Baltimore, MD – 1.29.2021
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman.
ROH Pure Championship
Jonathan Gresham vs. Joe Keys
Gresham has been champion since 10.30.2020 and this is his second defense. Keys earned this opportunity by winning a Gauntlet Match which aired on the 1.19.2021 episode of “ROH Week by Week.” Keys has dedicated this match to his trainer, R.J. Meyer, who passed away from leukemia this past November. Dak Draper joins Ian and Caprice on commentary for this bout.
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. If the match goes the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Keys spends his first rope break to escape a grounded headscissors. Cleverly, Keys sits Gresham on the ropes in a waistlock, which counts as him using his first rope break. Gresham can’t help but smile at his student’s clever tactic. Keys wins a battle of the running shoulder blocks. During the commercial break, Keys worked over Gresham’s back. Gresham sweeps out Keys’ legs and takes him down with an armdrag when he comes charging. Keys shuts down Gresham’s momentum with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. From the ground, Gresham kicks Keys’ arm while holding onto his wrist to pop his elbow. Keys inside cradles Gresham into a vertical suplex for two. Keys also gets two with a German suplex, but Gresham holds onto Keys’ wrist upon kicking out. Keys counters Gresham’s kimura attempt with another backbreaker. He applies a single leg crab, forcing Gresham to use his second rope break. Keys wastes no time, coming off the middle rope with a headbutt. Gresham uses his third and final rope break to stop the pin. Gresham ends a forearm exchange with an enzuigiri and German suplex. Keys comes back with a lariat for two. Gresham avoids a diving headbutt and Magistral cradles Keys for two. Keys and Gresham fight for a hip toss. Gresham ends up hip tossing Keys while maintaining a hammerlock. He rolls forward and applies significant pressure to the hammerlock, forcing Keys to submit at 12:41. Keys looked fantastic in this match, keeping pace with the champion and forcing him to exhaust all three rope breaks. I also like that Gresham has been winning his title matches in various ways which makes him tough to predict and feels like something a Pure champion would do. One of my favorite things happening in ROH right now is some of the younger talent getting the chance to be showcased against top talent, and this was another example. Keys now stands out as the front of the pack when it comes to the Dojo students. ***
Backstage, as Mike Bennett is getting his ankle wrapped, Matt Taven tells Bennett he doesn’t have to do the match. He feels responsible for Bennett’s ankle injury. Bennett assures Taven he will be okay.
We get promos for Danhausen and Brian Johnson’s rematch from “Final Battle 2020” coming up on YouTube this Wednesday. Danhausen’s rules, Brian Johnson’s is awful. Johnson calling Danhausen a crossdresser is not only hack and incorrect, but tone deaf in 2021.
The OGK (Matt Taven & Mike Bennett) vs. The Bouncers (Beer City Bruiser & Brian Milonas)
Bennett is limping on his way to the ring, and toughs it out as he engages with Milonas. Milonas shows concern as he is from the New England area and likely crossed paths with Bennett throughout their careers several times. Taven tags himself in and hits a double dropkick on Milonas to send him outside. Bruiser stands in the way to make sure they can’t follow up with a dive. He tells Milonas the OGK aren’t his friends during this match. Milonas kicks Taven into a side slam from Bruiser. Taven is able to crack Bruiser with an enzuigiri. He tags in Bennett. Bennett is able to unload some chops, but is taken down by a running crossbody from Bruiser. Milonas tags in and ends up being dropkicked by Taven and schoolyard tripped over Bennett. A leapfrog hurts Bennett’s ankle. Taven superkicks Milonas then goes to check on his partner. Bruiser tags in, cracks Taven with a shot to the chin, then attacks Bennett’s bad ankle. Milonas doesn’t like it, but Bruiser carries on attacking the ankle. The Bouncers keep on top of Bennett during the break. Bennett manages to mi paso Milonas to the floor and low bridges the top to send Bruiser outside. Taven gets tagged in and wipes them both out with a big dive. He hits Aurora Borealis on Bruiser back inside the ring, with Milonas breaking up the pin just in time. Taven DDT’s Milonas and side Russian leg sweeps Bruiser before giving him a rolling neckbreaker. Bruiser pulls Taven up into a Samoan Drop. Milonas gives Taven a sit-out uranage. Bennett breaks up the pin and mi paso’s a charging Bruiser to the floor. Taven has Milonas in a sleeper hold. Bennett superkicks Milonas, which unfortunately causes him to fall back and crush Taven who still has the sleeper applied. Milonas superplexes Taven. Bruiser misses the follow up frog splash and gets speared by Bennett. Taven pulls down Bruiser into the Trendsetter (modified crossface) and Bruiser taps out at 11:56. I liked the story they told with Milonas showing some compassion for Bennett, but I don’t know that it was carried out to its fullest extent. Otherwise, this was an acceptable if not unspectacular tag bout. **¼
After the match, Vincent comes onto the stage with Bateman and Vita Von Starr to interrupt The Bouncers and OGK’s post-match toast that is occurring. ROH officials make sure The Righteous are not planning to get physically involved, as Vincent and Taven are barred from making physical contact. Vincent looks to get into Bruiser’s head, saying he is directionless, and that he has been floating from tag team to tag team for as long as he can remember. He also tells Milonas that Bennett and Taven could have helped him advance his career and gotten him into ROH much earlier than he did, but instead they chose to rub their success in his face. Milonas isn’t buying into this, but these words convince Bruiser to smash a beer bottle over Taven’s head and drop Bennett with a DDT! A shocked Milonas checks on The OGK as Bruiser walks to the back alone.
Overall: The Pure title match was good, and while the main event wasn’t anything special, it’s nice to see a story progressing outside of the bell-to-bell action. We’ll see some more of that next week, as we inch towards whatever the next big ROH event may be.