Baltimore, MD – 10.30.2020
Last week, the semi-final round of the Pure Championship tournament concluded, with Tracy Williams defeating Jay Lethal to win Block A and Jonathan Gresham defeating Josh Woods to win Block B. This week, the final round takes place and a new ROH Pure Champion will be crowned for the first time since being discontinued in August of 2006. Additionally, EC3 makes his in-ring debut.
But first, on Sunday November 1st, ROH posted a triple threat match featuring two tournament competitors eliminated in the opening round of the Pure Championship tournament, as well as one of the alternates:
Dak Draper vs. Tony Deppen vs. Wheeler YUTA
Deppen gives the arrogant Draper a slap across the face. Draper is able to take him down and also crossbody YUTA to the floor. Deppen however follows Draper with a tope suicida. Deppen brings YUTA back into the ring. YUTA jackknifes pin Deppen after they trade places on the mat. Draper catches YUTA coming off the ropes. Deppen kicks out Draper’s legs, then senton splashes onto both Draper and YUTA to stop YUTA’s incidental pin count. YUTA evades a running knee from Deppen. They trade waistlocks and Deppen ends up on YUTA shoulders. Draper then goes underneath the both of them, sending Deppen and YUTA down hard with a double electric chair drop! YUTA is able to trip Draper as Draper comes off the ropes and puts him in the Muta Lock. Deppen interferes, but YUTA picks him up and puts him in the YU-Tap while keeping Draper’s legs locked! Draper gets the ropes and due to positioning, YUTA has to let both him and Deppen free. Deppen and YUTA fight off a double chokeslam from Draper, leading to all three men trading strikes. Draper is able to take them both down with a stereo pendulum slam. YUTA rolls to the floor, so Draper Doctor Bombs Deppen. Deppen kicks out and rolls to the apron. Deppen is able to capture Draper in the corner and deliver a knee strike. A superkick follows, and Deppen springboard dives onto YUTA outside to keep him neutralized. However, Draper boots Deppen as he comes back into the ring and gives him the Magnum Drop for the pin at 7:16. In this match, all three competitors got to showcase their differing styles and personalities, and all of them meshed together very well. YUTA’s double submission, Deppen’s “stage dive”, and Draper’s double electric chair drop were all really memorable and impressive moments. This also gives Draper, the Top Prospect tournament winner of 2019, a nice win against two current top prospects to give him some momentum as ROH shifts back into a regular programming cycle. Real good stuff. ***
Now onto this week’s show! Quinn McKay gives us a great character profile of both tournament finalists, including footage of their respective journeys through the previous tournament rounds. This was a really tremendous piece, giving us a look into the minds, strategies, and arsenals of both Gresham and Williams. McKay also mentions that both Matt Taven and Vincent have been fined and warned for their transgressions the past two weeks.
EC3 & The Briscoes (Jay & Mark Briscoe) vs. Shane Taylor Promotions (Shane Taylor & The Soldiers of Savagery (Kaun & Moses))
This is EC3’s ROH in-ring debut. EC3 forces Kaun to retreat after pummeling him on the mat. Kaun baits EC3 to the point where he gets in some stomps, but EC3 cuts him off with a back elbow. Mark requests a tag and EC3 decides to grant it to him. Kaun cuts off Mark’s momentum with a back elbow and a corner splash. Moses tags in and with Kaun assault Mark with attacks to the mid-section. Jay is able to blind tag in when Moses whips Mark to the ropes. Jay blasts Moses with a lariat as we cut to commercial break. During the break, EC3 and the Briscoes wiped out the Soldiers of Savagery on the floor. Moses splashes EC3 into the buckles, but turns around into a flying dropkick from Mark. Taylor rocks Mark with a haymaker before giving him a top rope assisted Cutter. Taylor also blasts Jay with a knee strike to the face. The Soldiers of Savagery help Taylor wear down Jay while keeping him away from his partners. Jay is able to intercept a right hand from Taylor and hit him with a rolling forearm, giving him the chance to tag in Mark. Mark knocks the Soldiers of Savagery off the apron and dropkicks Taylor to the floor. The match devolves into all six men fighting around ringside, with Mark landing a twisting senton off the top onto the Soldiers of Savagery. In the ring he goes for the Froggy Bow on Taylor. Taylor avoids it and drops Mark with Welcome to the Land for the pin at 8:17. Pretty interesting that EC3 would lose his first match, but he was hardly present and not involved in the pinfall, so his issue with Taylor can continue. I thought Kaun and Moses got a nice chance to shine, which is nice given they certainly benefit the most from being given that opportunity. This was rock solid trios match that gave Shane Taylor Promotions a strong victory. **¾
We get a video package where Williams and Gresham both provide their thoughts heading into the Pure tournament finals. 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.
