Baltimore, MD – 6.25.2021
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman.
On the June 22nd episode of “Week By Week”, the sixth and final first round Survival of the Fittest matches took place:
2021 Survival of the Fittest Opening Round Match
Danhausen vs. Rhett Titus
Titus works over Danhausen’s left leg. He brings down Danhausen and applies a headscissors when Danhausen’s wristlock is too weak. Danhausen takes down Titus with a dropkick to block a pop-up. Titus comes back with a gutwrench throw. Titus tries pushing Danhausen off the top turnbuckle, but Danhausen hooks his feet under Titus’ arms, resulting in Titus tumbling to the floor. Danhausen delivers a running uppercut against the barricades. In the ring, Danhausen O’Connor rolls Titus for two. Titus cuts him off with a back elbow. Titus wears down Danhausen’s neck. Danhausen attempts some quick pins, then gives Titus a Northern Lights suplex. Danhausen surprises Titus with a lungblower for two. Danhausen avoids a yakuza kick and German suplexes Titus. A running knee to the chest and diving uppercut gets Danhausen a two count. Titus throws some shots before taking over Danhausen with a belly-to-belly suplex. After a dropkick and a pair of yakuza kicks, Titus spins Danhausen in a full-nelson before sitting down with a full-nelson Camel Clutch for the submission victory at 9:58. I really love that Danhausen had a chance to show his wrestling acumen in this match. Not only does it show that he has plenty to offer bell to bell, but him taking this match seriously showed that even he considers an ROH World Championship opportunity to be of value. Titus was a great choice in helping to accentuate Danhausen’s wrestling prowess, while also showing his own. I think the full-nelson Camel Clutch is also a much better finisher than the dropkick. This definitely exceeded my expectations. **¾
The June 23rd episode of Women’s Division Wednesday featured a debuting competitor take on favorite in the upcoming Women’s title tournament:
Allie Recks vs. Angelina Love
This is Recks’ ROH debut. Of late, she has been competing for the WWN family of promotions, such as SHINE and ACW. In her pre-match interview, she talks about “growing up” watching Love on TV. Mandy Leon is in Love’s corner. Recks gets the first big strike with a front handspring forearm strike in the corner. Recks demolishes Love’s neck with a quick side Russian leg sweep for two. Love throws Recks down by her hair when Recks looks for a backdrop. After blocking a corner attack from Love, Recks scores with a crossbody for two, but Love shuts her down with a clothesline. Love brings Recks down with a Complete Shot into the Koji Clutch. Recks escapes by rolling Love onto her shoulders for a pin. Recks then gives Love a backbreaker and a tiger feint kick for two. Love takes her down with an electric chair drop, and can’t believe that Recks is able to kick out. Recks surprises Love with a jawbreaker. She then hits the Recks Effect (double knee Code Breaker) for a close nearfall. Love evades a second crossbody attempt and hits the Botox Injection for the pin at 9:30. Recks had a top notch showing against the former Women of Honor champion and would absolutely be suited for the division. This was also another good showing for Love as she continues to build her case as the tournament odds on favorite. **½
Mildly tearful, Recks asks for a microphone. She thanks Angelina Love for asking the board of directors to bring her in and how grateful she was for being able to debut in ROH against her. Love calls Recks a failure. Recks says she knows she failed tonight, but wants one more chance to show why she belongs in ROH. Love says she can have another opportunity, right now. Suddenly Amy Rose’s music hits and she comes out in pink ring attire. However, she says Recks won’t be facing her, Recks will be facing them. Out comes Max The Impaler
Allie Recks vs. Max The Impaler
Recks puts in a valiant effort, but Max throws her around like the proverbial ragdoll. Recks amazingly kicks out after Max stretches her out in a torture rack and slams her from that position. Amy Rose is not happy when Recks kicks out. Max then drops Recks with an over the shoulder backbreaker for the pin at 3:51. A nice dominant performance from Max before Maria offers them a ticket to gold (which Amy Rose accepts on their behalf via Zoom Call.) I said Love would be considered an odds on favorite as both a former champion and someone with a bye in the tournament, but based on size and dominance, Max is also in that conversation. *½
On June 24th, ROH held the second ever Pure Rules Gauntlet:
Pure Rules Gauntlet Match
Every match in the Pure Rules Gauntlet match is contested under Pure Rules. The current Pure Champion Jonathan Gresham is on commentary for the bout. The rules are below:
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. Rope breaks do not reset between matches.
