Survival of the Fittest 2010

The Ford Community & Performing Arts Center – Dearborn, MI – Friday, November 12, 2010

Kevin Kelly and Dave Prazak are on commentary.

MATCH #1: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Colt Cabana vs. Rhett Titus

This is Titus’s second time in the tournament, and the fourth time for Cabana (who has made it to the finals all three previous times he’s been entered – 2004, 2005, and 2009). Titus eschews the traditional handshake and attacks Cabana with a big boot. Cabana makes the quick comeback and sends Titus reeling to the floor. Back in the ring Cabana uses his unorthodox antics to flummox poor Titus. They trade momentum back and forth, and as usual Cabana holds the crowd in the palm of his hand. Cabana puts some offense together, but Titus is able to grab the ring bell behind the referee’s back. Titus puts the bell on the middle buckle and delivers a drop toehold. He then rolls Cabana up and grabs a handful of tights to get the upset pin at 8:21. That was fine enough and it didn’t overstay its welcome. Titus still had a long way to go at this point and Cabana just did his usual thing.
Rating: **

MATCH #2: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Claudio Castagnoli vs. Grizzly Redwood

This is the third appearance in Survival of the Fittest for Castagnoli, and Redwood’s first. Castagnoli is one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, and he has Shane Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey in his corner. He tries to intimidate Redwood early on, but the plucky lumberjack refuses to oblige. Redwood sends Castagnoli to the floor and wipes him out with a dive. Back in the ring Castagnoli catches Redwood with a hard powerslam and he goes to work on his much smaller opponent. Castagnoli legally murders Redwood with a Chokeslam but it only gets two. Redwood uses his speed and agility to get a little bit more offense in, including a sleeper hold. Castagnoli cuts him off with a bicycle kick for two. Redwood makes one last gasp, but Castagnoli ends him for good with a hard European Uppercut and the UFO to get the pin and advance again at 5:05. That was a fine little squash and Redwood got just the right amount of offense in.
Rating: **

MATCH #3: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Kevin Steen vs. Kyle O’Reilly

This is Steen’s second time in the tournament and O’Reilly’s first. Steen attacks right away and takes it to the newcomer. He brings O’Reilly to the floor and uses his gross-out tactics to disgust the crowd and embarrass his opponent. O’Reilly fights back with kicks and knee strikes that send Steen to the floor. He tries a dive but Steen avoids it. O’Reilly lands on his feet and spits at Corino. When he tries to get back in the ring Steen brings him in the hard way with a DDT. Steen mostly dominates but the plucky O’Reilly fights back with strikes and a suplex. O’Reilly avoids a charge in the corner and Steen rolls to the floor to find a chair to sit in. That’s a pretty obvious setup for O’Reilly to hit the running dropkick off the apron, but the crowd always pops for that move. Back in the ring O’Reilly hits a missile dropkick for two. Steen comes back with the popup powerbomb for a near-fall. O’Reilly targets Steen’s arm and locks on a Cross Armbreaker, but Steen reaches the ropes. Steen catches O’Reilly with a superkick and the F-Cinq. He goes for the Package Piledriver and is able to hit it with just one arm. He covers but lets O’Reilly up at two. Steen puts on El Generico’s mask and hits a Brainbuster to get the pin at 10:19. O’Reilly put up a good showing there but was ultimately overpowered by the maniacal Steen. Good back and forth stuff here.
Rating: **¾

After the match Steen goes to attack O’Reilly with a chair but Corino talks him out of it, asking Steen to stay focused on El Generico at Final Battle 2010. The crowd antagonizes Steen with “Ole” chants and with one guy wearing a Generico mask. Corino calms Steen down and then calls out Adam Cole for their qualifying match.

