Given the short length of the average professional athlete’s career, Christopher Daniels’ 20 years (and counting) as a pro wrestler is quite an impressive feat.
Leveraging the same stamina and agility he exhibits on the mat, the theater-major-turned-grappler has traveled the world to entertain folks with his in-ring antics over the years.
Not only has Daniels worked for every major professional wrestling organization – including World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and World Wrestling Council (WCW) – but he’s also one of the top stars of TNA Impact Wrestling (Thursday nights on Spike TV), as well as regular Pay-Per-View events and both national and international tours.
I sat down with the self-proclaimed “man with the rear that makes the girls cheer” recently to chat about his thoughts on staying in shape, training toward your strengths and – what else? – mastering his most famous move on the mat.
KF: So, tell us – how does one become a professional wrestler?
CD: Well, I grew up in Fayetteville, N.C., where I became a pro wrestling fan at an early age, watching people like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors and Sting wrestle for Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling.
But those men seemed a lot larger than I thought I’d ever become, so I didn’t envision becoming a wrestler until a lot later in life.
After I graduated college, I moved to Chicago and did some children’s theater, telling my girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife), “You know, if this acting thing never works out, I could always try to be a pro wrestler,” never actually meaning it.
Little did I know, she found a local professional wrestling school (Windy City Pro Wrestling in Chicago) and made an appointment for me. She says that I came out of that meeting with a look in my eyes that said, “I’m going to do this!”
Because I grew up a fan, I had a frame of reference and finished my initial training in three months. In my third match, I won my first championship, the Windy City Lightweight Championship, and I just stuck with it until this slowly became my career.
You’ve got to be in great shape to take – and give – and beating in the ring. What’s your workout philosophy?
I always had the mentality to train towards my strengths – stamina and agility – rather than try to add size which might hinder my performance. I was under six feet tall, so I knew I’d never be a physically imposing wrestler like Hulk Hogan.
The wrestlers whose work I enjoyed the most, like Shawn Michaels and Sean Waltman, were the ones who were fast and agile, and that’s who I tried to emulate. That meant that, in addition to being as lean as I can be for cosmetic reasons, I also needed to train for performance, which meant making my stamina and flexibility a priority.
Walk us through a typical nutrition & workout routine as you’re preparing for a match.
I do admit that the hardest facet of my fitness routine is eating clean, especially in terms of carbs. I have two kids, so I’ve always got snacks and sweets around and it’s hard to be super-strict, but I do try to keep my protein intake as high as I can to offset whatever carbohydrates I may consume.
When I’m home, I know that my job is to hit the gym at some point during a day, so it’s very rare that I take a day off. I usually try to do a four-day split in a given week – a day each for chest, back, shoulders and arms, plus leg exercises each day in-between sets.
We’ve got to know – what goes through your head when you’re about to step into the ring?
Honestly, at this point it’s very rare that I get nervous before a match. I’m comfortable going to the ring, and I get a rush just as my music starts to play right before I go through the curtain. I’ll try and think of something different to say on the microphone every night, just to stay mentally on my toes.
Your signature move – the Best Moonsault Ever – looks pretty complicated; how’d you master it?
It was a two-part process. First off, the moonsault itself (for non-wrestling fans, basically a back-flip off the top rope landing on your opponent chest-to-chest) I initially saw watching the Great Muta, one of the most famous Japanese wrestlers ever to compete in the US.
It took me a while to get confident enough to try and back-flip without worrying about landing on my head…and even longer to learn how to do it by leading with my head instead of one of my shoulders, which keeps me going straight over instead of leaning to one side or the other.
Then, the unique way I do it, bouncing first on the second rope and leaping straight up to the top rope before executing the moonsault, I learned from a Mexican wrestler who came through Chicago to train with us. After a bit, I decided to put them together, and the rest is history.
Can you tell us what your recovery process is like after a match?
I usually take a day off after a weekend of live events, mostly because I’ll get on the earliest flight available to go home to California, which means I’ll have to wake up sometime between 1:30-3:00 am PST. Typically that day off is enough to recharge so I can get back into my routine the next day. I also do yoga to keep as much stiffness as I can at bay.
Any titles you have your eye on – or new projects on the horizon?
Well, first and foremost, I’m always in the hunt for a championship, primarily the World Tag Team Championships with my partner Kazarian. I’m always looking towards the World Heavyweight Championship, too, and if I ever get a sustained opportunity to chase whoever holds that title at any given time, most assuredly I’ll put my best foot forward.
Additionally, I hope to branch out into acting when my schedule permits, and I’ve got some ideas for stories I hope to one day publish in comic books (one of my favorite hobbies).
Meanwhile, I plan on continuing to be one of the most entertaining men on Impact Wrestling’s roster, as well as the most dashing. I may also try to work on my modesty…but probably not.
To read more and keep up with wrestling’s “Fallen Angel,” check out Christopher’s website here.