Their wrestling styles may be as different as they come, but Christopher Daniels belives he and Hulk Hogan are “kindred spirits.”
“I think the thing that people should understand about Hulk Hogan and myself is that we both sort of played the best hand with the cards we were dealt,” Daniels said. “We took what we have as wrestlers, physically and our mindset and we made the best out of it.”
Today Daniels said he and “The Hulkster” have a good relationship—one in which Hogan regularly approaches Daniels to praise him for his work and offer advice. “He’s come up to me and told me he’s a fan,” Daniels said.
It’s a big step forward from their earliest dealings in TNA. Within months of Hogan’s arrival in TNA in 2009, Daniels went from headlining pay per views to be fired.
“I heard stories from different people about how he didn’t know who I was and that he didn’t see a difference between me and AJ Styles,” Daniels said. “I’ve never really gone up to him and asked him, because there’s really no benefit to that.”
Instead, Daniels said, he’s enjoying a new day for TNA—a company he’s been a part off, on and off, since its earliest days running weekly $10 pay per view events out of the Nashville Fairgrounds. Heading into this Sunday’s Slammiversary, which marks the tenth birthday of the promotion, Daniels he’s excited about being part of TNA as it undergoes major changes.
“I feel like that there’s a clear sense of what they want to do,” said Daniels, who will team with Kazarian to take on Kurt Angle & AJ Styles at the pay per view. “
“The whole idea of pulling back the curtain and doing more reality-based segments, that’s something that wasn’t an accident. They’ve tried it and they liked the results and they’re going to follow through on it and give it a chance to blossom into something good.”
Of course, the biggest recent change to TNA was the decision to air its weekly television show, Impact Wrestling, live every Thursday on Spike TV. Daniels said that while TNA’s performers and production team are used to going live once a month at pay per view events, he still felt “a lot of stress” last Thursday, in part because of the added pressure of fitting commercial breaks into a live show.
Daniels said he was ultimately satisfied with how Impact’s first live show of the summer-long experiment turned out, but admits he was “disappointed that the rating was lower than I expected.”
Still, Daniels thinks TNA should stay the course for now.
“You can’t take one week’s number and decide to change everything,” he said. “I don’t know what it would take for them to decide to cut bait and get out of there, in terms of how many weeks would have to be low.”
As much as Daniels supports TNA President Dixie Carter’s vision of incorporating more reality-based segments, like the Gut Check Challenge, in which prospects essentially try out for the company on live TV. Still, Daniels concedes he’s not totally comfortable with the notion of mixing reality with the fantasy world of pro wrestling.
“It’s tough to sort of peel back the curtain on that, and then trying to keep it pulled for the rest of the show,” he said. “It’s tough to shine a light on one part of it, and then not shine a light on all of it. How far back do you pull [the curtain]? I feel like the Gut Check segments in particular—there’s a place for them. But I’m not sure it’s 100 percent perfected just year…. It’s a work in progress.”
Daniels similarly has mixed feelings about another new initiative by Carter—creating a TNA Hall of Fame. Daniels says he “can see how people might think it’s a bit early” in TNA’s existence to have its own hall, he’s also in favor of honoring the people who were critical in putting TNA on the map. Daniels said the earliest inductees should not, necessarily, be wrestlers, but rather those who worked behind the scenes to make TNA a reality in its earliest days.
Daniels also likes the idea of paying tribute to wrestlers with great careers who, for various reasons, will likely never make it into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“There are, honestly, people in this company who have never been in WWE or never will go to WWE. Why not honor them?” asked Daniels, who suggested TNA’s Nashville offices as a possible physical location for its Hall of Fame.
While Daniels always has his own ideas, he says he believes it’s his place to support Carter’s vision for TNA, even when he disagrees with it.
“I don’t believe everything that TNA has done has been correct, but that’s the nature of the business. There are decisions being made by people who have creative ideas… and not every idea is going to be a home run,” said Daniels, who added that he believes it’s important to be receptive to criticism. “I’ve found the two worse things you could do is believe everything you hear on the Internet, and believe nothing you hear on the Internet.”
One thing Daniels does believe: That his match this Sunday will be something special. With four of TNA’s best wrestlers involved, the bout is being talked about as a potential match of the year-contender. “The expectations are way high, and not just from everyone else, but from myself,” he said.
Delivering a match that “people will talk about for months and months” would be a fitting way to mark TNA’s tenth anniversary. Daniels says he’s proud to have been along for most of the ride.
“It’s an accomplishment, man. You look back on the first year, and the second year when people didn’t think we were going to last,” Daniels said. “All these steps that we’ve taken—whether they were big or small—they were steps forward.”