Rivalries: Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness Part II – The Tables Have Turned Entirely

 Hello everyone and welcome to part two of Rivalries: Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness. I’m very excited t get this part underway, as there are some truly tremendous matches lined up here. Without further ado, lets get this underway!

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Bryan Danielson (c.) vs. Nigel McGuinness – ROH World Championship Match – 2 out of 3 Falls Match – If Nigel McGuinness loses, then he cannot challenge for the ROH Title while Bryan Danielson is champion – ROH The Epic Encounter II

            Man, this match was long! Now, that isn’t a bad thing; just know going in that this isn’t a quick watch. As for the match, it was really good. It started well with strategies consistent to the characters. Nigel, as he just lost the Pure Title, is antsy and desperate, so he starts of quick with tons of fire. Danielson, the champion, has no rush at all, so he uses side headlocks and rear chinlocks to wear down McGuinness. Danielson spends a lot of time in control of the match, dominating the mat wrestling. This leads to a lot of side headlocks and chinlocks, which isn’t bad. Danielson is so good he makes it entertaining. He plays to the crowd well, and the crowd sarcastically pops every time he hits a side headlock, which is fun. Then, to spite them, Danielson hits a rear chinlock and they pop anyway. Nigel, while in the hold, proceeds to describe the difference between a side headlock and a rear chinlock. I found that hilarious. Also, a brilliant spot occurred when Nigel tried to counter Bryan’s headscissors with a handstand, then Bryan drove his head into the mat like a piledriver. After the first segment of matwork, Nigel works Danielson’s arm, which also plays a consistant role throughout the match. So the story is Bryan wants a slower pace, so he uses rest holds while Nigel is more antsy and tries for big moves and arm work. This story has progress with each fall, as (SPOILER!!!) Danielson wins fall 1 via Nigel’s antsyness and then is super chill in fall 2, trying to slow the pace even more. Also, in Fall 2, Nigel shows the desperation needed in the situation, and is even more desperate now, as he is down 1-0. Then, after (SPOILER AGAIN!!!) Nigel wins Fall 2, Bryan is more antsy, but not as desperate, as he can keep the title via time limit draw. Even more so, (SUPER SPOILER!!!) as the match approached the time limit, Nigel’s desperation reached a boiling point and he tried anything to win. I swear that spoilers are over for now BTW. Also, multiple call backs to the previous matches occur. For example, they attempted the brutal ringpost strikes from last match, Danielson tried the crawl under the ring strategy that won him the second match, Nigel reversed Danielson’s dive with a chair again, and they played off the finish of the previous match in this match’s finish. On top of all of this, the action itself was really well done. Bryan is gold on the mat and could do no wrong, while Nigel hit everything he did with superb impact. These two have insane chemistry together and it shows every time. Also, on a slightly unrelated note, the rivalry’s build and the personal animosity built is shown again, as the motif of slapping comes up again with an awesome slap match in the final minutes of the match. Now, for the glaring flaw, it requires a spoiler, so SPOILER WARNING AGAIN. The match, being a one hour draw, was obviously long, but sometimes the length was detrimental to the match. For example, the early going, while good, was very slow and plodding at points. The match lost me at a couple of points and, while they did draw me back in, it was still and issue. Also, in the last five minutes it felt like they were trying to fill time to cross the finish line. Nigel hit his finisher like 2 or 3 times in the last ten minutes alone, which is a lot. The crowd was burnt out by the end, as was I. It was, quite frankly, exhausting. However, even with bloated length, this match has too much good stuff not to be great. I just think it would have been a better 30 or 45 minute match than a 60 minute match.

Rating: ****

(Also, worth noting, post match Danielson gives the Pure Title belt back to Nigel as a show of respect. It seems that the personal feud has given way to mutual respect. I’m curious what this does to the next match.)

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Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness – Winner is the #1 Contender for the ROH World Championship – ROH Driven

            Well, I understand why this was one of their most highly acclaimed matches, because its fuckin’ awesome! This is one of those matches where every part comes together for a cohesive, entertaining, and smart whole. The structure of the match worked wonders, as the early going back and forth (with tons of Nigel control) bled into Danielson getting the distinct upper hand, which bled into the epic finishing stretch where they threw everything at each other. Nigel’s control early was awesome, using a plethora of tactics, from arm work to european uppercuts to a crazy dive. Then, Danielson injured Nigel’s back on the outside and works over the back on the middle portion, focusing the offense. This played into the rest of the match with McGuinness selling it beautifully, struggling to execute holds or lift his opponent but fighting anyway. It was clear here that Bryan is still the top dog and ROH’s ace, but McGuinness’ increase in offense shows his stock is rising, especially as he would get the World Title relatively soon. Also playing into the story of the match was the respect built after the Epic Encounter II, where they followed the code of honor and wrestled with respect for a solid while. Then, Danielson (still being the heel) suckered McGuinness in with the handshake and slapped him. I love the motif of the slaps from match to match, showing the disrespect and signaling the match going from a competition to a fight. After the slap, the match was much more intense and strike based, generally lifting from the ground. The slaps and then the headbutts resurfaced in the late game, as they used them to wear eachother down and try to destroy the opponent. All this brutality not only showed the intensity of the feud but also showed the importance of the World Title. These two were willing to kill eachother and themselves just to get an opportunity to be the Best in the World. That is so consistent with their characters. I love it. From the slow rise of McGuinness, to the story of respect and disrespect to the desire to be best in the world, this feud is an epic story on the level of any work of art I’ve ever seen. I can see why these two are two of the best of all time.

