It was the match with Eddie Edwards that really sparked people starting to take notice to me, saying “Hey, maybe there is something with this kid.” 2009 is when I really got in the swing of things and was on the road every weekend, and I owe that all to my trainer, Isys Ephex. He was consistently booked with Top Rope Promotions at the time in the Fall River, MA area and reached out to me to see if I wanted to hop in and go to the shows. I was nervous, but as always, excited about the new opportunities and to spread my wings and learn more. Plus, with Eddie being from Massachusetts and word spreading about the match we had, I had a small reputation already, which always helps. The locker rooms around that time were absolutely stacked with talent. Guys from New England like Bennett, Taven, Ciampa, Fury, and Hanson along with our crew from New York including myself, Isys, Colin Delaney, fresh off his WWE stint, and Dalton Castle. I learned a lot early on being in locker rooms with these guys, and hearing about their experiences from WWE, Impact Wrestling, New Japan, Mexico, you name it. I was wrestling guys with different styles left and right, really finding my groove and taking pieces of each match and applying them in others. And while 2009 was great, 2010 is where it all changed for me..
Before I started training in late 2006, I would try to hit as many local wrestling shows as possible. WWE, independent shows, whatever. One night at a Ring Of Honor show in Connecticut, I saw a wrestle compete that absolutely blew my mind. That guy was Davey Richards. I was always a fan of Dynamite Kid, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and when I saw Davey wrestle, it was like when you see a new band you’ve never heard of and they blow you away. Needless to say, he made quite an impression on me that night.
Fast forward to 2010, The American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards) were the 2CW Tag Team Champions and two of the hottest talents on the independent scene. Then came an opportunity in June, when Eddie was on a tour in Japan and Davey was coming in alone. I begged and begged the promoter of 2CW for that match and at first, he wasn’t into it. Maybe he felt I wasn’t ready or feared I would be killed, but eventually my wish was granted. For me, this was another huge test. This match was to see who I was inside that ring and to test if I was ready to take the next step forward or go back to the drawing board. The only way to improve is to wrestle someone better than you.
Davey and myself ended up being the main event of that show. The week before, Davey had wrestled Tyler Black in ROH and the buzz from that match was unreal, so I knew this was go time. I kept telling myself to fight hard and don’t lay down, because I knew that the kick and strike swarm was coming. The match went about 20 minutes with the crowd in our hands the whole time. I’ve never experienced something quite like that to this day. After the match, Davey and I had a great talk and really got to know each other, and it turns out we have a lot in common. We like the same music, movies, etc. so it felt like we knew each other for a long time. Before I left that night, we exchanged contact info and he asked what I was doing next weekend. I said I was free, and he extended the invitation to come to the ROH TV taping in Philadelphia at the ECW Arena.
A week later, there I am standing inside the famous ECW arena. I remember just taking a few minutes to walk around and really soak in where I was. I met up with Davey who took me around and introduced me to everyone including Adam Pearce, Jim Cornette, Bobby Cruise, and more. After that, I went to the back, got changed and started stretching out when Bobby Cruise approached me again and said “You’re wrestling Eddie Edwards tonight in the 10 Minute Hunt Challenge.” Eddie was ROH TV Champion at the time, so to be in the ring with him on TV was huge in itself. But the coolest thing was, Eddie was crushing these dudes in like 45 seconds in these matches, and the idea was that if you could last the 10 minutes, you’d receive a ROH TV Title shot. I didn’t last the full 10, but before you know it we had a fun 5 minute match that many were impressed with, including Adam Pearce. The next day, I came back and ended up tagging with Mike Bennett & Andy Ridge against The House Of Truth featuring Roderick Strong. I really felt like I was picking up some steam personally. That night, I remember sitting at a diner in Philly with Davey and he let me know that Pearce really liked me and could possibly see something in ROH for me.
Fast forward a few more days, and I’ve got a text waiting for me from Davey that was an invitation back to TV in a few weeks from Adam. I was on cloud nine. Absolutely couldn’t believe it and was so grateful that I made that kind of impression on Adam. Not even a week later, I go online and read Adam Pearce had been relieved of his duties as booker of ROH. I was certainly bummed, and kind of saw the writing on the wall with my opportunities right then with ROH, but with one opportunity lost, one is gained. The next week, 2CW announced that in my hometown of Watertown, NY, I will be wrestling “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson (AKA Daniel Bryan), fresh off his run with WWE..