Baltimore, MD – 9.18.2020
Last week, the current ROH World Tag Team Champions, Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham, advanced in the Pure Championship tournament. This week, two more names punch their ticket to the quarter-final round.
Four episodes of ROH television will feature two opening round tournament matches each. This is the second of those four episodes. All opening round matches have 15 minute time limits. In the case of a time limit, there are three judges who will decide on the winner: Gary Juster, Will Ferrara, and Sumie Sakai.
The Pure Rules are as follows:
*Every match begins and ends with the code of honor handshake.
*Each wrestler has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a wrestler has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
*Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Pure Title Tournament Opening Round Match – Block A
David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero
Romero has held the ROH Tag Team Championship on three separate occasions with three different partners: Ricky Reyes, Davey Richards, and Aex Koslov. Romero is also one of only three individuals to hold titles in ROH, CMLL, and NJPW. Despite his storied ROH tenure, he never challenged for the Pure title during its original incarnation. David Finlay had competed on a few “Honor Rising” events, but made his “official” ROH debut in January 2019 as part of the Lifeblood stable. Finlay suffered a dislocated shoulder and partially torn labrum during a tag team match with the Briscoes in Japan in February 2019, and this will be his first ROH match since returning from that injury.
Romero goes for the Diablo armbar after the opening exchange, causing Finlay to spend his first rope break early. He throws some kicks to the shoulder. Finlay catches Romero in the corner, popping him up and catching on the way down with a chest kick, then gets a two count with a vertical suplex. Finlay works over Romero’s neck while keeping him grounded. During the commercial break, Romero took back over briefly with a flying knee off the apron, but Finlay got back in favor, grinding Romero’s knee with his fist. Romero is able to escape a wrist-capture chinlock, hitting an uppercut before coming off the second rope with a tornado DDT. Romero goes back to work on Finlay’s shoulder, driving Finlay’s shoulder down into the canvas with a knee off the second turnbuckle. Romero earns a two count with a springboard stomp to Finlay’s back as Finlay dangles on the second rope. Finlay counters a Sliced Bread #2 by slamming Romero onto the ropes, with his right leg colliding with the ropes. Finlay puts Romero in an Indian Death Lock. Romero desperately grabs the bottom rope, using his first rope break right at the 10 minute mark. Romero cracks Finlay with a knee strike to end a strike exchange, then hits his signature running shiranui after a closed fist punch, which results in a warning. Romero gets on the Diablo armbar again and Finlay uses his second rope break. Finally counters a second Sliced Bread #2 attempt with a backbreaker. The Trash Panda (Last Shot) gets Finlay the pin at 13:03. Romero had a clear mission for success, while Finlay remained more fluid in his strategy, and Romero’s repetition made him easier to scout against as the match progressed. He inadvertently put himself in a position for Finlay to use his signature power maneuver, which Finlay probably would not have been able to execute on his own due to how much his shoulder had been damaged. This story provided logic to everything they did which also made the action engaging. I also liked that Romero is the more familiar of the two with Pure rules from his ROH tenure, and because of that, at one point he tried to exploit those rules for his gain. Both of these competitors of course have NJPW as their primary commitment, but I do hope to see more of them in ROH going forward. ***¼
Pure Title Tournament Opening Round Match – Block B
Delirious vs. Matt Sydal
Delirious and Sydal are career rivals from the Midwest (the St. Louis area, specifically), with both debuting for ROH against one another at “Reborn: Stage One” in April 2004. Delirious has never held a title in ROH before, but was the final successful title defense of Nigel McGuinness’ Pure Title reign before the title was unified with the ROH World Title eight days later. He also won the Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2006. Sydal is a former ROH Tag Team Champion with Christopher Daniels, and never challenged for the Pure title during its original incarnation. Delirious and Sydal have wrestled each other in ROH on 20 previous occasions, 7 times in singles matches, and of those matches, Sydal holds a lead over Delirious 5-2.
Delirious’ usual panic at the bell is more focused this time, as he dove after Sydal’s legs, with Sydal dodging to the best of his ability. Delirious is able to twist on Sydal’s left ankle. Sydal picks up the pace, countering a hip toss with a wheelbarrow into a side headlock. When armdrags Delirious and wraps his head around Delirious’ neck. Delirious wisely spends a rope break to jam Sydal’s left shoulder across the top rope, an arm in which Sydal has suffered previous injuries. Sydal desperately looks for escape but Delirious’ keeps hold. During the break, Sydal reversed a submission briefly to a Stretch Muffler, forcing Delirious to use his second rope break, but Delirious took back over control of Sydal’s shoulder. Sydal decides to roll Delirious onto his shoulders to break a top wrist lock instead of going for the ropes. They knock each other down with stereo clotheslines. Sydal catches Delirious with a near knock out blow with a knee strike under the chin. With Delirious’ legs trapped underneath him, Sydal crushes him with a moonsault into a senton. Delirious rolls Sydal into a Cobra Clutch and suplexes him onto his neck and shoulder! He locks the Cobra Clutch back on hoping to add a bodyscissors. Sydal turns it into a pin attempt. He then puts Delirious into the Cobra Stretch and Delirious taps at 9:56. I appreciate the acknowledgement by the commentary team that Delirious’ shift from ankle to shoulder being a ruse, a cunning attempt to trick Sydal, as it made that switch a coherent part of the story and added a personal layer to the match. I also like Sydal using Delirious’ own submission hold against him to win the match. Sometimes that story can be contrived, but given how deep their history goes and the nature of Pure wrestling I think it worked well, especially after the knee strike right under the chin. These two have natural chemistry and were a really solid pairing for the opening round. ***
With these victories, two quarter-final round matches are set: Jay Lethal and David Finlay will face each other in Block A, while Jonathan Gresham will face Matt Sydal in Block B. These are both first time ever singles matches.
Overall: This episode carried forward the momentum of the overwhelmingly revered first episode of the Pure tournament, with two more quality matches that were just as good as the first week, while also being vastly different. The two competitors that advanced were the two I think most people expected, but they both had really compelling second round match-ups and did very well in their respective bouts this week. Like last week, I am very happy with the time spent on this week’s episode and can’t wait for the rest of the tournament.