MATCH #4: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Steve Corino vs. Adam Cole

Both men are making their SOTF debut tonight. Corino punches Cole in the face before the bell to start the match. Cole quickly fires back with a flurry that sends Corino to the floor, and he follows him out with a rana off the apron. Back in the ring Cole goes to the top rope but Steen grabs his leg. The persistent Cole goes up top and hits The Cross Body Block That Beat Davey Richards but it only gets two here. Cole goes after the arm, using a Fujiwara Armbar to soften Corino up. Momentum shifts between these two disparate wrestlers while Steen watches on from ringside. Steen gets on the microphone to encourage Corino, who decides to jam his thumb into Cole’s butt. That backfires when Cole turns the abdominal stretch into a cradle to get the pin at 6:46. That wasn’t much of a match, more of a backdrop for Steen and Corino acting crazy. At least they kept it short.
Rating: *½

Steen and Corino attack Cole after the match and El Generico (dressed in all black) runs out to make the save. Generico takes Corino out with a half nelson suplex and then drills Steen with the running Yakuza Kick. He goes for the top-rope Brainbuster but Corino breaks it up, and Steen is able to deliver a Michinoku Driver through the ringside table!

MATCH #5: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – Chris Hero vs. Eddie Edwards

This is Hero’s third appearance in Survival of the Fittest, and he’s been to the finals twice, even winning it all in 2007. Edwards is making his SOTF debut. Hero is one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, and he has Shane Hagadorn and Sara Del Rey in his corner. Edwards is the current ROH World Television Champion. They begin with some chain wrestling, going back and forth with each other on the mat. Momentum shifts multiple times between these pretty evenly matched competitors, so Hagadorn interferes to give Hero control. Hero goes to work, wearing Edwards down with a variety of holds and strikes. Edwards tries to fight back but Hero just clobbers him back down, almost knocking him out. They take the fight up to the top rope and Edwards brings Hero down with a rana. Edwards knocks Hero to the floor and follows him out with a suicide dive, separating his shoulder in the process. They make it back to the ring and Edwards quickly finishes the match with the Achilles Lock at 13:40. Obviously they had to go home quickly there, but they had a decent match going before that.
Rating: **½

MATCH #6: Survival of the Fittest Qualifying Match – El Generico vs. Kenny King

Generico is making his SOTF debut while King is appearing in his second tournament. King has the pretty obvious advantage here after the beating Generico took from Steen and Corino earlier in the evening. Even so, Generico shows lots of heart in fighting back, but he’s very clearly just not at 100%. King focuses on the injured rib area, which will continue to make it hard for Generico to get the oxygen he needs. Generico fights back and turns it into a slug fest. He hits the Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall. A Michinoku Driver gets another two-count. Generico goes up top but leaps right into a spin kick to the ribs. King hits the Shotgun Knees and that’s enough to keep Generico down for the count at 7:53. That was on the short side, but given Generico’s injuries they worked the right match, and King looks wise for focusing on the injury until Generico couldn’t take any more.
Rating: **½

MATCH #7: Trial Series Match No. Three – Andy Ridge vs. Homicide

They start off slowly in this first-time ever matchup. Ridge tries wearing Homicide down with armbars and headlocks in the opening minutes. Homicide fights back and sends Ridge to the floor, which is where Homicide does his best work. He throws Ridge around ringside, and then brings him back in the ring for more punishment. Ridge makes a comeback with a series of strikes but he misses a charge in the corner. Homicide hits a hangman’s neckbreaker for two. He tries the Cop Killa but Ridge escapes and boots him in the face. Ridge goes for a superkick but Homicide catches it and hits the Ace Crusher. Homicide follows with the big Lariat to get the pin at 9:51. Ridge looked okay here but there was only so much that could be done with Homicide at this point. The Trial Series on its own is not a bad idea, but it became pretty obvious as soon as it was over that they had no plans for Ridge so the whole thing was pretty pointless.
Rating: *¾

MATCH #8: Six Man Tag Team Match – Christopher Daniels & The Briscoes vs. The House of Truth

