ROH on SBG #515

Baltimore, MD – 7.30.2021

Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni, Caprice Coleman, Lenny Leonard & Chelsea Green.

A Pure Rules match was featured on the July 27th edition “Week By Week”:

Pure Rules Match
Joe Keys vs. Brian Milonas

I like to think that he’s Brian Milonas instead of Brawler Milonas for this match because of the Pure Rules. The Beer City Bruiser and Ken Dixon are in his corner, and Dante Caballero is in Keys’ corner.

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 15 minute time limit. If the time limit expires, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.

Despite this being Milonas’ very first Pure Rules match, his size advantage provides him a lot of confidence. His confidence grows when Keys spends his first rope break early escaping an armlock. Keys puts on a front facelock, and then a sleeper to get Milonas to spend two rope breaks quickly, and he then blasts Keys with a closed-fist punch which earns him his first warning. Milonas keeps on top of Keys. Keys gets Milonas on his knees and goes for another sleeper. Milonas backs Keys to the corner to squish Keys, but Todd Sinclair counts that as Milonas’ third and final rope break. Keys catches Milonas with a forest to the back of the head and dropkick off the top turnbuckle Jay Lethal comes to ringside to cheer on Keys as Keys drops Milonas with a tornado DDT on the floor. Things get hair when Bruiser has a chair and looks to hit Caballero, but Lethal intercepts. This serves as enough of a distraction for Milonas to shoulder block Keys on the floor. Milonas in the ring gives Keys a running crossbody and an Earthquake Splash for the pin at 6:35. This was such a delightfully subversive from the usual Pure Rule matches. Milonas mocked the pure style instead of embracing it. Milonas was also unfamiliar with the rules to a certain extent, but also knew enough to taunt Lethal to try and get him to strike. I was skeptical when this was announced and ended up loving this. **½

This week’s episode kicks off the tournament to crown the first ROH Women’s Championship. Like the Pure title tournament, this was set to take place last year, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This championship more or less replaces the Women of Honor title which was made inactive in late 2019. The tournament will take place over the course of the next month and a half, concluding at “Death Before Dishonor” on September 12th. Quinn McKay also confirms that she officially is in the tournament. Despite losing both of her matches to enter the tournament, because the Allure cheated on both occasions, Maria-Kanellis Bennett put it in the hands of the ROH fans to decide via social media polls. Overwhelmingly, the fans voted in McKay’s favor, and she will face Mandy Leon in the opening round.

ROH Women’s Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Alex Gracia vs. Miranda Alize

Chelsea Green is on commentary for this bout. These women are friends from the Texas area with similar backgrounds, with Alize having a few more years experience under her belt. After showing a bit of attitude, they try to one up each other with offense off the ropes. Alize takes down Gracia with a headscissors but then offers Gracia a handshake which she accepts. Gracia dropkicks Alize to the floor but crashes to the floor in attempting a springboard dive. Alize throws Gracia into the barricades and after the commercial break we see them trading strikes on their knees back inside the ring. Alize ends that with a headbutt. Gracia slips off Alize’s shoulders and gives her a back cracker. Gracia blasts Alize in the face with a penalty kick for two, and also gets two with a flying Blockbuster. Alize surprises Gracia with a knee strike to the face for two. After a high kick and Ace Crusher, Alize hits the Drive By for the pin at 8:43. Some of the Lucha offense early on was on the sloppier side, but the second half was very well done. They kept things competitive throughout, and Alize’s victory felt hard fought and well earned. She’s been impressive in her Women’s Division Wednesday showings and I am glad to see her advance. ** ½

ROH Women’s Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Nicole Savoy vs. Mazzerati

Nicole Savoy is the longest reigning SHIMMER champion. Pre-pandemic was on the path of establishing herself among the ROH roster, including victories over former Women of Honor champions Sumie Sakai and Angelina Love. Savoy goes after Mazzerati’s left arm. Mazzerati maneuvers her way out of a wristlock and slaps Savoy in the face. Mazzerati also tags her in the chin with an uppercut against the ropes, and Savoy responds in kind. Mazzerati thrust kicks Savoy through the middle rope and gives her Sole Food on the ring apron. Savoy comes back with a fallaway slam for two. Mazzerati leans against the bottom rope to escape Savoy’s rear-naked choke, applying pressure to Savoy’s neck against the bottom rope. Savoy catches Mazzerati’s double knees attempt in the corner, converting into a Royal Butterfly suplex. Mazzerati ripcords Savoy into a Northern Lights suplex for two. Savoy ducks a couple kicks, but when she pulls Mazzerati down, Mazzerati blasts her with a right hand. Savoy kicks out after a DDT, and when Mazzerati comes charging, Savoy halts her with a TKO for two. Savoy tries for a half-nelson suplex. Mazzerati escapes and kicks Savoy’s knee out. Savoy ducks a roundhouse kick and gives Mazzerati a bridging half-nelson suplex for the pin at 8:45. Both women got to show a lot of character throughout the match in addition to some excellent wrestling. Savoy winning seemed inevitable, even though Mazzerati arguably outshined her in this bout. Still, Savoy advancing was the right call for now, but I hope it is not the last we have seen of Mazzerati. ***

ROH Women’s Championship Tournament Opening Round Match
Rok-C vs. Sumie Sakai

At age 19, Rok-C is the youngest competitor in the tournament, and is a student of Booker T’s. Sakai was the inaugural Women of Honor champion, winning a tournament to become the champion in 2018. Sakai goes for a cross armbreaker early but Rok-C quickly gets the ropes. Rok-C rolls out of another arm hold, tornado clutching Sakai into a standing Kneecolepsy. She also drives her knees into a seated Sakai in the corner for two. After the commercial we see Sakai wearing down Sakai’s back and left leg. Rok-C prawn holds her way out of a submission, leading to a forearm strike xchange with Sakai. Sakai schoolgirls Rok-C into a knee strike to the face for two. Sakai drives Rok-C back first onto her knees in a cloverleaf position, then applies a high angle Boston Crab. Rok-C crawls her way to the bottom rope to escape. Rok-C punches Sakai from the mat when she tries another Boston Crab. She comes off the second rope with a Thesz Press. She tilt-a-whirls Sakai into a side Russian leg sweep for two. Saki stops Rok-C’s neckbreaker assault with a back suplex. Sakai tries for a superplex. Rok-C slips underneath but gets kneed in the face multiple times. Rok-C spin kicks Sakai as Sakai is seated on the turnbuckle twice. She brings down Sakai with a Frankensteiner. Sakai counters the pin and nails Rok-C with a rolling back elbow. She gives Rok-C a fisherwoman’s buster for a very close nearfall. Sakai kneels down on another prawn hold attempt from Rok-C. Rok-C kicks out, then prawn holds Sakai again to get the pin at 9:36! Sakai definitely brought her best effort since the pandemic in this one, coming in with a solid game plan and showing more aggression than usual. Rok-C was more than a formidable foe, and defeating the first tournament’s winner in the opening round was a nice shake-up. Rok-C is someone I could see the division being built around, and in a match that felt like the future of the women’ s division against its matriarch, Rok-C makes a statement by ousting Sakai in the opening round. A nice way to end the episode. ***

Overall: This tournament is off to a good start with three good matches and three strong wrestlers advancing. As a long time fan it was great to have Lenny Leonard back on commentary, and Chelsea Green’s insights were very much worthwhile too. I am also so glad that the majority of this tournament will be featured on TV – it shows much more regard by ROH for their women’s division than in previous years.

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