He is regarded as one of the best wrestlers Britain has produced this century, a man whose career was curtailed by injury.
Now the company where he made his name have brought out a two disc set dedicated to him, and it’s one, as a fellow Brit, I’ve been eagerly awaiting. The set in question is Nigel McGuinness: An ROH Career Retrospective.
And what better place to start than…..
August 9th, 2003
It’s debut time as McGuinness goes up against Chet Jablonski at Wrath of the Racket.
This one took place when both guys were still working for Les Thatcher’s HWA. It was one of those short and sweet encounters pitting Jablonski’s power game against McGuinness’ technical finesse. It was very entertaining.
Jablonski put in a very impressive showing and looked great as he took the Brit down with an array of power moves, including a great looking power/side slam-type thing that almost got the pin.
Pure power wasn’t enough against McGuinness though, and having failed with his STF/abdominal stretch hybrid he took the pin with one of his many roll-up variations.
October 2nd, 2004
Fourteen months later and our man takes on Homicide at The Midnight Express Reunion show.
With Julius Smokes watching on from ringside McGuinness literally tied his man up in knots early on, dominating the first ten minutes or so as he worked over Homicide’s right arm in an attempt to take out his vaunted lariat clothesline.
It was only when Homicide delivered a low bow that he managed to gain control, and although hampered by his injured wing he managed to take the Brit down with a wide variety of moves, aided, of course, by his man Smokes at ringside.
McGuinness eventually made his comeback, and as the two exchanged near falls McGuinness took the win as he cranked on Homicide’s arm as the Notorious 187 had no choice but to call it a day.
August 20th, 2005
McGuinness takes on Colt Cabana in a Soccer Riot Match at Night of the Grudges 2.
If you’re wondering what the rules for this match were it’s simple: everything was legal.
This was the final match in their long standing rivalry. Having started off as a tag team and friendly rivals McGuinness had taken numerous short cuts in matches that had been contested under European rules, the short cuts mainly being numerous low blows.
These two technical marvels put on a hell of a brawl. Cabana, looking resplendent in his Liverpool football shirt took it to his enemy early on, taking McGuinness all around the arena as he beat the proverbial snot out of him.
In what would become a staple part of this match McGuinness took control after a low blow before he took the match back to the ring. A wrestling match broke out for a few minutes as they returned to the brawling, the highlight of which saw McGuinness knocking Cabana off the top rope and through the ringside table after clobbering him in the head with a steam iron.
After making his recovery Cabana soon brought his own steam iron into the match, using it to good effect to take his man down before finally taking him out with the big clothesline for the winning pin.
August 27th, 2005
It’s the first title match of the collection as McGuinness challenges Samoa Joe for the Pure title at Dragon Gate Invasion.
It’s a sound technical battle for these two greats, a complete contrast to the Cabana brawl. These two matched each other move for move and hold for hold in this highly entertaining encounter, with McGuinness using some old style British heel tactics so he could get in some punches away from the gaze of the referee.
Our hero’s tactics worked to perfection because when Joe clobbered him with a series of rights right on front of the referee it cost him one of his rope breaks. McGuinness himself sacrificed his final rope break by clobbering Joe with a chair while he was attempting a suicide dive.
The Brit proceeded to work over Joe’s left arm, which hindered him later on when he went to take out his man with the muscle buster. McGuinness soon took the upper hand and eventually took Joe down with one of his finishers, the Tower of London.
But when McGuinness went for the pin Joe draped his leg over the bottom rope. It meant nothing though because he’d used up all of his rope breaks, which meant that a three count later he was the new champion.
February 11th, 2006
McGuinness defends his pure title against Austin Aries at Unscripted II.
This was a very dramatic encounter, and unlike the last match McGuinness didn’t really use any underhanded tactics against the then-Tag Champion.
It was another of those highly technical battles, with Aries showing the qualities that would make him a future TNA World Champion.
