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Ring of Honor followed up on their successful 2006 with another fantastic year in 2007. The company reached several milestones, including its Five-Year Anniversary and debut on pay-per-view. Big stars left the company and international players made a bigger impact than ever before.
After an arduous journey, Homicide began the year as ROH World Champion. After just three defenses against Chris Hero, Samoa Joe, and Jimmy Rave, he dropped the title to NOAH’s Takeshi Morishima, who dominated until the early fall. Morishima made successful defenses against BJ Whitmer, Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries, Shingo, Jay Briscoe, Roderick Strong, Jimmy Rave, Adam Pearce, Claudio Castagnoli, Brent Albright, Bryan Danielson, Erick Stevens, and Kevin Steen in ROH, and made defenses in his home country against KENTA, KAZMA, and Katsuhiko Nakajima. His most heated feud was with Danielson, stemming from an injury Morishima inflicted upon Danielson’s eye during their Match of the Year candidate at “Manhattan Mayhem II” in August. Morishima had great matches with everyone and was a true monster heel champion, something ROH had never really had.
The man to dethrone Morishima was Nigel McGuinness, who did so at the “Undeniable” pay-per-view taping in October. Nigel, who had been a fan favorite during his chase to the title, was immediately injured upon winning the belt and had to cancel several high-profile matches, earning the ire of the fickle ROH fan base and effectively turning heel. He still made defenses against Jay Briscoe, Chris Hero, and Austin Aries before year’s end. Nigel also had his second straight Match of the Year against Bryan Danielson, at the “Domination” show (but taped for the “Driven” pay-per-view), a testament to the talent of both men.
Matt Sydal & Christopher Daniels began the year as Tag Team Champions, but 2007 would definitely become the year of the Briscoes. Daniels and Sydal made successful defenses against Austin Aries & Roderick Strong and Jack Evans & Shingo before dropping the belts to #DemBoys during the Fifth Year Festival. After a brief hiccup in dropping the titles to Naruki Doi & Shingo in England, the Briscoes regained them during WrestleMania weekend in Detroit and would hold them for the rest of the year. They set a record for successful defenses that stands to this day, defeating Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw, the Motor City Machine Guns, Takeshi Morishima & BJ Whitmer, Claudio Castagnoli & Matt Sydal, the Kings of Wrestling (reuniting for one night only), Kevin Steen & El Generico, Jimmy Rave & Genki Horiguchi, Shingo & Susumu Yokosuka, Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuinness, Austin Aries & Matt Cross, Roderick Strong & Rocky Romero, Jimmy Jacobs & Necro Butcher, Davey Richards & Rocky Romero, and Roderick Strong & Davey Richards. Their feud with Steen and Generico was epic, with multiple gimmick matches culminating in ROH’s first-ever Ladder War.
The aftermath of the Ladder War kicked off the Briscoes’ next big feud and one of the most unique ideas. For months the ROH website and shows had been inundated with mysterious references to “Project 161.” Astute fans quickly put together that the “Man Up!” pay-per-view taping in Chicago on September 15 would be the company’s 161st show, so something was bound to happen there. At the conclusion of the Ladder War, a host of unidentified men in all black clothes and ski masks (three of which were myself, Brad Garoon, and Josh Raymond), bombarded the ring and began screaming at the Briscoes. Then Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black, and Necro Butcher invaded the arena and decimated the champions, bloodying Jay and hanging him from the ceiling. Jacobs, dressed in white, cut a promo while Jay’s blood dripped down onto him, a truly disgusting and memorable site. The Age of The Fall, as the group would be known, tormented the Briscoes for months and eventually Jacobs and Black captured the Tag Team Titles in the main event of “Final Battle 2007.”
Several big name stars left the company in 2007, starting with Samoa Joe. After his matches with Nigel McGuinness and Homicide at the “Fifth Year Festival” in England, Joe was a full-time TNA performer. With the announcement that ROH was going to pay-per-view, other TNA stars were forced to leave as well, including Homicide, Austin Aries, and Christopher Daniels. Colt Cabana departed in April for WWE, and Matt Sydal followed him in September. Aries would quickly return in June after a dispute with TNA, giving the ROH roster a jolt. As ROH had done so effectively before, new stars were built up to take their place, and the quality of the shows stayed the same or became better.
This year would also be known as the year of Faction Warfare, with many in ROH pairing off into groups. Austin Aries formed The Resilience with Erick Stevens and Matt Cross. Roderick Strong started the No Remorse Corps with Davey Richards and Rocky Romero. The Hangmen 3 was stated by Adam Pearce and his manservant Shane Hagadorn, and they were joined by BJ Whitmer and Brent Albright. Jack Evans formed the Vulture Squad with Jigsaw and Ruckus, managed by Julius Smokes. Larry Sweeney formed Sweet & Sour Inc., with Chris Hero as the centerpiece, and also featuring Matt Sydal, Tank Toland, Bobby Dempsey, and Sara Del Rey.
Guest appearances continued, as the stars of Dragon Gate came over during WrestleMania weekend for the second year in a row, including Masaaki Mochizuki, Naruki Doi, YAMATO, CIMA, Susumu Yokosuka, Dragon Kid, and Ryo Saito. ROH made its debut in Japan over the summer, featuring Japanese talent like Kotaro Suzuki and Go Shiozaki, among others. KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji wrestled on several shows, as did UK stars PAC and former Pure Champion Doug Williams. CHIKARA stars like Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, Hallowicked, and Gran Akuma made a few appearances. The FIP Championship became a World Title, as Roderick Strong defended it against PAC in England in March. The title would be defended many times throughout the year in ROH, particularly as Strong and Erick Stevens feuded over the belt.
The biggest guest appearance was by the legendary Mitsuharu Misawa, who wrestled on both “Glory By Honor” shows in early November. On the first night he teamed with KENTA to battle Takeshi Morishima & Naomichi Marufuji to a time-limit draw, and on the second night he successfully defended the GHC Heavyweight Title with a victory over KENTA.
In other notable news, Jimmy Jacobs ended his brutal feud with BJ Whitmer in a stellar steel cage match, ending the feud where it began in Detroit; ROH taped its first pay-per-view, “Respect is Earned,” in New York on May 12, in the main event Bryan Danielson & Takeshi Morishima defeated Nigel McGuinness & KENTA; Claudio Castagnoli won the Race to the Top Tournament, defeating Hallowicked, Mike Quackenbush, Jigsaw, and El Generico; Chris Hero won the Survival of the Fittest match, eliminating all five opponents – Human Tornado, Roderick Strong, Rocky Romero, Austin Aries, and Claudio Castagnoli; and Larry Sweeney made his in-ring debut with a win over Claudio Castagnoli at “Final Battle 2007.”
Match of the Year – Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness, “Driven”
Wrestler of the Year – Takeshi Morishima
Tag Team of the Year – The Briscoes
Feud of the Year – Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima
Show of the Year – “Good Times, Great Memories”
Coming up – The biggest story of the year won’t be coming from between the ropes…
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Tags: Bryan Danielson, Decade of Honor, Nigel McGuinness, Ring of Honor, ROH 10th Anniversary, Takeshi Morishima, The Briscoes