In 2006, Bryan Danielson, or Daniel Bryan, was undeniably the best in the world; successful title defences against Chris Hero, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Colt Cabana, KENTA and numerous other high profile names ensured he surpassed Samoa Joe’s record of most ROH World Title defences with the fans cheering him along each step of the way.
Danielson would eventually be dethroned by Homicide in the winter of ’06 and would not receive a title shot until he faced Takeshi Morishima, the man who defeated Homicide for the ROH World Title. Weighing in at 300 pounds, standing just short of 6ft 5’, Takeshi Morishima dwarfed much of the ROH roster, including Danielson who stood at a mere 5ft 9’, weighing under 200 pounds in comparison.
Adorned in a robe Ric Flair would be proud of, The American Dragon Bryan Danielson is the first to arrive escorted by chants of best in the world; a seemingly indisputable fact prior to defeat to Homicide. Takeshi Morishima, the incumbent champion and the man to defeat Homicide for the ROH World Championship, arrived to a slightly cooler welcome.
Danielson and Morishima tentatively lock up to begin before Danielson delivers a series of kicks to the inner thigh of the Morishima, grounding the much bigger man to the delight of the crowd. Danielson’s agility ensures he stays one step ahead of the brutal offence of Morishima for a short time before Morishima cuts Danielson off in the corner, delivering several clubbing blows to the head.
Taking advantage of the momentary respite, Danielson returns to his feet to deliver several more kicks to the inner thigh before a devastating forearm sends Danielson reeling back to the corner followed by a yakuza kick that almost took Danielson’s head off. Danielson, grounded by Morishima’s offence, lands several kicks from the mat before Morishima cuts him off with multiple viscous stomps to the lower back.
A lariat sends Danielson to the outside as Morishima proceeds to bounce Danielson off the barricades followed by a big boot that sends Danielson over the barricade and into the crowd. Morishima, unrelenting, continues to punish Danielson by tossing him into the barricade once again. This time, Danielson avoids a big boot and summons his remaining strength to lift Morishima over the barricade. Incredibly, Danielson lands a diving headbutt over the barricade and into Morishima as Manhattan came unglued. After several more kicks to the inner thigh, Danielson ties Morishima’s leg over the barrier before delivering a fierce chair shot to the leg.
Back in the ring, Danielson attempts a drop kick but it barely makes an impression on Morishima, who misses a lariat before Danielson delivers several more shots to the leg which, again, make little impression on the champion. Morishima connects with a lariat this time that sends Danielson to the floor but Danielson is straight back up, unloading more kicks to the leg to finally make the big man crumble.
Morishima isn’t down for long as he delivers a brutal german suplex followed by a uranagi before heading to the top rope- Danielson, with great wherewithal, avoids the missile drop kick attempt before continuing work on the leg by locking in a single leg boston crab. Unwilling to surrender his ROH World Title so abruptly, Morishama eventually reaches the ropes after a drawn out struggle. Danielson, after a failed german suplex attempt, rebounds off the ropes but a thesz press grounds the challenger only for Danielson to reverse into another single leg boston crab!
After kicking his way free, Morishima attempts the backdrop driver but Danielson lands on his feet before rolling Morishima up into a small package for a near fall. Danielson, encouraged by the crowd, successfully lifts the considerably bigger man to land a bridging german for yet another near fall. Returning to his feet, Morishima is greeted with more kicks to the leg as he crumbles to the mat again. Following several stomps to the chest, Danielson applies the cattle mutilation submission!
Somehow, Morishima claws his way to the ropes again as Danielson reluctantly breaks the hold before tapping into dwindling energy reserves to lift Morishima up to the top rope. An attempted belly to belly is reversed into a cross body by Morishima- several kicks only reinvigorate Danielson who returns to his feet before a devastating lariat turns Danielson in half before Morishima finally connects with the backdrop driver to secure the victory and retain the ROH World Title.
As with many Bryan Danielson matches, the narrative constructed around this match was of the technically proficient, plucky underdog Danielson attempting to overcome the goliath Morishima. This time, he failed to overcome the monster Morishima but, after several matches that ended in disqualification and a career threatening orbital injury inflicted by Morishima, Danielson would finally defeat Morishima at Final Battle in 2008 with the cattle mutilation assisted by a chain thus forcing the titan to pass out.
Sure, the series of matches relied heavily on the traditional big man/ small man dynamic but they mastered the often clichéd wrestling trope to perfection. Not only did these men display phenomenal chemistry to produce several outstanding matches, they told a story few could tell.
We all know Bryan Danielson’s journey to the very top of the wrestling industry but Takeshi Morishima did not enjoy similar success. Although incredibly successful in his native Japan, Morishima didn’t penetrate the US market like a Nakamura or an Okada and earlier this year he retired due to diabetes.
Still, in many fan’s minds, Morishima’s legacy in the US was built as a consequence of his excellent matches with Danielson and he will always be fondly remembered for them.
That’s it for this week’s Classic Indie Match of the Week. Next week, we will have an in depth look at Roderick Strong vs Kyle O Reilly from PWG Black Cole Sun, 2014.
You can see the match in full HERE