'Surprise' ROH champ Edwards chats about the title
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Eddie Edwards shows off his newly-won ROH World title backstage. Photo by George Tahinos.
In its report on Eddie Edwards claiming the Ring of Honor World title from Roderick Strong, the Wrestling Observer wrote "Few saw that one coming." On the phone while on the way to a show in Syracuse, Edwards is accepting of the observation.
"I don't think a lot of people saw me being the person that was going to take the championship from Roddy," Edwards told SLAM! Wrestling. "I enjoy being the underdog, I've enjoyed in sports or anything, cheering and rooting for the underdog, so I'm more than happy to fill that role."
Edwards won the ROH title from Strong on March 19th at the Manhattan Center in New York City. The new champ said things were up in the air for a while, but he knew a couple of weeks prior that he was going over for the cherished belt.
The sold-out crowd went bananas, he said. "After pinning Roddy, the crowd just erupted. It was just a surreal moment. It was a great feeling for everybody there -- hopefully for everybody there. I know it was a great feeling for me, but I think for everybody there, they felt like they were a part of something, a historic moment in Ring of Honor."
ROH owner Cary Silkin blogged about the fight on the company's website: "Eddie Edwards became our new World Champion and it was my pleasure to get in the ring and shake his hand as the best wrestler in the world," he wrote. "Roderick Strong proved over the last seven months that he was a fighting champion for this company. And the level of physicality these two unleashed on each other showed just how bad they both wanted to be known as the best in the world. I knew we had something special after that match when the fans didnít want to leave; they wanted to stay and celebrate."
It's been quite the ride for the 27-year-old graduate of Killer Kowalski's wrestling school in Massachussets. Growing up, he was a fan when he was young -- Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Randy Savage all struck a chord, but lost interest for a few years. "Then my little brother got into it, and he was the one that pulled me back into it at that moment. Once I got back into it, it was a little different for me, and I just realized, 'I want to know how I can get into it. I want to do this.'"
Edwards got into tape trading to learn more. "That's how us diehard wrestling fans, that's how we existed, was by trading these tapes and ordering tapes online to be able to see different products and different wrestling."
Scouring the Internet, Edwards discovered that Kowalski's school wasn't that far away, and also considered Wild Samoan Afa for training. But he was under the impression that he had to be 18 to train. "But then when I went by Kowalski's, I was 17 at the time. He said I could join up at that time, so I was thrilled."
Though the in-ring training came from Kowalski-approved teachers, like Slyck Wagner Brown, the Killer was there every day.
"He'd always be sitting in his chair, paying attention to everything, he'd watch everything," Edwards recalled. "If something went bad, you'd hear it -- he'd yell and let you know what you're doing wrong and what he thinks you should be doing right. Every once in a while, he would make his way into the ring. He would help show us some stuff. It was a great privilege and honor to have a legend like that get in the ring and show what he could do. He could still hurt you too, which was always interesting."
Edwards laughed, remembering Kowalski's huge hands. "I think that's one of the things he'd take great pride in, when a new guy came in to join up or whatever, he'd say, 'Come over here and flex your stomach.' As soon as you did, he'd put the claw on your stomach, and you wouldn't be forgetting how that felt anytime soon."
The actual debut for the 6-foot, 214-pound Edwards came in 2002. Fortunately, he had a supportive family.
"My family and friends have supported me all along, even at the times it wasn't going as good as it is now for me," he explained. "They've always fully supported me and seen that it's something that I really want to do. It's something that I really put my heart and soul into, so they've been really accepting of it."
He toiled around the northeast on independents until his shot at ROH presented itself at the end of 2006. For the next two years, he was a part of the Sweet and Sour, Inc. faction in ROH, which included other clients such as Chris Hero, Sara Del Rey, Tank Toland, Bobby Dempsey and Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne).
ROH World Tag Team Champions Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards, The American Wolves, at the ROH show on Saturday, September 19, 2009 in Chicago Ridge, IL. Photo by Ricky Havlik, RickyHavlik.com
In 2008, he began teaming with Davey Richards as the American Wolves.
"Davey was more of an established singles wrestler -- actually singles and tag wrestling work -- when I first came in to ROH. Once we got to tagging, I got to show people what I could do," Edwards said, admitting he was initially in Richards' shadow. "With the TV title and now the World title, I think I'm evening out the playing field a little bit, if it's not even already."
The Wolves have been a part of the exciting tag team division in Ring of Honor ever since.
"I think a lot of credit is due to Ring of Honor, as a company, giving a shot to the tag team division, when a lot of places, they don't put emphasis on that," Edwards said. "For the past few years, tag team wrestling has been a huge part of Ring of Honor."