Tonight the House of Truth is represented by ROH World Champion Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin, and Zach Gowen. Elgin and Gowen have made sporadic appearances in ROH in the past. They have Truth Martini in their corner of course. Daniels and Strong start the match, but Strong decides to let Elgin get in there instead. Elgin uses his power to battle Daniels and the Briscoes, and multiple tags are made on both sides in the early going as both teams try to set the tone. The HOT focus on Daniels for a bit, and the Daniels team responds by going after Elgin. While Jay is working on Elgin, Strong surprises him with a suplex on the edge of the ring frame to give his team the advantage once again. Strong, Gowen, and Elgin isolate Jay in their half of the ring and keep control. After several minutes Mark gets the hot tag and he is a redneck aflame. Mark takes out everyone and then tags Daniels, who picks up where Mark left off. Strong comes back with a low superkick on Daniels for two, and then locks him in the Stronghold. Daniels reaches the ropes. They trade chops and Strong wins. Strong goes up top but Daniels catches him with a palm strike and the Fall From Grace. The HOT breaks up the cover and the referee loses control. The brawl goes to the floor and Mark takes everyone out with a moonsault from the top rope. Mark goes after Truth, but Elgin cuts him off. The action migrates back to the ring and the referee still has little control of the match and the brawling continues. The Briscoes try the Doomsday Device on Elgin but he fights it off. Elgin picks up both Briscoes and hits a Samoan Drop/Fallaway Slam combo. Daniels goes after Elgin, and he’s helped by Gowen accidentally hitting his own partner with a missile dropkick. That gives Daniels the opportunity to hit Gowen with the uranage slam and then the Best Moonsault Ever to score the pin for his team at 20:57. Elgin looked great here, but he was an unknown commodity and Gowen has never had a strong presence in Ring of Honor (sadly), so there seemed to be little doubt that the Daniels and Briscoes team would triumph. Especially since Daniels was scheduled for a title shot the following night in Mississauga. Still, they worked a fun six-man tag and kept the action going, so it was good just not particularly memorable.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #9: Survival of the Fittest 2010 Final Match – Rhett Titus vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Kevin Steen vs. Adam Cole vs. Eddie Edwards vs. Kenny King

Castagnoli is one half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, and he has Sara Del Rey and Shane Hagadorn in his corner. Steen has Steve Corino with him. However, before the match can begin, El Generico comes out to attack Steen and Corino! Generico has to be dragged away by security and the job squad. The match officially starts and Castagnoli drills Steen with a bicycle kick to the face and Steen gets eliminated at 0:10! That’s by far the fastest elimination ever.

We’re down to five men now, and two of them – King and Titus, are a regular tag team so they work together on Castagnoli. Cole gets a tag and he takes on the task of fighting off both members of the ANX and he does a pretty good job of it. The numbers advantage takes over though, as the ANX isolates Cole to wear him down. Edwards comes in to wrestle Cole for a bit, but it’s very obvious that he’s a one-armed man here. We go back to the ANX and they resume their beat down on Cole, the youngest man in the match. Cole fights back with a superkick on Titus and both men are down. Castagnoli feigns trying to tag Cole, but drops off the apron instead. He then tags himself in and clobbers Cole with a lariat to score the elimination at 9:18. Both members of the ANX come in to battle the Tag Team Champion, and they double-team him right away. That works for a short time, but Castagnoli is able to create some separation and he drills Titus with Swiss Death to get the pin at 12:17. Edwards comes in and Castagnoli quickly sends him retreating to the floor due to his injured shoulder. The medical staff sends Edwards backstage to deal with his injury. Castagnoli has his back turned and is waving goodbye, and that gives King the opening to hit a springboard Blockbuster for a two-count. King follows up with a spinebuster for another two-count. He tries another springboard but this time Castagnoli catches him and starts suplexing him around the ring. Castagnoli hits a European Uppercut and then tries a bicycle kick but King catches him in a cradle suplex for two. King tries a spin kick but Castagnoli ducks and executes the UFO for a near-fall. On the next try King hits the spin kick but Castagnoli responds with an immediate lariat for a two-count. Edwards makes his way back out just as King hits the Coronation on Castagnoli to get the pin at 17:49. Now we’re down to King versus Edwards. They trade strikes and kicks, and Edwards uses repeated headbutts to win that battle. Edwards tries a knockout kick but King catches it and puts on a half crab, which Edwards escapes out of and puts on the Achilles Lock! King taps out at 19:48, and Eddie Edwards is the 2010 Survival of the Fittest winner. Obviously Edwards was really gutting it out there so I think this match had be truncated somewhat, but even so everything about it just fell flat. It seemed like the best time to put Castagnoli over but they didn’t for whatever reason, and the final showdown between Edwards and King was (understandably) underwhelming. This is quite clearly the worst Survival of the Fittest match and event.
Rating: **

