I recently spoke with TNA Superstar Christopher Daniels. In the first part of the interview below, Daniels discussed breaking into the business, working for the WWF and WCW, growing up as a wrestling fan, his most serious injury and much more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Daniels discussed working for ROH, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk's WWE success, starting with TNA, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joining TNA, Vince Russo's criticism of him, his TNA departure in 2010 and much more.

You can follow him on Twitter @facdaniels , and check out his official website at this link.

Wrestling Inc: Did you grow up as a wrestling fan?

Christopher Daniels: Yeah. I grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina where Fort Bragg is, basically where the Mid Atlantic territories were sort of based out of the Carolinas. So I grew up watching guys like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors. I got a chance to watch all those guys live. Magnum T.A. and the Rock 'n' Roll Express, the Midnight Express. But yeah, man. My dad took me there, to the Cumberland County Arena, to watch it as a kid and I just stuck with it I guess.

Wrestling Inc: Were you primarily an NWA fan growing up?

Daniels: Yeah I was. I was born in the seventies, so I was watching that stuff, but I wasn't watching closely. But right when I started paying attention to the wrestling rather than just watching it as background noise… cable started coming around too then, so like just as I was watching NWA and getting into all that stuff, all of a sudden I had access to World Class on ESPN and AWA and Mid South and even Tuesday Night Titans on the USA Network. Once cable started coming around, I had a lot of access to a lot of different wrestling, but primarily, the Mid Atlantic stuff is what I sort of fell in love with.

Wrestling Inc: Who were some of your favorites during that era?

Daniels: Definitely Magnum T.A. was my first favorite, and then I really enjoyed the Road Warriors and Sting was definitely a big favorite once he joined into the NWA.

Wrestling Inc: Were you pretty much a wrestling fan the whole time until once you got started?

Daniels: Pretty much. I didn't follow it that much in college. I watched it. I didn't get a chance to go to wrestling as often. I guess there was a period of time that I wasn't the rabid fan that I was as a kid, but I still watched it intermittently and still kept up with it.

Wrestling Inc: What made you decide to get into the business?

Daniels: I graduated college, my degree is in theatre, so I went to Chicago and tried to get into the theatre scene up there, but it was real hard to break in and find paying work. It was real easy to find acting gigs, but I couldn't afford to do it for free and there wasn't a whole lot of stuff that I was really paying, basically waiting tables and trying to catch a break. I made a joke to my wife that if this acting thing doesn't work out I can always be a pro wrestler, as a joke. She found out about a school that was about thirty minutes from where we lived, and she made the appointment for me. I went in and met the guy, this was Windy City Pro Wrestling, it was in the south side of Chicago, and the guy's name was Sam DeCero. I met him and came out of the building with this look on my face like I was hypnotized or something. I decided to give it a shot.

The acting thing wasn't going very well for me. I was doing a lot of children's theatre and stuff like that. I decided to sort of take a break and give wrestling a try just to say I did it, just to say it was something new or something to try out. I ended up taking to it sort of quickly, I guess. Being a fan as a kid made it easy to go through the training in terms of learning how to do stuff. So I went into training in January of 93, and I had my first match in April of 93. Once I started wrestling matches in front of people, that was when I started learning everything. Basically, you learn everything on the job. Wrestling in front of people, that's where you learn the majority of your stuff. I just sort of took to it pretty quickly and started wrestling right away.

Wrestling Inc: When you started in 93, that period from ' 93 to late '95 was kind of a dark period of wrestling. It was starting to go down in popularity a lot, and there were a lot of these ridiculous gimmicks and not so much in the way of good matches and things like that. What were your thoughts on the industry during that time?

Daniels: I don't know. I was watching then, sort of paying attention, but I don't really look at it… I was sort of a hobby wrestler at that point. I only wrestled like once or twice a month. I don't really remember a lot of wrestling, like my own wrestling, in that period of time. Being in the wrestling school and then wrestling for Windy City after that, I hung out with guys and we tried to send tapes out to places like Memphis and even ECW, but at that point then, I was just look at wrestling as just trying to make my way in. I wasn't really paying attention in terms of like my own stuff, I was just watching… you know, we'd watch the pay per views every month and see what was going on, but in my mind at that point, I was not watching in terms of great matches then. I was just sort of trying to learn and step up.

Wrestling Inc: When you signed the developmental deal with WWF back in the late 90s, what was your reaction to that?