*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. Warnings do not reset between matches.
*Each match has a 15 minute time limit. If any match goes past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Will Ferrara vs. Adrian Soriano
Soriano replaces LSG who was unable to compete due to COVID protocols. His fellow Primal Fear stablemates Matthew Omen and Gabriel Hodder are in his corner. As this is Soriano’s first Pure Rules match, it’s no surprise Ferrara is able to control him early on. Soriano sweeps Ferrara into a Blue Thunder backbreaker to turn things around. Ferrara however is able to roll Soriano into a short-arm scissor, eliminating him at 4:32 by submission. Soriano denies Ferrara a post-match handshake.
Will Ferrara vs. Ryan Mooney
Mooney’s initial strategy of holding onto a cravate shifts when Ferrara’s back begins to bother him. From there, Mooney shifts his attack to Gerrara’s spine. Ferrara uses his first rope break in escaping a cloverleaf. Ferrara gets Mooney to also use his first rope break by applying another short-arm scissor. Mooney is also issued a warning for using a closed fist. However, it leads directly into him pinning Ferrara with a Lightning Spiral at 5:16.
The World Famous CB vs. Ryan Mooney
The pace picks up between these two, and CB has Mooney use his second rope break to escape a full-nelson. Right after that, CB drilled Mooney with a Dragon suplex. CB jams Mooney’s leg twice in the ropes with dragonscrew leg whips. He knees Mooney in the head and goes for a kimura lock. He then puts Mooney in the Danger Zone (a single leg crab with a single leg choke) to get the submission victory at 5:19.
The World Famous CB vs. Mike Bennett
This is Bennett’s first ever Pure Rules match. He uses his first rope break to avoid an arm submission from CB. Bennett is able to drop CB with a divorce court on his left arm and continues to attack his left arm after. CB maneuvers Bennett into an abdominal stretch, which Bennett uses his second rope break to escape. Bennett is able to surprise CB with a spear, and then tap him out to the London Dungeon at 5:19.
Mike Bennett vs. Joe Keys
Bennett goes for the London Dungeon again after a strike exchange with keys. Keys uses his first rope break to escape, and catches Bennett off guard with a boot from the mat. Bennett grabs the ropes to block a sunset flip, which referee Joe Mandak counts as Bennett’s third and final rope break. Bennett goes to the ropes when Keys tries a Boston Crab. Although Keys does not have to break, it allows for Bennett to crawl his way out of the ring and avoid the hold being applied. Back in the ring, Keys blocks a superkick and German suplexes Bennett for two. Bennett holds onto the wrist after kicking out, putting Keys into a modified London Dungeon for the submission at 5:49.
Mike Bennett vs. PJ Black
This is Black’s first match in the year 2021, returning after recovering from a compound fracture in his left ankle. Black is issued a warning after throwing a closed fist during a strike exchange. Black attacks to the top of Bennett’s head and neck. Bennett breaks a double axe handle mid-air and throws Black out of an exploder suplex. Black comes back with a super Spanish Fly for two. Bennett avoids a double stomp and blocks a kick. He drops lack with a brainbuster after a rolling elbow, then nails Black with a lariat for two. A spear and piledriver earns Bennett the pin at 10:05, winning the Gauntlet at 36:20 overall. In general I think the first Gauntlet had the stronger roster of Pure wrestlers, but this was good in establishing Bennett’s footing in the Pure division, as a soft re-introduction for PJ Black, and giving some less visible roster members a spotlight. ***
Bennett acknowledges Gresham at the commentary table, saying he respects him and plans to win the Pure title as part of his redemption tour. Gresham says Bennett has yet to earn his respect, and it will take more than winning this Gauntlet to do so.
Now onto this week’s episode! The show begins with a recap of how all six participants in the Survival of the Fittest elimination match advanced. Demonic Flamita defeated Rey Horus, Brian Johnson defeated Sledge, Eli Isom defeated Dak Draper, Chris Dickinson defeated O’Shay Edwards, Bandido defeated Bateman, and Rhett Titus defeated Danhausen. Titus is also the only individual in the finals to have previously competed in the Survival of the Fittest.
