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Richards vs. Steen is our generation’s Hart vs. Austin – Inside The Wheelhouse

Kevin SteenOne of the most anticipated wrestling matches is coming ahead this weekend in Canada and will be for the ROH World Championship as Davey Richards defends his World Championship against Kevin Steen.

It wasn’t until one of the latest episodes of my wrestling podcast “The Still Real to Us Show” where my co-host pointed out to me what this feud exactly reminds me of. It was one of the most important and proflic feuds of the 90s in professional wrestling as you could compare Richards vs. Steen as our generation’s Hart vs. Austin.

For Ring of Honor and wrestling fans alike Kevin Steen is what “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was in the late-90s. He is not your stereotypical “champion” and nor is he the guy that “looks” like he can carry a company in the eyes of corporate wrestling. He is even feuding with a man (Jim Cornette) who has a certain “vision” of how wrestling is “supposed” to be similar to Austin feuding with a man (Vince McMahon) who had the same image as well. But when you look through the eyes of a “wrestling fan” that will tell you they see a guy who not only carry a company as a World Champion but a guy who can carry a company into the next generation.

Steen, like Austin did in the late-90s by calling out Bret Hart, has been calling out the best technical wrestler in the ROH today, who also happens to be the ROH World Champion, Davey Richards. Like Austin did with Bret Hart, Steen has been able to do with Davey Richards in changing the perception of the wrestling fan in that Davey Richards is now somewhat despised by the fan base. Richards, like Bret Hart, was glorified as the best professional wrestler in their respected companies and were well respected by the fans, then came along wrestlers who “told it like it is” and spoke from their hearts & now they are no longer beloved.

Davey Richards, like Bret Hart, still has his major supporters and in the eyes of some, those supporters are looked as the “last generation” of Ring of Honor. Compare that vision to those in the late 90s who supported Bret Hart in the Steve Austin feud and you had a fan base that was still stuck in that “new generation” of the WWE while the “attitude era” was busting down the door. The Hart/Austin feud was a symbolic passing of the torch in wrestling world as wrestling moved from one extreme to another and the same could be said for what is going on in Ring of Honor.

Richards represents that style of wrestling in ROH that has been a portion of their linage since day 1. Richards is a similar to wrestler to those before him like a Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Nigel McGuiness and Austin Aries in that they & he are all pure professional wrestlers, like Bret Hart was in the WWE at that time. Then you have Kevin Steen who can be compared to guys like a Samoa Joe who while they are a brute & force in the ring, they can go at it with the best of em, just like Steve Austin was.

From the standpoint of a wrestling fan one of the most intriguing things to see is how the wrestling world can change in just a moment’s time. Wrestling fans can immediately change their attitude and change the course of history based off of such attitudes. I don’t think there is anything else in the world that allows their fan base to dictate such like the world of professional wrestling does. Had it not been for the Hart/Austin feud who would have ever known what the course of wrestling would be?

That same feeling is the one I get when I have attended Ring of Honor shows or watched their DVDs. The fans have grown tired of being told what professional wrestling is and they want to dictate to ROH what they believe professional wrestling is. From that standpoint ROH wants you to believe Davey Richards is the personification of professional wrestling and there is no taking a way a moniker like that for such an amazing wrestler like Richards is. But sometimes you need to realize that while a wrestling company wants one thing to happen, it’s not necessarily the way the fans want it to be and that’s where Kevin Steen enters.

Kevin Steen knows that in a corporate sense he is not what the “personification of wrestling” is defined as. Steen is so “anti-what you think wrestling should be” that it is his gimmick without really being his actual “gimmick” and the fans really dig that because professional wrestling has also been a showcase of being a stretch of who you are & what you believe in. That attitude rings true from the wrestlers to those who watch the matches and because of that attitude Kevin Steen has unknowingly walked down the path of a guy who he considers to be an influence in Steve Austin.

While professional wrestling be changed this weekend in Toronto? I actually don’t think it will be at this specific show and this is no knock to either wrestler because I develop that theory off of the same way Hart/Austin was booked. Everyone always talks about their encounter at WrestleMania 13 as being historic and it most certainly is but it wasn’t their first match in the feud as Survivor Series 1996 actually was. The promos & vignettes planted the seeds for that specific match and then that match laid down the groundwork for the historic encounter in Chicago, Illinois at WrestleMania 13.

Wrestling fans are a bloodthirsty bunch and they always want more. I hope that Ring of Honor capitalizes on that hunger by giving the fans more and wanting them to witness the next chapter in what can be a historic feud. I truly believe that the stars that are already big will continue to grow bigger this weekend in Toronto as two of the best in professional wrestling today give you the first installment of a series of matches that will live up to the early expectations of being a “feud of the year.”

For more on this topic join us for the Thursday May 10th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com or www.wrestlechat.net.

If you would like to subscribe to “The Wheelhouse” on iTunes simply subscribe for free at iTunes by typing in “Wheelhouse Radio!”

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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