Ring of Honor: Claudio Castagnoli – The Swiss Sensation

claudioswisssensation

Disc One

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Nigel McGuinness
“Fate of an Angel” – Woodbridge, CT – 7.16.2005

This is Claudio’s debut in ROH. They trade arm holds to start. McGuinness uses the topes to assist with a back elbow. He puts on a cravat. Claudio uppercuts him away. He avoids McGuinness’ mule kick and uppercuts him in the neck. He tries a rolling uppercut. When that fails, he uses a regular one to send McGuinness to the floor. He follows with an elbow suicida. Back in the ring, McGuinness throws Claudio to the mat elbow first. He continues to work over Claudio’s arm. They end up trading pin attempts. McGuinness hits the rebound lariat for two. He puts on a Guillotine. Claudio breaks free with Swiss Death for two. McGuinness catches Claudio on the ropes. He hits the Tower of London for the pin at 8:10. That was a fun match to get Claudio introduced to the crowd. Having him work with someone like McGuinness was smart, as Claudio was able to “hang” with a rising star in his first match and compete in a similar style. **3/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Colt Cabana
“Joe vs. Kobashi” – New York, NY – 10.1.2005

Claudio is looking dapper in his white dress pants. He and Cabana trade hammerlocks. Cabana snaps off a pair of armdrags, holding onto the arm after the second one. He does that sequence again. Claudio swats away a dropkick. Monsta Mac is chastising Cabana from the crowd as Cabana hip tosses Claudio. He follows up with a monkey flip. More armdrags. Claudio avoids an Irish whip with an uppercut. A diving uppercut to the back of Cabana’s neck earns him a two count. Cabana small packages his way out of a delayed vertical suplex. Claudio gives him a reverse suplex anyhow. Cabana kicks Claudio to the floor. Grim Reefer is now watching in the rafters. Cabana missile dropkicks Claudio across the ring. He gets two with a quebrada press. Claudio gives him the Shake, Rattle and Roll for two. Cabana breaks the Alpamare Waterslide. He goes for the Colt 45 but gets distracted by more of Homicide’s people. Claudio hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 7:50. This could have been a whole lot better, but it was mostly a way for them to advance Cabana’s issue with Homicide and give Claudio a big win moreso than having them put on a catch wrestling clinic. Oh well. **1/4

We get clips from “Enter The Dragon” in mid-October when Claudio Castagnoli scored a singles victory over then Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness in a non-title match.

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Alex Shelley
“This Means War” – Woodbridge, CT – 10.29.2005

Nigel McGuiness is watching the match ringside. A wristlock exchange goes to the mat. Shelley tries using a headlock to wear Claudio down but Claudio frustrates him by escaping. Claudio mockingly does the Embassy pose – funny enough he would be in the Embassy four years later. Shelley works the arm. Shelley busts out some awesome armdrag variations. He tries for the Border City Stretch but Claudio grabs the ropes very quickly. Some great mat wrestling leads to a stalemate. Shelley puts Claudio in a pendulum hold. Claudio rolls out of it into a cradle for two. Shelley puts him in a leg lock. When he breaks that, Shelley spits in his face. Claudio throws some uppercuts in response. Shelley counters one of them with a backslide. Claudio puts on the Neutralizer. This is different from his current finish in WWE; it’s a Stretch Muffler variation. Shelley gets the ropes. He monkey flips Claudio to the floor and follows with a springboard into a tornado DDT. In the ring Shelley skullf*cks Claudio’s face into the mat. He gets two with a quebrada. Claudio breaks out of the Shellshock. He hits a diving European uppercut to the back of Shelley’s neck. He gives Shelley another uppercut from the floor. Shelley quesadora’s into a bulldog, then dropkicks Claudio in the side of the face. Claudio then hits the Match Killer for two. He follows up with a delayed vertical suplex. Shelley maneuvers his way into the Border City Stretch. McGuiness is yelling for Claudio to tap. He turns it back into the Neutralizer. He goes for the Ricola Bomb when the 20:00 time limit expires. This was terrific back and forth wrestling. I could watch these guys wrestle all day. ***1/2

Claudio attacks McGuinness after the match. Claudio earned a shot at the Pure Title by not losing to Shelley. I would assume his win at “Enter The Dragon” would have been enough, but sure. He would get that shot at “Final Battle 2005.” We’re shown clips from that show. Referee Paul Turner was knocked out of the ring, so Todd Sinclair took his place. He too gets knocked down McGuinness went to use his iron. Claudio blocked it and used the iron himself. Sinclair counted the pin and declared Claudio the winner. However, Paul Turner saw the iron shot and declared the match to be a victory for McGuinness due to a disqualification. Yay Dusty finishes.