BONUS DISC: The best of Nigel McGuinness

MATCH #1: ROH World Title Match – Takeshi Morishima vs. Nigel McGuinness, Undeniable, 10.6.07

Morishima has been the Champion since 2.17.07, and this is his twenty-first defense. He has successfully defended against McGuinness twice already. They immediately start throwing big bombs at each other, including their finishers, but neither can hit one. Instead they trade some forearms and Morishima hits a big boot and then a Boss Man Slam. Morishima bowls McGuinness over and they take the battle to the floor. McGuinness misses a Lariat and Morishima throws him into the barricade. Morishima stars going to work on the arm, which is smart. Back in the ring Morishima continues the arm work. McGuinness tries to fire up but Morishima just swats him back down. Morishima continues the high powered attack, keeping McGuinness down in the corner. Finally McGuinness is able to get a little offense in, connecting on a couple of Lariats for a two-count. His arm should be pretty injured but he didn’t sell that at all. Another Lariat gets another two-count for the challenger. McGuinness goes for the Jawbreaker Lariat but Morishima blocks it and hits a Lariat of his own. Morishima then squashes McGuinness in the corner. He follows up with the missile dropkick for two. Morishima goes back up top but awkwardly jumps right into a Lariat and McGuinness gets a near-fall. McGuinness tries the headstand in the corner but Morishima avoids it and hits a Lariat. Morishima lands the Back Drop Driver but McGuinness kicks out at two! The Champ goes back up top and this time McGuinness knocks him down and hits a superplex for a two-count. McGuinness his more Lariats but can’t take Morishima down. Morishima clobbers McGuinness with a Lariat and hits the Back Drop Driver! McGuinness pops right up and hits the Jawbreaker Lariat but it only get two! He goes up top and Morishima joins him, so McGuinness hits a big sunset bomb for two. McGuinness unloads with a flurry of strikes and a huge Lariat but Morishima kicks out at one! Morishima hits the hip attack but McGuinness comes back at him with the Jawbreaker Lariat to get the pin and finally win the title at 14:21! The pop for the win was enormous. McGuinness’s offense was certainly heavy on the Lariats, but he had pinned Morishima with that move once already, so why not try it over and over? It wasn’t as epic as some of the past title change matches, but the actual title change itself felt big, and that’s what counts.
Rating: ***¼

MATCH #2: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Austin Aries, Rising Above, 12.29.07

McGuinness has been the Champion since 10.6.07, and this is his third defense. They start with some chain wrestling, and Aries goes after the Champ’s previously injured arm. McGuiness makes a brief comeback but Aries is just all over him in the first few minutes. The Champ takes a powder and gets into an argument with a fan, leaving Aries open to destroy McGuinness with a Heat Seeking Missile. McGuinness’ head and face smashed right into the barricade and McGuinness is out on his feet. That was nasty. They slowly make it back to the ring, where Aries goes right on the attack. Aries tries to keep McGuinness off his feet, always a good strategy. Despite the concussion, the Champ is able to fight back and he targets the arm. Aries is not shy about attacking McGuinness’ injured head, and McGuinness is very clearly in survival mode. McGuinness comes back and hits a big lariat, and the challenger immediately rolls to the ropes to avoid being covered. That’s wise. Momentum continues to shift and Aries goes after the arm some more, even using the Rings of Saturn. McGuinness tries the headstand in the corner but Aries drills him with a dropkick that knocks him to the floor. Aries tries the Heat Seeking Missile again and this time McGuinness catches him with a European Uppercut. McGuinness hits the Tower of London all the way to the floor! Back in the ring McGuinness only gets two. McGuinness has the momentum in his favor and he hits a lariat for a near-fall. He goes for the Tower of London but Aries shoves him off and hits a missile dropkick. Aries goes for the IED but McGuinness gets a boot up. McGuinness hits a Tower of London but Aries kicks out! He tries the Jawbreaker Lariat but Aries successfully avoids it and sends McGuinness back to the floor. Aries sets McGuinness up in a chair against the barricade and then drills him with a running knee strike. Back in the ring Aries continues to abuse McGuinness with hard strikes. McGuinness comes back with the top-rope lariat that sends Aries flipping to the floor! Awesome spot. McGuinness follows him out and Aries hits a Brainbuster onto the guardrail! Great spot but Aries recovered REALLY fast to hit that. Back in the ring Aries covers but only gets two. Aries continues dishing out punishment and McGuinness looks done for. The challenger hits an IED and the Brainbuster, and then goes up top. Aries tries the 450 Splash but McGuinness gets his knees up! McGuinness locks on the London Dungeon and Aries turns it into a cradle for two. Aries goes back to the head and hits another Brainbuster, and rolls into the Horns of Aries. McGuinness gets to the ropes to break it. They rise to their feet and trade strikes, and Aries hits a roaring elbow and a big lariat but it only gets two! A series of reversals ends with McGuinness hitting a Northern Lariat and then he locks on the Lindon Dungeon. Aries kicks out of the hold but McGuinness comes right back up and legally murders Aries with a Jawbreaker Lariat to get the pin at 23:17! Sweet fictional Jesus what a match. Nigel busted his head about five minutes into the match and still went out and tore it up like it was his job (which it was). Both men had strategies that they stuck to and they busted out all the big guns and beat the hell out of each other. The crowd got more and more invested as it went along, and they couldn’t help but cheer for Aries trying to become the first ever two-time ROH World Champion, and they also couldn’t help but cheer for McGuinness just for gutting through a tremendous performance. This is a bit of a forgotten gem in the ROH catalogue, and with Nigel around all the time I’m not sure why that is.
Rating: ****½