Matt Taven vs. Dutch
Righteous members Bateman and Vita VonStarr lead Dutch to the ring. This is Dutch’s in-ring debut. Dutch’s size poses a challenge for Taven. As Taven is recovering on the floor, ConStarr snreaks up from behind pummeling Taven in the head as she applies a bodyscissors. Maria Kanellis-Bennett comes out and tells VonStarr she violated their agreement and is no longer in the Women’s Championship tournament. VonStarr doesn’t seem terribly bothered as Kanellis-Bennett makes her go backstage. Taven is finally able to score some offense with a suicide dive and then the Flight of the Conqueror. In the ring he hits Aurora Borealis and Dutch kicks out at one! Dutch avoids the Climax. Taven blocks a ripcord Black Hole Slam and drops Dutch with the Climax. Suddenly, Vincent appears on the stage wearing one of Taven’s purple suits. As Taven goes after Vincent, Bateman blindsides Taven with an attack, resulting in a disqualification win for Taven at 7:47. VonStarr rejoins the fray and Mike Bennett runs out to help Taven. The numbers get the better of the OGK and they’re left laying. Vincent cuts a promo about how he may face Taven in the future, but eventually Taven is going to sacrifice himself to the point where he has nothing left to show and nobody will care about him. This was just one big angle. Mileage will vary depending on how interested in this storyline you are. *
2021 Survival of the Fittest Elimination Match
Demonic Flamita vs. Brian Johnson vs. Eli Isom vs. Chris Dickinson vs. Bandido vs. Rhett Titus
The winner of this match will face RUSH for the ROH World Title at “Best in the World 2021” on July 11th. The match begins with a battle of former partners (Bandido and Flamita) and current rivals (Titus and Dickinson). Isom trades some pins with Titus. Titus ducks a back elbow and tope con hilos onto Dickinson. Isom Bermuda Triangle’s onto Dickinson and Titus after being whipped to the corner by Johnson. Flamita stops Bandido on the top turnbuckle, but Bandido ends up giving Flamita a moonsault fallaway slam onto all four other opponents on the floor! Back in the ring, Bandido surprises Flamita with a schoolboy pin at 4:50 when Flamita misses a tiger feint kick on Johnson. Flamita attacks Bandido out of anger and powerbombs him through the timekeeper’s table. During the break, Rey Horus and officials would check on Bandido ringside, and he refused to leave the match.
Isom rolls to the floor after Johnson drops him with Spike Eskin and the Process. As Dickinsion is looking to pick up Johnson in a waistlock, Titus blasts him with the hydraulic dropkick. Titus then belly-to-belly suplexes Johnson for two. Johnson comes back with the Mecca Locomotive (lariat) and looks for the Process. Titus dropkicks Johnson to the corner to block and nails two yakuza kicks. A flying knee drop off the top allows Titus to pin Johnson at 12:56. Dickinson notices Titut’s hurt left leg and attacks it with two dragonscrew leg whips. He then applies a straight kneebar, forcing Titus to submit at 13:27. Dickinson attacks the beaten down Bandido, specifically his left shoulder. He tries a cross armbreaker, which Bandido blocks by hooking his hands together. Isom pulls Bandido to the floor and gets in the ring with Dickinson. Isom holds his own in a strike exchange. Dickinson puts Isom in a rear-naked choke in the ropes. Bandido surprises Dickinson with a superkick to the back of the head, and then the 21 Plex to pin him at 18:56. Isom turns Bandido inside out with a lariat before dropping him with a sidewinder suplex for two. Isom gets Bandido in a Rings of Saturn, and Bandido gets his foot to the bottom rope to escape. Bandido escapes the Promise and hits the X-knee. Bandido goes for the 21 Plex but his arm gives out. Isom drops him with an Air Raid Crash for a very close nearfall. Bandido is caught coming off the second rope by Isom into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, and Isom is blown away when he kicks out. Bandido escapes The Promise and brings down Isom into a full body submission, bending Isom’s neck with his legs while stretching out his arms. Unable to reach the ropes, Isom taps out at 23:51, making Bandido the Survival of the Fittest 2021 winner. The action was good throughout, and they wove in enough stories to keep things engaging. I certainly question Isom aiding Bandido in an elimination style match, but that snafu aside this was fun to watch and enjoyable. Bandido was totally the right choice to win; he vs. RUSH should be a hoot. ***½
Overall: The Survival of the Fittest match took up the bulk of the episode, and given it was a good match with big implications for the PPV, that makes this week a pretty easy thumbs up episode.