When a wrestling match is referred to as a modern day version of Ric Flair versus Ricky Steamboat, you know that it has to be something special.
That is exactly the high praise given by Jim Cornette to Davey Richards versus Tyler Black for the Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Championship, the main event of Death Before Dishonor VIII.
Sure, Cornette did color commentary for the match and he is the "Executive Producer" for ROH on HDNet. He also serves as a major creative player with the company, but there is a bit of truth to his incredibly bold remarks about this match.
While it could be argued that Richards and Black are not on the same level as Flair and Steamboat, there is no denying that it has been universally praised by fans and critics alike as one of 2010's very best matches.
Each man went into the Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto that night with something to prove and the stage was set for what would become an instant classic.
Black was entering his fourth month as the ROH World Heavyweight Champion and was having a hard time gaining the respect of many of the die-hard fans. It seemed as if his nearly two-year long quest for the title had burnt out most of the momentum he had built.
Richards found himself in an almost identical position to the one Black was in only a few months earlier. He was the upstart challenger, immensely popular with the fans, who consistently received chants of “Next world champ” during his matches.
While Black was attempting to prove himself to the ROH faithful, Richards was hoping to capitalize on his skyrocketing popularity and capture the promotion’s top prize.
The hype for the match continued to build as the weeks leading into the iPPV turned into days. For many fans, this was the most anticipated ROH World Championship match in some time. The hype video, available here for your viewing pleasure, still gives me goosebumps to this day.
The crowd is always an important part of the overall atmosphere of a wrestling match. The competitors can be working as hard as ever, but if the crowd is not reacting or doesn’t seem to care, it obviously influences the way the match comes off. Fortunately, the crowd in Toronto for Death Before Dishonor VIII was incredibly hot and extremely vocal.
The rabid fans only added to the fast-paced, hard-hitting action in the ring. Their general disdain for Black was apparent as the opening bell rang, complete with expletive-laden chants directed towards the champion.
Over the course of the next 40 minutes, Richards and Black held the crowd in the proverbial palm of their hands, exchanging signature moves and taking incredible risks to keep the other man down for the count.
Black regularly found himself trapped in the clutches of Richards’ various submission holds, including the Texas Cloverleaf and the ankle lock.
Richards found himself battling the referee’s 20 count outside of the ring, especially after he nearly killed himself with one of his signature suicide dives and later when he took Black’s Peroxysm finisher off the apron and onto the floor.
At one point near the end of the match, the fans erupted into a “You can’t beat him” chant aimed at Black, who was obviously growing frustrated by Richards’ tenacity and resilience.
As the match went on, the crowd’s negativity towards Black began to diminish. Instead of anti-Tyler chants, the crowd was chanting “This is awesome” as numerous near-falls and close calls were traded between arguably the two finest talents on the ROH roster.
Wrestling fans, take note—matches like this make championships mean something. A career-defining performance by both men that illustrated the importance of winning the ROH World Heavyweight title.
Tyler Black versus Davey Richards, from Death Before Dishonor VIII, takes the top spot as my favorite match of 2010. They went on to have two stellar rematches, a non-title battle to close out the Tag Wars 2010 show, as well as an HDNet match that would be Black’s final appearance in ROH.
That brings the top matches of 2010 series to an end. The five matches featured stand as a reflection of the state of wrestling outside of the WWE and TNA, which has been highly entertaining throughout the course of the year.
Honorable mentions must be given to a few matches that didn’t make this list. ROH gave us two incredible main event matches at their Final Battle 2010 iPPV event.
Davey Richards again gave it his all in an attempt to wrestle the title away from reigning ROH World Heavyweight Champion Roderick Strong. It was one of the hardest-hitting matches I have ever seen and would’ve likely made this list if I hadn’t already decided on the five matches I’d be featuring.
The same can be said for Kevin Steen and El Generico’s “Fight Without Honor” that wonderfully and violently put an end to a year-long battle between the former friends and tag team partners. It was an outstanding example of storytelling in pro wrestling, with a payoff that left almost everyone satisfied.
2010 was a great year for wrestling and 2011 promises to be exciting. Hope that everyone has a safe and happy New Year. Make a resolution to look outside of the mainstream wrestling promotions and check out something different. You might discover some great matches if you do.
Check out these articles spotlighting the rest of my top matches of 2010: