A story broke yesterday that two top Ring of Honor stars "stiffed" a group of independent wrestling promoters over the weekend. The stars allegedly threatened the promoter and took his money before fleeing the arena moments before their scheduled match.
Davey Richards, Kyle O'Reilly and lesser seen Ring of Honor talent Tony Kozina were apparently advertised for the past month to work a show for Adrenaline Pro Wrestling. Promoter Nathan Blodgett, aka Jaysin Strife, contacted Richards about working a weekend of shows for a coming together of three small local promotions; MAGNUM PRO, 3X Wrestling and Adrenaline Pro Wrestling. Strife and Richards worked out the financial side, and everything was booked.
Richards, O'Reilly and Kozina arrived for the weekend of events last Friday. The wrestlers hosted a training seminar on Saturday, which Strife claims was rearranged to begin an hour later than scheduled because it didn't work into the performer's schedule. They arrived a half hour later than the scheduled start time, however Richards apparently gave those listening a lot of good advice once the seminar started, advising them to "respect the business."
Things took a turn for the worse as Richards then began running down -- or as Strife describes, "burying" -- several of the biggest names in the business. Strife claims that the former ROH World Champion also quipped, "I don't work hard on these small indy shows like this." He then made eye contact with Strife, fumbled his words and continued, "except for tonight."
Once the show started, things went worse. Tony Kozina was scheduled to work a match with a 16-year-old going by the name of Ryan Kidd. Kidd had shot a promo building up to the match and placed it on YouTube, and had also made comments about the bout on Twitter. Strife says that he made sure that nothing personal was said during the video, especially nothing which "could, would, or should, be deemed as a personal attack on someone." Before the match, Kozina took to the microphone and told the fans they were about to witness "real" wrestling.
Kozina worked very stiff throughout the course of the match and was shooting on several occasions, and performed several dangerous moves. Kozina finished the match forcefully choking Kidd out, which Strife described as "legit choking a minor." A video of the match can be viewed below:
The trio arrived late again for the final show this past Sunday. Davey Richards had been texting Adrenaline Pro Wrestling promoter Jeremy Jacobs, whose description of the events can be viewed here on APW's official Facebook page.
Throughout the day, Kozina had insisted that their match be changed to an eight man tag team match because he was injured. Jacobs countered with offering them a six man tag team match, with their pay being an even $400 -- $75 less than their originally agreed to price -- since they had been signed not to simply appear on the show, but to wrestle in their respective singles matches. After some negotiating, Kozina agreed they'd work according to the original plan. Less than an hour later Jacobs was texted back, reiterating that they wanted an eight man tag team match as opposed to working the advertised, original plan.
"I have juggled, moved/changed matches, and re-drawn up the entire card multiple times at this point and am becoming slightly annoyed at the unprofessional way I felt I was being treated as a promoter, Jacobs wrote on the APW Facebook page. "So again I asked, since I was not receiving what I was told I would get and have put several man hours into promoting, I asked to negotiate the price. I have always prided myself on delivering on what my fans expect. No matter if 200 or 20 people show up I want to give them what they were told they were going to see. I have heard, but not personally read, that there are reports stating that I didn't want to pay full price because of a bad turn out at the show, which is the farthest thing from the truth. It was never about money, however the principle of the situation to me. I felt disrespected, and was not going to allow myself to be taken advantage of. Just because I run a small promotion, in a small town doesn't mean I am not a serious business owner and promoter.
"Approximately 20 minutes later I received a reply stating that they wanted full price and wanted to do it their way, not mine, and that they are still 45 minutes away," he continued. "At this point I had a locker room full of guys looking at me for direction for a show that is starting in 10 minutes and people in the audience wondering what they are going to get. I reply that the show is starting in 10 minutes, I've had to juggle the card many, many times and have been more than willing to work with them and negotiate. I apologized but informed them that I was going on with the show without them. This didn't sit well with them and they informed me that I DON'T cancel. I replied that I had cancelled. I felt like I was left with no other choice. We had negotiated all day and now that the show had started I had to go forth with plan B. I wasn't going to hold the entire show up because of them. I felt it was unfair to the guys in the locker room, unfair to me, but most importantly unfair to the fans in the attendance.
"...With only 30 min left in the show, Davey arrives and storms into the locker room. I meet him at the door and ask to speak to him in person. I follow him outside and am greeted by everyone, Davey, Tony, Kyle and one of Davey's trainees. Unknowingly I was walking into a verbal ambush. I can't post most of the convoy because of the language used by Davey. I was told at least twice that if this were 'the old days, I would be taken around the corner and dealt with if the situation wasn't fixed'. Was even informed that if he called Jim Cornette, he would tell Davey, and I quote, 'Kick his ass.' Davey said they were there now, the shows not over we want to go on. Not out of fear, but as a means to resolve the situation I agreed to again change the ending of the show and have Davey and Kyle on the show. Davey said they wanted $375 upfront so they can 'get the f*ck out of this town' as soon as it's over. I agreed to pay upfront as a sign of good faith, if they would do it for $350. Davey agreed."
Jacobs said that Richards got ready for the match and asked for his pay while in full gear. During that time, Kozina and the trainee who travels with them are loading their bags into a truck. After Jacobs paid them, Richards and O'Reilly turned to one another and one of them asked, "Where'd you put the tape?," and the other replied, "It's out in the truck." Both men then bolted out of the door into the waiting truck with $350, having failed to work the show.
After working the match which was scheduled to feature O'Reilly and Richards, Strife took the microphone and addressed the situation, which you can check out below:
O'Reilly has since responded to the incident, admitting to fleeing the arena with the money but alleging that there were legitimate reasons for their actions.
"Following my match the previous night and our training session that morning, my back had been giving me a lot of grief," O'Reilly wrote in a blog. "After a full weekend of wrestling, and a full schedule of upcoming appearances, we decided amongst ourselves it would be best for everybody involved if we got our singles matches changed to an 8 man tag team match for the show. By no means was this an excuse to call it in and have a lazy match, this was simply a way of evening the work load and still putting his guys over clean in an outstanding 30 minute match. This request was met with hesitance from the promoter, claiming that his fans had expected specific singles matches from us and that he couldn't come to an agreement with us on the matter. After several back and forth attempts of an agreement, he simply told us we were then cancelled off his show. 'You can't just cancel us like this' Tony replied, 'I just did' was his response. Let me remind you we are in the middle of a cornfield laden highway in friggen Iowa and we're being told that we no longer have a booking for today and to just go home.
"Davey Richards and myself make a living from wrestling, being told to turn around and just drive home was insulting and disrespectful. At that moment, canceling us completely meant he owed us the full amount of pay whether we showed up or not. It's understandable that he wanted specific matches and we were willing to work with him on the matter but cancelling us then and there shows a level of immaturity and ignorance. So after getting lost we finally arrive at the show an hour after bell time, which admittedly, isn't unusual for us. This is where we supposedly threaten him. According to the promoter himself and one witness that was with him. Davey basically reiterated everything I just wrote about regarding our lives, how we wrestle for a living and how disrespecting Tony, a guy who trained us and paved the road is unacceptable. Davey just said it in his own words, which can come off as extremely intimidating and were obviously misconstrued as threats. We DO NOT threaten people unless it's a matter that makes it completely justified like a f-cking rapist is stalking your girlfriend. People with legitimate backgrounds are usually the last to threaten or hurt others. I spend almost every day being humbled by legitimate fighters who tap me out constantly, which is basically me admitting to them that they could have killed me but I tapped out so 'please release the choke'. And they're all cool as s--t, the people who fulfill their own self-righteous agenda are the ones who pretend to be something they're not and are more often then not bluffing and hiding something.
"So after dealing with all of this we continue to negotiate some way for us to wrestle and make at least some of the money that we were promised. I'm starting to feel bad for the guy as he clearly has no idea how to run a wrestling promotion, (bear in mind I have no idea either). He then has the audacity to say and I quote: 'Well nobody here really knows who you guys are anyway…'
"Well which way is it?! Do you have fans expecting certain singles matches out of us that you promised or do they not know who the f--k any of us are and it doesn't matter if we do a damn 8 man tag?! It's all well and fine if the 25 people there don't know who we are, but don't tell us something and then completely change your words. That statement was the breaking point for Davey and Tony. So we agreed to work a tag, Davey and myself against 2 of his guys, who I wont mention because after all the sh-t talking they've done in the last 24 hours they don't deserve any more publicity. We take a pay cut, yet still enough to cover our gas and all of our food for the day, put our gear on, got paid and walked out the back door.
"Was what we did wrong and unethical? Perhaps. Was what we did completely justified and reasonable? Perhaps. The fact of the matter was we felt disrespected and so "give and you shall receive". The point being that sometimes you have to be the bad guy and stand up for what you believe in. I'll be completely honest in saying the entire thing made me feel really uncomfortable and I felt a sense of guilt. Am I going to apologize? Absolutely not, because you have to live and die by the sword. Regardless of regrets, one must stand by their decisions and at the end of the day a guy disrespected two of my close friends that I look up to and that's simply, morally wrong."
Jacobs and Strife have stated that they contacted both Ring of Honor and Sinclair Broadcasting about the incident, and both companies have stated that Davey Richards "has been done with ROH for a few weeks now and is not being brought back."
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