Baltimore, MD – 10.23.2020
Last week, the quarter-final round of the Pure Championship tournament concluded, with Tracy Williams defeating Fred Yehi in Block A and Josh Woods defeating PJ Black in Block B. This week, both semifinal round matches are taking place.
Before we get to those matches, a bonus tag team wildcard match from these tapings aired exclusively on the October 20th edition of “ROH Week by Week”, featuring competitors eliminated in the opening round of the Pure Championship tournament.
Dalton Castle & Rust Taylor vs. Kenny King & Rocky Romero
Taylor puts Romero in an abdominal stretch and manipulates his left fingers. Castle slams Romero, but Romero counters a bearhug with a sunset flip. He also moves out of the way of a corner attack and delivers the forever clotheslines to Castle. Castle takes down Romero with his own clothesline. King knees Castle from the apron and Castle tags in Taylor after hip tossing King. Taylor gives King a helicopter wristlock, but a clothesline attempt from Romero distracts Taylor gives King a chance to turn things around with a spin-out backbreaker. Romero and King help one another to keep Taylor isolated in their corner until King misses a springboard legdrop. King pushes Taylor back to his corner where Romero tags in, but Romero accidentally knee strikes King. Taylor then boots Romero and tags in Castle. Castle throws Romero overhead, tosses King outside, then drops Romero with a spiral bulldog for two. Romero comes back with a knee to the chin and a standing shiranui. Taylor and King end up in the ring, where Taylor pulls down King in a grounded half straightjacket choke. Romero saves his partner, but Castle then tosses Romero outside. King drops Taylor with a Tiger Driver but only gets two. Taylor rocks King with a boot to the chin and shoulder kick. King ducks a head kick and quickly scoops Taylor up. King hits the Royal Flush for the pin at 11:17. This was a totally solid match to involve some of the eliminated tournament participants, giving Taylor another opportunity to impress while showcasing some of his really unique offense. I don’t anticipate Romero and King remaining a team going forward, but they had a really cool aesthetic and a fun dynamic. ***
Now onto the tournament! The Pure Rules are as follows:
*The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
*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.
*These matches have a 30 minute time limit, a 10 minute increase from the quarterfinal round. Any match that goes to the time limit will be decided by a panel of three judges.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Pure Title Tournament Semifinal Round Match – Block B
Jonathan Gresham vs. Josh Woods
Gresham defeated Wheeler YUTA in the opening round and Matt Sydal in the quarterfinal round, while Woods defeated Kenny King in the opening round and PJ Black in the quarterfinal round. These two have wrestled each other three other times in singles competition in ROH, with Gresham winning all three matches. Silas Young is in Woods’ corner. Gresham’s left leg is still bothering him from his match with Sydal.
After Woods denies Gresham a single leg takedown, Gresham takes a respite on the floor. Back in the ring, Gresham uses his first rope break of the entire tournament when Woods lifts him up in a gutwrench. Frustrated, Gresham collects himself on the floor again. Woods gutwrench throws Gresham, holding onto the waist upon landing. Woods sends Gresham outside, once again frustrating him. As Woods had a vertical suplex position, Gresham made them tumble to the floor over the top rope. He worked over Woods’ wrist and arm, but Woodstopped Gresham’s offense with an overhead throw. Gresham catches Woods with a dragonscrew leg whip in the middle rope. However, Woods grabs Gresham’s wrist as Gresham ascends the ropes. He lifts Gresham by his shoulder and elbow, throwing him off the top turnbuckle and to the mat. Gresham uses his second rope break to stop Woods’ pin attempt. Woods once again controls Gresham with gutwrench throws. His arm gives out and Gresham puts him in an Octopus stretch. Gresham ads blows to the side of Woods head, similar to how Bryan Danielson unified the title. Woods powers Gresham down into a Samoan Drop. Woods blocks a drop toe hold, but Gresham hyperextends the knee in response. Woods tries a leapfrog after sending Gresham to the ropes, but Gresham holds onto the ropes and Woods lands hard on his ankle. The two of them roll around in a small package. Once that ends Gresham gets Woods down in a sunset flip, pinning him at 12:00 flat. Gresham was certainly the favorite going into this match, but Woods made him work for it and had me second guessing the supposed foregone conclusion. They had an intense match where no time was wasted and they knew mistakes could not be made. Gresham was just thinking slightly ahead of Woods and captured him at the right place and time in the contest. I think Woods had one of the most interesting tournament paths and can see why he seemed poised for a more prominent spot pre-COVID. ***¼
Matt Taven is making his entrance when Vincent attacks him from behind. After beating down Taven around the ring for a while, Vincent does a Swanton Bomb off of a purple ladder onto Taven through a table. Vincent laughs and says nobody has any power over him, because nobody is able to hurt him more than he is able to hurt himself.