MATCH #3: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Bryan Danielson, Sixth Anniversary Show, 2.23.08

McGuinness has been the Champion since 10.6.07, and this is his seventh defense. These two know each other very well and they aggressively attack each other with chain wrestling in the early going. Danielson takes the first advantage, working the legs and putting on a bow-and-arrow submission hold. Every time McGuinness tries to battle back Danielson has an answer for him McGuinness tries the stupid headstand and Danielson dropkicks him to the floor. Danielson follows him out with a suicide dive. Back in the ring Danielson hits a missile dropkick and keeps McGuinness on defense. The Champ rolls to the floor to regroup. He gets back on the apron and blatantly slugs referee Paul Turner! A disqualification is announced but the bell never rang. McGuinness tells everyone he’s out, and walks toward the back. But before he can get there he’s cut off by Austin Aries, Kevin Steen, Delirious, and Roderick Strong! That quartet forces McGuinness to get back in the ring and Danielson is livid! Cary Silkin decides that this match must be restarted!

McGuinness is channeling his rage into attacking Danielson’s shoulder, as the crowd is loudly hating on the ROH World Champion. It’s pretty much been all McGuinness since the restart. Danielson is able to fire back with some kicks to the chest and spine, sending McGuiness to the apron, where Danielson kicks him in the back again to send him to the floor. McGuinness is able to reverse a suplex attempt that sends Danielson crashing to the floor. He throws Danielson around ringside a bit, and then Danielson reverses a whip into the barricade and McGuinness hits hard. Danielson throws McGuinness into the crowd and follows him out with that insane dive that he does. Back in the ring Danielson tries another missile dropkick and McGuinness catches it, but the wily Danielson turns that into a triangle choke. McGuinness counters out of that and destroys Danielson with a lariat, to which the crowd chants “same old shit.” The Champ covers for two. McGuinness goes for the Tower of London but Danielson counters and uses a body scissors to send McGuinness to the floor. Danielson goes for a dive but McGuiness catches him with a European Uppercut. McGuiness then hits the Tower of London to the floor! It looks like they bonked heads on the way down and McGuinness is bleeding. Back in the ring McGuinness covers for two. McGuinness locks on Cattle Mutilation! Danielson counters into a pinning predicament for two. McGuinness tries the Jawbreaker Lariat but Danielson ducks and goes for The Knee That (Would One Day Eventually) Beat John Cena but McGuinness sidesteps it. That puts Danielson in perfect position for McGuinness to hit the top-rope lariat. McGuinness follows with the Tower of London but Danielson kicks out! The Champ locks on the London Dungeon but the challenger reaches the ropes. McGuiness puts the hold right back on but Danielson counters into a cradle for a near-fall! Danielson ducks a lariat and hits Chaos Theory! Such a great move. Both men rise and exchange strikes. Danielson wins that battle and then hits the belly-to-back superplex for a two-count. He locks on Cattle Mutilation and has an opportunity to deliver the repeated elbows to the head, but he had promised earlier not to attack McGuiness’ head and he stays true to that word. Danielson instead hits a Tiger Suplex for two and then unleashes elbow strikes to the ribs. Ouch. Danielson locks on an armbar and when McGuiness tries to roll out Danielson puts on a triangle choke! Once again Danielson has a chance to attack the head but he won’t do it. McGuinness reaches the ropes to break the hold. Danielson slugs McGuinness down in a corner and wants the referee to count him down. McGuinness gets back to his feet and counters more body shots with a vicious headbutt. McGuinness uses headbutts, which he had earlier promised not to do because of the injuries he sustained. Danielson gets back to his feet and McGuiness kills Danielson with a lariat, and then delivers repeated elbow strikes to the head! Danielson is out and McGuiness locks on the London Dungeon to officially get the win at 31:37.

