By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Takeshi Morishima © vs Nigel McGuinness 10/6/07
ROH World Heavyweight Championship Match
One memory I have of a time period where I used to follow ROH much more closely was how divided people were about the Takeshi Morishima reign. I loved Morishima, so was happy to have any opportunities to see him on a more regular basis; many complained that he just wasn’t very good and shouldn’t have been put over as champion so early on in his run with the company. Whichever camp you sat in, ROH had done their best at turning him into a monster. Morishima defended his title twenty times in a reign that lasted over two hundred days, taking on the best of both ROH and Japan.
Morishima would defeat Bryan Danielson twice, KENTA, Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kevin Steen among others. Another wrestler he had managed to defeat twice was Nigel McGuinness. Ever since McGuinness had transitioned from an initially comedy driven feud with Colt Cabana – which eventually became more violent – into one with Bryan Danielson, he had progressed up the card and was a viable contender for the gold. After feuding with Jimmy Rave and Chris Hero, McGuinness won the right for the title shot by defeating Hero, Claudio Castagnoli and Naomichi Marafuji in a four-way match. However, he had already failed to put away the monster from Japan twice already. Was third time going to be lucky?
As often was the case in the main event of an ROH show, the crowd was split between both wrestlers. Early attempts at the Jawbreaker lariat and the backdrop driver saw both trademark moves blocked, with a second Jawbreaker lariat seeing Morishima use the momentum to turn it into a sidewalk slam. McGuinness aimed to gain some composure by heading to ringside after a rolling champion coming off of the ropes crushed him with a body attack, but Morishima was there to keep the pressure on. A unique third attempt at the Jawbreaker lariat saw him use the ropes as Morishima tried to throw him into the ring for leverage, but it failed once more and earned McGuinness a beating at ringside with the arm the target.
The mixed loyalties faded away as the champion’s assault on McGuinness’ arm saw the fans beginning to get behind the British star. Armbars and strikes kept McGuinness under the champion’s control whilst also potentially taking the Jawbreaker lariat out of his offensive arsenal. In a misguided attempt to fight back, McGuinness aimed several slaps at Morishima’s face; a forearm across the chest sent the challenger flying back onto the seat of his trunks.
A reversed back drop driver into a crossbody earned McGuinness a one count but more importantly allowed McGuinness to try and gain some traction in the contest. His lariat based offense didn’t seem significantly weakened by the attacks from the champion, but a fourth Jawbreaker lariat was blocked. Morishima was soon back on top with an avalanche in the corner and a missile dropkick for two. Another blocked backdrop driver played into Morishima’s hands as he sat down on McGuinness’s attempts to turn it into a sunset flip gaining another two count.
Morishima’s first big mistake was to dive off of the top rope into a McGuinness lariat, but it wasn’t long before a lariat of his own set up the backdrop driver, only for McGuinness to kick out. The challenger wasn’t out yet and would drive Morishima into the mat with a superplex before trying to chop him down with multiple clotheslines. A sequence that saw McGuinness hit his first Jawbreaker lariat after rolling through a backdrop driver had the fans up expecting the title change, but Morishima would kick out at two.
More stiff shots were traded, including multiple slaps by McGuinness, but Morishima kicked out of the resulting lariat at one. This show of fighting spirit couldn’t last and a hip attack sent McGuinness back into the ropes for the sixth Jawbreaker lariat, the second to connect. This time, McGuinness was able to hold Morishima down for the three count and become the new ROH World Heavyweight Champion.
Not only did this feel like the culmination of a gradual rise to the top from a wrestler who the fans wanted to win the gold, it also started the longest reign (to date) of any ROH World Champion. It would be over five hundred days before McGuinness dropped the belt, eclipsing Morishima’s number of title defenses with thirty eight in total, several as a heel and a couple over long term nemesis, Bryan Danielson. By the time he lost the belt and earned his chance of a run in TNA, few could suggest he didn’t deserve it.