Daniels: It actually wasn't even a developmental deal. It was just an opportunity to go to one of the dojos that Dory Funk Jr. was running. So I really was only just a week in the dojos with guys like Kurt Angle and Steve Corino and Devon Storm, you know, Steve Williams. So I wasn't sure that I'd even made it or not, it was just an opportunity. It was more of like a tryout sort of thing. I was hopeful that something was going to come from it, but it was really just an opportunity to meet guys and it never really transformed into anything bigger than that.

Wrestling Inc: You wrestled for a bit with WWF. What was that experience like during that time?

Daniels: Well, I did a lot of dark matches for them. When they came out to California I made myself available for them. I actually got the opportunity through Jim Cornette and through Victor Quiñones. Victor was the guy who was sort of delegated for all the foreign talent, the Japanese guys and the Mexican guys that WWF brought in for the light heavyweight division they were building. So, the first time I got a chance to work for WWE, they know who I was because my partner from Windy City, Kevin Quinn, he knew Victor from Puerto Rico because we had gone to Puerto Rico in 95 for a period of time and when we were there, Kevin got to know Victor and ended up going to Mexico with him and working under him. So Victor knew who I was, so when he brought Taka, Taka Michinoku, to the WWE, when they came around to Phoenix for matches and they needed a match for Taka, Victor game me the opportunity. So that was how I started getting dark matches and Shotgun Saturday Night matches and stuff like that.

I just sort of was working there. It wasn't a matter of hey, this is a tryout, or hey, this is an opportunity for you to keep working here. It was just matches and having good matches. But like the one match that I had with Taka on the television show, it ended up, because of that I ended up getting seen overseas, and because of Jim Cornette and the dojo, I got seen by a lot of promoters on the east coast, and that sort of opened the east coast to me. Being seen overseas got me to England and over to Japan. It started to open up because of that period of time in my life. I started to get more opportunities and I variety of promoters started to book me.

Wrestling Inc: You also had a brief stint in WCW, and that was kind of during their end. Did you feel that they weren't going to be around much longer when you had signed with them?

Daniels: No, I actually, like the first… I actually had two contracts with them. The first time, I got hired by Kevin Sullivan. I had a tryout in Los Angeles that he really liked, and so he hired me. I was finishing up a tour of Japan when Kevin got fired and Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff came back to the company. So it was that night that they did the reset in Denver, Colorado. That was actually supposed to be my first night, but because Vince Russo didn't know who I was and Eric Bischoff didn't know who I was at that moment, they sort of put me on the backburner.

So I ended up going into WCW after the fact and was meeting with Vince Russo and talking with him about trying to get some stuff going. But because they had so many guys coming through the Power Plant at that point, I was again sort of put to the backburner. So I was with them for the first time like for eight months. I was traveling on the road with them and doing Nitros and things like that, but not being used at all. Finally they started cutting costs and I was let go because like, I hadn't even, I had wrestled like one time for them on the WorldWide tapings against Chris Candido. The rest of the time I was basically traveling with them and not doing anything. So finally, they let me go.

Then a couple months later, Terry Taylor called me and asked me if I was available to do a match on Nitro as a tryout, and that was the match I had with Mike Modest. That ended up being the second contract I had, but that was right around the time when I guess all the things started falling apart, but I wasn't on the road with them at that point, so I had no idea what was going on with them. What happened was at the end of that match, Scott Steiner basically came out and destroyed myself and Mike Modest, and so we were at home selling those injuries when the company was sort of on their last leg. So I didn't know because I wasn't traveling with them. I had no idea behind the scenes what was going on until I was told that WCW had closed and they'd been bought out.

Wrestling Inc: So you didn't legit injure your neck during that period?

Daniels: No, I did injure my neck, but that wasn't the injury that I was selling. The gimmick was that this was the Monday after Sid Vicious had broken his leg and so in the match, when Scott Steiner came out and attacked us both, he supposedly broke our legs. So that was the injury that I was selling. I actually did hurt my neck really bad and lost feeling in my arm for about a month and a half, but I continued doing independent shows, like I wrestled like a week later and was still doing independent shows because basically, that was where I was making my money, was on the independents.

Wrestling Inc: Was that the most serious injury you've incurred?

Daniels: Yeah definitely. Yeah that was definitely the one that hurt me the worse. I was wrestling through it and still working through it, but yeah, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I was worried that it was going to be a permanent thing, and it slowly but surely sort of wore off. But I still have some damage to, my left arm is still… you know, gets tired quicker. There's still some damage to it, but it's nothing that's really hindered me past that first period.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview, where Daniels discussed working for ROH, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk's WWE success, starting with TNA, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff joining TNA, Vince Russo's criticism of him, his TNA departure in 2010 and much more.

You can follow him on Twitter @facdaniels , and check out his official website at this link.

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