We get a recap of EC3 and Shane Taylor’s confrontation from last week along with some new talking heads. EC3 says he didn’t mention Taylor’s name amongst the best in ROH because Taylor hasn’t earned to be mentioned among those names yet. Taylor doesn’t think EC3 has the right to say what he has or hasn’t earned, and says he and the Sons of Savagery will adjust EC3’s attitude accordingly.
Pure Title Tournament Semifinal Round Match – Block A
Jay Lethal vs. “Hot Sauce” Tracy Willams
Lethal defeated Dalton Castle in the opening round and David Finlay in the quarterfinal round, while Williams defeated Rust Taylor in the opening round and Fred Yehi in the quarterfinal round. This is their first singles match. Lethal called his shot last week, saying he and Gresham would be across the ring from each other in the finals. So far, he’s half right.
While feeling one another out on the mat, Williams holds tight onto Lethal’s left arm. Williams twists on Lethal’s left ankle after Lethal escapes a pin attempt. Lethal puts on a side surfboard/Indian Deathlock hybrid. Williams escapes when Lethal tries to re-adjust, but Lethal converts to a chinlock and then a side headlock. Williams brings down Lethal in a horsecollar, and Lethal uses his first rope break to escape. Lethal uses his second rope break about a minute later to avoid a crossface. After each going for submissions, Lethal O’Connor rolls Williams into a figure four leg lock, and Williams spends his first rope break. Back from commercial, Williams has Lethal tied up in an anaconda Vise. We learn Lethal had worked over Williams’ neck and went for the Dragon Suplex during the commercial break, which is the move that Lethal used to defeat John Walters for the title in 2005. Williams elbows Lethal on the top of his head and chops him down in the corner. Lethal is able to dropkick Williams off the ring apron. On the floor Williams ducks a clothesline and knocks down Lethal with a shotgun dropkick. That landing aggravates Williams’ previously injured shoulder. Lethal gives Williams distance as Williams recovers on the floor. Once he makes it back in the ring, some harsh words from Williams give Lethal permission to attack that shoulder, where Lethal gets a two count with a shoulder breaker. Williams uses his second rope break to escape a Fujiwara armbar. Williams throws open hand strikes to Lethal, who stops Williams with a kick to the shoulder. Lethal chops Williams on the second rope. Williams however is able to hit his top turnbuckle DDT and a rolling lariat. He lifts up Lethal with just one arm and hits a piledriver! Lethal uses his third and final rope break to stop the count. Lethal swings out of a crossface. He swings Williams into an Ace Crusher and drops him with the Lethal Injection. Williams uses his third and final rope break to save himself from being pinned. Lethal arm whips Williams to the mat shoulder first. Hail to the King connects, but Lethal decides to accentuate with a Lethal Injection. Williams catches him on the rebound with a sleeper hold! Lethal’s rope break does no good, so he rolls Williams back on his shoulders. Williams transitions to the crossface, and Lethal taps out at 19:29! This was an incredibly engaging match, with both Lethal and Williams having to pull out all the stops to stay in the fight. Williams had to conjure up all the internal motivation possible to persevere through his hurt shoulder, and fortunately Lethal showed his hand by telegraphing the Lethal Injection, which gave Williams a chance to adapt and counter. I have one minor gripe, which is that because this was the one and only time in the tournament where the Block B match took place before Block A, I assumed an upset was coming, as they logically wanted to end the show with the more surprising and exciting ending. However, it worked, so who am I to nitpick? Williams comes away from this match with a ton of momentum, but certainly the worse for wear heading into the finals. ****
Overall: Woods once again had a unique tournament match where Gresham showcased his wit, and the main event produced the best match of the tournament so far. Whip in more storyline build to stuff outside of the tournament and you have yet another well-rounded episode of TV. Be sure to seek out the main event.