A Decade of Honor – Ring of Honor 2006 (Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, Homicide)

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In 2006 Ring of Honor, Hell Froze Over right out of the gate. Chris Hero, who spoke out against ROH for years and supported his home promotion CZW, challenged ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson for the title on the very first show of the year. Hero didn’t come alone, bringing fellow CZW competitors Necro Butcher, Spyder Nate Webb, referee Bryce Remsburg, Super Dragon, and others throughout the year. Claudio Castagnoli initially sided with ROH but turned on them at “The 100th Show,” giving CZW an all-important win.

ROH’s key soldiers during this battle were Samoa Joe, BJ Whitmer, Adam Pearce, and Ace Steel, and were led by Jim Cornette, who has long hated “garbage wrestling” and despised CZW. Throughout the battle Cornette and ROH tried to recruit Homicide to their side, as his victories over Hero, Claudio, and Necro labeled him a “CZW Killer.” The war culminated in a brutal Steel Cage Warfare at “Death Before Dishonor IV,” in which Joe, Whitmer, Pearce, Steel, and Bryan Danielson were set to take on Hero, Webb, Claudio, Necro, and Eddie Kingston. Midway through the match Danielson turned on Samoa Joe and left his team high and dry. Homicide came out to make the save and ROH went on to victory.

After the match Cornette promised to grant Homicide’s three wishes, but when he asked for Low Ki to be reinstated Cornette reneged on the agreement and along with Adam Pearce and JJ Dillon beat Homicide down (what happened to Team ROH?). This kicked off a months-long storyline of Homicide chasing the Bryan Danielson and the ROH World Title and Cornette throwing roadblocks (mostly the Briscoes) in his way. Eventually, Homicide caught up with Danielson and defeated him for the title at “Final Battle 2006.”

Danielson had a banner year as champion, defending his title regularly and routinely having the best match on the card. He defended the belt against Hero, AJ Styles, Xavier, Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Roderick Strong, Lance Storm, Colt Cabana, Delirious, Jimmy Yang, Nigel McGuinness, Homicide, Christopher Daniels, BJ Whitmer, Jimmy Jacobs, Sonjay Dutt, Samoa Joe, SUWA, KENTA, Kamala (that’s right, Kamala), and Austin Aries before dropping the belt. In April and June he made five title defenses and in August he made six, three of which were 60-minute draws (with Joe, Cabana, and Nigel). He severely injured his shoulder early in the match with Cabana, then defended the belt in a Match of the Year Candidate against KENTA, and held the belt an additional three months after that. Joe’s run with the belt was first, but for pure match quality Danielson’s reign is hard to beat.

A big part of Danielson’s reign was his months-long feud with Nigel McGuinness, who held the Pure Championship at the start of the year. Nigel defended the belt against Tony Mamaluke, Austin Aries, Claudio Castagnoli, Christopher Daniels, Jay Lethal, Conrad Kennedy III, Homicide, Roderick Strong, Colt Cabana, and Delirious, making for a highly successful reign. He also made it out of a Title versus Title match with Danielson in April, winning via countout. This all built to a title unification match at “Unified” in Nigel’s home country of England in August. After an absolutely brutal contest, Danielson defeated Nigel to become a dual champion. Two weeks later in St. Paul, Danielson officially retired the title after wrestling Nigel to a 60-minute draw in a two out of three falls match.

The tag team division finally hit a stride with former ROH World Champion Austin Aries and perennial contender Roderick Strong atop the rankings. They made successful defenses against Bryan Danielson & Jay Lethal, BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs, AJ Styles & Matt Sydal, CIMA & Naruki Doi, Homicide & Ricky Reyes, Samoa Joe & Matt Sydal, Jimmy Rave & Alex Shelley, The Briscoes, Fast & Furious, Nigel McGuinness & Colt Cabana, Samoa Joe & BJ Whitmer, and Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal, in addition to surviving two Ultimate Endurance matches on back to back nights in August. Their biggest contribution was turning the ROH Tag Team Titles into World Tag Team Titles with a pair of defenses in Japan in July against Masato Yoshino & Naruki Doi (Speed Muscle) and Ryo Saito & Genki Horiguchi (Maraha Isappa). They dropped the titles to the Kings of Wrestling in September, who then went on to lose them to Christopher Daniels & Matt Sydal at the end of November. The entire division also benefited from the return of Jay and Mark, the Briscoes Brothers, who came back with a dominating victory over Tony Mamaluke & Sal Rinauro and Jason Blade & Kid Mikaze. Overall it was a great year for the tag team division. Daniels & Sydal finished the year strong with a title defense against Dragon Gate stars CIMA and Shingo Takagi.

Guest appearances continued for ROH, as Konnan made a return to back up Homicide in his feud with Steve Corino, Christian Cage had two matches in the late spring and summer, KENTA had an extended run, Naomichi Marufuji returned, plus legends like JJ Dillon and Bruno Sammartino showed up. The stars of Dragon Gate appeared throughout the year, mostly during WrestleMania weekend, and Shingo Takagi joined the roster full-time in October.

In other news, Steve Corino returned to end his feud with Homicide; Generation Next disbanded after dropping an eight-man tag team match to Davey Richards, Jerrelle Clark, and Irish Airborne in July; Larry Sweeney made his debut in December as Chris Hero turned on his tag team partner Claudio Castagnoli, who was briefly WWE-bound but then ended up staying; ROH celebrated the “Milestone Series,” a seven-show run beginning with the “Fourth Anniversary Show” and extending to “The 100th Show” in April; Sal Rinauro joined The Embassy in July in the wake of Alex Shelley’s departure; BJ Whitmer ended Necro Butcher’s run by defeating him in the second Barbed Wire match in ROH history in July; AJ Styles quietly ended his ROH run with a loss to Samoa Joe in August; Takeshi Morishima debuted in a non-wrestling segment at “Glory By Honor V Night Two” in New York; Delirious won the third annual Survival of the Fittest tournament in Cleveland; Davey Richards made his debut with a succession of victories over Jimmy Rave; and Jimmy Jacobs saved his ROH career with a series of vignettes and music videos devoted to his love for Lacey, which would lead to a feud with Colt Cabana.

Match of the Year – Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness, “Unified”
Wrestler of the Year – Bryan Danielson
Tag Team of the Year – Austin Aries & Roderick Strong
Feud of the Year – ROH vs. CZW
Show of the Year – “Supercard of Honor”

Coming up – An international star makes his mark as more talent exits the promotion…

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