Our man’s tactics were as sound as ever as he worked over Aries’ arm, and whenever he went for a pin he made sure his opponent was right near the ropes so he could use up one of his three rope breaks to escape the pin, with Aries using the last of these when McGuinness took him down with the Tower of London.
The momentum changed from this point on. McGuinness took Aries down with a second Tower of London, and this time around the challenger kicked out. Aries then went on the offensive, forcing the champion to use his three rope breaks, including when he kicked out after Aries’ brain buster.
Aries looked like he was going to get the win when he connected with a 450 splash off the top rope. He ended up doing further damage to his injured arm though, and within seconds McGuinness locked in one of his arm submissions. Aries got to the ropes but it meant nothing, and it wasn’t long before he was tapping out to give McGuinness the submission win.
August 12th, 2006
A match that took place in merry old England, in Liverpool to be exact, as McGuinness puts his Pure title on the line against Bryan Danielson’s World title in a unification match at Unified.
To call this one a classic would be an understatement. For nearly thirty minutes these two put on an extraordinary contest.
Contested under Pure rules both men proved just why they’re regarded as two of the best in the world as they exchanged hold for hold and blow for blow, keeping the fans in attendance in the palms of their hands throughout.
It was a perfect piece of storytelling and a joy to watch. McGuinness, with the British fans firmly behind him, put in what could be his finest performance ever in his attempt to become a double champion. The only problem was that he went up against the best in the world.
So what we had here were two masters of their art, and after two many great moments to mention it was the Dragon who came out on top. With McGuinness having survived a second Cattle Mutilation attempt, without the help of any rope breaks, Danielson went medieval.
With blood pouring down the Pure Champion’s face the World Champion held him and connected with countless elbows. Eventually McGuinness slumped to the mat, and even though he was out of it Danielson continued his assault until the referee stepped in to give Danielson the knockout win and both of the titles.
September 16th, 2005
A history making event as our hero challenges Pro Wrestling NOAH star Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight title, the first time that this Japanese title had been defended on American soil.
If you’re a fan of the Japanese style then this is the match for you. McGuinness, a veteran of numerous NOAH tours was more than a match for Marufuji as they put together a great hard hitting encounter.
As with some of the other matches there wasn’t one punch thrown as these two exchanged holds in the wrestling clinic as Marufuji showed why he’s one of Japan’s top stars.
It really was a solid encounter, with some of the best moments coming when the action spilled to the outside, such as when Marufuji took McGuinness down with his Sliced Bread variation from the ring apron to the floor, and when McGuinness returned the compliment moments later with a Tower of London variation which saw the champion crashing face first onto the ring apron.
The end saw both men exchanging kicks until Marufuji managed to get the upper hand, finishing his man off with another Sliced Bread variation, this time from the top rope.
Afterwards both men earned a standing ovation from the crowd, and rightfully so.
January 27th, 2007
The new year began with McGuinness facing Jimmy Rave in an I Quit match.
Just a brief highlights package for this one as we saw McGuinness working over Rave’s arm and Rave working over McGuinness’ leg, with Rave eventually synching in a heel hook. McGuinness refused to give up, and Rave continued to apply the hold even when the Brit tried to climb the ropes.
Eventually the referee called for the bell, and even though McGuinness never said those magic words he awarded the match to Rave, saying that he stopped the match so McGuinness would avoid further injury.
March 4th, 2007
The final match of this volume sees a return to Liverpool as McGuinness faces Rave once again, this time in a Fight Without Honor at Fifth Year Festival: Finale.
Although not quite as violent as the encounter with Cabana this was still a hell of a match.
McGuinness came into this one with his right thigh taped up because of an injury he’d sustained the previous night against Samoa Joe, but despite this he still put in a great performance.
Traditional wrestling was nicely mixed with weapons action in this one. A piece of guardrail took quite a beating throughout as both men were rammed into it one more than one occasion, the best part being when McGuinness took Rave down with his Tower of London.
