It may not yet have reached Sammartino or Backlund-esque lengths, but in the 21st century, to be recognized as world champion in any wrestling organization for one full year, may be equivalent to the respective seven or five of years of yore.

Nigel McGuinness heads to the ring in July. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea.

The 12-month achievement is one that England’s Nigel McGuinness realized on October 6, a full 366 days — a leap year! — after defeating Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Takeshi Morishima to become the Ring of Honor (ROH) world champion. For McGuinness — currently on tour in Japan — it’s been an exciting, but arduous, time in his professional career.

“My body feels every single moment of the last year,” he told SLAM! Wrestling. “It’s probably been the most physically demanding time of my life. And actually, wrestling Morishima all that time, the title chase was pretty demanding, too.

“But I feel that, in some circles at least, I’ve raised my profile in the business. And winning the title has made me really feel like I need to give every moment I have, to being the best I can once I get in the ring.”

So far, McGuinness’ tenure has seen him defend the title against numerous opponents, all bringing their own unique style to the championship table. On pay-per-view alone, McGuinness has faced, and defeated, Austin Aries, Tyler Black, Go Shiozaki, and Claudio Castagnoli, with a further defense against Roderick Strong due to air in November, on the Driven 2008 show.

“You know, that’s just how Ring of Honor works,” said McGuinness. “They give their fans a lot of different styles and match-ups, so hopefully they don’t get bored.

“I’m particularly proud of the match with Austin Aries in New York (at the Rising Above PPV). That’s the one that sticks out in my mind. As the champion of a company like Ring of Honor, there’s always a certain pressure on you to have a great match. Fans of Ring of Honor have such high expectations, but you can only do your best, so I don’t sweat it.”

With his reign now past the one year mark, speculation is reaching a peak as to whom will finally topple McGuinness from the top of the ROH totem pole. Laughing off the second-guessing with confidence, the champion doesn’t foresee his run being brought to a halt any time soon.

“The longer that I’ve been the champion, the more I’ve felt stronger and more confident. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be in the position that I am.

“Fans have been hoping I would lose the belt for ages now, so if now they actually expect it too, that’s all the better for me. All it does is make each successful title defense that bit more sweet.”