It was reported in last week’s Wrestling Observer that Davey Richards took to Twitter to state that he’s not taking any independent bookings after May 1. As part of this current TNA contract, which expires on April 30, he is allowed to take part in indie shows. There are currently only two companies that don’t allow for independent bookings: WWE and Ring of Honor. Richards has had a lot of success in ROH in the past, but when he and company parted ways last it was not under good circumstances at all. That leaves WWE as a potential suitor. While Davey Richards, regarded by many as one of the top pound for pound wrestlers in the world over the past 10 years, would be a great name for the WWE roster, the real question is would WWE be a good fit for Richards?
If you look at the makeup of the current NXT wrestler, Richards more than fits the bill. I think it’s no secret that NXT is a direct competitor to ROH. WWE is looking to have a roster that will compete, if not supersede that of the ROH’s and getting one of their former top stars would be a great addition. With the recent signings of AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, along with the addition of Samoa Joe last year and Finn Balor in 2014, it’s easy to see that WWE is looking to add a different kind of wrestler to the fold whether they head to NXT or the main roster.
You may remember that Richards, along with tag team partner Eddie Edwards, went to tryout camp for WWE in 2013. They eventually had a tag team match on NXT later that year against the Ascension under the name of the American Pitbulls. There are conflicting reports as to why the WWE didn’t sign the team known around the world as The American Wolves. The fact that they even had to go through as many loops as they did to even get a match on NXT was perceived by many fans a as a joke since the Wolves have been one of the best teams in the world since 2008. But, times were different then in the WWE and the big guy look was still the main focus for the company. Now the focus of NXT has switched to an old school look focusing more on wrestling, rather than entertainment. If Richards, and possibly Edwards whose contract also expires on April 30, came to WWE one would think they would fit right in, but would they?
When WWE announced that they signed the four big talents from New Japan at the beginning of this month, the buzz around the wrestling world was electric. Will there be a Balor Club? Who on the current main roster will be put up against these guys? Are they going to do an invasion story line? Will they be in the Royal Rumble? Well some of the initial buzz has cooled off significantly, as we are hearing that Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows are going to be reporting to NXT. We are also hearing now that the chances of AJ Styles being in the Rumble are slim as WWE, for some strange reason, thinks that most of their fans won’t know who he is. Supposedly WWE is working on vignettes that will introduce the 38 year old, former face of TNA, who was won more than 25 titles around the world including the New Japan Heavyweight Championship twice, as well as 15 more titles in TNA, to the world. I am REALLY hoping you caught the sarcasm there. I can only hope these vignettes don’t include a name change.
The above mentioned concerns are the reasons that come to mind to see if WWE is a good match for Richards. As far as proving himself to the wrestling world, he doesn’t need to. He has had legendary matches, albeit on a smaller stage than WWE, throughout his career. As a matter of fact, the match he had against Eddie Edwards for the Ring of Honor Heavyweight Championship at the 2011 Best In The World pay-per-view was the greatest match I have seen live in my over 30 years of going to wrestling matches. His aggressive, yet lightning quick technique, draw comparisons to the legendary Dynamite Kid, not to mention his uncanny physical resemblance to Dynamite as well.
As with most of the big names that come on to the WWE roster, there is always concern by the wrestling fans, not the sports entertainment fans, but the wrestling fans that the matches they are accustomed to seeing from these talents will never be seen again. The very fact that when a talent is hired, they have to go to the performance center to learn the WWE way is a bit disturbing. WWE has a propensity of teaching all of its new, young talent a very homogenized wrestling approach. Every bump looks the same! There seems to be very little originality when it comes to the newer stars, other than ring entrances and music.
As I have written in previous columns, when major talent comes from other major organizations there really is no need for them to go to NXT. Again, I love what NXT is doing but we’ve seen where guys like Sami Zayn (aka El Generico) have been stuck down there for a significant amount of time, while there is lesser talent getting pushed on the main roster. This is my concern when it comes to Richards. He is still in his wrestling prime. He will be 33 in March and if he goes to NXT and sits there for a few years he will see more of his prime spent helping the younger guys get over. Now there is nothing wrong with helping young talent, but I believe that is the role of wrestlers whose careers are winding down (Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry, etc.). Hopefully the New Japan 4 and Richards, if he signs, will get the Kevin Owens treatment and stay in NXT for an abbreviated amount of time.
Personally, I feel the best place for Richards would be New Japan, who is in need of talent depth after the departure of the big 4. He could become the replacement to AJ Styles. He has already had a successful run in New Japan between 2010 and 2012. It will also help the New Japan American viewership having a big name from the States on the card regularly. Also, his aggressive style fits perfectly into their promotion. He, and Edwards for that matter if he chooses, can have a great impact on the New Japan product on multiple levels; both as singles and tag team performers.
In the end though we know that money ultimately always wins out, and nobody has more of it in this business than WWE. If Davey Richards does sign on, I hope he is utilized to the best of his abilities and will be allowed to be the performer he’s always been. If you are sensing trepidation in my words you are correct as I have lived through the WWF 1980’s world takeover when they gobbled up all of the best talent and had no idea what to do with half of it.