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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What could Richards' upcoming ROH title shot mean toward his future?

Like Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe and Nigel McGuinness before him, the latest wrestler out of Ring of Honor to create a legitimate buzz throughout the wrestling world is Davey Richards – the compact-sized bulldozer who observers frequently compare to the Dynamite Kid and Chris Benoit.

But, as I mentioned in a recent magazine story, the best comparison may be between Richards and Brock Lesnar. Both are farm boys who excelled in amateur wrestling. Both plied their trade in the ring, and turned out to be naturally gifted pro wrestlers. And both disliked the grueling demands of the sport enough to turn their backs on it.

Indeed, Richards told me that he is not long for the professional wrestling game, and is already training for his next career, as a firefighter. While he declined to give specifics, he said he would certainly not be wrestling in five years, and that he had no interest in working for TNA or WWE.

And so I was quite surprised to read today that ROH had announced the challenger to Tyler Black’s heavyweight championship for its next Internet pay per view next month. At “Death Before Dishonor,” live from Toronto, Black will defend his belt against none other than Davey Richards.

The match is intriguing, not only because it will pit two of ROH’s most exciting competitors against one another – but because of the uncertainty of Richards’ future in wrestling.

Unquestionably, Richards would be on most any ROH fan’s short list of viable heavyweight title holders. And ROH certainly values Richards – even signing him to a contract recently in order to prevent him from working for competing independent promotions. That includes EVOLVE – a company Richards helped form and served as its public face. ROH owner Cary Silkin, himself, told me in another interview recently published in PWI that “nobody works harder” than Richards.

But, speaking purely from a good business stand point, would it be wise to put your top championship around the waist of a wrestler who has made it clear he is not in it for the long haul?

That’s not to say that Richards’s exodus from the sport is imminent. Perhaps a run as ROH’s standard bearer might give Richards the inspiration to stick with wrestling for a while longer.

Or, on the flip side, maybe the increased demands and pressures of being ROH champion may drive Richards to throw in the towel even sooner than he anticipated.

Whatever the case, we could learn a lot about the future of Davey Richards, and of Ring of Honor, from the upcoming June 19 event. And even if we don’t, we should be in for a heck of a match.

- Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer

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