Sometimes I think I don’t enjoy living in a world where Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness will never wrestle each other again. This was so great, and was able to differentiate itself from the many other Danielson/McGuiness bouts. They both promised not to attack the head, and both men stayed true to that right up until the very end, when Nigel revealed what a slimy douchebag he was and that he would do anything to retain the title. I’m usually not a fan of re-starting a match, but in this case it served to increase the heat on Nigel to nuclear levels, made sense within the storyline of the match, and helped develop Nigel’s character. Danielson of course wrestled an amazing match, as he tends to do in big match scenarios. This isn’t quite the masterpiece from Unified, but it’s darn close.
Rating: ****¾

MATCH #4: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Kevin Steen, Northern Navigation, 7.25.08

Nigel has been the Champion since 10.6.07, and this is his nineteenth defense. He also defended the title against Steen at Injustice and Return Engagement in April. They start off slowly, since they know each other so well from their prior two title matches. Nigel of course goes after the arm and shoulder. Steen fires back and they slug at each other for a bit and when Nigel tries the Jawbreaker Lariat Steen simply strolls out of the way, and then mocks the champion. They spill to the floor and Steen takes control. Steen goes up to the barricade for the Frog Splash, but Nigel slams him right onto the ring apron! That was sick and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Back in the ring Nigel wisely goes to work on the back. Steen tries to fight up but he took a ridiculous bump on the apron there and Nigel is just relentless on him. Finally after a long beating, Steen comes back with a flurry of right hands and a huge cannonball in the corner. Nigel throws Steen into the turnbuckle but Steen turns right around and hits a lariat for two. Steen goes for the Package Piledriver but can’t hit it, instead hitting a powerbomb for a near-fall. He goes up top and Nigel knocks him down and tries the Tower of London, but Steen reverses that to the Sharpshooter! Nigel reaches the ropes, and then bails to the floor to bait Steen into the Tower of London. Back in the ring Nigel can only get two. Nigel follows up with a lariat but again only gets a two-count. He hits the Codswallop Combo and then another Tower of London but still can’t put Steen away. The frustrated champion then goes for the Ultimate Insult, locking Steen in the Sharpshooter. Steen reaches the ropes. Nigel goes for the lariat off the top rope but Steen dumps him to the floor and follows him out with a springboard somersault senton. Damn son! Back in the ring Steen tries the Swanton and hits nothing but knees. Even so Steen is able to put the Sharpshooter on and Nigel reaches the ropes. Back on their feet Steen hits a superkick and the pumphandle neckbreaker but only gets two. Steen tries the Moonsault but misses. Nigel tries the Jawbreaker but Steen hits a lariat instead. Steen hits the Package Piledriver but Nigel kicks out at two. Some moves just shouldn’t be kicked out of and I feel like that’s one of them. Steen hits another clothesline for another two-count. He signals for another Package Piledriver but Nigel slips out and hits a huge lariat for two. Nigel follows with a short-arm Lariat for two. Finally Nigel connects with the Jawbreaker but Steen kicks out! Steen gets a small package from out of nowhere for two, but then runs right into another Lariat. Nigel then hits the top rope Lariat to retain the title at 30:58. That was a little bit long but the crowd stayed with them the entire way and both men played their roles to perfection. If they had cut out a few finishers and maybe three or four minutes it would have been really great.
Rating: ****

