By Kevin Eck
After a 14-year absence from ROH, “The Bayonne Badass” Dan Maff returned earlier this month to compete in a six-man tag match at The Experience in Pittsburgh and an anything-goes match against PCO at Unauthorized in Columbus, Ohio. Both matches received rave reviews and led to Maff being offered an ROH contract on the spot.
Maff, a two-time former ROH World Tag Team Champion who appeared on the inaugural ROH show in 2002, had an offer from another promotion on the table, but he decided to come home to ROH. When Maff put pen to paper, he had secured the first pro wrestling contract of his career.
I caught up with Maff to discuss his improbable journey back to ROH after well over a decade on the independent circuit.
What was your first reaction when you got the call from ROH to do the match with PCO at Unauthorized?
I received a message from Colt Cabana asking me if I was available on Nov 3. I replied, “Yes, I’m available,” and then the next question blew my mind. He asked if I was interested in facing PCO in Columbus, Ohio, for ROH. I read the text twice just to make sure I was reading this correctly. My heart immediately started racing uncontrollably and I replied a thumbs up and told him I was in. I was so excited, but I didn’t know what to do. I stood up, walked around, sat back down, and my mind was racing all over the place.
What was going through your head right before you walked out in front of the crowd, and then when you actually stepped into an ROH ring for the first time in 14 years?
Surprisingly, I made my return to ROH in Pittsburgh the night before the match with PCO. I remember sitting down watching from the second level and admiring the entire set-up and production of ROH now while saying to myself, “This is not the ROH I remember, man. It’s come a long way.”
All of a sudden, I was approached by one of the agents and I was told I was going to be involved in a six-man tag match. I was teaming with PCO and Marty Scurll against Cheeseburger, Colt Cabana and Jeff Cobb. As I was waiting for my entrance, all I kept thinking was, “Wow, I can't believe this is happening. I can’t believe I’m here. Just relax and be you. This is probably the only shot I will get and I’m gonna swing for the fences.”
After the match was over, what was the reaction from your peers backstage?
As I walked back through the curtain after the match on the first night, I got a lot of high fives and hugs, then I was immediately grabbed for a post-match interview and it literally felt like I hit the ground running and was exactly where I belong.
Night 2 in Columbus, Ohio was a little different. As I walked back into the backstage area, many of the guys were pulling tacks out of my head and back while many were also telling me how much they enjoyed the fight between PCO and myself. Like Night 1, this was also all positive feedback. Everyone loved it.
Then I was told everyone had to go to the meeting room for a post-show meeting. We all filed into the meeting room and that’s where [producer] Hunter [Johnston] addressed the entire roster.
After addressing the roster, he turned over and looked at me and said some very nice things about me, and the roster clapped. But there was one voice from the back of the room that said, “Give him a damn, job!” And then the entire roster started chanting, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Hunter asked for everyone to settle down for a second and then said he doesn’t normally do things like this in public, but he felt like this was a special occasion and he asked the roster out loud, “Do you all want want me to offer Maff a job here?”And again the roster responded with a loud “Yes!” chant. He looked at me and we walked over to each other and shook hands. He said, “Ya got a job.” I said, “Thank you.”
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After spending well over a decade on the independent circuit, did you ever think you would have an opportunity to work for a major promotion such as ROH again? Was it something you strived for?
Spending over a decade on the independent circuit was definitely humbling and life-altering. No major company showed interest in my services, or at least no company reached out to me. I strived for an ROH return for many years. I watched many talented wrestlers pass me and move up to a major company, but yet I never stopped believing, never stopped grinding, never stopped striving, never stopped working hard, and always came to work with a smile on my face.
Can you put into words what it means to you to sign your first contract in pro wrestling?
Signing my first professional wrestling contract is very difficult to put in words what it means to me. It’s an emotionally charged moment full of tears of joy because I can honestly and openly say that hard work pays off, man. It was a long, hard road back to a place I once called home. I live by one saying every single day of my life and it’s, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do!” Signing a contract, my first wrestling contract, absolutely brings me full circle. I’m so happy and excited.
We understand you had offers from at least one other company. Why did you choose ROH?
There was another company aggressively showing a strong interest in my services. After closely observing the product, talent level, overall production and professionalism of how ROH conducted their business, I must say I was really impressed.
But there where two things that really hit me home in the heart. First was the absolute love and camaraderie within the roster itself -- the teamwork, the brotherhood, the love for one another and the overall passion that each and every wrestler on that roster brings to the table. The entire team showed me incredible hospitality and embraced me with open arms.
Secondly was the raw emotion and sincerity of the roster post-show meeting and speeches in Columbus, Ohio. Anyone who knows me knows that I am an emotional human that wears his heart on his sleeve and I am all about team effort. When I saw the emotion, passion and fire in Hunter’s words, I said to myself, “I would go to war for this man and I would stand right at his side, man. This is a guy I would walk through hell for.” That’s why I chose ROH!
For newer ROH fans who might be unfamiliar with you, how would you describe your in-ring style and personality?
Well, “The Bayonne Badass” fears nothing and no one. I bring intensity, chaos and the magnificent obsession with being a savage and destroying anything that stands in my way by any means necessary to fight my way to the very top of the food chain. Danny Maff is unreasonable, defiant and highly unpredictable down to the very core of his soul. Love me or hate me, bottom line is I get results one way or the other!
What are your goals in ROH? Are there any specific wrestlers you want to face?
Wrestlers I would want to face: The Briscoes, Bully Ray, Jeff Cobb, anyone and everyone!
My goals are simple: To finish what I started 15 years ago. Bottom line, if you are in the sport of professional wrestling and you’re not in it to be the No. 1 guy, then get on the other side of the guard rail because I am here to become the Ring of Honor World Champion!