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By Stuart Carapola on 2011-08-10 15:43:10
Ring of Honor is coming up on a historic evening this Saturday night when they hold their first TV taping under the auspices of Sinclair Broadcasting. Speaking of historic, the main event of the tapings will be a match with a lot of history behind it, as ROH World Champion Davey Richards defends his title against former champion and a man he knows very well, Roderick Strong. The history between these two in ROH goes back over four years, and they just haven't seemed able to get away from one another in all that time.

Richards and Strong first came together in ROH when they formed the No Remorse Corps on the first night of the Fifth Year Festival in February of 2007. Roderick Strong turned on then-partner Austin Aries following a loss to Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal, and Richards joined him in a 2-on-1 beatdown. Within weeks, they had added Rocky Romero to the group and engaged in a three way feud against the Resilience (Aries, Erick Stevens, and Matt Cross) and the Vulture Squad (Jack Evans, Ruckus, and Jigsaw). Calling it a feud would be overstating how competitive the conflict was, as the NRC routinely beat and humiliated both groups, and neither the Resilience nor the Vulture Squad ever found a way to get an edge on them. What's more, the NRC carried a fair bit of gold around during their run. Roderick Strong spent the majority of 2007 and 2008 as the FIP Champion (which functioned as sort of the secondary singles title in ROH), and Richards and Romero briefly won the ROH World Tag Team Title in early 2008.

However, as 2008 began, cracks began to form in the foundation of the No Remorse Corps. "Sweet & Sour" Larry Sweeney came around trying to wave money under Roderick Strong's nose to get him to merge the NRC into Sweet & Sour Inc as he had previously done with the Hangmen Three, but Strong refused to sell out to Sweeney. This led to friction between Strong and Richards, who wanted to take the money, but Strong maintained that he was the leader and would decide what the NRC did. Finally, after conclusively defeating Erick Stevens in a Fight Without Honor at Respect Is Earned II, Strong was again propositioned by Sweeney and gave him a final no. To Strong's surprise, Richards had already made the decision on his own to join Sweeney and, after blindsiding Strong and laying him out, Richards revealed himself to be wearing a Sweet & Sour Inc t-shirt.

Strong wanted to get his hands on Richards, but would have to wait, as Richards left for a months-long tour of Japan immediately after Respect Is Earned II. During that time, Richards worked hard to improve his game and, by the time he returned in October, had somehow increased not only his in-ring skill, but intensity and killer instinct beyond what they already were. Richards went on a tear with wins over Strong both in singles and tag team matches, but Strong finally got some revenge when he led a team of five to defeat Sweet & Sour Inc in a Steel Cage Warfare match. Strong and Richards drifted apart after that, but their feud was never conclusively settled, and it was just a matter of time before they faced off again.

Fast forward to early 2010: both men were in hot pursuit of the ROH World Title when their paths finally crossed again. Richards had won the Toronto Gauntlet in July of 2009 and had come very close to defeating then-champion Austin Aries, but had fallen just short. Strong, on the other hand, had been in a back and forth series of matches with Tyler Black that saw both men pick up their share of wins over the other, so when Black beat Aries for the ROH World Title at the 8th Anniversary Show, Strong was a ready made contender. However, Strong continually fell short in title matches via increasingly controversial means, even though he continued to beat Black in non-title matches. Richards, on the other hand, had challenged Black in a very high profile iPPV main event at Death Before Dishonor VIII and was heavily favored to win, but also fell short after a hotly contested match.

With both men chasing Black, it seemed only natural that they wound be matched up against each other again, and they faced off several times over the Spring and Summer of 2010 both at house shows and on HDNet, with the series again ending inconclusively. Strong won the 2010 Toronto Gauntlet and used the title shot he earned to get one last match with Black. With the increasingly paranoid Strong's new Life Intervention Expert Truth Martini at ringside, Strong beat Black at Glory By Honor IX on Black's last night in the company to finally win the ROH World Title.

Strong had achieved the dream first, but with an asterisk, because Richards had cleanly beaten Black by submission in two non-title matches in the weeks prior to Strong's title win. Those two wins clearly marked Richards as the top contender to Strong, and the entire rest of the year was built to the two of them facing each other in part of the triple main event of Final Battle 2010. Two former partners, who had fought back and forth for years without either man getting a decisive win over the other, would finally settle their score with the ROH World Title on the line.

On one side, you had Davey Richards talking about how he had sacrificed everything else in his life, including his own marriage, to succeed in wrestling and become the World Champion. On the other, you had Strong talking about how he had beaten the odds being stacked against him his entire career to become champion, and he wasn't going to lose the title after how long it took him to get it in the first place. The build was very well booked because it gave you a clear understanding that being ROH World Champion meant everything to both of them, and you really got the feeling that everything was on the line.

Strong and Richards finally faced off at Final Battle, and each pushed the other as far or further than they had ever been before. Both men absorbed incredible amounts of punishment and kept going simply because they refused to lose as long as they were physically able to keep going. The ability to keep going became the key point in the outcome, because Davey suffered a concussion during the match and eventually passed out from the continued trauma to the head he suffered as the match wore on. Strong slapped on the Stronghold and, with Richards completely unresponsive, the referee had no choice but to ring the bell and award the win to Strong.

Richards had seemingly had his title hopes dashed, but promised that he would challenge for the title one more time and, if he failed to win this time, he would never challenge for the title again. Richards spents weeks preparing, but was soon faced with an unexpected turn of events when his own tag team partner, Eddie Edwards, defeated Strong in shocking fashion at Manhattan Mayhem IV and became the ROH World Champion. Now Richards was faced with the unenviable prospect of having to face his best friend for the title, while Strong, who had clearly looked past Edwards and not taken him seriously enough, desperately wanted to regain the title and prove the loss to Edwards was a fluke.

Now both men again found themselves chasing a third party for the title, and following submission wins over Strong in the final match on ROH On HDNet and also in Atlanta over Wrestlemania weekend (in a match that may have even topped the excellent Final Battle bout), Richards was the one who was eventually picked to challenge Edwards in the main event of Best In The World 2001. In what turned out to be the company's first iPPV under the ownership of Sinclair Broadcasting, Richards engaged in what was somehow an even more brutal match than the ones he had already had against Strong in recent months, and beat Edwards to finally claim the ROH World Title that had eluded him for so long.

After all the history between them, Strong and Richards will face off one more time, only now the table are turned and Strong is challenging Richards for the title. With how long and hard both men fought and worked their butts off to get to the top of the company, it's absolutely appropriate that they will be the focal point of the first Sinclair tapings, and they both deserve to be in the match to decide who will start off the Sinclair Era as the flag bearer and World Champion of Ring of Honor.

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