ROH Pure Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Nigel McGuinness

“Best in the World” – New York, NY – 3.25.2006

McGuinness tries sucking up to Todd Sinclair, so Claudio gives him an uppercut. They go to the floor where McGuinness whips Claudio into the barricades. He recovers and puts on a modified parachute hold in the ring. McGuinness rolls his way free. Claudio gets two with an uppercut to the back of the neck. He rolls McGuinness into the Neutralizer. McGuinness drives Claudio’s arm into the canvas. He continues to focus his attack on Claudio’s arm. Claudio fights back with the Match Killer and an uppercut off the second rope. He follows McGuinness to the floor with a twisting body press. McGuinness gets Claudio in the tree of woe position. He misses a double stomp but nails a running lariat to his neck. He gets two with the Tower of London. He goes for it a second time. Claudio fights his way out and hits the Alpamare Waterslide. McGuinness kicks out. This leads to an uppercut battle. Claudio blocks the rebound lariat and delivers another Alpamare Waterslide for two. McGuinness gets that second Tower of London in. Claudio uses his first rope break to stop the count. More uppercuts are thrown by both parties. McGuinness hits the reboung lariat for the pin at 12:57. There series of matches ended on a high note with a very good encounter. It played off of their previous encounters and felt like an important bout for both guys. I’m glad we didn’t see any of McGuinness’ usual tricks like trying to win by count out or the iron here. It made for a better match. ***1/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Christopher Daniels
“The 100th Show” – Philadelphia, PA – 4.22.2006

They both pose and get some “HEY!” chants from the crowd. Some arm work kicks off the bout. Claudio hip tosses his way out of a side headlock. Each guy snaps off an armdrag. Daniels sends Claudio out with one. When he comes back, Claudio puts on the Neutralizer. Daniels gets the topes and retreats to the floor. Daniels goes for a leg hold and Claudio gets the ropes. He lifts Daniels for over 60 seconds in a vertical suplex. He throws a few uppercuts before Daniels dropkicks his knee out. Daniels works over Claudio’s leg after that. Claudio hits an uppercut from the second rope, but the landing aggravates his knee. He hits the Match Killer for two. Daniels responds with a Death Valley Driver. The BME gets him two. He misses a knee strike. Claudio puts the Neutralizer back on. Daniels make it to the ropes. He goes for the Alpamare Water Slide. Daniels counters with an SOS roll-up for the pin at 15:54. Just like the McGuinness match, the finish was a bit abrupt, but followed a really strong back-and-forth wrestling match. It was cool to see one of ROH’s fore fathers battle one of the newer stars in the opener of the 100th show. ***

Chris Hero comes out after the match. He walks through the crowd talking about how the fans are ungrateful and about how hard he has worked. It’s awesome to see him go from the ROH side of the building and how those fans treat him like dirt, then to the CZW side where the fans treat him like a God. Later during the night in the main event, Zandig was going to interfere in the six man main event. Claudio throws him to the floor. Claudio holds Hero for Joe to hit, but then Claudio gives Joe a European uppercut! He and Hero hug, reuniting the Kings of Wrestling and having Claudio officially join Team CZW. He would help CZW win the main event on ROH’s 100th Show by giving Pearce the KRS-ONE in the middle of the ring.

Anything Goes
Claudio Castagnoli, Super Dragon, Necro Butcher & Nate Webb vs. Colt Cabana, BJ Whitmer, Adam Pearce & Ace Steel

“Weekend of Champions Night 1” – Dayton, OH – 4.28.2006

At the start, it’s just Webb, Dragon, Steel, and Cabana. Claudio and Butcher shortly join to turn things in CZW’s favor. Whitmer runs in with a neck brace and cleans house with a steel chair. CZW takes control again since they still have a man advantage. Pearce finally runs out to even the odds. The entire CZW team gets thrown to the floor. The action goes all over the arena. Cabana and Steel get fans to help them use chairs on Dragon and Necro. Pearce piledrives Webb onto the entrance ramp. Dragon uses a steel chair on Whitmer. Claudio takes Whitmer on in the ring. He sends Whitmer back out and suicide dives after him. Butcher gives Steel a chair assisted slam. Cabana saves him and helps Steel suplexes Butcher onto the chair. Cabana delivers a chair assisted Flying Asshole to Claudio. He calls for Colt 45 but gets hit by Dragon with a chair. Whitmer gives him an exploder suplex for two. Dragon comes back and almost gives Whitmer a Psycho Driver through the timekeeper’s table. Cabana saves him. He tries an Asai moonsault onto Dragon through the table. Instead, Claudio uppercuts him and he goes through the table. He puts Whitmer’s head onto a steel chair. Steel crotches Dragon on the top rope to stop his double stomp attempt. Dragon and Whitmer fight ringside while Steel and Butcher fight in the crowd. Steel suplexes Butcher off of the bleachers and through two chairs. Claudio places Whitmer’s head on the chair again. This time Dragon is able to successfully hit the double stomp. Claudio mocks Samoa Joe by giving Whitmer the Muscle Buster for the pin at 19:37. These ROH/CZW hardcore matches are all crazy and awesome. We need a comp of the whole feud now. ***1/2

Hero and Claudio won the tag team titles from Austin Aries and Roderick Strong at “Glory By Honor V, Night 2.” We get clips of it here, though the full bout is included on Chris Hero’s ROH comp, “Ring of Hero.”

Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero vs. The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe)
“International Challenge” – Hartford, CT – 12.22.2006

Hero and Claudio lost the tag titles a month earlier to Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal. Hero wins the opening exchange with Jay with a dropkick. A little too much showboating from Hero allows Jay to come back with his own dropkick. Hero stomps on his head. Jay huracanrana’s Hero and tags in Mark. He comes in with a knee drop off the second rope. Hero gives him a suplex and tags in Claudio. Mark gives him a spinwheel kick. The Briscoes double hip toss him out of the corner. Jay gets two with a legdrop off the second rope to the back of his neck. Mark slingshots in for a double stomp. Behind the ref’s back, Hero snaps Mark’s neck across the top rope. Claudio gets two with the Match Killer. The Kings isolate Mark in their corner until he escapes Hero’s running Manhattan Drop and gives Hero a German suplex. He flapjacks Claudio and tags in Jay. He boots Claudio to the corner. He dropkicks Hero and sends him out with a fisherman’s buster. He backdrops Claudio out of the corner for two. The Briscoes dive after the Kings when they go to the floor. Hero headscissors Jay off the top rope. Hero suplexes him out of a cravat for two. Hero boots Jay off of Claudio’s shoulders. Mark breaks the cover. He tags in and springboard splashes onto Hero. He kicks Claudio in the back of the head. Jay clotheslines him to the floor. hero slides out of the Redneck Boogie. He throws strikes at both Briscoes. They respond with stereo shoulder tackles. Larry Sweeney makes his way ringside. He clocks Jay while the referee is dealing with Claudio and his briefcase. Hero rolls him up for the pin at 15:10. This was a good, solid tag team match between the two but cannot compare to their match from the next night (which we see clips of right after). Larry Sweeney being in ROH was so awesome. ***1/4

The two teams would meet again the next night at “Final Battle 2006.” There, Claudio took the fall, and Hero beat him down afterwards. The Kings of Wrestling were no more.

#1 Contendership for the ROH World Championship
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Nigel McGuinness vs. Chris Hero vs. Mike Quackenbush

“A Fight At The Roxbury” – Boston, MA – 6.8.2007

Hero does not want to start with McGuinness, so Quackenbush does. He applies a key lock which McGuinness rolls out of. He backs Quackenbush to the corner and cleanly lets him go. After a wristlock exchange McGuinness snapmares Quackenbush into a side headlock. Quackenbush flips through another snapmare. Hero ambushes him and tags in McGuinness. McGuinness strikes Hero from the apron. Quackenbush and Hero engage in a great Lucha sequence. When Quackenbush armdrags Hero to the corner he quickly tags in Claudio. Quackenbush monkey flips Claudio across the ring. He cartwheels off of the second rope into an armdrag. Claudio catches him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Hero tags in and throws Quackenbush bottom first into the apron. The former Kings of Wrestling form a union because they have a title match against the Briscoes tomorrow night. Quackenbush manages to stack Hero onto Claudio’s shoulders and sweeps out Hero’s legs. He tags in McGuinness who throws lariats at both Kings. McGuinness spins Hero into a short-arm lariat for two. Hero comes back with a double stomp. Hero gives him the Tracy Smothers sequence. McGuinness drives his shoulder into the mat divorce court style. Quackenbush flips through Hero’s courting hold and armdrags him to the corner. He gets two with the Black Tornado Slam. Hero blocks the palm strike and hits a rolling elbow. A German suplex and a flipping face buster get him two. Claudio blind tags in. He gives Quackenbush a Liger Bomb. McGuinness breaks the cover. Quackenbush breaks the Alpamare Waterslide. Quackenbush gives him a straight-jacket German suplex instead. Quackenbush cascades up Claudio for a huracanrana. Hero breaks the pin, so Quackenbush gives him a Frakensteiner. Hero boots Quackenbush off of Claudio’s shoulders. The Kings get in a fight over who will get the pin. While that’s happening, Quackenbush tags out to McGuinness. He mule kicks Hero but eats Claudio’s uppercut. Claudio gets crotched on the top rope. McGuinness hits the Tower of London. Hero breaks the cover. Claudio ducks a lariat. He gives McGuinness the Alapamare Waterslide. Quackenbush kicks Claudio in the head to stop the pin. He tags in and clotheslines Claudio in the corner. Claudio avoids the bulldog and hits an uppercut. Quackenbush catapults him to the floor. Claudio pops him up to the second turnbuckle, where Quackenbush lands and hits an Asai moonsault. Hero back flips to the floor for funsies. McGuinness comes to the floor and hits him with a lariat. Tank Toland and Bobby Dempsey stop McGuinness from hitting the Jawbreaker Lariat. Claudio sends Hero to the floor with Swiss Chin Music. Quackenbush gets two with a Torbellino. Claudio nails a hard uppercut for the pin at 18:43. Unquestionably one of the best four corner survivals ever. This met my expectations given the quality of competitors involved. Everyone fought hard for the title shot, the Kings of Wrestling mini-reunion worked really well, and Quackenbush was an awesome baby face against the juggernauts of ROH. So fun. ***3/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Matt Sydal
“Driven” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 6.23.2007