He lists some of the great ROH teams: The Kings of Wrestling (Hero & Claudio Castagnoli), the All-Nighters (Rhett Titus & Kenny King), the Briscoes, Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, the Young Bucks (Generation Me in TNA), Kevin Steen and El Generico.
"It's just been a solid, solid tag team division. And it's tag teams where the people are happy to be in the team. It's not just two singles guys thrown together; it's an actual team atmosphere. That was one of the things that me and Davey loved to do, was going out there and show that we are a true team."
Now, perhaps, that team is in jeopardy. Richards has long said it is his goal to be ROH World champion, and now his partner is the champ.
"One of the great things, I think, about both of us, which made us a good tag team, is we're both super-competitive," said Edwards. "We're both competitive athletes that want to go out there and show what we can do and who is the best. I think we would both be more than open to getting in that ring. We did it before for the Television title, and I think we'd be more than happy to do it again for the World title and a bigger stage."
In a recent interview with the Miami Herald, Christopher Daniels talked about Edwards and Richards. "Eddie is phenomenal," told writer Scott Fishman. "As much hype as Davey Richards has gotten this past year, being Davey's partner sort of put Eddie in a tough position. Eddie has done a lot in the ring to sort of pull out of the shadows of Davey Richards and make his own name. For him to hold the television title for as long as he did and winning Survival of the Fittest this year, and he did all of this sort of fighting through a couple of injuries."
In a column on Wrestlezone, ROH announcer Kevin Kelly also praised Edwards. "[D]id anyone really think Eddie Edwards would be the first American Wolf to win the ROH World Championship? While others grabbed headlines, Eddie kept getting better and better and better. From tag team champ to the first Television Champion to now ROH World Championship, the progression from goal line to goal line now has Edwards rightfully called the best wrestler in the world."
Edwards takes all the praise in stride, and is appreciative of his spot.
"I feel pretty lucky and grateful that I have the opportunity to do it," he said. Yet despite being the ROH World champ, he still has to fill his weekends with bookings to make ends meet. "You never know, that's why a lot of us have to go out there and hustle, just try to work these shows every week to keep the income coming, because if it's not, we're going to have to get real jobs. I want to be able to do this as a profession, which I like."
On those indy dates when ROH isn't running, Edwards says he is keeping an eye out for new talent, like most of the ROH roster does.
"If someone really stands out or you notice somebody, you're going to pass along the word and maybe sometime they'll get a shot," he said. "It think it's a lot of word of mouth. A lot of guys don't get the chance to wrestle in front of the office guys in ROH, so if we're on the roster and we see somebody, we pass along the word and that's how some people get a shot and some people get noticed."
He also speaks highly of some of the youngsters who have cracked the ROH roster. "You look at the guys that have recently come in, between [Adam] Cole and [Kyle] O'Reilly, Mike Bennett, we've got Michael Elgin from up in Canada. I think they all have huge potential, and at any point could have a breakout performance, any year could be this guy's year. When it'll be or where, nobody knows right now, but I see big things, great things for all those guys. I think Ring of Honor is in some very good hands."
Eddie Edwards at the ROH show at WrestleReunion, January 29, 2010 in Los Angeles. Photo by Christine Coons
This weekend, ROH is once again piggybacking on WrestleMania weekend, with two sold-out shows at the Center Stage Theatre, which is where World Championship Wrestling used to tape a lot of shows years back. Both shows will be available online through GoFightLive.com.
"The shows that we've been putting on for the past years at the WrestleMania weekend, it's a huge opportunity for us, because a lot of people come in, a lot of people fly in, a lot of people travel long distances to be able to get to WrestleMania and watch WrestleMania," said Edwards. "We capitalize. We get to have some fans who don't get to see us live."
He firmly believes that fans who see ROH become converts. "Once they get in there, I think they'll see the product that is Ring of Honor is a great wrestling company, the best wrestling company in America. You come in there and you see that and you hopefully hook up with some new fans that way."
On the Friday night, Edwards defends the ROH World title against Daniels. "I'm still looking for my first win against Chris. We've wrestled three times," he counted. "The first two times he beat me, the second time was for the TV title, and the last Internet pay-per-view in Chicago, we went to a 30-minute draw in a two-out-of-three falls match. Hopefully this will be my time to get a win from him, and I think it'll be a great match-up considering the amount of times we've worked recently, and the history that we've had."
The Saturday night is a much-anticipated tag team bout. "It's far from a night off, but I'm not defending the title. Me and Davey are tagging up against Haas and Benjamin for the first time ever, so I have nothing by high hopes for this match as well."
Ring of Honor website
Greg Oliver was one of those fans who was first exposed to Ring of Honor at a WrestleMania weekend, in Chicago, in 2006. Read about the experience here: Faith restored in wrestling. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.