*This match has a 60 minute time limit, doubling the time limit from the semifinal round. If the match goes to the time limit, the winner will be decided by three judges.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Pure Title Tournament Final Round Match
Tracy Williams (Block A Winner) vs. Jonathan Gresham (Block B Winner)
The winner of this tournament will be the new ROH Pure Champion. Williams defeated Rust Taylor, Fred Yehi, and Jay Lethal en route to the finals, while Gresham defeated Wheeler YUTA, Matt Sydal, and Josh Woods. Williams enters the match with an injured left shoulder, and Gresham enters the match with an injured left knee.
After an aggressive lock-up, they fight for a hip toss. Williams ends up hip tossing Gresham to the floor. On the floor the fight continues with Gresham giving Williams his own hip toss and both men reaching a stalemate. Back in the ring, Williams applies a twisting hammerlock, trapping Gresham’s wrist and applying some “snap” to it as well. Gresham rolls Williams into a grapevine, pushing Williams’ legs against his posterior. Williams rolls forward and back to his feet. Gresham rolls Williams back and kicks out his left wrist before delivering an armdrag. Williams uses his first rope break to escape a high wristlock. Williams controls Gresham by his wrist and delivers an underhook back suplex. Gresham avoids being pinned in a cravate and uses his first rope break to escape Williams’ grasp. Gresham uncharacteristically spears Williams. Williams chops Gresham and whips him into the corner. Gresham slips out of a super DDT. He tries another spear, but this time Williams catches him in a front facelock. Gresham reverses into a suplex, but Williams comes right back with a chop. Gresham enzuigiri’s Williams after absorbing a few more chops and German suplexes Williams for two. Williams lariats Gresham for his own two count. After both men tumble to the floor, Williams intercepts a slingshot attempt from Gresham back in the ring and gives him a brainbuster. He puts Gresham in a crossface. Gresham gets close to the ropes, ultimately deciding to use his second rope break when Williams’ moves his arm over Gresham’s nose. Gresham comes back with another German suplex. He blasts Williams with a pair of running forearm strikes to the face as Williams is seated. A forearm to the back of the neck also gets a two count, but this time, Gresham looks for a kimura lock. Williams gets to his feet, so Gresham tries an Octopus Stretch. It takes two attempts, but Williams is able to give Gresham a piledriver. Gresham spends his third and final rope break to stop the count. Gresham ducks a rolling lariat from Williams. He pulls down Williams in an Octopus Stretch. As he digs his elbow into Williams’ hip and hyperextends Williams’ left arm back, Williams submits at 14:36. Gresham wins the tournament and the Pure Championship. This match did a great job showcasing the style of wrestling the Pure title epitomizes and built off the damage Williams’ arm sustained in the previous round.. However, the atmosphere of the match lacked an intensity and sense of urgency one would have anticipated and hoped for. It seemed like the match was just getting into the next gear when it concluded. It stands to reason that with both guys worn down they wouldn’t endure a longer match, but it doesn’t make for the most satisfying final round. Mileage will certainly vary, but after a super strong tournament I found myself a bit let down by this match despite two very good performances. It was very good, but certainly not the best match these two have had together. That said, Gresham should make a great champion and I am really looking forward to his title defenses. ***¼
Jay Lethal celebrates the victory with Gresham, draping his tag team championship over Gresham’s shoulder, adding to the Pure championship and tournament trophy. Williams abides by the Code of Honor, shaking Gresham’s hand. Gresham thanks Williams for the match, and Williams also shakes Lethal’s hand.
Overall: The conclusion of the Pure tournament signifies the end of something very special. The promotion made the best of a bad situation, putting on wrestling-focused, engaging television that provided a much needed breath of fresh air to Ring of Honor and the overall wrestling landscape as well. Even if the two matches this week weren’t the strongest of the past two months, they were both still very good matches and leave me optimistic for the future of the company and really look forward to what comes next.