Davey Richards catches a lot of flak from fans. Some of it is unwarranted. Some of it definitely is. I fall in the camp of the people who tend to criticize the ROH World Champion more than they praise him, and a lot of it happens to do with the way he carries himself as a super serious singles competitor, how it seems like his character would rather be fighting in MMA matches or being a, as Kevin Steen termed it at Young Wolves Rising this past Sunday, jiu-jitsu jackoff.
Whenever blanket criticisms are being lobbed at Richards, they seem to hit Edwards square in the face as well. It only makes sense, right? Edwards was Richards' tag team partner for the better part of three years, only amicably splitting from him to feud with him over the ROH World Championship starting in June of last year. Some of Richards' worst matches in terms of his sometimes-infuriating in-ring style took place against Edwards. Their match from Best in the World last year bored me to tears. I haven't seen Final Battle, but many whose authority on ROH I trust have said it's worse than their Best in the World tilt. So, these insults fit both American Wolves equally, right?
Not so fast, friends.
Edwards has gotten blowback unfairly from the Richards backlash because of his association, but when he's away from Richards (and to an extent, Roderick Strong), he's a lot better. Hell, when Richards is away from ROH or when he's in tag matches there, he's not as bad, but I feel like Edwards gets a worse rap because really, he's got a wholly different grasp on what pro wrestling should be than Richards does.
That isn't to say what Richards brings to the table is objectively bad. It's just not something I dig, that's all. Wrestling boils down to preferences. But while we're all entitled to our own opinions, we don't get that same luxury with facts. There are similarities between Richards and Edwards, but they end with their proclivity towards striking that borders on pornographic and their propensity to transition out of near falls right into submission holds. By the way, know who else does the latter? Kevin Steen, and Steen may be the ONE wrestler who's more untouchable among fans in the know than CM Punk.
Edwards to me feels a lot more like a classic pro wrestler, while Richards has the hybrid fighter/wrestler thing going on. Watch an Edwards match that isn't against Richards. It feels a lot more rooted in psychology with a lot less of a "struggle" dynamic between the two wrestlers and a lot less submission spamming. He has signature spots - backpack stunner out of the corner being the most notable one. There are a lot of punchy-kicky spots, only his strike of choice is more Flair chop than straight punch or kick. His finishes are more in the vein of the modern indie guy with big moves into bigger moves with an icing of a signature submission.
Then there's his PWG stint. Obviously, everyone works differently out West, because that's what you do when you head into Reseda. Things are different there. Even Richards lightens up out, exemplified by busting out a drum solo mid-match against Steen at the first Kurt RussellReunion event in 2010. Then again, the next month, Richards had one of the most egregious matches I've ever seen against Kenny Omega, so it's hit or miss with him. Edwards hasn't been a PWG guy for NEARLY as long as Richards (DR actually came up through PWG and is quite legendary out there), but he's still shown that he can delve into the spirit of fun that engulfs the Guerrilla. Case in point, his match against Steen at Battle of Los Angeles last year (it all comes back to Steen, doesn't it?), where the two traded eye pokes and bites for a good part of the early portion of the match. Edwards also has the trump card of having competed for Chikara recently, whereas Richards has yet to grace the company with his presence to the best of my knowledge. Then again, maybe I should just leave that out of the conversation since I've yet to see EE's match there.
I hate to keep comparing Edwards to his erstwhile tag team partner though, because really, the man deemed "Die Hard" is a fully formed performer in his own right. That's the real travesty. People just lump him in with Davey all the time, and it's only because they're so inexorably linked through the Wolves and their feud. Maybe it's not all that unfair given that their exposure to most fans is so closely linked, but Edwards is so much more than just Davey's guy. He's a damn good pro wrestler on his own. In fact, I've probably enjoyed more of Edwards over the last three years than most people would care to admit.
Blowback aside, I think everyone needs to take a fresh look at Edwards. It might be hard for those who can't palate Richards, but at the same time, it can be done. The discerning eye will reveal that he's his own wrestler and one that brings a lot of worth to ROH, PWG and wherever else he might pop up.