Even after all of the weapons use and the submission attempts they still couldn’t put each other away, and after the referee took a accidental hit from our hero he couldn’t get the pin after the aforementioned guardrail incident, the second referee coming to the ring too late as Rave kicked out during the pin.
Eventually our hero emerged triumphant, finally putting his man away with one of his many lariat variations for the winning pin.
April 14th, 2007
The first of many highlights packages sees McGuinness challenging another NOAH star for another title as he faces Takeshi Morishima for the ROH World title at Fighting Spirit.
It’s a shame that there wasn’t much shown because this looked like a cracking match. The back and forth action that was shown saw both men going all out to get the pin, with Morishima taking the win after his third back drop driver.
June 22nd, 2007
The highlights continue with McGuinness teaming with old rival Bryan Danielson against Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji at United We Stand.
This time the action begins with stereo submission holds, McGuinness with a half Boston on Morishima and Danielson with the Cattle Mutilation on Marufuji.
Once again I’m left wishing I could see the whole thing because three minutes worth of action doesn’t seem to do justice to a match in which McGuinness got the pin for his team after taking Morishima down with the Jaw Breaker Lariat.
July 16th, 2007
McGuinness faces Morishima for the World title again in a highlights package from Live in Tokyo.
It’s another hard hitting encounter with both men going for their big moves as Morishima came out on top once again with another backdrop driver.
October 6th, 2007
The first full match of this disc sees McGuinness challenging Morishima for the title once more, this time at Undeniable.
Morishima began this one changing his usual game plan, working over his challenger’s arms in an attempt to take away his lariats. However, it wasn’t long before they began to unload with the big blows as it turned into an enthralling hard hitting encounter.
The crowd heat was incredible as these two beat the hell out of each other and threw technical finesse out of the window. It may not have been pretty but it certainly was effective as both men came close to getting the win on numerous occasions.
So after all the big power moves and all the blows it was McGuinness who came out on top, taking Morishima down with the Jaw Breaker Lariat for the three count and the World title.
It was then that the locker room came down to the ring to celebrate the win, only for Bryan Danielson to confront the new champion, almost starting a brawl before he was pulled away and sent backstage.
Then Morishima himself looked like he was going to disrupt the proceedings as he snatched the belt away from the referee. It turned out that wasn’t the case though as he presented the belt to McGuinness in a symbolic changing of the guard moment.
March 16th, 2008
Our men defends his World title against future WWE star Tyler Black at Take No Prisoners.
Now this was a match. Black had already competed earlier in the show, winning a four way to qualify for the title shot. However, the champ wasn’t going to make it easy for him, and as soon as the bell rang McGuinness grabbed him from behind and rammed his left shoulder into the ring post.
The Brit went on to dominate for over ten minutes, working over Black’s injured limb in preparation for his London Dungeon submission hold. Black’s only moment of offence was when he kicked a chair into McGuinness’ face at ringside, sending him over the guard rail and into the front row. But when he went back into the ring and flew over the top rope, intent of taking the champion out McGuinness clobbered him with the chair.
Black took everything McGuinness had to throw at him, and with the highly vocal crowd willing him on he kicked out of pins time and time again. It didn’t matter what McGuinness did, he just couldn’t put his young challenger away. Perhaps if they’d been a kitchen sink nearby the champ would have used that.
Despite showing a tremendous amount of heart Black eventually fell, taken down by another Jaw Breaker Lariat, with McGuinness finally securing the title retaining three count.
July 26th, 2008
It’s a battle of the Europeans as McGuinness defends his title against another future WWE star, Claudio Castagnoli, at New Horizons.
This time around it was the challenger who jumped the gun at the beginning of the match as Castagnoli took McGuinness down with a bicycle kick. They then exchanged finishing moves, but it was too soon to get the pin.
From there the match developed nicely with both guys putting in impressive performances, and once again we saw a reversal from the previous match as it was Castagnoli who hit McGuinness with everything he had as he attempted to put him away. But time and time again the champion kept kicking out of the pins.