Rating: ****½

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Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness – Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – ROH Survival of the Fittest 2007

            I mean, even though this isn’t their best work, these two can just do no wrong. The story here was the star attraction and by far my favorite part of the match. It started out very cordial and sportsmanly, with both guys trying to show why they are the best in the world. At one point, out of pride, both men refused to use rope breaks and chose to escape the hold, then were forced to use a rope break a bit later. Both Danielson and McGuinness were put over huge as total equals, which I really liked. Then, the match took a turn when Danielson went after McGuinness’ injured leg. The match became much more aggressive from that point on, as the desperation set in. It was great how McGuinness then used Danielson’s shoulder, which was injured in the tail end of his World Title run, against him. Both men were forced to fight hurt, increasing drama and tension. However, this was still rather sportsmanly throughout, with it mostly being submission based rather than slap and strike oriented. As for the action, it wasn’t as standout as the previous matches, but was still good. I did get the feeling the effort was a step below the incredibly high standard set by these two, but it never felt half assed or anything. The real big issue is time though. This match felt like the first two-thirds of a great Danielson vs. McGuinness match with a somewhat rushed finish slapped on. The rest of the match felt full and had time to breathe, but the finish felt like a mad rush to do what needs to be done. The reason for this is a total spoiler, so be warned. This match went to a 20 minute time limit draw, which didn’t allow this match the time it really needed to blossom. They were compacted and rushed, which may explain the effort being a tad down. However, even with the time crunch, this match was intelligent and enjoyable. By no means does anyone need to rush and watch this, but it is a very worthwhile ride that is still pretty great.

Rating: ***¾

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Nigel McGuinness (c.) vs. Bryan Danielson – ROH World Championship Match – ROH 6th Anniversary Show

            I dare anyone to find a match with a more compelling story than this one and then find a better heel performance than Nigel here. This is a brilliant match in every capacity and one that should be watched by everyone and anyone. The largest story here is Nigel had recently suffered a head injury and was resistant to take part in the match. Danielson promised to not attack the head per Nigel’s request. The entirety of the match, Danielson refused to strike the head in any capacity and only really hurt it as collateral damage. The respect that has been building since their Epic Encounter match comes back here, as Danielson respects Nigel too much to go after the head. At the beginning of the match, it was pretty standard fare from these two, with solid back and forth chain wrestling, but one thing was different. The crowd detested Nigel and booed him at every chance they got. Danielson even playfully egged on some USA chants, which further annoyed McGuinness. This would all boil over when Danielson accidentally hurt McGuinness’ head with a back suplex, which pissed of McGuinness to the point where he got himself disqualified and the match only restarted had to be restarted. This was the moment where Nigel really snapped, as post restart he was extra aggressive and mouthed off to the crowd quite a bit. Usually in these matches, Danielson dictates the pace and McGuinness fights back. However, as matches went on, McGuinness improved more and more, getting more offense and having matches end in draws. Now, the tables have turned entirely and McGuinness is the one dominating the match. With this match, as he dominates Danielson, it shows his growth as a wrestler from their first match as well as the new aggression. Not only does he control, but he heels it up, using Cattle Mutilation and generally just being unlikable. The action down the stretch is quite good, and Danielson comes back and gains ground, but still refuses to attack the head. It costs him shots at victory numerous times, but to Danielson a promise is a promise. That is the ultimate face right there and its impossible not to root for him. The climax of this match and the peak of the story come when (SPOILER) McGuinness used his injured head to headbutt Danielson right in the eye. Now, we see Nigel’s full turn heel in that moment, betraying Danielson’s trust, using the body part he specifically said not to attack, and attacking Danielson like Danielson refused to do to him. Just amazing. That is honest to God some of the best wrestling I’ve ever seen right there. It’s so good that me, being the jaded smark I am, was whole heartedly rooting for Danielson, even though I know the result. Kudos. Now, the only real issues here are minimal. First, this match is based mostly on story, so the action never reached the insane peaks it has in the past. However, the emotion carries it tenfold. The other thing is, even though it works story wise, match restarts are so carny to me and it sucked me out for a minute. Otherwise, this is brilliant wrestling all around and something everyone must see.

Rating: ****½

Thank you so much for reading the second part of Rivalries: Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness! I’m very happy you took the time to check this review out. I have been working on most all of my series so expect a good amount of content in the next month. There are a lot of things due to coe out, which I’m excited for. Check out new updates and such here, and check out some of my other writings at freeprowrestling.com. If you want to contact me, check here. Otherwise, like, comment, share, or do whatever else you want to do. Thank you for reading and see you next time!

-Terrance Smith

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