MATCH #5: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. El Generico, Age of Insanity, 8.15.08

McGuinness has been the Champion since 10.6.07, and this is his twenty-third defense. They start off on the mat, which is obvious advantage Champion. Generico looks a little bit overmatched in his first shot at the ROH World Title ever, but he’s not backing down. The Champion gets cocky and Generico makes him pay for it, sending him to the floor with a clothesline and following him out with a dive. Generico hits another little dive off the apron, and then brings it back in the ring. McGuinness cuts him off with a Divorce Court, and the Champ is back to work on the arm. Generico comes back and sends McGuinness to the floor, and then gives chase. McGuinness cleverly pulls the announce table into Generico’s path, and then rams Generico’s shoulder into the ring post. Back in the ring McGuinness remains dominant over his challenger. Eventually Generico uses a headscissors to send McGuinness to the floor, and he follows him out with a springboard Asai Moonsault! Back in the ring Generico hits a high cross body off the top rope for a two-count. Generico hits a Blue Thunder Driver for another near-fall. McGuinness cuts him off with the kick to the back/clothesline combo in the corner, and then successfully completes the headstand mule kick for the first time in forever. He hits the Tower of London on the edge of the ring frame, and Generico appears to be out. Back in the ring McGuinness covers for two. McGuinness sets Generico on the top rope for the lariat, but Generico counters with a big boot. The Champ tries the headstand again but Generico delivers the big Yakuza kick for a near-fall. McGuinness tries the Jawbreaker Lariat but Generico hits another boot to the face for two. I’m sensing a pattern here. Finally McGuinness hits a lariat and gets a two-count. McGuinness hits the Tower of London and then a European Uppercut and a lariat for another near-fall. He puts on the London Dungeon and Kevin Steen comes out to ringside to cheer on his tag team partner. Generico is able to reach the ropes! McGuiness goes up top and Generico stops him with a running boot to the face. The Champ is hung up in the corner and Generico hits the coast-to-coast flipping dropkick for a near-fall. Generico hits the Brainbuster but McGuinness gets his foot on the bottom rope! The challenger brings the Champion to the top rope for the Brainbuster, but McGuinness counters and delivers a big lariat. Somehow Generico kicks out! McGuinness delivers another lariat and Generico kicks out again! A third huge lariat still isn’t enough to finish the masked man. McGuinness locks on the London Dungeon and Generico counters to a cradle and almost scores the pin! Generico hits a boot to the face but McGuinness rebounds with the Jawbreaker Lariat and then locks on the London Dungeon for the win at 25:45. This went a little long for the story they were telling, but it still worked well for the most part. McGuinness underestimated his challenger and had to adjust his strategy and work harder as the match went on, and the crowd continued to get behind Generico the more he fought back. This is probably the best of the McGuinness/Generico series.
Rating: ***¾

MATCH #6: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Roderick Strong, Driven 2008, 9.19.08

McGuinness has been the champion since 10.6.07, and this is his twenty-fifth defense. They show a quick video package that tries to make it seem like these two are in some kind of feud, but they’re really not. They did have a pretty good match back in January in Chicago though. They start with chain wrestling in the early going, with the champion seeming to have the advantage. Strong gets an early flurry so McGuinness rolls towards the ropes to break his momentum. They come back to the center of the ring and McGuinness targets the arm and shoulder. Strong fights back with his signature chops. A backbreaker gets two. He goes to the second rope but McGuinness stops him and takes him down with a hammerlock bodyslam and Strong rolls to the floor. The champion follows him out and continues working over the arm. He hits a running European uppercut against the guardrail and the champ is firmly in control. Strong once again fights back with chops but McGuinness withstands them. Back in the ring McGuinness stays in control of the arm. Strong tries to fight back but the champion hits him with a hammerlock DDT. The headstand mule kick in the corner actually works, but it only gets two. Strong tries chops again but McGuinness hits a rolling elbow and Strong is down for an eight-count. Now if he’s knocked out for eight seconds why not just pin the guy? The match spills to the floor and Strong finally takes advantage, hitting a running forearm off the apron. He hits another chop and gets a two-count in the corner. A leg-cradle backbreaker also gets two. A pump-handle backbreaker gets another two. The champion avoids a charge in the corner and hits the kick to the back / clothesline combo for two. Strong comes back with the gutbuster and a running Yakuza kick for two. McGuinness comes back with what I think is his first big lariat of the match, but Strong kicks out at two. He tries the Tower of London and Strong avoids it, but can’t avoid another lariat, which again gets two. The Tower of London also only gets two. He tries another lariat but Strong ducks it and hits a slingshot powerslam for two. He hits a couple of clotheslines in the corner and sets McGuinness on the top turnbuckle and hits a unique backbreaker for two. Moments later another backbreaker gets two. McGuinness comes back and sets Strong on the top rope and hits a lariat for two. He follows up with a Tower of London right onto the edge of the apron. He tosses Strong back into the ring and once again it only gets two. Strong comes back with a Yakuza kick, beats Nigel to the clothesline, and hits a Tiger Driver for a very close near fall that the crowd bought hard. He brings the champion to the ropes, but he winds up taking a big lariat for yet another two-count. The crowd bought that one too, but in the opposite way. McGuinness hits a couple of lariats and another Tower of London. That’s enough to finally put Strong away at 24:20. Much like their match back in Chicago this was really good, with a couple of new moves I’ve never seen before, and good psychology and selling throughout.
Rating: ****