Claudio snaps off an armdrag which angers Sydal. Sydal responds with one of his own. Claudio gives him a hip toss. Sydal’s hip toss attempt fails, so he brings down Claudio in an armdrag. He grabs a double knuckle lock but can’t keep him down for a pin. They monkey flip each other until Sydal armdrags Claudio from his shoulders. Claudio tosses him onto his stomach for two. He slams Sydal into a legdrop for two. He carries Sydal around the ring before suplexing him for two. He also gets two with a Giant Swing. He picks Sydal up in a gutwrench suplex. Sydal sweeps out Claudio’s legs, sending him to the floor. He follows him out with a twisting body press. He attacks Claudio in the corner back in the ring. Claudio is able to block an attack, but Sydal hits a spinwheel kick when Claudio comes out of the corner. Claudio catches Sydal coming off the ropes with the Match Killer for two. He spins him into the Alpamare Waterslide. Sydal blocks Swiss Chin Music with a dragonscrew leg whip. He huracanrana’s Claudio, leading to some back and forth pin trading. Sydal ends that with a standing moonsault. He drives Claudio into the mat with a cradle DDT. Claudio enzuigiri’s Sydal off the top rope. Swiss Chin Music gets him two. Sydal spins around mid-air to headscissor Claudio, blocking Swiss Chin Music. Sydal pops off his shoulders into another huracanrana for two. Sydal goes for another huracanrana. Claudio rolls through to get the win at 8:20. That was unbelievable. It stinks that Sydal got signed to WWE so soon after, because them doing a series of matches would have made me very happy. Claudio was a perfect base for Sydal, allowing them to have an incredibly fun, unique, and engaging match. Hey, they’re both in WWE now aren’t they? Hmm… ***1/2

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Hallowicked

“Race to the Top Tournament Night 1” – Deer Park, NY – 7.27.2007

Both guys go for an early pin and don’t get it. Hallowicked works his away from having his ankle picked to applying a side headlock. He and Claudio criss-cross the ropes. Hallowicked ends up tripping Claudio. He leaps over Claudio as he rolls towards him. He armdrags Claudio to the corner and kicks him from the apron. Hallowicked gets two with a slingshot school boy. Claudio armdrags him to the corner. Hallowicked lands on his feet to block a monkey flip. He cascades up Claudio and delivers an armdrag. Claudio hits a diving uppercut from the second rope. He tries a leapfrog but Hallowicked catches him with a roll-up instead. Claudio forearms him right after kicking out. The Giant Swing is good for two. Hallowicked hops over Claudio out of the corner. He brings Claudio down with a Super Snapmare. He big boots him for two. Claudio reverses a whip with the Match Killer. Hallowicked kicks out of that, and the Alpamare Water Slide right after. Claudio spins him into a gut buster. Hallowicked ducks Swiss Chin Music and hits the Rydeen Bomb for two. Multiple pin attempts are a bust. Claudio picks him up off the mat and hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 7:02. Of course these two worked together really well. I’m impressed with how much Hallowicked got to do, because there was nobody who figured he was going over here. **1/2

Race to the Top Tournament Quarter-Final Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Mike Quackenbush

“Race to the Top Tournament Night 2” – Edison, NJ – 7.28.2007

We start off with a wristlock exchange. Claudio key locks his legs. Quackenbush hops up and armdrags Claudio across the ring. After engaging the crowd in some “HEY!” chants, he goes back to Quackenbush’s leg. He gets kicked in the face. Claudio armdrags him to the corner. Quackenbush gets in his own armdrag which Claudio turns into a headlock on the mat. Quackenbush sneaks out and goes back to the wrist. He gets whipped to the corners and ducks Claudio’s dropkicks. He snaps off a pair of armdrags before schoolboy tripping Claudio. Quackenbush quebrada’s into an armdrag that sends Claudio to the apron. He monkey flips Claudio from the apron and to the floor. He then follows with a corkscrew splash off the top rope. Back in the ring Quackenbush gets two after a senton. Claudio avoids a leapfrog out of the corner and uppercuts Quackenbush in the neck. He gets two with a reverse suplex and a legdrop. He delivers an elbow drop from the second rope. Both a gutwrench suplex and the Match Killer get two counts. Quackenbush palm strikes Claudio on the top rope. He brings him down with a super Frankensteiner. He comes off the top rope with knees to the chest. The Black Tornado Slam gets two. Claudio uppercuts Quackenbush to block his palm strike attempts. Swiss Chin Music gets him two, so he then hits a straight-jacket German suplex for another two count. Quackenbush palm strikes Claudio to block the Ricola Bomb. He gets thrown off the top rope but rolls though. He headbutts Claudio from the apron. He jumps off the top into a quesdora rolling prawn hold. Claudio kicks out. After a sequence, Quackenbush uses a neck-tie headscissors to roll up Claudio. Claudio headscissors him off the top rope. A running uppercut puts him down for the pin at 12:26. I cannot tell you how much I love that Quackenbush lost to Claudio’s running uppercut both here and in their “Fight at the Roxbury” encounter. The small stuff that carries over is the best, and Claudio knew that it worked before so he did it again. Of course, the wrestling was great as it usually is between these two. ***1/2

Race to the Top Tournament Opening Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Jack Evans

