First things first, a confession: I’ve never seen a Nigel McGuinness match – ever.
My knowledge of him is limited to knowing he was a special guest referee for Jimmy Havoc vs Zack Sabre Jr. at PROGRESS Chapter 7 with the very quotable line from after the match, ‘you don’t have to do hardcore’, which features in the promo of the Self-Destruction of Jimmy Havoc. When I saw clips of him from Ring of Honor (ROH) during the WWE-made documentary, it genuinely took me a second or two to clock which one of the performers was him.
I learnt a lot very early on from the documentary, mainly that bleached tips is a strong look, but it’s not one I’m going to try. I learnt that to put footwear on, Nigel goes for a unique Sock Shoe Sock Shoe approach – I’m very much a Sock Sock Shoe Shoe kinda guy myself. I also learnt that the title fits perfectly with his hobby of card tricks, and this initial section helps show the warmth with which he is regarded throughout the locker room and highlights that Nigel is a very personable man who comes across as a genuinely lovely person to be around.
As lovely as the early section is, this documentary hints during the titles’ segment that it won’t all be sunshine and rainbows, there’s some real moments that tug at the heart-strings. Through testament of current WWE Superstars including Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan among others; we learn about the stupendously talented wrestler, with technique second to none. Every match featured on the show was a technical masterclass and showed that much vaunted UK/European style. To say that Nigel was a little good at what he did, would be a huge understatement. Once ranked 6th on the PWI top 500, this man was a star with seemingly no ceiling, ready to shine and excel even more when his time came at the top table, once his time with RoH was over.
The call came for Nigel, a contract was offered, but then just as quickly – the contract was rescinded.
This heartbreak is perfectly cast against a sliding doors moment and the rivalry from the matches in RoH between Nigel and one Daniel Bryan. As one career flourished another finished and this thread features strongly throughout and provides a definite narrative to work with and hold on to.
For me, this is a masterful approach to take with the documentary and really shows the multi-faceted nature of Nigel. You can almost view the documentary as if it’s a match, there’s the setup at the start, why it’s important, why you should be invested. There’s some nice elements that help plant the seeds for later, you see him happily performing his clever magic tricks with an array of talent – similar to how he would use his technical skills in a ring – and this would then lead on to a back and forth, the film ebbing and flowing from high and low points, almost like two wrestlers, trying to get the upper hand.
There’s a few times where you think it’s all done and over, where Nigel’s goal is un-achievable, that the low points would win out. But like any wrestler worth his salt, he keeps the film alive, he re-evaluates and reconfigure his route to the top – sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.
I genuinely feel that Nigel helped pave the way for many of the current day Superstars. Without him having wrestled, it’s doubtful that there’d be an NXT UK or the thriving UK scene – maybe there would but the Butterfly Effect can be all down to one person, or one event. Maybe if the sliding door moment went the other way, things would be different and this documentary wouldn’t have been made, nor would his earlier self-made one (still available via Nigel’s instagram and free on Vimeo).
If Nigel made it in the WWE, would he be part of the commentary team? Would he want to do commentary if he had achieved all his in-ring goals, would that hunger still exist – I grant you, only he can say, but I personally feel that maybe because his career was incomplete and lacked the performance on the grandest stage, that this provides the fuel to work on commentary.
If anything, I’m glad that he didn’t have the WWE career, as there’s a high chance that we wouldn’t have got Nigel McGuinness – the commentator. We wouldn’t have got his technical knowhow, his logic that comes through whenever he talks about a match, why it’s important that this wrestler does x y or z move. What body part that weakens and how that affects a move-set. How targeting the fingers would impede any moveset in general. All these little intricacies that were developed by him as a wrestler, coming back as a commentator to enhance the spectators’ viewing experience. That’s what he provides, he adds both his personality and his incredible knowledge to proceedings, (and this is the mark of a great commentator) his talking only enhances each match that he’s part of. He never detracts from the show and never puts himself over.
Thanks to the documentary, I have such an appreciation for him. I will definitely be seeking out as many Nigel McGuinness matches as I can to broaden my horizons and watch a true master at work. And when I’m done, I know I can switch on an NXT/NXT UK/205 Live match and hear a true master at work.