Baltimore, MD – 10.2.2020
Last week, Josh Woods and the debuting Fred Yehi joined David Finlay, Matt Sydal, Jay Lethal, and Jonathan Gresham in advancing to the quarter-final round of the Pure Title tournament. This week, the final two names will join them.
Four episodes of ROH television will feature two opening round tournament matches. This is the fourth and final 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
Tracy Williams vs. Rust Taylor
During his ROH tenure, Williams has challenged for the World, Television, and Six Man titles and come up short. Outside of ROH, he was the Independent Wrestling champion for almost a year, defeating fellow tournament competitor Jonathan Gresham to win that title. He also won AIW’s JLIT in 2017, and held the promotion’s top title before joining ROH full-time. Many fans may remember Rust Taylor under his previous alias of Ryan Taylor, who teamed with Chuck Taylor and Brian Cage in PWG. He’s held several titles on the West Coast, and recently has earned a reputation for his Pure style of wrestling due to his participation in wXw’s AMBITION tournaments and grappling training with some of the Los Angeles New Japan trainers.
Several intense lock-ups lead to Taylor manipulating Williams’ wrist. Williams puts Taylor into a defensive position leading them back to square one. Taylor has difficulty escaping a courting hold. He tries rolling Williams into a triangle hold after pounding on his shoulder, but Williams sits down on his leg and twists on Taylor’s ankle. When he converts into an STF, Taylor spends his first rope break to escape. Taylor places his weight on William’s shoulders, throwing some forearm strikes to his shoulder. When Taylor begins to hyper extend the wrist, Williams counters into a bodyslam and chokes Taylor with his shin. During the commercial break, Taylor managed to apply a short arm scissor, which Williams escaped. He now has Taylor in a Cobra Twist. Taylor goes back to attack the shoulder upon escape. Williams uses his first rope break to escape a cross armbreaker attempt. Williams uses his second rope break quickly after when Taylor kicks him in the shoulder several times and goes for a pin. Williams pulls down Taylor hoping for a rear-naked choke, but Taylor converts into a modified Rings of Saturn. Williams has no choice but to use his third and final rope break to save himself. Taylor puts Williams in the London Dungeon. Williams uses the ropes to propel himself and Taylor to the floor to break the hold. Back in the ring, Taylor endures a series of strikes before getting the opening to turn Taylor inside out with a lariat. Taylor rolls away from a crossface. Williams pulls him up into a piledriver, then re-applies the crossface. Taylor taps out at 14:25. To my surprise, Williams fought from behind for more or less the entire match. He ended up in a desperate situation where Taylor brought him to the point where he had no more rope breaks and the time limit was crawling to a draw, where no doubt Taylor would won via judges decision, but fortunately was able to devastate Taylor with the lariat and piledriver before applying the crossface. This worked as both a terrific introduction for Taylor, who took one of the odds on favorite to win the tournament to the limit, and showed the endurance of Williams which should serve him well in the next round. We’ll see if Taylor’s shoulder work on Williams lingers on as the tournament progresses. ***½
Pure Title Tournament Opening Round Match – Block B
PJ Black vs. Tony Deppen
If you’re not aware, Black is the former WWE superstar Justin Gabriel, and he held the tag team titles on three separate occasions with Heath Slater. Outside of WWE he held the TNA King of the Mountain championship for 24 hours, the GFW NEXGEN Champion (which he won in a tournament), held the Lucha Underground trios titles with Jack Evans and Johnny Mundo, and is the current Slamforce Africa world champion. Tony Deppen is making his ROH debut in this tournament. This past July he won Synergy Wrestling’s Garden State Invitational tournament, and has held singles titles for On Point Wrestling, TRUE Wrestling, and GCW. He also held the CHIKARA Campeones de Parejas with Travis Huckabee.
PJ Black’s protégé, Brian Johnson, is in his corner, and is also an alternate for Block B. Black controls the early going with some armdrags and a spinwheel kick. Deppen takes down Black, looking for an STF and Black scrambles to the rope to use his first break before any damage can be done. Black baits Deppen to the floor where he nails a superkick. Deppen rolls up Black inside the ring when Black twists on his arms, and Black takes down Deppen with a clothesline after kicking out. Black mouse trap pins Deppen out of an abdominal stretch for two. He hyperextends Deppen’s arms with his feet before stomping his shoulder into the canvas. Deppen dropkicks Black out of mid-air when Black attempts a springboard crossbody. Deppen held his control during the commercial break. He rocks Black with double knees in the corner for two. Black avoids a double stomp and delivers a high kick to the side of Deppen’s head. A strike exchange ends with Deppen headbutting Black to the chin. He trips Black and locks on the STF. Black spends his second rope break to escape. Black goes to the floor but Deppen follows right away with a tope con hilo. Back inside Deppen gets a two count with a top rope double stomp. Black escapes a fireman’s carry and ducks a high kick, scooping Deppen up into an elevated Ace Crusher. Black is in disbelief when Deppen kicks out at one, so he scoops up Deppen for a elevated corkscrew DDT. Deppen kicks out again, but at two this time. Black then hits a Black Tornado Driver (called the “Bad Habit”) to get the pin at 12:07. As a big fan of Deppen, I was disappointed that he didn’t make it past the opening round, but he had a great showing against Black, and it took a heck of a lot for Black to put him away. Black also had a chance to show a different side of himself and prove he’s far more nuanced of a wrestler than he often gets credit for. Johnson being ringside makes me believe he’s the Chekov’s gun for the interference rule that has been implemented, but we shall see. I really hope we get to see more of Deppen in ROH. ***
An interesting video package plays to end the episode, talking about how once you realize everyone (politicians, media) have been lying to you your entire life, you can finally begin to control your narrative. A phone number is also shown – (407) 969-5372.
Overall: The first round of the Pure Title tournament ended strongly with two successful debuts and a pair of really good and unique bouts. Each week I find myself excited for the next, and with the quarter-final round producing some really intriguing pairings, that hasn’t changed. I also appreciate the ending video, as it adds something else to look forward to in addition to the great tournament action.