“Race to the Top Tournament Night 2” – Edison, NJ – 7.28.2007

Claudio gets a bigger reaction to lifting his arm than Evans does by breakdancing. Less is more, folks. Claudio makes it a point to keep Evans grounded in their early exchange. He holds onto Evans’ arms. He drives his body weight onto Evans’ chest while holding a double knuckle lock. Evans finds the strength to monkey flip Claudio. He backflip kicks Claudio in the head. He tries some sort of cartwheel offense. Claudio drops the top rope to send him to the floor. He then drops Evans face first onto the ring apron. He gets two with the Giant Swing. Same goes for a gutwrench suplex. Evans sends Claudio out with a rolling kick to the crown of his head. He completely misses a dropkick to the floor. He doe however nail a tiger feint kick and a twisting senton off the apron. Also a 450 splash. Claudio blocks a Busaiku Knee back in the ring and nails an uppercut. He boots Evans in the corner. Evans comes back with a Frankensteiner. He nails the Busaiku Knee the second time around and gets two with a standing corkscrew press. He double stomps Claudio in a tree of woe. Evans misses a tornado kick. Claudio gives him the Ricola Bomb for the win at 9:08. Fun, but not nearly as good as I was hoping for. Maybe there’s a reason I totally forgot this match ever happened at all. I liked it, but it was nothing special. **1/2

Disc Two

Race to the Top Tournament Final Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. El Generico

“Race to the Top Tournament Night 2” – Edison, NJ – 7.28.2007

If you’re curious, Generico defeated Delirious, Chris Hero, and Davey Richards to get to this point. It’s HEY! vs. ¡Olé! chants in the beginning. Both guys reach a stalemate after ducking an uppercut and yakuza kick respectively. Both guys sneak in an armdrag. Claudio blocks a brainbuster. Generico blocks a Ricola Bomb and takes Claudio to the mat. Claudio gives him an uppercut. He gets two with a fisherman’s suplex and with a Gedo clutch. He stretches Generico’s back across his knee. Generico escapes and nails a leg lariat. Claudio gives him the Giant Swing. He enzuigiri’s Generico on the top rope. Generico shoves Claudio off the top rope and comes off with a crossbody. Claudio kicks out and hits the Match Killer for two. He gives Generico a straight-jacket suplex and turns it into a straight-jacket choke. He turns that into another Gedo clutch for two. Generico hip tosses Claudio to the floor. He Asai moonsaults after him. He then dives through the second and third turnbuckles and delivers a tornado DDT! Another crossbody back in the ring gets him two. Claudio gives him the Swiss Chin Music. Generico blocks the Ricola Bomb mid-air into a Yoshi Tonic! Claudio kicks out. Generico goes for a tornado DDT. Claudio blocks it with Swiss Death for two. He follows up with the Alpamare Waterslide for two. He heads up top but gets crotched and put in a tree of woe. Generico then hits a hilo coast-to-coast dropkick. A brainbuster follows, yet Claudio manages to kick out! Generico yakuza kicks Claudio in the corner. He sets up for the top rope brainbuster. Claudio blocks it and delivers a super Alpamare Waterslide! Generico kicks out! Claudio goes for the Ricola Bomb. Generico counters with a huracanrana for two. Claudio rolls through a sunset flip. He picks up Generico into the Ricola Bomb for two. Claudio throws some uppercuts. Generico blocks one with a backslide for two. A running uppercut fires Generico up instead of doing damage. He delivers three boots to the face. Claudio ducks the yakuza kick in the corner. He comes off the top with a European uppercut. He puts Generico away with a Last Ride variant of the Ricola Bomb for the win and the tournament at 18:47. This was the best singles match either guy had in ROH up to this point without question. It solidified both guys from being “single stars on the rise” to main eventers. The action was exceptional, most every nearfall was believable, and the crowd was going bananas. Terrific action and a tremendous way to end the tournament. ****

ROH World Championship
Takeshi Morishima (Champion) vs. Claudio Castagnoli

“Death Before Dishonor V, Night 1” – Boston, MA – 8.10.2007

Claudio’s shoulder block fails, so he delivers a hip toss. Morishima responds with a successful shoulder block. Morishima breaks out of a waistlock. Claudio fights for a vertical suplex but it gets reversed. Morishima cartwheel splashes him in the corner. Claudio comes back with some forearms and Swiss Chin Music. He looks to powerbomb Morishima off the apron. Morishima tries to sit down on him but Claudio moves. He uppercuts Morishima right between the shoulder blades and delivers an elbow drop from the ring apron. Back in the ring he Giant Swings Morishima momentarily for a two count. When the Ricola Bomb fails he hits the ropes. Morishima catches him with a side slam. He stands on Claudio’s chest and gets two with a clothesline. Outside the ring he drives Claudio into the barricades with his posterior. He drives all of his body weight onto Claudio back in the ring. Claudio fires back with a series of uppercuts. He dropkicks Morishima to the floor and suicide dives right after him. The impact breaks two of the barricades. He comes off the top rope with an elbow drop for two. He tries a jackknife pin when the Ricola Bomb is a bust. Morishima kicks out. He hits the Alpamare Water Slide! Morishima kicks out of that too. Morishima pummels Claudio down in the corner. He missile dropkicks Claudio for two. Morishima sits down on a Ricola Bomb in mid-air. He goes for a Backdrop Driver. Claudio grabs the ropes. Morishima snapmares him and goes up top. Claudio meets him with an enzuigiri. He superplexes Morishima to the apron. He comes off the top rope with a diving uppercut. He pulls off the Ricola Bomb! He’s in disbelief when Morishima kicks out of it. Claudio throws some more uppercuts. Morishima stops his momentum with a clothesline and big boot. Claudio gives him a release German suplex and an uppercut for two. Claudio then kicks out of a lariat. The Backdrop Driver gives him the win at 15:30. My God was the crowd going hog wild for Claudio. This would have been an awesome title switch if it occurred, but as it was it was still really excellent. Claudio was able to match Morishima in power and absolutely destroy him in agility, making him a credible contender that the fans were dying to see win. One of my favorite Morishima title defenses. ****

