Plans for columns sometime shift and change.
I’ve got a couple of reviews on the plate, I’ve talked to Bruno and have updates on his condition and outlook (he’s frustrated, doing well enough, and pushed himself too hard), and quite frankly I’m a lot more positive about professional wrestling on the indy level than I have been in a while.
In the past two weeks I’ve received copies of DVDs from AIW, ROH, CHIKARA, AAW and an interesting Shoot Interview with Perry Saturn from Kayfabe Commentaries. A month ago I started wondering what’s next, now I have ten columns to write and want to write them all today, and that just isn’t feasible.
A full review of Ring of Honor’s Best in the World is forthcoming.
A full review of CHIKARA’s Case of the Bulletproof Waldo (which I thought might be Judge Dredd related, but it is C.O.P.S. related. Go figure). There’s also some commentary on Chris Cruise’s visit to a recent CHIKARA event, some jealousy of Dr. Keith Lipinski and a whole lot of positive vibes about a whole lot of professional wrestling.
But one match trumps it all. One match and its ramifications move me to jump it ahead of Bruno, CHIKARA, other indy promotions, a pretty interesting UFC 133, and anything else in either industry.
Davey Richards vs Eddie Edwards is one of those generational matches.
Already, it is being mentioned as a Match of the Year, and already I’m high on it being a super representation of what professional wrestling is all about on the indy scene. The DVD is aptly titled “Best in the World 2011” and available at www.rohwrestling.com for $20.00.
And before I begin, take note that this is by no means a one match show.
Every once in a while I’m tempted to do a blow-by-blow of a match, and I’m tempted here, but it won’t do the match justice, because what makes the match is more than just what happened inside the ring between the bells.
What made the match is the legacy of Ring of Honor, as the place for the best in-ring work in professional wrestling over much of the past decade.
What made this match is the innate talent of both Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards.
What made this match is the incredible passion of Richards.
What made this match is the story of Davey Richards and how he shared that story.
What made this match is the post match airing – the aftermath, the selling, the inclusion of Cary Silken & Jim Cornette & guys like Kyle O’Reilly and the attention to the wrestlers involved.
What made this match is that the ROH World Title is so respected and so important and so much a goal of a guy like Davey Richards, that it makes professional wrestling meaningful when a guy wins a belt and puts so much emotion into it.
To be fair, there were some detractions, and sometimes the indy wrestling style isn’t all that, and the venues aren’t all that, and quite frankly, if Lenny Leonard was calling this match with Dave Prazak, it would have taken it up a notch.
(Kevin Kelly just doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge of the indy world, its connections to Japan, the expectations of the ROH fans and the essence of professional wrestling. When Kelly said it was the first time he’s cried at a wrestling match in twenty years…. Well, yeah, that’s because of where you worked.)
Anyway, the action in the ring is what started it all, and the packaging of the match was excellent. I reflect upon AIW’s Vincent Nothing vs Rickey Shane Page setup as being better, because that company did a video package that was off the charts in setting up the match. But both had levels of emotion that blew away anything else seen in professional wrestling.
Of course, ROH and Richards and Edwards doesn’t need the setup for this match.
The ROH belt, again, has been the standard-bearer of the industry. Guys from CM Punk to Samoa Joe, from Takishi Morishima to Nigel McGuinees, from Austin Aries to Bryan Danielson, they have all worn this strap across the continents, have taken the reputation to new heights, have established themselves as the best of the best.
I believe that Davey Richards claimed the throne last year, but by holding this piece of gold, he truly established himself as the “Best in the World” and hopefully his staph infection situation won’t keep him down much at all.
Richards has a story of triumph that also overcame personal issues that he spoke of emotionally after the match. Close to his grandparents, he suffered inconsolable losses this past year. He was married last year, and it fell apart, and those details are not necessary to understand the pain on his face.
He spoke of that pain, of using wrestling to overcome the problems, and vociferously thanked the fans and ROH for being his family, as he poignantly pointed out that he “has no family”.
Setting aside the brilliance in the ring, because I want the reader to enjoy that match at its fullest, it was the understanding of what makes professional wrestling an emotional investment, and playing out the aftermath afterwards that made this match far more meaningful.
Seeing two guys completely spent and recovering on the mat set the stage, and it wasn’t merely their recovery, but their words, their gestures and the imagery that did it.
Wrestling, to us presumed purists and those of us who dare to recall other eras, is a competitive sports atmosphere where guys put it all on the line, and don’t just pop up after a finish, take a bow, and skip back to the locker room at the cadence of their theme music.
I did take exception to Kevin Kelly acting like the display of sportsmanship here was welcome and he was glad to see it. Really? ROH is all about honor, and even as heels, The American Wolves were all about intensity in the ring, professionalism without. Nor did the comment about them training in separate camps make sense – these guys may go their separate ways , but they are still one of the best tag teams around.
That ending shot of Edwards sitting on the bottom turnbuckle while Richards enjoyed the moment with his cousin and others, was important.
But the aftermath came into gear when Edwards asked Cornette about the finish. That touch of detail – after seeing someone get their head kicked in, I would have been annoyed if they acted like that didn’t rattle any brain cells. And it was a dangerous looking series of kicks, plus one last kick to the head, that finished off Edwards.
Hey, we all know who won that match!
When Eddie Edwards grabbed that belt and wrapped it around Richards’ waist, that was what it is all about: Respect.
I also loved it when Edwards yelled at Richards and told him to stand up and enjoy the moment.
Which he did. Which he did.
It was an emotional acceptance speech and if any fan can watch that and not make Davey Richards a favorite wrestler, I don’t know what can.
That post match celebration may have gone 20 minutes, but it wasn’t too long, it wasn’t out of the realm of what wrestling should be, and it made for an understanding of what a Championship win should be all about.
The celebrations, the pageantry and what should accompany a great match, that’s what it’s all about. There’s too much oversimplification in wrestling these days, too many corners cut, too much of making wrestling a product, too little of establishing the aftereffects, or the emotion or the nature of the battles.
That’s where Ring of Honor excels, that’s where they’ve made their mark, and that’s why I have high hopes for the future of the sport.
Richards can and will have a long reign. He can and will showcase his talents, and he likely can be the talent that proves the industry wrong about WWE conventional wisdom. Heck, if any company could bottle ½ of the emotion that was on display here, they’d make a giant leap in terms of connecting with the mainstream audience they’ve squandered.
Now, we can only hope that ROH can capture the attention of the mainstream fans with their syndication plans and their well guided plans for crafting their own sense of what professional wrestling is and should be.
Right now, they’ve won half the battle and have a tremendous amount of momentum moving into the fall.