When We Were Marks When Youíre the Hammer, Everyone Else Looks Like a Nail Nigel McGuiness vs. Kevin Steen
August 29th, SummerSlam 1992 the great Canadian technical wrestler and champion, Bret Hart lost his Intercontinental Title to the British striker Davey Boy Smith, the British Bulldog, in front of more than 80, 000 ecstatic Brits at Wembley Stadium, in what many consider the Bulldogís best ever match. At the time, it could be argued that the IC title was one of the best titles in the world: a prestigious belt with a great history in a highly competitive division where good wrestlers had great matches for the gold.
In 2008, the heir to the IC title is the Ring of Honor title, fought for and defended all over the world. Its former champions include three men on the top of their respective promotions: C. M. Punk, the WWE World Heavyweight Champion; Samoa Joe, the TNA World Heavyweight Champion and Takeshi Morishima, the NOAH GHC Heavyweight Champion. Like the IC belt in 1992, it is a prestigious belt with a great history in a highly competitive division where good wrestlers have great matches for the gold.
And 16 years after SummerSlam 1992, the mirror reverse match of Bret/Bulldog is about to happen. The ROH World Champion, British striker Nigel McGuiness comes to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, July 25th, at Ted Reeve Arena for ROHís first show in Canada. His opponent will be the great Canadian technical wrestler, Kevin Steen. ROH wonít pack 80, 000 people into Ted Reeve Arena, but they have already sold more than a thousand tickets - an amazing amount for an independent wrestling promotion having their first show in a new city, not to mention a new country.
And the same way that the hometown hero won in 1992, the hometown hero will win in 2008. On July 25th, Kevin Steen will fulfill his promise to the fans to win ROH gold in 2008 and become the ROH World Champion. He will win because it is his time to win; he will win because he will win and he will win because he must win.
To non-Canadians, Kevin Steenís status as a Canadian hero might seem quixotic. Isnít Steenís ego and arrogance at odds with the traditional Canadian values of modesty and politeness? To the contrary, Steen comes from a long line of arrogant Canadian heroes - Pierre Trudeau, Guy Lafleur, Wolverine, James Cameron, to name a few. In the same way that arrogant Americans prefer their heroes to feign humility, modest Canadians prefer their heroes to strut and preen and express all the confidence that us common folks lack.
There is a cost to heroism in Canada. The price for believing that you are always the most talented man in the room is that you have to be the most talented man in the room all the time. The price of Kevin Steenís arrogance is that Steen must deliver victory to his Canadian fans and grab the ROH title that has so long eluded him.
The irony is that July 25th is the first time that ROH will have a show in Canada, but it is not the first time that the ROH title has been defended in Canada, nor the first time that Kevin Steen has fought for the ROH Title in Canada. Years before his first match in the ROH, in July 2004, Kevin Steen, then champion of Montrealís IWS promotion and Quebec Cityís EWR promotion, fought ROH Champion Samoa Joe to a twenty-minute draw. During a period where Samoa Joe did not lose a match for close to two years, Kevin Steen is one of a handful of men to fight Joe to a draw.
Six months later, in January of 2005, Steen lost an ROH title match to ROH Champion Austin Aries, a match he could have arguably won if earlier in the night he had not been forced to beat EXesS, El Generico and Samoa Joe just to get to Aries. Since 2005, Steen has fought for the ROH Title three more times, once against Morishima and twice against Nigel McGuiness coming closer to the gold each and every time.
Kevin Steen has made Nigel McGuiness tap in a tag match, but that alone does not fill me with confidence that Kevin Steen is poised for the biggest victory of his career. What inspires me with hope is that Nigel McGuiness is a striker, a great striker, but a striker where Kevin Steen is a wrestler.
Consider Nigelís run at his predecessor Takeshi Morishima. When Nigel fell short against Morishima, time and time and time again, his solution was a strikerís solution - hit harder, hit more. Nigelís solution was that of a bullís to a red brick wall - if at first you donít knock it down, run at the wall harder.
Yes, Nigel did eventually beat Morishima, but he did so the day after Kevin Steen came within inches of beating Morishima himself by side-stepping the wall, finding the wallís weaknesses and exposing them for all to see. Nigel McGuiness threw the lariat that took down Morishima, but Kevin Steen showed him where to throw it.
As Steen said recently during a Quebec barbecue in between bites of sweet corn and bouncing his son Owen on his knee, ďMorishima was like that jar of peanut butter that nobody can open no matter how hard they try, until one guy loosens the jar enough for somebody else to open it. Nigel may have pinned Shima, but only because I beat the shit out of him the night before. Shima is like a dinosaur, you can kick his ass but it takes him a while to notice that heís been beat.Ē
Nigelís solution to Morishima was to hit harder, hit more; Steenís solution to Nigel is to wrestle smarter. Every match that Nigel faces Kevin Steen, the bigger an advantage that Steen has, because Nigel can only hit so hard, but there is no limit to how much Steen can learn.
Like another famous striker, Nigel will learn in Toronto that strength can only carry you so far, charging like a bull at a brick wall ends with you dazed on the mat like Bill Goldberg concussed by the power of Bret Hartís brain.
The problem with Nigel McGuiness is that he is a hammer, and when youíre the Hammer, everyone else looks like a nail.