ROH World Championship – Elimination Match
Takeshi Morishima (Champion) vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Brent Albright

“Caged Rage” – Hartford, CT – 8.24.2007

Albright and Claudio wisely attack Morishima together. Morishima busts through their double clothesline attempt and knocks them both down. He cartwheel splashes them in the corner. He tries a double suplex, but Claudio and Albright reverse it. They dropkick Morishima to the floor. Claudio and Albright then duke it out. Claudio ducks a back elbow and suicide dives onto Morishima. Albright sentons onto the both of them. He keeps control back in the ring. He slams Morishima onto Claudio. Morishima gives Albright a hip attack. He clotheslines Claudio in the corner. Claudio comes off the second rope with a diving uppercut. Morishima backdrops Claudio to avoid the Ricola Bomb and bowls him over with his body. Claudio gets the ropes to block the Back Drop Driver. Albright tries a sunset flip on Morishima. Claudio uppercuts Morishima causing him to sit down on Albright’s chest. Claudio Giant Swings Morishima for two. A serise of moves knocks all three men down. Albright throws a lot of suplexes. He sets up Morishima for a superplex. Morishima shoves Albright off and missile dropkicks Claudio for two. He ducks being sit on and delivers an uppercut to Morishima’s neck. He follows that with the Alpamare Waterslide for two. Albright sneaks from behind and half-nelson suplexes Claudio. He then gives Morishima a Samoan Drop for two. Same goes for a powerslam. Claudio uppercuts Morishima into Albright’s half-nelson suplex. Morishima rolls to the floor to avoid being pinned. Claudio Giant Swings Albright. Albright catches Claudio coming off of the top rope into an armbar. Claudio rolls it into the cradle for the pin at 11:15. Albright is now eliminated. He punts Claudio in the back before leaving. Claudio throws some uppercuts at Morishima before hitting the Ricola Bomb. Morishima kicks out. He blocks a German suplex attempt and stomps on Claudio’s chest. Claudio blocks the Backdrop Driver. He gets two with a Saito suplex. Morishima stomps on his chest again. A second rope stomp gets him two. The Back Drop Driver puts Claudio away at 15:21. That was a lot better than I remembered. It was chaotic, but really fun and didn’t rely too heavily on one guy bowing out while the two others did work. Everybody ended up looking strong by the end of it. ***3/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Naomichi Marufuji
“Glory By Honor VI, Night 2” – New York, NY – 11.3.2007

Marufuji gets the crowd to chant HEY for him. They trade holds. Claudio applies a headlock and brings Marufuji to the mat. Marufuji reverses the side headlock. They do a Lucha exchange ending in a stand-off. Marufuji catapults himself to the top rope. Claudio shoves him to the apron. Marufuji dragonscrews his leg in the ropes. Marufuji continues to work over Claudio’s leg. Claudio throws Marufuji down to avoid a headscissors. He gets two with a gutwrench suplex. He also gets two with a fisherman’s suplex. Marufuji gives him the Code Breaker. Claudio catches him with a backbreaker right after. Marufuji stops his momentum with a series of clotheslines. Claudio avoids being dropkicked in the knee and gets two with a bridging German suplex. Same goes for Swiss Chin Music. Marufuji dropkicks Claudio as he goes to the top rope. He brings Claudio down with a superplex. Claudio blocks the Shiranui and dumps Marufuji to the floor. When he comes back in Marufuji blocks an uppercut. He calls for a powerbomb. Claudio sweeps the legs and Giant Swings him instead. He nails a running uppercut after that for two. Marufuji comes back with a superkick and the Shiranui. Claudio gets his foot on the bottom rope. He blocks a second Shiranui. He leans back on an O’Conner roll for the win at 18:22. I was surprised how quickly the match went by. This didn’t pick up my interest for a bit, but it was a big win for Claudio and got very good by the end. ***1/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Austin Aries
“Transform” – Edison, NJ – 1.11.2008

Two lock-ups are cleanly broken in the corner. Aries shoves Claudio twice, perhaps from frustration from losing to Erick Stevens the prior evening. Claudio avoids some of his offense. They lock knuckles. Claudio puts on a headscissors. Aries pops out but Claudio avoids the dropkick. Aries nails a dropkick and beats down Claudio in the corner. He drives his knee into Claudio’s neck. Claudio catches Aries’ leapfrog and gives him a backbreaker. He misses an elbow drop off the second rope. Aries does more damage to the neck. Claudio stops his momentum with the Match Killer. He winds up and hits an uppercut for two. He slingshots Aries into the corner and follows in with another uppercut. Aries blocks a second one and shoves Claudio to the floor. Aries follows with the Heat-Seeking Missile. Back in the ring, Aries hits the IED and puts on the Last Chancery. Claudio makes it to the ropes. He blocks a brainbuster with a Giant Swing. Aries gets the brainbuster after a crucifix bomb. Claudio cuts off Aries’ 450 splash. He tries for the Ricola Bomb but it gets countered back into the Last Chancery. Claudio rolls through it. He delivers a Ricola Bomb successfully for two. A second Ricola Bomb gets him the win at 14:40. This was successful in showing how vicious Aries could be and also demonstrated a potential heel turn with his refusal to shake hands after the bout. Claudio beating Aries of course serves him very well too. ***1/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. El Generico
“Return Engagement” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 1.26.2008

