The impending departures of Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness from Ring of Honor at the end of September leave two giant voids on the company's roster.
In the past when talent has left for other promotions, Danielson and McGuinness were two workhorses relied upon by ROH to grow as performers and carry the company as the new faces.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, as Danielson and McGuinness prepare to leave the company that made them superstars on the independent wrestling circuit.
Each wrestler's rise in ROH is identified with the departure of a previous star. Though Danielson was already considered one of the "founding fathers" of the company, having main-evented the promotion's first card in 2002, he was called upon to carry the ROH World Title (and the company's torch) just one month after C.M. Punk departed for WWE.
He held the title from September 17, 2005 until December 23, 2006, when he dropped the belt to Homicide. During Danielson's 15-month reign, he faced the company's best, often more than once.
Several of the best matches of his run happened to come against McGuinness, including their match August 12, 2006 in England when Danielson defeated McGuinness to unify the ROH World and Pure titles. Just two weeks later, they would battle again in St. Paul, Minnesota in what ended up as a 60-minute time limit draw.
McGuinness' coronation as ROH Champion would come later, but similar to Danielson, he won the title as the company was losing stars. Homicide's reign lasted all of three defenses, as he dropped the title to Japanese monster Takeshi Morishima who, in turn, lost to McGuinness in Edison, New Jersey in October 2007.
In the midst of all this, ROH was forced to say goodbye to Samoa Joe, the man whose own title reign helped solidify ROH as the premier independent wrestling promotion in North America.
On September 26th, both wrestlers will make their final appearances for ROH before officially leaving for WWE. Danielson is booked in the night's main event wrestling ROH champion Austin Aries in a title match. McGuinness is taking on an old rival of his, Roderick Strong.
Both matches would be appropriate send-offs for either man. Danielson has had his share of great matches with Aries over the years, and McGuinness and Strong have history in ROH that goes back several years.
But there's a better booking option out there. For their final match in the company, Danielson and McGuinness should re-ignite the old rivalry one more time.
In this day and age of smart wrestling fans, it's difficult to put one over on the crowd anymore, especially the intelligent yet fickle fans who attend ROH events. On paper, it's a no-brainer for Danielson to lose to Aries in the night's main event, as the departing talent puts over the current champion. Similarly, McGuinness should be "doing the honors" for Strong earlier in the show. That's two matches on the card where the finish appears academic.
But to change things up, and to create a little more mystery for the night's main event, ROH should shuffle the deck and give the fans one more Danielson/McGuinness match.
Strong can be inserted into the title match against his old Generation Next stablemate Aries in a contest that would feature a riveting backstory.
You serve several purposes with a Danielson/McGuinness match in both wrestlers' ROH sayonaras. It creates a rare situation where the fans would not be able to guess for certain who should win the match, creating an aire of mystery, something that is rarely found in today's pro wrestling.
While Danielson and McGuinness may have their share of matches in WWE, it just would not be the same. Their ROH clashes were classic. Their chemistry was timeless. They brought out the best in each other.
And for one more night in New York City, they should do it again in the only environment where it would truly be appropriate—in the company where it all started—as the main event of a Ring of Honor card.