Eventually the champion came out on top, finally taking his challenger down with his Jaw Breaker Lariat for the winning pin.
September 20th, 2008
Our hero defends his World title against another title holder in the form of Tag Team Champion El Generico at Glory by Honor VII.
No jump start in this one as these two kicked off the match in quite a normal fashion with McGuinness targeting Generico’s arm, with the masked one doing a good job of avoiding the champion’s many lariat attempts.
Generico came close to getting the pin on numerous occasions, with McGuinness barely escaping every time. Later on the champion did the old trick of taking off one of the turnbuckle pads, and while the referee was trying to fix it he went to the ringside table and grabbed his title belt, intent on using it as a weapon.
He never got the chance. Generico’s partner Kevin Steen ran down to the ring and super-kicked the belt into McGuinness’ face. It wasn’t enough to put the champion away though, and a short time later, after countering Generico’s top rope brain buster attempt McGuinness took the pin with a roll-up.
September 26th, 2009
The final match of this collection is also the final match in McGuinness’ ROH career. It’s also the final match in the ROH career of Bryan Danielson as the two old rivals meet at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown.
While this math not have been as intense as their previous battles it was still a joy to behold.
Sportsmanship was the order of the day as these two showed each other a tremendous amount of respect as they went about their business. There were no over the top flashy moves here, just two great rivals putting on a great wrestling match.
It started off quite slowly as they tried to work over each other with ear down holds, but as the action move along it picked up nicely as both men began to bring out the big moves, the highlight of which being Danielson’s dive from the top rope onto McGuinness in the third row.
The signature moves soon came out, the Jaw Breaker Lariat, the Cattle Mutilation, Tower of London and London Dungeon, but still there was no finish. That came after a final flurry of blows, with Danielson sealing the deal when he synched in a leg triangle and knocked McGuinness out with a series of elbows, the referee stopping the match when McGuinness passed out.
Afterwards the locker room emptied and joined the fans in giving them a standing ovation. The ovation was even louder when Danielson helped McGuinness to his feet so he could pay his respects to all of the people who helped him during his career, with Danielson in particular receiving high praise.
Having read all of this you’re probably thinking that this set is all about the matches. It isn’t. In between the matches we also get to hear the thoughts of McGuinness himself as he talks about his opponents and his views on those particular matches.
But that isn’t all. The one particular segment I found most interesting concerned the injuries he sustained in a title match against Austin Aries at Rising Above in 2007. For those who don’t know Aries dived out of the ring and hit McGuinness in the back, with the champion’s head accidentally hitting the guard rail.
McGuinness suffered a broken nose, two deep cuts over his eyes and a concussion. He was meant to defend his title in a four way the following night but was pulled out for his own safety, and when he appeared in-ring to explain what had happened a vast section of the fans in attendance wanted him to drop the belt, something neither he, and more importantly Ring of Honor wanted to do.
His thoughts about this incident, as well as the other injuries that brought a premature end to his career certainly make for interesting viewing. These segments are, for me, the best part of this release, mainly because most of the time we just see the matches in sets like this. We rarely get to see the thoughts of the protagonist.
And on the subject of interview segments, there’s also the single extra, the sit down interview filmed prior to his last ROH match in 2009.
In conclusion - this is an extraordinary release. It really is. This collection shows just how great a wrestler McGuinness was, and although he was initially trained in America I’m still going to say that alongside the likes of William Regal and Doug Williams he’s been one of the great British wrestling exports in the past 20 years.
But if you look at the opponents he’s faced this collection is just like the Bryan Danielson set I reviewed recently. It’s a who’s who of guys who went on to find fame and fortune with the big two.
So if you’ve got a few spare pennies and want to have a gander at a collection from one of the best wrestlers of modern times then this is the release for you, with this particular writer giving this the big thumbs up.
With thanks to the powers that by for supplying a copy of this release. Nigel McGuinness: An ROH Career Retrospective is available to buy online at www.rohwrestling.com.