Ring of Honor celebrated its 14th anniversary back on Feb. 26 with an event in the festive city of Las Vegas.
The Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall was a far cry from the Murphy Recreational Center in Philadelphia, which is where Ring of Honor held its very first event back on Feb. 23, 2002.
The building located at 300 W. Shunk St. didn't have any neon signs or a casino full of people. It was merely a space Ring of Honor was able to use for its first-ever event.
For Christopher Daniels, Ring of Honor's first event was simply another booking on the calendar. It was just another stop on the winding and twisting road of an independent professional wrestler.
Today, Ring of Honor is far from just another booking. Now, it is a promotion he calls home.
"I feel like we're at the top of the ledger in terms of the companies that are doing well in professional wrestling," Daniels said of Ring of Honor during an interview with philly.com "Right now, I feel like Ring of Honor is one of the top. We keep adding syndicated stations around the country. We've got the deal going now with New Japan, where we've got the great partnership happening."
"More and more wrestlers are trying to come to Ring of Honor and use that as the way that they get noticed by the wrestling fan base," he added. "I feel like that we're as strong as we've ever been. We just celebrated our 14th anniversary and I see nothing but upward and onward momentum for us."
Daniels was featured in the main event of that first card, which was a triple threat match against Low-Ki and Daniel Bryan, who was wrestling under his real name of Bryan Danielson. The card also featured WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero.
Back in 2002, Philadelphia was the one of the few cities Ring of Honor could consistently run. Today, the promotion tours around the country.
On Saturday, Ring of Honor will return to Philadelphia for another stop on its Conquest Tour at the 2300 Arena. When Ring of Honor held its premier event, Final Battle, at the same venue back in December, it garnered more than 1,000 fans, which is an accomplishment for any wrestling promotion in the United States not named WWE.
Many of those were fans were forced to stand up the entire show due to the fact that there were not being enough seats to accommodate all of them. However, none of them complained and many of them will return to the venue to watch Ring of Honor again Saturday night.
Drawing a decent number of fans on a consistent basis in multiple markets was not something Daniels saw in Ring of Honor's future back in 2002. That's because it looked and felt just like any other independent wrestling promotion at the time.
"When day one came around, we had no idea that Ring of Honor was going to be what it is today," he said. "The first couple of shows, it was just an independent that we were on. Slowly but surely we could see that Gabe Sapolsky, the man that put Ring of Honor in motion creatively, we could see that he had a long-term plan for everyone. We didn't realize it until maybe six months in."
"We had no idea," he added. "When we got there to wrestle, we were just there to wrestle. We had no idea that it was going to turn into what it did and it wasn't until maybe a year later when we're talking about anniversaries and return dates and stuff like that.
"You sort of looked around and you saw the same people in the locker room that were there a year ago and you're like, "Oh wow! This is turning into an actual company and not just guys running shows and trying to make a quick dollar." This was some that had legs to it."
Daniels didn't spend the rest of his career in Ring of Honor. He eventually moved onto to TNA Wrestling. Near the tail end of his run with that promotion he formed a tag team with his longtime friend Frankie Kazarian.
Both Daniels and Kazarian left TNA in 2014 and opted to become independent wrestlers once again. Unlike 2002, Daniels and Kazarian knew going in that Ring of Honor could be relied upon for consistent bookings.
That's because by that point Ring of Honor had garnered a reputation for presenting some of the best wrestling in the world and had grown from running monthly shows to having syndicated television airing in markets around the country, including Philadelphia.
Although Kazarian had never worked for Ring of Honor before 2014, the decision to begin a working relationship with the promotion was an easy one.
"Speaking personally, since I've been with Ring of Honor, which is going on two years now, every step it has taken has been a step in the right direction," Kazarian said to philly.com "Whether it be landing on a new television station or a new lighting rig or new production or new screens, a new stage, a new set up or bringing in new wrestlers, everything has been a step forward, where a lot of times wrestling promotions will take one step forward and 10 steps back."
"It's been nothing but solid momentum at least since I've been with Ring of Honor, including the relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, which I think has been mutually beneficial," he added. "It's real fun to be part of a company with momentum and no signs of slowing down from an in-ring standpoint and a behind-the-scenes standpoint. It's a fun time to be a Ring of Honor wrestler."
On Saturday, Daniels and Kazarian — collectively known as the Addiction — will take part in a triple threat tag team match against the Young Bucks and the newly reformed Motor City Machine Guns.
It is a match that showcases the amount of depth Ring of Honor has on its roster at the moment, especially in its tag team division, which includes the Briscoes, who also took part in Ring of Honor's first-ever show.
Other teams include War Machine, the All Night Express and reDRagon — all of which are current or former Ring of Honor Tag Team champions.
Whether someone is rising up the ranks or are seasoned vets like Daniels and Kazarian, Ring of Honor is no longer just another place to work. It is now become a badge of merit that garners instant credibility.
"There's been many years now when Ring of Honor has sort of been seen as a destination for young wrestlers to come and sort of prove their worth and be noticed," Daniels said. "Because you've got so many people that are trying to get in our doors and trying to get on our roster, it forces everybody to wrestle at the top of their game and the people that finally do make it to Ring of Honor, they're the cream of the crop."
"When you've got that happening, all of a sudden, people are interested in watching your show," he added. "People are interested in being involved with the company."
It took 14 years for Ring of Honor to get to the point where it is a viable option for wrestlers and fans alike, and Daniels and Kazarian are among those willing to help push it even further moving forward.
"Helping Ring of Honor after all of the times Ring of Honor helped me when I needed it, being someone that can help build the company and build the talent for the future just feels right to me," Daniels said.