was his passion and his major in college, but Daniels soon found out how tough it was to making a living.
“It was very tough . . . you’d just go from part to part piecing together enough to get by on if you were fortunate enough to find parts,” he said. “My wife Lisa is an actress and we did a lot of children’s theater. Those were the parts that were available that paid something.”
In the back of his mind, Daniels had an alternative plan — something that had been developing since his teenage days in Fayetteville, N.C. Growing up in that region exposed him to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.
Daniels became an avid fan. For several years, he religiously watched telecasts featuring Ric Flair, Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A. and others. He attended wrestling events all over North Carolina.
When making ends meet became more difficult, his love for wrestling resurfaced.
“Chicago had a pro wrestling school/promotion — Windy City Wrestling,” said the 29-year-old, who is 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 220 pounds. “I went and looked around their facility and they signed me up. I made my debut in January 1993, three months after I started training.”
With an impressive aerial assault and a variety of daredevil moves, Daniels has spent the past seven years working as one of pro wrestling’s top independent performers. A “good guy” at first, he turned on his partner — hence the Fallen Angel character. He continues to rotate personas between the “heel,” Fallen Angel, and the “babyface,” Christopher Daniels.
He has worked everywhere from Japan to California, hoping to catch the eye of one of the major organizations that could provide the young hopeful with financial security.
Daniels thought he had done that earlier this year when World Championship Wrestling’s Terry Taylor signed him to a contract in March. Taylor knows talent well, having held important managerial roles with WCW and the World Wrestling Federation. Daniels first met Taylor when he was working in Japan and Taylor was with the WWF.
“He told me to call him when I got back to working shows in the [United] States,” Daniels said. “By the time I got back over here, Taylor was working with WCW. I gave him a call and he lined me up a tryout match.”
In the past, Daniels had worked several “dark matches” with the WWF and WCW but was never offered a deal. A dark match is a bout that doesn’t make television broadcasts featuring young, unknown performers. Such a match allows management to evaluate talent to see who is worthy of a contract.
“Right after the match he [Taylor] tells me they want to sign me,” Daniels said. “It was the payoff I was waiting for. All the hard work was paying off.”
Or so he thought. WCW voided the contract last week when they released him. In the nearly six months Daniels was under contract, he wrestled one match and was involved in one angle that was axed in its early stages.
“I was going to be a mysterious, hooded figure — the Dark Angel. I was going to wear a robe and give advice to Vampiro in his storyline with Sting,” Daniels said.
WCW dropped the idea and his character never made another appearance. In late June, he wrestled against Chris Candido during a taping for WCW Worldwide.
That’s the only time he broke a sweat during his tenure. And though the match featured a lot of good wrestling moves, only a few people saw it. WCW Worldwide is a syndicated program that often runs in the wee hours of the morning.
“All I wanted was a legitimate shot and I don’t feel I got that,” Daniels said. “When [WCW official] J.J. Dillion told me they were letting me go, he couldn’t really give me an answer when I asked him `Why?’ ”
WCW is on track to lose quite a bit of money this year, and management is looking to cut back where it can. Management has disposed of live Thursday night Thunder tapings and Saturday shows on TBS to save on production costs. And they have canned several grapplers on the roster.
The Atlanta-based sports entertainment group is also paying a hefty sum to Kevin Sullivan, their former commissioner, who signed a three-year deal earlier this year. Remember Sullivan? He got the group through a pay-per-view event, and was replaced by Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo.
Daniels was a victim of circumstance.
“I guess they feel some of the guys from their Power Plant have better potential then me,” he said. “I’ve been working this business for seven years. I know what it takes mentally and physically to work in this business.”
Down but not out, Daniels is already working on a way to get another shot at the big time.
“I just have to keep working the indy shows, watch what’s going on television and hope to catch somebody’s attention,” he said.
ECW invades New York. Extreme Championship Wrestling garnered a lot of attention last weekend with two shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. On Saturday night, the group held its eight-team tournament to decide the ECW World Tag-Team champions.
Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri with the Sinister Minister — James Mitchell, formerly James Van den Berg of WCW — came out on top. The duo captured the belts when Whipwreck hit Simon Diamond with a “whipersnapper” for the pinfall.
However, the team dropped the belts the following evening. The FBI, a k a The Full-Blooded Italians, won the match thanks to a little outside interference by their manager, Big Sal Graziano. The previous night, Whipwreck and Tajiri had defeated the trio in semifinal action of the tournament.
Little Guido Maritato and Tony Mamaluke were both a bloody mess when the bout ended, but nonetheless they are the ECW Tag-Team Champions. Another belt changed hands during the second night of action when Kid Kash knocked off Rhino for the World Television Championship.
ECW president Paul Heyman is hoping his group can feed off the momentum of last weekend’s performances. ECW’s television contract with The Nashville Network expires later this month and they have yet to secure anything to replace it. The New York Daily News featured articles on the hard-core wrestling organization and its avid fans in both Saturday and Sunday editions.
“We’ve been having discussions with several potential partners, but nothing has been reached yet,” Heyman said. “But our prospects are looking pretty good, and I am confident somebody will want to sign on with the hardest- working group of guys in professional wrestling.”
One bad note for ECW: New Jack’s foot injury is worse than thought. He has four broken bones in his left foot and all of the cartilage in the ankle is gone. New Jack, whose wild exploits are featured in the pro wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, has been told by doctors he will be out of action until at least January. He has already had surgery and begun rehabilitation.
Here’s Bob. Yes, fans, here’s the long-awaited picture of former wrestler Bob Roop. You may remember that “Off the Top Rope” was a victim of a practical joke recently by a couple of Roop’s buddies who sent us a pic of wrestler Rusty Brooks and said it was Roop. Thanks for the real photo, Bob.