“So I know what you’re here for. You wanna hear about September 17th. Who’s Davey Richards gonna defend the title against? Well I’ll be honest with you people, I won’t be there. I will be in Japan. You see I’m the only competitor in this company that works for the prestigious New Japan Pro Wrestling. All the great juniors, Koji Kanemoto, Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, Tiger Mask. [stabs a finger at his chest] I have beaten them all. You see I will go there representing Ring of Honor, I will go there as a representative of this great company, because I wear this belt and it means more than just a piece of metal around my waist. It is a passion, an essence in my heart. These two men in my absence [indicates the men flanking him, Kyle O’Reilly and Tony Kozina] will carry forth that passion and that essence, along with the rest of this roster, whether I like them, dislike them, love them, hate them... We all carry fighter’s spirit in this company. So I’m not needed in New York City, you’ll be just fine without me. But know this: you will all be with me, you will be within this company while I’m in Japan. [points at the camera and whispers] The hunt’s on” – ROH World champion Davey Richards, explaining why he wouldn’t be at ROH’s internet pay-per-view Death Before Dishonor
ROH world champion Davey Richards believes that tedious diatribe (which was even more boring to listen to than it was to read) suffices as an explanation as to why he chose to go on a routine tour of Japan rather than compete on a high profile ROH show. He’s wrong.
As the company’s world champion Davey’s priority should be Ring of Honor. By talking about how “prestigious” New Japan is and choosing to go there instead of defending his title on a pay-per-view being held one week before the launch of ROH’s new TV show he made Ring of Honor look ridiculous. What made it an even more selfish move was that ROH didn’t have access to Colt Cabana, Steve Corino, Chris Hero or Claudio Castagnoli to help attract more viewers. As the champion Davey should have felt responsible for improving this situation. That he was happy to leave the promotion in this hole shows he’s not the company-minded man fans see him as.
I’d also like to point out that New Japan Pro Wrestling, despite what Davey Richards says, is no more or less prestigious than any other Japanese wrestling outfit. Davey chose to describe the company as “prestigious” in the hope that people would believe he’d been headhunted to appear for a truly remarkable organisation, making him appear more successful and a bigger star than is actually the case. Unfortunately for him this wasn’t the case: Japanese companies routinely use foreign wrestlers of all sizes. There’s nothing special about a tour of Japan (for any promotion) in 2011.
It was a less than ideal situation, created by one individual’s selfishness. But, as is usually the case in professional wrestling, things can be turned to the company’s advantage...
I’d like to see this state of affairs develop into a full heel turn for Davey Richards. The process could begin by having Richards come up with excuses as to why he can’t compete at ROH house shows between now and the end of the year. He should only be booked to appear at TV tapings and whatever internet pay-per-views are held between now and the end of the year.
Davey’s reason for missing the house shows would be tours of Japan (if he can’t be booked on real ones then ROH could just fictionalise some). He would appear on television to make it very clear that he’d love to work more dates for Ring of Honor, but that he sees it as part of the duty of being champion to spread the promotion’s name overseas, and the best way he can do that is by working for prestigious companies such as NJPW. He’d need to use the word “prestigious”. That’s a key part of the plan.
These excuses would go on indefinitely until fans begin to notice a trend. Once they twigged Richards would change his reasons for not appearing at ROH’s smaller shows: he would simply state that they’re not “prestigious” enough for an athlete of his calibre. That would hopefully encourage fan backlash, which could be played up further by Davey saying that he’s a huge international star and that he won’t compete unless the match is to be broadcast on TV or pay-per-view.
It’s a simple story for fans to follow and ROH (and Richards) to execute and would breathe a bit of personality into ‘The American Wolf’. What I like about it is that it’s an extension of his real life personality (something wrestlers always say helps people and angles to get over): he really does love competing in Japan and wouldn’t need to fabricate his feelings. Once he’s turned heel fully he could have an extended run with a top babyface who wants to protect the “prestige” of Ring of Honor by regaining the belt and defending it everywhere, not just on bigger shows. Davey is capable of realistically facing anyone in the company, and the story could progress with ROH granting a wider variety of wrestlers title shots in their desperate quest to take their title back.
Eddie Edwards would be ideal for the top babyface spot: he could credibly say that losing the title to Richards was a blow to his pride but he at least knew the title was with someone who cared about ROH. With that clearly not being the case anymore Eddie would have a motive for feuding with Richards.
The final touch would be Davey Richards being billed as ‘Prestigious’ Davey Richards. It would fit with his character, rile fans and make storyline sense. Effective heat just for the ring announcer saying one extra word? That can’t be a bad deal.
Sadly, I can’t see ROH using this storyline or anything close to it for a long time to come. They spent a year preparing Davey Richards for a run with the ROH world championship and they’re not going to turn him heel just because some people (myself included) feel Eddie Edwards was a better fit as babyface champion, or becayse Davey opted to go on one tour of Japan over appearing on a Ring of Honor pay-per-view. It’s a storyline that would work well, but too much time has been invested into making Richards the leading man of the company.
It’s not a question of ability. He makes a more than credible ROH champion. No, it’s more a question of prestige.