This of course is a rematch from the “Race to the Top Tournament” finals. Claudio gives Generico an armdrag. Generico rolls back to reverse the momentum of a test of strength. Claudio backs Generico to the corner to break a side headlock. Generico gets it back on. Claudio picks at his legs before putting on his own side headlock. After blocking each others’ kicks Claudio aggressively takes Generico to the corner. Generico avoids his attack and throws some chops. He gets two with a split-legged moonsault. Claudio pulls Generico off the ropes, driving his knee into the mat. Claudio goes to work on Generico’s leg after that. He enzuigri’s Generico off of the top rope for two. Generico leg lariats Claudio. Right after though Claudio kicks his leg out. Claudio gets two with Swiss Chin Music. Generico comes off the top rope with a Frankensteiner. He then hip tosses Claudio to the floor. His knee is too hurt for a dive, so he climbs to the top rope and sentons onto Claudio. Generico crossbody’s onto him for two. Claudio tries for a Giant Swing. Generico fights out of it. He misses an enzuigiri. Claudio lifts him into a German suplex. He puts on a Stretch Muffler. Generico makes it to the ropes. Claudio goes for the Ricola Bomb. Generico counters into a Yoshi Tonic for two. Generico blocks an uppercut into a backslide. He runs the ropes and nails a swinging DDT. Claudio Giant Swings him by one leg and then reapplies the Stretch Muffler. Generico escapes. He tries for a top rope brainbuster. Claudio blocks it. He tries for a super Ricola Bomb. Generico tries for a super Frankensteiner. Claudio looks for a Ricola Bomb to counter. Generico turns it into the Frankensteiner mid-air. The yakuza kick that follows gets him two. Claudio turns Generico’s brainbuster into the Stretch Muffler. The 20:00 time limit expires resulting a draw. That was really good scientific work from Claudio, but it sadly did not match up to their first encounter. It was super close to reaching it by the end but the time limit draw prevented that from happening. I would still call this a worthy successor. ***1/2

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Kota Ibushi
“Injustice” – Edison, NJ – 4.12.2008

Ibushi grounds Claudio in a headscissors. Claudio reverses into an ankle pick. Ibushi kicks Claudio in the shoulder to escape. They shove each other. Claudio nails an uppercut. He takes Ibushi down in a front facelock. Ibushi reverses that and then kicks Claudio down in the corner. Claudio turns Ibushi’s leapfrog into a backbreaker for two. He digs his knee into Ibushi’s back and uppercuts him for two. He does a lot of damage to Ibushi’s neck and back but can’t get the pin. Ibushi comes back with a cartwheel double head kick. Claudio ducks a chest kick, but takes a standing moonsault for two. Claudio gives him the Match Killer for two. He also gets two with a running uppercut. Ibushi kicks Claudio to the floor and follows with a Bermuda Triangle. Ibushi takes him down with chest kicks. He hits a Phoenix Splash off the barricades! Claudio kicks out back in the ring. He uppercuts Ibushi into the Giant Swing. He follows that with the Alpamare Waterslide for two. Claudio tries for another one from the second rope. Ibushi kicks Claudio down. The double jump moonsault gets him two. Claudio comes back with Swiss Chin Music. Ibushi kicks him in the head and German suplexes him. Ibushi flips out of the Ricola Bomb. Swiss Chin Music and a Ricola Bomb put him down at 14:59. Like the Sydal match, this was Claudio meshing insanely well with a smaller high-flier. The crowd was really into a lot of what they did, but it never felt like it was all that important and they didn’t go into overdrive like Ibushi did in his other matches during his mini-tour. ***1/4

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Bryan Danielson
“Vendetta II” – Chicago Ridge, IL – 6.28.2008

This is a first time these two met in a singles match in ROH. After some mat wrestling, Danielson monkey flips Claudio across the ring. An aggressive lock-up gets broken up by the referee in the corner. They reach a stalemate back on the mat. They each indulge the crowd with some HEY chants. Danielson slides off Claudio’s shoulders when he tries to do an airplane spin. He goes for the Giant Swing which Claudio does not appreciate. They do a call back to their PWG match from 2006 with Claudio holding onto a headlock for a few minutes. (By the way, go out of your way to the find that match if you have never seen it.) Danielson successfully pulls off the airplane spin and Claudio does the same with the Giant Swing. Both guys are too dizzy to kip up. When they do get to their feet, they give those same moves to referee Todd Sinclair. That turns into a serious uppercut exchange. Danielson sole butts Claudio in the chin. He puts on the Romero Special and transitions into a Dragon sleeper. He then applies a Stretch Plum which he sits down on. Claudio delivers an elbow drop from the second rope. He gets two with the Match Killer. Danielson sends Claudio to the floor and suicide dives after him. Claudio enzuigiri’s Danielson when he goes to the top rope. Danielson shoves him away and nails a missile dropkick. A running chest kick gets him two. Danielson puts on Cattle Mutilation. Claudio escapes and delivers an uppercut. Danielson slides out of the Alpamare Waterslider and drives his elbow into Claudio’s head. Claudio knees Danielson in the face and hits the Alpamare Waterslide for two. Danielson backs him to the corner to block the Ricola Bomb. Danielson dropkicks Claudio to block a diving uppercut and German suplexes him for two. He then puts on a triangle choke. Claudio gets his foot on the ropes. An uppercut exchange ends with a wind-up variant from Claudio. Danielson blocks the Ricola Bomb with a small package. Claudio kicks out. Danielson blocks Swiss Chin Music and nails a rolling forearm. Claudio gives him Swiss Death for the pin at 24:02. That was a fun first time encounter. I like how they evolved it from being a little goofy into a serious competition. It was the first in what would develop into a feud, so I’m fine with them not going all out in their initial encounter. ***1/2