MATCH #7: ROH World Title Match – Nigel McGuinness vs. Naomichi Marufuji, Final Battle 2008, 12.27.08

They show clips of the match these two had at Glory By Honor V Night Two over three years ago. Marufuji won that match to successfully defend his newly won GHC Title. Nigel has been the champion since 10.6.07, and this is his thirty-first defense. Nigel goes after the neck to start, as Lenny Leonard announces that ROH has set a new attendance record tonight, but he curiously omits the number. If Nigel can successfully defend the title tonight, he will become the first man to ever hold the ROH World Title throughout a calendar year. They trade a series of near-falls with some pinning combinations and we’re back to square one. Nigel takes a short advantage, but Marufuji has soon reversed the momentum and wears Nigel down with a headlock. The champion reverses to a head scissors, but Marufuji escapes and delivers a kick to the jaw. He then goes back to the neck, looking to soften it up for the Shiranui. Marufuji even executes the SkullF*cker, one of my favorite moves. Nigel comes back with a mule kick in the corner, which I still can’t figure out how anyone would fall for. Marufuji rolls to the floor and Nigel follows him out, driving his shoulder into the barricade. Nigel charges and eats a superkick, followed by a Shiranui! He rolls Nigel back into the ring but only gets two. Nigel goes back on offense and hits a cool hammerlock slam. He throws Marufuji to the floor, but when he sticks his head through the ropes to taunt his opponent he gets dropkicked in the face. Back in the ring Marufuji counters Nigel’s attacks and hits a clothesline for two. Marufuji puts on a combination Cobra Clutch and Triangle Choke. Nigel makes it back to his feet, but Marufuji is able to take him down with a modified lung blower for two. Marufuji goes to the top rope but Nigel stops him and tries the Tower of London. That gets countered and Marufuji tries the Shiranui. Nigel avoids that and hits the kick to the back and clothesline in the corner combo. He goes to the top rope but Marufuji kicks him down. They trade strikes on the apron with the post between them. Marufuji hits a superkick and a Shiranui on the ring apron! That only gets two, so Marufuji sets up for the corner to corner dropkick. Nigel avoids it but still takes a kick to the head. Marufuji slams him down and goes to the top himself. Nigel knocks him down and goes for the Tower of London. He alters his plan slightly and gives Marufuji a receipt in the form of the Tower of London on the apron. Back in the ring it only gets a two-count and no pop at all. Nigel hits a lariat for another near-fall. Nigel’s right arm looks pretty limp. He hits a lariat with his left arm for another two-count. The champ goes for another Tower of London and it’s blocked. Nigel tries the headstand in the corner and eats a superkick for his troubles. This time Marufuji is able to hit the Coast to Coast Dropkick. That gets a near-fall. Marufuji nails a series of superkicks but Nigel eventually avoids one and is able to hit the Jawbreaker Lariat to get the pin at 18:14. That was a superbly executed match from two of the best wrestlers in the world today.
Rating: ****

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