Baltimore, MD – 9.25.2020
Last week, David Finlay and Matt Sydal joined ROH World Tag Team Champions Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham in advancing to the quarter-final round of the Pure Title tournament. This week, two more names will join them.
Four episodes of ROH television will feature two opening round tournament matches. This is the third 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
Fred Yehi vs. Silas Young
Yehi is making his ROH debut in this tournament. Yehi is best known for being a member of the Catch Point stable in EVOLVE, where he was a tag team champion with fellow ROH Pure Title tournament competitor “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams. He’s also a former FIP World Champion. Young is a former two-time ROH Television Champion, and was the winner of the 2016 Tag Wars tournament and a tournament in 2019 which crowned the then #1 contender for the ROH Television Championship. This contest is the first time ever meeting between these two competitors.
Young disrespects Yehi in the corner with a slap, but it doesn’t faze Yehi whatsoever. Yehi gives a quick snap to Young’s ankle as they’re on the mat, which Young admires. He then places his knee on Young’s shoulder as he twists on Young’s left wrist and digits. Young bridges out of a pin attempt after a shoulder block and Magistral cradles Yehi for two. Young rolls Yehi into a grounded parachute stretch, going for a calf hold, but Yehi grabs Young’s ankle and locks him in a standing Indian Death Lock. Young uses his first rope break to escape. During the commercial Young did some damage to Yehi’s back, but Yehi was able to take back control. Yehi drives his knee repeatedly into Young’s shoulder in the corner. Yehi stomps on Young’s hands before locking on the Koji Clutch, then transitions into a crucifix pin for two. Young sends Yehi face first into the second turnbuckle, following up with two running boots and a diving tornado DDT. Yehi comes back with a German suplex after attempting a forward rolling pin. Yehi crashes onto Young with a cannonball senton in the corner, and Young comes back with a suplex. A superplex and running knee from Young lead to Total Anarchy. Yehi grabs Young in a small package for two. Yehi knocks down Young to a seated position with a forearm strike and Yehi dropkicks him in that position. Young scoops him up into the Pee Gee Waja Plunge. Yehi avoids it. After a couple blows to the feet and a dropkick to the side of the head, Yehi tries the small package again and this time pins Young at 13:00! Yehi is somebody I would classify as one of the most unorthodox wrestlers today, and this match gave him the chance to showcase that style and portray him as someone capable of wrestling an ROH stalwart. It’s not often you see Young fighting from behind as much as he did in this match, especially against a newcomer, and that struggle made Yehi look like a formidable dark horse going forward in the tournament. These two were a good match for one another, and the match achieved its mission of establishing Yehi as a force to be reckoned with. ***
Pure Title Tournament Opening Round Match – Block B
Josh Woods vs. Kenny King
Woods was an amateur wrestler during his tenure at the University of Central Florida and has also run camps for the UFC. His professional wrestling training took place at the WWE Performance Center, and he debuted for ROH in 2017 where he won that year’s Top Prospect Tournament. King is a former two-time ROH Television Champion and former ROH World Tag Team champion. King is a member of La Facción Ingobernable, and is currently the only member without gold, as RUSH is the reigning ROH World Champion and Dragon Lee is the reigning ROH Television Champion. During his first TV title reign he defeated Josh Woods to retain the title, and that contest was their only singles match before today.
King snaps off a couple armdrags during the feeling out process. Woods scores a couple creative nearfalls as they feel one another out, resulting in King dropping to his posterior and challenging Woods to meet him on the mat. Woods almost laughs at King when King thinks he has a front facelock. He maneuvers King into a triangle choke, and King stacks Woods up on his shoulders so that Woods is forced to break the hold. During the commercial, Woods dropped King with a suplex where his arms were wrapped between King’s legs. Woods puts King in a modified Kondo Clutch, and the referee counts King sliding under the ropes and to the floor as a rope break. King gets a little cocky when they’re on the floor. Woods stops himself from using a closed fist when they’re back inside the ring, and King decides to take the opening. He decks Woods with his own closed fist punch, earning him a warning, but keeping him in the proverbial driver’s seat. Woods kicks out of a second rope springboard leg drop, then comes back with a running knee strike in the corner for his own two count. King rolls to the floor after Woods connects with a modified GTS. This gives King enough of a breather so that when they come back in the ring, he is able to catch Josh Woods with the Royal Flush! Unfortunately for King, Woods is close enough to the ropes that he spends his first rope to break to stop the pin. Woods comes back with a twisting neckbreaker off the second rope! The two men continue to trade strikes as they enter the final minute of the contest. King has Woods in a single leg crab as the 15:00 time limit expires. The judges scorecards provide a split decision, but Josh Woods is determined to be the winner! Juster voted for King, while Ferrara and Sakai voted for King, with the rationale for Sakai’s deciding vote being the closed fist used by King. I like that rationale, and I like that at least one opening round match hit the time limit so it adds emphasis to that rule. It also gives reason for King to hold a grudge going forward in his ROH career. Given his background, Woods is a natural for this tournament and this style of wrestling, making him a logical choice to move forward. He and King told an excellent story, combining the stipulations of the tournament with some really good wrestling, making it one of the strongest opening round matches yet. ***¼
Overall: Two more solid matches from the first round, where two sleeper picks punched their ticket to the second round and more of the tournament’s rules were incorporated in clever and compelling ways. I’m really interested to see more out of both Yehi and Woods, and am pleased to see the two less established participants in the matches are the two who will get more opportunities in the tournament going forward.