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Bryan Danielson
“Northern Navigation” – Toronto, ONT – 7.25.2008

Neither guy is able to get control in the initial lock-up segments. They monkey flip each other while holding onto a knuckle lock. Claudio rolls to avoid getting put into an ankle lock. They vie for a hip toss. They end up reaching the ropes with neither man getting it. Claudio mocks Danielson’s “I have til five” catchphrase. They don’t mind Danielson doing the HEY pose though. Jerk stores. Claudio takes Danielson down in a side headlock. Danielson finally gets a hip toss and applies an armbar. Claudio lifts Danielson up, but Danielson flips forward to bring him back down. Claudio breaks it and begins to target Danielson’s neck and back. He even attempts Danielson’s own Romero Special. Danielson crawls to the ropes before it can be applied. He absorbs Claudio’s uppercut and dropkicks him to the corner. He puts on the Romero Special himself. He sends Claudio to the floor with a running elbow strike and follows with a suicide dive that sends Claudio into the front row. Back in the ring Claudio side steps a missile dropkick and gives Danielson the Giant Swing. He goes for the Ricola Bomb. Danielson rolls him back into a cross armbreaker. He drives his elbow into Claudio’s head. He tries the Cattle Mutilation but Claudio backs him to the corner. Danielson flips out of a German suplex. Claudio hits Swiss Chin Music for two. Danielson fights out of the Ricola Bomb and into a sunset flip. Claudio reverses that for two. Danielson blocks Swiss Death and backslides Claudio for the pin at 17:34. I loved the finish, since it saw Danielson counter the move that put him down in their previous bout. That, plus a hotter crowd and a much more compact bout made it slightly better than the “Vendetta II” match. ***3/4

ROH World Championship
Nigel McGuinness (Champion) vs. Claudio Castagnoli

“New Horizons” – Detroit, MI – 7.26.2008

Right away Claudio hits Swiss Chin Music for two. McGuinness counters the Ricola Bomb with a lariat. Claudio hits one of his own and then delivers the Ricola Bomb for two. McGuinness rolls to the floor. Claudio throws some uppercuts around ringside. In the ring, McGuinness snaps the top rope into Claudio’s eyes. Claudio knocks him to the floor. McGuinness cuts off his dive. Claudio blocks the Tower of London. He throws McGuinness head first into the barricade while holding onto a cravate. McGuinness crotches Claudio on the barricade. Claudio forearms McGuinness to block a lariat. McGuinness does however hit the Tower of London onto the floor. They trade uppercuts back in the ring. McGuinness delivers a lariat to end the exchange. He applies a headscissors. Claudio leans back and gets a two count. McGuinness skullf*cks Claudio and kicks him in the back. He stretches his back out across his knees while putting on a chinbreaker. McGuinness releases it and pins Claudio for two. Claudio winds up with some uppercuts. He gives McGuinness the Match Killer for two. He suicide dives onto McGuinness when McGuinness rolls to the floor. McGuinness and Claudio fight it out on the top rope. Claudio forearms McGuinness to the mat. He misses a high crossbody. McGuinness Divorce Courts his shoulder for two. McGuinness kicks him in the back and lariats him to the mat. McGuinness gives him the Tower of London for two. Claudio catches him with an uppercut in the corner. He hits Swiss Chin Music for two. McGuinness trips Claudio to block the Ricola Bomb. Claudio counters the Jawbreaker Lariat with a Big Swing. He releases and pins McGuinness for two. Claudio jumps to the top rope. McGuinness crotches him and sets up for a lariat. Claudio enzuigiri’s him to counter. He gets two with a superplex. He deadlifts McGuinness into a German suplex also for two. Same thing goes for the Alpamare Water Slide. Claudio nails a Springboard European uppercut. McGuinness uses the momentum for a Jawbreaker lariat, but Claudio counters it with Swiss Death. When McGuinness kicks out he goes for the Ricola Bomb. McGuinness slips out. Claudio backslides McGuinness to counter the Jawbreaker Lariat. McGuinness kicks out. McGuinness rolls through an O’Conner Roll. He finally hits the Jawbreaker Lariat for the pin at 19:21. This had a lot of really exciting moments mixed in with their general great wrestling. This was a far step above all of their 2005 encounters, as well as their title match from “A New Level.” ****

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