It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, it’s Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa time again, everyone. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors give their fellow contributors, the greatest gift of all: wrestling matches!

VOW Secret Santa Archives:

Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness
August 12, 2006

Reviewed by Andy LaBarre (@trillyrobinson)

Gifted by Kelly Harrass (@comicgeekelly)

Over the last year, I’ve had a falling out with wrestling. I came back to it after a decade off in 2014, back when WWE was still quite good and half the AEW roster was there. I met my now best friend, and former podcast co-host, Brennan over a shared love of wrestling here in Portland, Oregon – him introducing me to decades of old Japanese stuff and me introducing him to weird promotions around the country. I’ve fallen out since then, everyone gets burnout when you try to keep up with a billion matches a year, but this year, watching the least I have since I watched none, whether old or new, a lot of great stuff doesn’t strike a chord.

I took to watching AEW for about 6 weeks when Punk returned and Danielson came in. I enjoyed it for the most part, and I especially enjoy the run that Danielson is on currently (and have more or less kept up with it). I think what that company is doing is special, even if I roll my eyes at a lot of the fandom. I give my fellow VOW contributors grief about the HOOK obsession, coming across like a grumpy old man, but his debut was killer. That all said, those 5 or 6 weeks, and the few times I’ve jumped in, I enjoy myself more or less, but not enough to make it a regular thing.

Like many, I haven’t watched New Japan basically all year, I’ve watched very little NOAH and DDT. I started the year watching almost everything that came out on IWTV, then I focused on like 5 promotions, now I parachute in for a particularly hot match or news that Justin Kyle almost murdered somebody.

This sounds depressing, but it isn’t. My life is actually in the best place it’s ever been. I got married 16 months ago, I have a stable job that is easy and not very stressful, we bought a house, and have filled it with cool shit. My wife is pregnant, something we have wanted for years. The world sucks, truly, but I’ve managed to do ok, at least superficially, and with new responsibilities, renewed interests, and desires to be outside – wrestling has just not been very appealing.

As long-winded as that has been (and I typically despise “personal” wrestling stories), I wanted to participate in Secret Santa again this year, my 5th year (I think?) in a row, because I truly do cherish and adore my comrades here, despite how often I tease Sean Sedor about his food choices. And I blessed to see that the match I was gifted was one that did seem really smartly picked for me, and one that I’d heard about for years. The vaunted hardway/headbutt match between Danielson and McGuinness.

I have almost no knowledge and experience with ROH. I’ve watched half of the first year, and then popped in here and there since 2015, but it’s my biggest blindspot in all of wrestling. Many of the VOW crew knows this, so thank you for sending this to me.

The match was brutal, as most know. The crowd was hot, remember hot crowds? I’m glad I watched it, but all of that long-windedness up top is to say – I didn’t really care that much about this. I don’t think that’s sacrilegious, because while it is an expertly worked match, especially for the style, and highly praised and close to 5 stars for many, I’ve seen others who share that sentiment – and that’s ok! I enjoyed the slapping, I always enjoy the slapping, I enjoyed the submissions, I almost always enjoy the submissions, but most of Nigel’s offense really threw me off, looked clunky as hell, and when he connected, it looked cool, but the match was ALWAYS better when Danielson was on top.

The hardway blood is gnarly. If you haven’t seen it – Danielson pulls McGuinness headfirst into the corner post four times in a row and busts him open, it’s legit, it’s gross, but it doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense for it to be as cooperative as it was. Just move your head, dude.

Look, I don’t hate this match. I don’t even dislike this match. But on the linked video, there is a match Danielson has with James Gibson I liked better. And a match with an aged Lance Storm that I also liked better. And I didn’t ADORE any of them.

Of course, I’m saying all of this in my head, the same way you do when your aunt gets you a Roman Reigns toothbrush because she heard you like wrestling. It’s appreciated, it’s thoughtful, I like to think it was especially picked for me, I’m just… not sold. Oh well, maybe down the road it’ll connect when I do a big ol’ ROH watch. Or maybe I’ll never watch it again. Anyway, I have more Hallmark movies to watch, because that’s who I’ve become.

Thank you Secret Santa, sincerely, you did well, you understood the assignment.