When it was announced that Bryan Danielson would be leaving ROH and the independent scene for the WWE, it sparked a lot of conversation about who would take over as the best wrestler in the world; in the fan's eye, at least. Sure, it was Danielson's gimmick, but at the same time many would admit that he was in fact the best in the world.
With Danielson's reign over, who now takes the crown and admiration of all the indy fans?
My answer to that question is Davey Richards.
Davey has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and to be honest, he is my favorite American wrestler, period. I've been following his career since I first saw him in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla some years ago.
I've always thought he had all of the tools to make an incredible impact in wrestling. It took a while for others to see what I did but now the man is on an unstoppable run and everyone is taking notice. 2009 has certainly been the biggest year of Richards' career.
Richards started out working in PWG and some other indy's, but it wasn't until two key wins in 2006 that his career started to take off. That year, Richards took home the Battle of Los Angeles tournament in PWG and the ECWA Super 8 Tournament.
The Super 8 has long been a litmus test for the next big thing on the indy circuit. Past winners have included Christopher Daniels and Low Ki. Both of these men find themselves currently under contract to TNA and WWE, respectively.
Richards came to Ring of Honor in 2006 and quickly involved himself in a feud with Jimmy Rave. It provided some solid matches, but it wasn't until KENTA made him his American protege that Davey saw his stock rise. Early in his run with KENTA, they teamed to take on the Briscoe Brothers in a fantastic tag team bout. By the end of the match, the live crowd was very much into Davey Richards.
This lead to his breakout role as a member of the No Remorse Corps. Even though the Faction Warfare storyline in ROH fell flat, the NRC put on some fantastic matchups with the team of Richards and Rocky Romero leading the way. The two captured the ROH World Tag Team Championship and had a good but short run with the belts. Richards had arrived with full force in ROH.
His team with Rocky Romero was one I wish could have lasted a lot longer. They were without a doubt one of the reasons I watched so much ROH in late 2007 into 2008. The team was a great contrast to the Briscoe Brothers' style of high impact, spot-driven matches. The NRC worked a much stiffer, almost shoot style which made them stand out even more.
Next up for Richards was a stint with Larry Sweeney's Sweet & Sour Inc. group. While at first I didn't like the idea, it gave birth to the best tag team on the planet right now: The American Wolves. Aside from having a great name, Richards, along with new partner Eddie Edwards, have shown that tag team wrestling is not dead in America.
Edwards is another man that took a while to catch on with the fans, but teaming with Richards has done nothing but get both men time in the spotlight and a huge career boost. It's said in team sports that a great player makes his teammates better. Richards has certainly done that not only with his tag team partners, but his opponents, as well.
The Wolves' feud with Steen & Generico consisted of matches that were nothing short of spectacular. Many were singing the praises of both the Submission match and the second-ever Ladder War between the two sides. Both matches were must-see bouts that showcase two teams working on a whole other level than other teams.
No other promotion in North America had tag matches of this quality in 2009.
Earlier this year, Richards competed in my pick for match of the year. Richards squared off against KENTA during ROH's Wrestlemania weekend Supercard of Honor IV card. While the ending of the match suffered from a botched move (that was horribly edited on the DVD), it was nothing short of an instant classic in the ROH archives.
In late 2009, Richards has become a key part of another company in Dragon Gate USA. A much talked about match against SHINGO was the center piece of the most recent DGUSA PPV event. Recently, it was announced that Richards will be a key part of yet another company in EVOLVE.
Little is known about the project so far, but it seems like Davey has set himself up for a fantastic run in 2010 and beyond. Rumors have circulated that Richards turned down a deal with the WWE to be a part of EVOLVE.
Richards embodies everything that I personally like in a wrestler. His intensity is unmatched and there is no doubt that he works his tail off every single time he steps in the ring. This has made him a fan favorite even though he's one of the best heels in the business.
Outside of the ring, Richards' promo skills have increased dramatically over the years. He's cutting some of the best promos in wrestling today; not to mention the small details one finds in his matches, such as the sack tap in the corner, or kicking away hands that attempt to give him a pat on the back or high-five during his ring entrance.
Most of the time it's Richards' promos, with or without partner Eddie Edwards, that are the highlight of the ROH Video Wire.
Yes, this article has been a tad bit biased, but if you aren't sold on Davey Richards, I ask you to go out and find some of his matches and check them out. He isn't for everyone, but neither was Bryan Danielson.
The throne has been filled, my friends, and Davey's sitting pretty as he continuously ups his game.
Must-See Davey Richards Matches
Vs. CIMA @ PWG's Battle of Los Angeles 2006
W/ Rocky Romero vs. The Age of the Fall, Hangmen 3, and Austin Aries & Bryan Danielson @ ROH's Without Remorse 2008
W/ Eddie Edwards vs. Steen & Generico @ ROH on HDNet May 30th 2009
W/ Nigel McGuinness vs. KENTA & El Generico @ ROH's Steel City Clash 2009
Vs. KENTA @ ROH's Supercard of Honor IV