On Angels Wings

Christopher Daniels is currently the Head of Talent Relations for All Elite Wrestling. He and long-time tag team partner Frankie Kazarian (along with Scorpio Sky) were among the first signees of the fledgling promotion. In 2014, he and Kazarian brought their tag team to Ring of Honor, where they changed their team name from Bad Influence to The Addiction. While in the Addiction, Daniels became known as the Ring General and would wear a military-style uniform to the ring. From the late 90s until this run in ROH however, Daniels used a different name, The Fallen Angel.

The Fallen Angel via TNA/Impact Wrestling

As the Fallen Angel, Daniels’s David Koresh anti-Messiah-inspired character made waves as one of the best talkers in the indies. His persona got the attention of the then-World Wrestling Federation in 1999. WWF Head Writer Vince Russo liked the Fallen Angel character and wanted to incorporate him into the current Ministry of Darkness storyline. According to Bruce Prichard, Russo’s initial idea was to remake the Fallen Angel as The Higher Power.

For Attitude Era fans, the Ministry of Darkness (MOD) was a demonically-inspired stable led by a heel Undertaker and flanked by his Acolytes (Bradshaw & Farooq), The Brood (Gangrel, Edge & Christian), and Mideon. The height of the angle involved the Undertaker essentially crucifying Steve Austin and failing to sacrifice Stephanie McMahon (these are real things that happened). The Fallen Angel character would have been a perfect fit in the company. However, Russo’s idea of making the Higher Power someone the Undertaker would serve didn’t work for Vince McMahon. The chairman passed on Daniels and revealed himself to be the Higher Power (no, it doesn’t make sense). 

It was me Austin! It was me all along! Credit: WWE

Though the two sides always seemed close to a deal, Christopher Daniels never wrestled as himself for WWE. However, he did leave an impression on Russo. In 2002, the landscape of professional wrestling had shifted entirely. Daniels became one of the key players in the newly launched Ring of Honor. While in ROH, Daniels essentially started his own version of MOD as The Prophecy. However, Vince Russo was doing something much different in the newly-created NWA TNA. 

The Prophecy Credit: Ring of Honor

The original TNA was a company founded as part Memphis, part late-era WCW. The company struggled to find its identity in the early days of the promotion. Backstage, Russo battled Jerry Jarrett over the company direction. Russo wanted to mirror the “crash TV” style he pioneered in WWF. Jarrett sought to create a Southern-style promotion built on logical storytelling and bold personalities. Even the company name reflected this duality. The NWA was the oldest promotion in the United States with a title held by Lou Thez, Harley Race, and Jack Brisco, while TNA is a 70s-era double entendre.

When Panda Energy took over the company, they (Dixie Carter specifically) sided with Russo, who gained significant control over the creative direction. As he did in WCW, Russo made himself a central television figure and built a stable around him. The group, called Sports Entertainment Xtreme, represented Russo’s vision of wrestling and faced Jeff Jarrett and the more traditional ideals of the sport. Russo recruited Raven, Glenn Gilberti (Disco Inferno), BG James (Road Dawg), and Sonny Siaki as the group’s initial focal points. SEX would eventually include the promotion’s top young talent, AJ Styles. 

Eventually, the SEX stable grew, and Daniels joined. Though still called the Fallen Angel, Daniels left the messianic character in ROH and played more of an arrogant heel. He found his grove teaming with Low Ki and Elix Skipper as Triple X. Ki, Daniels’s first ROH rival, teamed with Skipper, whose daredevil athleticism was a highlight of late-era WCW. Russo and Jarrett wanted to establish the X-Division as the most exciting spot on the weekly pay-per-view card. They already had a solid veteran hand in Jerry Lynn and a burgeoning star in Styles. Now they had a Freebird-style tag team force whose insane exploits helped define the X Division.

Triple X Credit: TNA/Impact

Eventually, Triple X outlived the faction and became a staple in the TNA. A violent and gory feud with America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) ended with a loser-must-disband match at Turning Point 04. Daniels then entered into competition for the X-Division title and its champion, AJ Styles. At Destination X, Daniels cheated Styles out of the title, winning the championship even though Styles secured the belt first. Daniels’s win jump-started an over 150-day reign as the X-Division Champion. As the champ, Daniels held back challenges from Austin Aries, Petey Williams, and even his former partner Skipper, all while a rematch with Styles simmered. An additional wrench was thrown into Daniels’s reign with the arrival of Samoa Joe.

Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles Credit: TNA/Impact

Like Daniels, Joe made his name in Ring of Honor. His legendary three-match series with CM Punk pushed both into a cult-like stratosphere that gained both men the attention of both WWE and TNA. While Punk signed with WWE, Samoa Joe made his way into TNA and became an immediate force. As TNA approached the Unbreakable pay-per-view, Joe was inserted into the Daniels/Styles rivalry.

To determine the next challenger for Daniels’s belt, TNA announced that the Super X Cup tournament winner would become the number one contender. The final two men, Joe, and Styles faced off at Sacrifice, where Joe won the Cup after Daniels’s interference cost Styles the match. Joe was set to face Daniels at Unbreakable, but on Impact, the champ tried to attack his newest challenger until AJ Styles made a save. NWA Championship Board Member Larry Zbyzsko added AJ to the match.

The three-way match was named the main event for Unbreakable, a significant pay-per-view in TNA’s history as it helped usher in the Spike TV era. What happened that September night in the Impact Zone made history. As AJ Styles finally won back his X-Division title, three men whose histories ran through both TNA and ROH faced off in what is largely called the greatest match in TNA history. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer gave the match five stars. To this day, it is the only match in TNA history to achieve this watermark.

On Thursday September 30th, for the first time since 2014, not just Christopher Daniels but the Fallen Angel returns to the promotion that he helped build. With the Forbidden Door busted wide open, worlds collide in a new era that may very well see the Fallen Angel wreak havoc on familiar ground with Impact Wrestling.