Dalton Castle shows his feathers as one of the most colorful characters in professional wrestling

Dalton Castle has an immediate and unmatched connection with fans every time he steps into an ROH ring. Courtesy Ring of Honor

There are certain experiences in professional wrestling that you have to experience in person to truly appreciate. In WWE, it's the Royal Rumble match and its incomparable buzz, the spectacle of WrestleMania, or any of a handful of other things. Outside of those boundaries, you have the dimly lit legion hall that houses Pro Wrestling Guerilla in California, the buzz of a New York City or Philadelphia crowd on the right night and, at least for the last few years, the outlandish and almost indescribable entrance of the "Party Peacock" Dalton Castle.

Especially in his current natural habitat, Ring of Honor, where the substance of the in-ring presentation has always outweighed the pomp and circumstance of any particular character, Castle stands out in a big way. With a brightly colored turquoise, gold or purple jumpsuit, complete with a complementarily colored set of wings that spread out like a peacock as he stretches his arms to the sky, the visual is simply one of a kind. With his "boys," typically portrayed by twin brothers Brandon and Brent, Castle has two valets who serve as a stepping stool into the ring and various other pieces of furniture as necessary, in addition to fanning Castle throughout the match.

It harkens back equally to the glam rock style popular in the 1970s and memorable androgynous wrestlers of yesteryear, yet it somehow feels fresh and new. The flash might have drawn in fans in the beginning, but the reason Castle's star continues to rise -- and it's brought him all the way to the precipice of the top as he prepares for his shot at Christopher Daniels and the ROH world championship -- is that he backs it up with intense physical strength and an amateur wrestling background that interlocks well with the rest of the roster.

Despite the effortless charisma he displays every time he steps through the curtain, the path to making Dalton Castle a success was anything but breezy.

"I think it's a big challenge for anybody to find something that is signature, but so far away from something anybody else has done," said Castle during a recent interview with ESPN.com at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom. "I struggled for years to find my identity, and it didn't happen overnight. I didn't know the look I wanted right away. I kinda had an idea, and it [didn't happen] until I fully committed to one thing. Then I learned I could add another element, and then I could add boys and dress them a certain way, or I knew how to walk, present myself and carry myself in the ring."

In fact, in the earliest stages of his transition from amateur wrestling to professional wrestling, Castle set out to be the kind of serious, no-nonsense bruiser who has populated the independent wrestling ranks for a long time.

"I tried to go the other route, but what you see now is what I'm more comfortable doing. It comes naturally, and I don't have to think about what I'm doing," Castle told Sam Roberts when asked whether Castle sought to be such a colorful character during a July 2016 appearance on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast.

Castle's level of comfort in his own skin and earnestness during his deliberate and over-the-top ring entrances is a big part of why his charm shines through. Setting the bar as high as he does with the pomp and circumstance comes with its own problems, though; as he settled in for his interview in the basement of the Hammerstein Ballroom, Castle described just how much effort goes into keeping his ring gear and presentation fresh.

"Every time I come to New York, I have this place I go to for spandex," said Castle. "I spend 25 minutes just staring, and when they finally ask, 'Can I help you?' all I can say is, 'I don't know. Does this scream peacock?'"

Castle has come a long way since losing in the first round of the 2015 ROH top prospect tournament. He hopped immediately into a TV title confrontation with Jay Lethal, and over the last two years has had memorable conflicts with both Silas Young and Colt Cabana that have felt as though they had tremendous continuity and stakes throughout. Castle's act is as popular as it's ever been in Ring of Honor in North America, but his colorful nature also seemingly transcends culture and language barriers, as he showed during his recent excursion to Japan as part of the co-branded "Honor Rising" shows put on by ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

After getting rave reviews the first time around, Castle got a bombastic reaction that's quite unusual from an often-reserved Japanese crowd.

"They were very accepting and very welcoming, and the entire experience is unexplainable. For some reason, they make me feel like more of a star than I've ever felt before," said Castle. "This is my second trip to Japan, and it was no less amazing than the first time. I thought I'd be more prepared this time around, but it turns out I got just as giddy. I'm guessing no matter how many times I go [it'll be the same]. Hopefully there's more in the future."

On the first night of back-to-back shows, Castle's usual "boys" were replaced by two of NJPW's most recognizable faces, in full "boys" getup -- Ryusuke Taguchi (five-time IWGP junior tag team champion, with Finn Balor, and two-time IWGP junior heavyweight champion) and Hiroshi Tanahashi (one of the biggest stars in the company's history). There was an immediate buzz on social media as gifs and video clips of the moment spread like wildfire, and it was a truly memorable experience for Castle.

"As a fan, them coming out was probably a shock to witness it. Imagine being me," said Castle. "As somebody who looks up to Tanahashi as a mentor, as somebody I respect and want to emulate and kind of be like in my career, saying, 'I want kind of be at your side in this one, and dress as one of your boys.' My mind was blown. You think you appreciate it as a fan? I'm still not over it."

Castle is approaching a major moment in his career in the week to come, with his first opportunity at the ROH world title set for Lakeland, Florida, on Saturday during the most visible week of the year in the world of wrestling. The most passionate and intense fans in the world will be in town as Castle performs in the main event, and others will have a chance to watch the show, entitled "Supercard of Honor XI," live on pay-per-view on the FITE app.

"I don't take it lightly. I understand the gesture of just being offered the match," said Castle. "I appreciate it more than I can probably bring to words. I've worked hard, I value what I do, and I believe in what I do. I believe in this company, and it's nice to know that other people see that in me, and are finally giving the trust to put me in a position where I potentially would be the face of the company. That's a lot of pressure on somebody and it's something I'm willing to take on. Pile that on top of all my jumpsuits."

For someone who is so clearly fueled by the energy and excitement of the crowd, and the energy will certainly be high, Castle is consistently clear that he doesn't take any of this for granted. Under his bright, shiny, sparkled exterior lies a certain self-doubt, but it's more of a fuel source for Castle than a hindrance of any kind -- an inspiration to enjoy it as it happens, and to work as hard as possible to avoid complacency.

"It's a mixture of emotions. There's nerves that I'll never lose," said Castle when talking about the effect of fan reactions. "I think because I love this so much, and care so much about what I'm doing and want everything to go well, I will never assume that when I walk through the curtain the people are going to react the way I want.

"Then I come through and they react greater than I could ever imagine, almost every time, which is ... I'm still shocked by that. It's a bit of relief, kind of comes over me and now it's like, 'Oh, thank God. Thank God they still like me.' But I'm always mentally preparing myself that one of these days they're just going to be sick of my s---. It's just gonna be nothing when I walk out, and then I'm gonna have to go back to the drawing board."