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DEROSENROLL's ROH HISTORY: Classic Feud - History of Nigel McGuinness vs. Bryan Danielson

Sep 26, 2009 - 3:27:12 PM
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By Mike DeRosenroll, Torch ROH specialist

Tonight, in New York City, Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness will meet for one last time in a ROH ring before the both head off for WWE. Should they ever wrestle in WWE, it is unlikely that they will have a match close to the quality of matches they have had in ROH over the past three years. Let's look back at this classic ROH rivalry.

2006: McGuinness chases Danielson

Although Danielson has been with ROH since the first show in February 2002 (aside from some short hiatuses for overseas tours or injuries), and McGuinness joined the promotion in mid-2003, they managed to avoid crossing paths until April 2006. At this time, Danielson was seven months into his ROH World Title run, and McGuinness had held the ROH Pure Title (then the number two singles title) for eight months. Danielson was a babyface but was starting to tease a heel turn, while McGuinness was playing a dirty heel who regularly cheated to hang on to his title.

For their first match, ROH built up a title unification match at Weekend of Champions Night 2 in Cleveland. The match was fought under Pure Title rules. Among the Pure Title rules was the stipulation that the Pure Title could change hands on a disqualification of count out. The match was outstanding. Danielson and McGuinness are two of the best technical wrestlers in the world and they put on a mat wrestling clinic in the early part of the match. The match built logically as they slowly began working in strikes, high-impact moves and submissions and reached a thrilling crescendo when the action spilled to the floor. With the help of a chair shot, McGuinness made it back into the ring at the count of 19 to win by count out and retain the Pure Title, but not win the World Title.

For winning their first match, McGuinness earned a re-match for Danielson's World Title without having to put the Pure Title on the line. This came back in Cleveland three months later at Generation Now. Danielson had just turned heel as part of the incredible conclusion to the ROH-CZW feud at Death Before Dishonor 4 in Philadelphia. This made the rematch with McGuinness a heel vs. heel affair, which hurt the match. As a result, this was not one of their best encounters, though it helped set the stage for McGuinness to turn babyface by showing he could hang with Danielson without cheating. In the end, Danielson retained his title with a cheap deception leading to a roll-up.

The match that turned McGuinness babyface came against Danielson a month later at Unified in Liverpool, England. This was ROH's debut in England and McGuinness, being from England, was the fan favorite. This was another World Title-Pure Title unification match, and ROH guaranteed that fans that the titles would be unified by stipulating that both belts could changes hands on a disqualification and count out and that the match would not end until there was a winner. The match itself was an incredible, hard-hitting war. Danielson beat the stuffing out of McGuinness and the fans were red hot for all of his babyface comebacks. Be warned though, there is an amazing spot at the end where Danielson bloodies McGuinness's forehead on the ring post and McGuinness fights back with one of the hottest babyface comebacks you will ever see.

Given what we now know about the epidemic of concussions in professional wrestling, and the fact that McGuinness has himself suffered from concussions in recent years, it is hard to watch his head hit that ring post to set up his big comeback. Aside from that, this match is an all-time ROH classic, with Danielson winning in the end to unify the titles. While I strongly agree with reviewers marking down matches that endanger wrestlers by resorting to head shots, I make exceptions for matches that happened before Chris Nowinski shed light on the problem in the fall of 2007.

McGuinness would challenge Danielson for the World Title once more before the end of Danielson's fifteen-month reign, a two-out-of-three falls match at Epic Encounter II in St. Paul, Minnesota. The match went to a sixty-minute time limit draw with the falls tied 1-1. This was a pretty good match, but not a must-see unless you really love mat wrestling. Danielson worked a long headlock on McGuinness where the two really showed how to work a headlock like they were fighting, rather than stalling for time. I really enjoyed it, but this may not be everyone's cup of tea. The finish of the match was very dramatic, with Danielson just barely surviving to the time limit to hang on to his title.

2007: They both chase Morishima

Danielson finally dropped the World Title to Homicide in December 2006, then took a few months off to heal from some injuries. By the time he returned, Japanese monster heel Takeshi Morishima had taken the World Title from Homicide. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the ROH fans have always respected Danielson's work, so they greeted Danielson as a babyface when he returned. Danielson quickly got back into World Title contention, setting up a babyface vs babyface number one contender's match with McGuinness in the main event of ROH's second ever pay-per-view, Driven. This match was amazing and managed to rival their all-time classic at Unified. Perhaps because they wanted the pay-per-view main event to be all action, they bypassed the feeling out process that typified their earlier matches and fought most of the match in top gear. They incorporated a great sequence outside the ring that recalled their first match in Cleveland, a lot of excellent counters and reversals, and a strong mid-ring head butt battle that split open Danielson's forehead. Again, I would normally mark down a match that endangered the wrestlers the way those head butts did, but I make an exception because this match was taped a few months before the Benoit family tragedy and the Nowinski's subsequent revelations about concussions.

