How Nigel McGuinness helped influence a generation of Superstars
Nigel McGuinness is preparing for his long-awaited WWE debut, though it’s in a different role than he originally envisioned. The London native plied his craft in the ring over a 12-year career, squaring off against many of today’s biggest Superstars, including Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Cesaro and more. His series of matches with SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan are considered all-time classics.
McGuinness is often thought of as one of the best competitors never to have competed full-time for WWE. Though his in-ring career came to an end in 2011, McGuinness found new life in the industry as an announcer, which opened the door for him to join WWE’s broadcast team, starting with the United Kingdom Championship Tournament. He may not be a competitor anymore, but his influence can still be felt among today’s Superstars. To get a better insight on how the Brit made an impact on sports-entertainment, WWE.com caught up with some of his biggest rivals, and those who were influenced by his example.
“[McGuinness] was always so driven to prove himself to himself and prove others wrong. He sacrificed a lot to chase his dream … moving across the world, away from his family, along with the physical and mental toll [of wrestling].
“It’s a real success story. For anybody that wants to know how to make it in this industry, you look at a guy like Nigel and what he was willing to do and sacrifice to get where he wanted to go. That’s a great example of ’You can do it, if you’re willing to put the work in.’
“On the flip side, there’s not a better human being. Nigel McGuinness is a quality person. That’s not always easy to come by in this crazy business we’re in. It’s full of egos; we’re all competing with each other for a limited number of spots. A guy like Nigel is class, in and out of the ring.
“No one deserves this more than him. When I was at some crossroads in my career, about six years ago, I moved in with Nigel down in Florida. At that time, he had lost his job at the company he was working with, as I was transitioning into that company. Despite that, he was super-supportive, which gave me the opportunity to get my career back on track. He went out to L.A., did his stuff and was having a great time out there, but I always knew in his heart and in the back of his mind, WWE is where he wanted and deserved to be. Now he’s got the chance.”
“Nigel McGuinness was ahead of his time. He was one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever been in the ring with. He was from Europe, [so] when I first moved here, I heard a lot about Nigel because he did it before me – moved to the United States and made it as a wrestler. To be in the ring with him was awesome and an honor on so many levels.
“In my first Ring of Honor title match, we headlined [New York City’s] Hammerstein Ballroom, which is still pretty high in my book. Nothing but respect for Nigel. He was ROH’s champion for a long time. He gave it all, literally, for that title.”
“When [El Generico and I] first showed up in Ring of Honor, where Nigel made the biggest name for himself over the years, we weren’t exactly popular with the locker room. [McGuinness] was the one guy that made us feel like we belonged there and welcomed us. He went out of his way to make sure we felt at home.
“He was one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever seen or been in the ring with. If you look back at the legacy Nigel left on the independents, it’s some of the best matches you’ll see anywhere. Some of the hardest-hitting stuff you’ll see. Especially as ROH Champion, Nigel left it all in the ring every night.It probably played a part in him [joining] WWE as a commentator instead of a wrestler, because everything he did took a toll on his body. But that’s how much pride he took in what he did in the ring. That reflected very strongly on anybody in the independents who watched Nigel do his thing. They wanted to work as hard as they could because he did. You couldn’t help but be inspired by him.”
“Nigel was one of the best I was ever in the ring with. A guy who was beyond his years – smart, experience, very driven and one of the hardest hitters I’ve ever faced.
“He influenced a lot of guys, especially myself, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. He was a veteran when we were coming up. Nigel was influential in our style and teaching us how to be top guys. He was a standard bearer when we came up. He’s very special as a human being and a performer.
“If those competitors in the U.K. Championship Tournament aren’t soaking his knowledge up like a sponge, then they’re missing out. He has so much information, so many years [of experience]. If they’re not using him as a tool to get better, they’re really missing out.”
“Nigel McGuinness is a guy who, stylistically, reinvigorated the European, catch-as-catch-can style in the States. He has a very good pedigree and brought that skillset. He influenced a lot of guys you see on the independent scene today.
“He’s probably one of the most technically proficient competitors that I’ve ever been in a ring with. His knowledge, his intensity and capabilities in the ring were world-class. I’m sure he’ll bring that to the commentary table. There’s no insight like a person who completely understands the techniques and what the competitor is setting up to do to his opponent. Nigel has the type of meticulous mind where he can give the viewer the chance to see inside the heads of the wrestlers and what they’re looking to achieve.”
“The Nigel McGuinness matches are some of my favorites. I think it’s because of the drama and emotion [behind them], and because we elevated each other in a way that made everything seem more important. We were at a time in ROH where he had the Pure Championship, I had the World Championship and we were both trying to take ourselves to that next level. We got in this rivalry and it elevated both of us. It was neat to see the fans’ reaction to those matches.
“I think my favorite match was me and Nigel in Liverpool [England] for ROH. He bled a ton and the crowd was so behind him. As much as I love getting cheered, I think my favorite thing in the world is getting really, really booed and hated. You can only really do that if you have someone that people love. They loved Nigel that night and hated me, because he was a mess and I was elbowing him in the face. It was this really surreal experience. At the end, I felt like we really accomplished something.”
“Nigel was such a pioneer. I don’t want to say he was the guy that brought the British style over [to the U.S.], but he made it extremely popular. The way he implemented it into what the indie scene was, it changed the game. Everyone tried to emulate his style. And he had such a brash character. He stood out, and he was a funny guy, too. He changed a lot of people’s outlook on independent wrestling. He’s a legend for that.
“Nigel’s one of my really good friends in this business. We’ve battled all over the world. For me to come here is great, but to see my friend, someone who’s so smart and brings so much to the wrestling business, join WWE is amazing. I couldn’t be happier for him.”