NEW YORK CITY — In its short history, Ring of Honor Wrestling has carved a strong niche for itself, primarily on the basis of presenting matches that are, in a word, brilliant. That tradition continued at the company’s sixth anniversary show, which emanated from the Manhattan Center in New York City on Saturday night.

The main event saw “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson attempt to wrest the ROH Championship away from the villainous Nigel McGuinness. Dragon’s fans have christened him as the “Best in the World” thanks to his huge arsenal of offensive moves, with which he can put away most any opponent. On this night, though, he had agreed to limit the moves he could do — and that handicap proved, ultimately, to be his undoing.

Earlier in the show, McGuinness came out to address the crowd. Because of his recent concussions, he said he was concerned about getting another one by facing Danielson who routinely uses elbows, knees, and stomps to the head. McGuinness said he was worried that, if he were out with an injury again, the company would not be able to survive his absence. It was clear from his promo that he was simply afraid of taking on Danielson, and was coming up with any excuse to avoid the match. Danielson called his bluff, and, after a truly passionate promo about honour and respect and the pride associated with the ROH title, agreed to not use any moves that involve an intentional strike to Nigel’s head, if McGuinness would step up and defend the title.

The match started off as a lesson in chain wrestling, with both men using various holds and counterholds with incredible fluidity. Dragon got the better of the exchanges early on, and started getting a little more aggressive. He hit McGuinness with a German suplex, which McGuinness protested, saying that the impact from the move was too close to his head. When the referee scoffed at the notion, McGuinness, sensing that his title might be in jeopardy, punched him, earning him a blatant disqualification which allowed him to keep the title.

Not only did this desperate ploy infuriate the fans, but many of the ROH roster as well. As McGuinness tried to slink away with the title, many of the locker room came out to confront him. Austin Aries criticized McGuinness for his cowardliness, and told him that if he didn’t go in and defend the title honourably, he would have to face the wrath of all of the workers who respect its legacy. This was enough to scare Nigel back into the match, which was restarted at the order of ROH owner Cary Silken.

The next 20 minutes or so were stellar as both men pulled out all the stops in order to win the match. McGuinness used another cheap shot to wrench Dragon’s arm, and he worked on that body part, weakening it with shots to the corner post and other dirty tricks. Dragon gritted through the pain, and mounted a fierce comeback. At one point, he threw Nigel into the crowd, then did a running somersault dive from inside the ring, over the barricade, and onto McGuinness. In the ring, he attempted to end McGuinness’s reign through a variety of means, including chokeouts, tapouts or via three-count.

At one point, Danielson had McGuinness tied up and prone for a series of elbows to the head. For a moment it seemed that Danielson would succumb to the opportunity, but after thinking about the word he had given, he stopped himself. This allowed Nigel to seize the opportunity, however. Despite his alleged fear of concussions, McGuinness started using his head as an offensive weapon, delivering some nasty headbutts to the Dragon. Then, mocking his opponent, Nigel hit Danielson with the challenger’s own patented rapid-fire elbow smashes to the head. This was enough to daze Danielson to the point that he couldn’t continue, prompting the ref to stop the match and award the decision to McGuinness. After the match, as McGuinness celebrated with his title, a still-stunned Danielson was unable to leave the ring on his own, and was carried out by the company’s medics and trainers.

Other Results:

  • Zack Gowen pinned Pelle Primeau after a moonsault.
  • The match between Delirious and Human Tornado was thrown out when Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black (Age of the Fall) ran out and attacked both men. The match was turned into a tag team affair, which the Age of the Fall won when Jacobs submitted Tornado.
  • Brent Albright beat El Generico by ref stoppage after he delivered a series of knees to El Generico who couldn’t continue. Unintentional humour here in a chant by the fans. As Albright resembles John Belushi’s character Bluto in Animal House, the crowd first started chanting “Toga! Toga!”. But then confused the legendary funny man with his much lamer brother and started a “Jim Belushi” chant.
  • Larry Sweeney came out with his protégé Bobby Dempsey for a segment of the Larry Sweeney Show. The guest was former ROH female competitor Alison Danger. Sweeney insulted Danger and then knocked her unconscious when she tried to storm out. He then forced Bobby Dempsey on top of her, giving him the birthday present of “manhood.”
  • Kevin Steen beat Joey Matthews with a Sharpshooter. It’s clear that Matthews (formerly Joey Mercury in WWE) is still more comfortable with a slower, WWE-paced match — and it lagged a bit as a result.
  • Austin Aries hit a 450-splash to pin Go Shiozaki. This was a hard-hitting fight that had the crowd yelling “Oh!” throughout due to the stiff chops and kicks delivered by both men.
  • After the match, members of the Age of the Fall, led by manager Lacey, appeared in the balconies and offered Austin a spot in the faction. Before he could answer, Tammy “Sunny” Sytch (who was there as a guest, signing autographs and pictures before the show and at intermission) made him an indecent proposal of her own. He left without giving either girl an answer, prompting them to exchange insults over the mic.
  • Sara Del Rey retained the Shimmer Championship by beating Daizee Haze.
  • The No Remorse Corps (Rocky Romero and Davey Richards) retained their ROH Tag Team Championships by beating Ruckus and Jigsaw. Richards showed some great intensity, and pinned Jigsaw after a huge powerbomb. After the match, Steen and Generico threw out a challenge to the champs.
  • Roderick Strong retained his FIP Championship by winning a three-way match that also featured Erik Stevens and the Necro Butcher. A full-scale war of a match, that would have sated the bloodlust of any hardcore enthusiast. Highlights included Necro frisbeeing folding chairs into the bodies and faces of the other two; Roderick’s legs crashing on the barricade on a huge somersault leap attempt; a three-way chop-fest; and Necro being put through a table, which allowed Strong to cover him for the pin.