Over the next few months, Danielson and McGuinness would both chase Morishima for the ROH World Title, and McGuinness would ultimately win it from Morishima on the Undeniable pay-per-view.

2008: Danielson chases McGuinness

The next show after McGuinness won the World Title was Survival of the Fittest 2007 in Las Vegas. McGuinness and Danielson faced off in a first round match, without the title on the line. They went to a twenty-minute draw, eliminating both men from the tournament. This match, while still very good, did not click quite as well as their earlier matches. ROH used time limit draws very well in the early years of the promotion (such as in the Samoa Joe-C.M. Punk feud of 2004), but by this time the time limit draw had become something of a cliche finish in ROH and this hurt the match.

The draw in Las Vegas set up Danielson for a title shot against McGuinness, but this was delayed when McGuinness had to miss some time due to his first concussion-related injury layoff. ROH ran a storyline that McGuinness was milking the injury to him heel, setting up Danielson as the babyface challenger at the Sixth Anniversary Show in February 2008 in New York City. Early in the show, threatened not to wrestle in the main event unless Danielson agreed not to target his head in the match. Danielson agreed.

This match was excellent in a different way than their classics at Unified and Driven in that it was not as physically hard-hitting, but still told a great dramatic story in the ring. Early on, when McGuinness got into trouble, he deliberately got himself disqualified to save his title by hitting the referee. As McGuinness scurried to the back, several top babyfaces blocked the ramp and forced McGuinness back to the ring to defend the title with honor. A new referee restarted the match and the action resumed.

The next roughly 20 minutes featured most of the great elements of McGuinness-Danielson matches, including innovative mat wrestling and an excellent sequence outside the ring, but avoided any dangerous head shots. As the action climaxed, Danielson had several chances to win with his elbow-to-the-head finisher but passed on them because of his promise not to go after McGuinness' head. Then McGuinness brought an explosion of heat from the crowd by using his head to go after Danielson's recently injured eye (Danielson had suffered a legitimate eye injury a few months earlier, during his feud with Morishima, and had wrestled for a while with an eye patch). With Danielson selling his eye injury, McGuinness drew even more heat by using Danielson's elbow-to-the-head finisher against him to knock him unconscious and force a ref stoppage. This match was McGuinness's first truly great post-concussion match, and showed he would be able to progress his work style to continue his career more safely.

Through the middle months of 2008, ROH ran a pay-per-view storyline where Danielson was chasing McGuinness for a title shot on pay-per-view with McGuinness ducking him. During these months, the two crossed paths a few times in tag matches on DVD shows, and also had a non-title singles match in Tokyo, Japan, in September at Battle of the Best. This match was very good, and featured all the innovative mat work, submission and counters you would expect out of two of the best workers in the world, but was hurt by the Japanese crowd not being into the characters and a flat finish.

The pay-per-view storyline culminated at Rising Above 2008 with what I consider to be Danielson and McGuinness's fourth truly classic match. This match is best enjoyed after viewing their previous matches, because the story in the ring built on those that came before. The great chain wrestling and mat wrestling in the opening sequence recalled their earliest matches back in 2006, they teased a count-out finish that recalled their first match in Cleveland, and the climactic exchange of strikes, submissions and counters recalled their classics at Unified and Driven (without the dangerous head shots). The match was marred slightly by some outside interference, which should not happen in a match that climaxes a feud like this one, but the interference did not figure in the finish so it is forgivable. McGuinness won clean, in what was perhaps the defining match of his ROH World Title reign.

The Essential Danielson vs McGuinness

Tonight's match in New York City will be the tenth and final one-on-one match between Danielson and McGuinness in ROH. Of the nine that have gone before, the five essential matches that every wrestling fan should see are:

- Their first match, Weekend of Champions Night 2 in Cleveland
- The title unification match, Unified in Liverpool
- The number one contender's match on the Driven pay-per-view
- The 6th Anniversary Show match, and
- The pay-per-view feud blow off at Rising Above 2008

The last four are all-time classics, and the first match is a notch below but important to set the table for the others. Hopefully Danielson and McGuinness will add a fifth all-time classic to their amazing resume of matches when they meet for the last time in ROH tonight.

PWTorch VIP members have first-look access to all of Torch ROH specialist Mike DeRosenroll's ROH-related blogs in the VIP Forum. His blogs are posted under the M2_Jay screenname. DeRosenroll also reviews ROH TV on HDNet every Monday night.


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