Ring of Honor Focus: Eddie Edwards Faces His Strongest Test at Manhattan Mayhem

Ken DrabekCorrespondent IIMarch 15, 2011

Eddie Edwards has rarely been without a championship belt in ROH for the past few years. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)
Eddie Edwards has rarely been without a championship belt in ROH for the past few years. (Photo courtesy of S. Finkelstein - getlostphotography.smugmug.com)

Eddie Edwards might be the best wrestler that nobody really talks about.

The Boston native, trained by the late Killer Kowalski, has been making waves in Ring of Honor for the past few years. Though he has turned in some solid performances, most notably becoming the first ever World Television Champion in ROH, he has yet to really break out as one of the top stars in the promotion.

That could all change this Saturday night, when Edwards challenges Roderick Strong for the ROH World Heavyweight Championship at Manhattan Mayhem IV.

Last November, Edwards overcame a shoulder injury to win the annual Survival of the Fittest tournament, earning a future shot at the top prize in ROH. He suffered the injury during his qualifying match against Chris Hero yet still managed to win, earning his place in the six-man elimination final.

Despite his badly injured shoulder, which at one point forced him to the locker room during the main event, Edwards was able to return and eliminate Kenny King for the victory.

It was a perfect example of the competitive spirit that burns within Edwards, who is no stranger to competing with injuries.

Cashing in his World Heavyweight Title shot in Manhattan is a smart move. The fans that fill the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center remember the tenacity that Edwards displayed during Glory By Honor VIII when he competed with a broken elbow that he suffered the night before.

He did not compete in just any match though; he threw caution aside and fought along with his tag team partner, Davey Richards, in a brutal ladder war against Kevin Steen and El Generico.

That night, Edwards became a star in the eyes of many ROH fans, especially those who were in attendance.

The American Wolves, Edwards and Richards collectively, have been one of the premier tag teams in wrestling over the last few years. While Edwards may have become a star to many fans, Richards has been pegged as the next World Champion for some time now.

This Saturday, Edwards looks to do something that his friend and partner could not do. Richards has been unable to become the ROH World Heavyweight Champion, failing to defeat former champ Tyler Black at Death Before Dishonor VIII and current champion Roderick Strong at Final Battle 2010.

Though both matches were highly competitive, match of the year quality performances, Richards could not get the job done. He suffered a concussion and a bloody ear at the hands of Strong, who decimated him in the closing moments of their match.

Will Edwards be able to pull off what many would consider to be a huge upset and defeat Strong?

This marks Strong’s sixth defense of the title since defeating the departing Tyler Black in September at Glory By Honor IX. It has taken the champ some time, but he seems to finally be hitting his stride with the title.

When Strong first won the belt, he was written off by the majority of ROH fans as a transitional champion. The common belief was that he would simply be holding the title for a few months until someone like Richards or Christopher Daniels came along to take the gold.

Instead, Strong was able to turn away the challenges of Daniels and Richards. He looked very impressive while doing so and appears to be growing more confident with each successful defense. He has also retained his championship against Jay Briscoe, El Generico and most recently, Homicide.

If Strong is able to retain at Manhattan Mayhem IV, perhaps he can shed the transitional champion tag once and for all.

Whoever wins on Saturday evening will have a date with “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels in Atlanta on April 1.

Strong has already successfully defended against Daniels, defeating him in his first title defense at Fate of an Angel II in Mississauga, Ontario last November. It was a very good back and forth match, but in the end the “Messiah of the Backbreaker” lived up to his name and retained his title.

Daniels and Edwards have developed quite the history with one another since “The Fallen Angel” made his return to ROH 11 months ago.

They clashed at Supercard of Honor V last May in the Grand Ballroom, Daniels emerged victorious. Daniels then defeated Edwards to become the World Television Champion at the December ROH on HDNet tapings.

Their 30-minute, two out of three falls, time-limit draw at the Ninth Anniversary Show iPPV last month was called one of the best matches of the night by numerous fans and critics. After that indecisive bout, the two seem destined to square off again in the near future.

While Daniels waits until Atlanta for his shot at the gold, Edwards is determined to capitalize on his opportunity against Strong this weekend.

Edwards and Strong are no strangers to each other. Last fall, they worked together as a team during a tour of Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, making it to the finals of the fourth NTV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League. They were defeated in the final match by KENTA and Atsushi Aoki, but Strong and Edwards achieved praise for the most outstanding performance in the tournament.

Working together undoubtedly allowed each man to learn the intricacies of the other, which could become an important factor in their impending showdown at Manhattan Mayhem IV.

Edwards spent more time in Japan during January, where he nearly became the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion. He had a very impressive showing against the current champion, Kotaro Suzuki, in front of a packed house at Korakuen Hall in Toyko. Though he fell short, Edwards was dominant at times during the near 30-minute match.

If he can bring the same intensity and focus to the Grand Ballroom inside the Manhattan Center on Saturday night, there is no reason to doubt that Edwards just may be able to pull off the win of his career and claim the ROH World Heavyweight Championship.

No one expects Edwards to be the first of the American Wolves to complete his hunt for the top prize in ROH, but it could very well happen at Manhattan Mayhem IV.

This is professional wrestling after all, anything can happen.