A lot of notable things happened at ROH’s Glory by Honor IX this past Saturday at the Manhattan Center. Roderick Strong defeated the WWE-bound Tyler Black for the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas reunited to tear the house down against and lose to the Kings of Wrestling, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero. Most notably, at least to me, Davey Richards announced that he was postponing his retirement from the world of professional wrestling to the world of emergency medical response.
When Richards first announced that he was leaving wrestling at the end of 2010, there was a sort of shock among the indie wrestling community. Richards was primed to become a megastar in the indie world, and he had allegedly been offered a WWE contract which he claimed to have rejected. PWG already strapped him with their World Championship in February of this year. Then, many of the more rational fans started to applaud the decision. For as much as folks like me enjoy the wrestling business, we know it’s really a screwed-up industry. Yeah, it’s a little hypocritical on our parts; we keep paying money to see these guys destroy themselves perpetuating the cycle. Yeah, at least I’m self-aware. I also think that wrestling should be a lot safer, but that’s another topic for another day.
The truth is, I applauded the decision to leave the industry. Richards was leaving the business after giving a good run for the better part of a decade to enter a downright heroic field. Seriously, being a paramedic is a true noble profession. Richards was leaving a true carnie profession to do God’s work. At least that’s what we thought. After all the interviews saying he was leaving, after all the talk about Final Battle being his last event, he announced to the New York crowd that he was sticking around for another year. I was surprised in the wake of all his press, but then again, I wasn’t surprised in the long run. I mean, it’s very rare that someone can leave the wrestling industry alive, under his or her own power.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Take a look at Ric Flair; he’s retired and unretired more times than KISS. Every time he walks away, he finds a way to get himself back in, partially because the guy is worse with money than Bernie Madoff, but partially because he can’t stay away. Hell, he even got a hero’s sendoff at WrestleMania 24, and he still came back. It’s the same with several other guys who can’t stay away. Terry Funk, Johnny Valiant, Iron Sheik – the list is pretty long. Wrestling is like a drug, and a lot of the old guys can’t stay away. A guy like The Rock is an anomaly, and that’s only because he’s making a shitload more money as an actor than he did as a member of the WWE. The thing is, those old guys can afford to stick around because of the low-impact style that they worked then and they do now.
Wrestling is a different animal now than it was back when Flair and Funk and the rest made their bones. Jim Cornette said it the best – “Twenty years ago, we pretended to hurt each other, and the fans believed it. Today, we really do hurt each other, and the fans think it’s fake. Who are the marks now?” While the industry has changed, the craving for the spotlight is still there. However, that craving is deadlier now with the proliferation in unprotected chairshots, bumps to the head and neck, high spots and hardcore wrestling. It no longer behooves wrestlers to stay in the business forever and a day, partially because of the risks but mainly because getting out benefits their health.
Even getting into a dangerous business like the paramedic field, Richards was increasing his life expectancy by getting out, especially with Richards’ style. For those who don’t know, Richards is about as close to wrestling the Japanese strong style in America as you can get without him being an actual Japanese import. That strong style is the most insane and most dangerous one out there without crossing over into the walking bloodbath that is hardcore garbage wrestling. So, he was making a good move by getting out. By staying in though? He’s just keeping himself in the firing line.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]Of course, he said he was only delaying his retirement by a year. Sure he is, and I’m banging Rayna von Tosh, Maryse, SoCal Val and Beth Phoenix all at the same time. I mean, I’d love to believe him this time, but I don’t think he’s telling the truth. I don’t think he’s going to be able to escape the tractor beam that is pro wrestling’s allure. One year will become two years, and two years will become a developmental deal with the WWE, which will potentially turn into a longer career in the spotlight. It’s a drug, a drug more powerful than painkillers, heroin or alcohol combined.
Now, if Davey Richards stands in the middle of the ring at Final Battle in 2011, giving his farewell speech to his fans that have supported him throughout the years, then I will eat crow and admit my wrongness in ever doubting him. However, his initial postponement is enough for my skepticism. He’s already fallen victim to the siren’s song of being in the wrestling spotlight once. It’s going to be hard for him to resist it in the future.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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