|The Champion... will he be an absentee?|
It's very hard for me to come down on Richards as long as he was up front with his intentions to wrestle in Japan with ROH management. Japanese dates are more lucrative, both in money and exposure, for him. American wrestlers are treated very well in Japan, and he wrestles for New Japan Pro Wrestling (of CM Punk promo fame) over there, which might just be the biggest puroresu promotion in the world.
That being said, he has a history of controversy with telling people about dealings. I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the falling out he had with Gabe Sapolsky over signing a contract with ROH, but then again, I really have no idea who was completely in the right there. Still, where there's smoke, there's fire.
So that's why I have to question why ROH put the title on him in the first place if stuff like this was going to happen. Again, this isn't a situation that never happened before. Richards has shown that his puroresu dates have more priority to him over his American dates, so much so that it bit PWG in the ass. What would they do then, have to plan around Richards' dates overseas if they want to run shows with their top guy? I mean, they got TV back, and judging from what I've read on the spoilers for the first tapings, they're actually going to use TV to further angles and be an important thing where storylines happen and more importantly, that sell iPPVs. Granted, the show doesn't go on the air until a week after DBD, and they probably taped the World Championship match that happened during those tapings as a make-good for people expecting a title match at the big event. Still, how can they be sure that their top guy isn't going to miss later, more important events?
Then again, I'm not sure the whole story can be gleaned from the circumstances we have here. I mean, this could be a one time thing. Richards may have already had this tour booked, and it's the last time we see him miss a big ROH event because he's wrestling for NJPW (which, coincidentally enough, has had a working relationship with a company that ROH is trying to catch in Impact in the past). Maybe this was something unavoidable and in the future, he'll be there and accountable. When the time comes, he'll be able to drop the title to the guy they want to hold the belt next instead of doing what he needed to do in PWG.
But then again, this is now a pattern. It doesn't affect my enjoyment of PWG, because quite frankly, I'm not a fan of the guy's ring work. That being said, I don't know how you can trust fans to trust that they're going to get their Champion when you put the strap on a guy whose commitments overseas seem to supersede the ones at home. For that, I'd squarely put the blame here on ROH. Right now, it's forgivable because it's a first time for them, but at the same time, they had to have been paying attention to PWG and what happened there.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That's the cliché, but it doesn't become cliché unless there's a kernel of truth there. I don't want to come down on them too hard because yes, Richards is a guy that fans want to see and want to hold the title. That being said, as a promotion, you can't really go on with an absentee Champion all the time. If this is the last time Richards goes to NJPW at a time when he could be at home doing an important iPPV for ROH, then yeah, it's more understandable. But given the track record, can you blame anyone for not believing that'll be the case in the future?
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography