Jonathan Gresham defended the ROH Championship on February 6th in PROGRESS:
ROH World Championship – Pure Rules Match
Jonathan Gresham vs. Chris Ridgeway
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 128: Technique – Manchester, England – 2.6.2022
Gresham has been champion since 12.11.2021 and this is his seventh defense. He and Ridgeway competed in a Pure Rules match in October which ended in a double count out, with Gresham inviting Ridgeway to join The Foundation after the 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.
Gresham spent the opening portion of the bout manipulating and damaging Ridgeway’s left knee. Ridgeway torques his arm in a hammerlock. Gresham uses his first rope break to escape the hold. Gresham backs Ridgeway to the corner to escape another hammerlock, elbowing Ridgeway in the ear. He rolls Ridgeway into a punt to the hand and snaps off an armdrag to turn things back in his favor. Gresham stretches out Ridgeway’s body before arm dragging him again. Ridgeway escapes a headscissors and kicks Gresham in the ches to shut him down. A forearm to the stomach leads to another chest kick and a fisherman’s suplex. When Ridgeway grabs a waistlock after Gresham fails to apply an Octopus hold, Gresham grabs the ropes, using his second rope break to escape. Gresham leg sweeps Ridgeway on the apron and sends him to the floor with a hesitation dropkick. Ridgeway lands a chest kick when he comes back in, but a lionsault press from Gresham follows. They trade nearfalls on the mat, ending with a close European Clutch from Gresham. When he tries it a second time, Ridgeway rolls him into a waistlock pin. Gresham uppercuts his arm, but Ridgeway chest kicks him again, knocking both men down. A strike exchange lands to an enzuigiri and half-nelson suplex from Gresham. Ridgeway step-up knees Gresham and kicks him in the chest before delivering a PK for two. Gresham weaves out of a suplex attempt but Ridgeway gets him in an ankle lock. Gresham uses his third and final rope break to escape. Gresham holds onto Ridgeway’s wrist after taking a German suplex and delivers a German suplex of his own. Gresham pummels Ridgeway in the side of the head before delivering a deadlift German suplex. Three running forearms to the side of the head puts Ridgeway down at 20:34. This was about as good as their first match. It felt more or less like most of Gresham’s matches, and while the wrestling was good, what they built wasn’t fully realized by the end. By that I mean, Ridgeway’s chest kicks and Gresham’s arm work didn’t really go anywhere. The crowd came and went but were there when it mattered most. ***
Now onto this week’s episode!
On January 26th, Ring of Honor announced the creation of the ROH Hall of Fame to coincide with their 20th Anniversary. Throughout the month, each episode of ROH television will feature one of the inductees into this year’s inaugural class. This week’s episode features highlights and three matches from the third inductee, Samoa Joe.
Xavier (Champion) vs. Samoa Joe
“Night of the Champions” – Philadelphia, PA – 3.22.2003
Joe’s partners from The Group, Michael Shane and CW Anderson, take Xavier’s partners from the Prophecy, Christopher Daniels and Allison Danger away to ensure a fair fight. Joe mauls Xavier with strikes and throws him face first into the corner. Xavier tries to skin the cat when Joe tosses him over the top rope, but Joe kicks him to the floor. Joe Ole kicks Xavier’s face into the guardrails, and then throws some Kawada Kicks back inside the ring. Xavier blocks the Island Driver with a Back Cracker. He drives his forearm into Joe’s neck for two. Xavier dropkicks Joe to the floor and then suicide dives into a swinging DDT. He does more damage to Joe’s neck back in the ring. Joe gets incensed when Xavier dropkicks him in the face. He absorbs Xavier’s chops and throws some of his own. Joe remains standing when Xavier throws a couple clotheslines, and then turns Xavier inside out with one of his own. He gives Xavier three various suplexes that drop him on his head. Xavier turns Joe’s bridging German suplex into a lateral press for two. Joe blocks the X-Breaker but takes a knee strike to the head. He successfully hits the X-Breaker and goes up top. Joe gets his knees up to block the 450 Splash. He throws some knees to Xavier’s head before locking on the Coquina Clutch. Xavier’s arm drops three times, giving Joe the win and the title at 11:21. In addition to this being a very important match in ROH’s history, it told a good story and kicked off Joe’s reign of dominance convincingly. It showed that not only could Joe absorb a lot of punishment but that he was a crafty, smart competitor – much more than a guy who did power moves. Xavier’s reign may be fondly remembered, but at least his final defense served its purpose and kicked off arguably the most important ROH title run ever. ***
ROH Pure Championship
Jay Lethal vs. Samoa Joe
“Manhattan Mayhem” – New York, NY – 5.7.2005
Joe starts off the aggressor, throwing open hand strikes at Lethal after taking him to the corner.. Lethal slaps Joe and tells him that “the real champ is here.” They then go to the mat, trading control over another. Joe backs Lethal to the ropes to break a front facelock, but Joe does not break cleanly, laying in a few strikes. Lethal comes back with a leg lariat for one. He puts on a parachute stretch and Joe uses his first rope break to escape. Joe ends up using a closed fist on Lethal after side stepping Lethal’s crossbody attempt. Todd Sinclair catches him, and Joe gets a warning. Lethal drops Joe with a neckbreaker and puts him in a modified crossface, which Joe spends his second rope break to get out of. Joe catches Lethal in the corner with the STJoe. After taking kicks and a knee drop on the mat, Lethal gets to his feet and fights back. Joe stops a rolling elbow attempt from Lethal with another closed fist, which costs Joe his third and final rope break. He powerbombs Lethal into a Boston Crab, transitioning into an STF. Lethal uses his first rope break to escape. Joe goes for the facewash kick, but Lethal traps Joe’s leg in the ropes and gives him a dropkick. He suplexes Joe and gets two with a diving headbutt. Joe sends Lethal to the apron, kicking him to the floor and follows with an elbow suicida. Joe and Lethal fight on the apron where Lethal puts on a sleeper hold. Joe grabs the ropes, but since he’s out of rope breaks, Lethal need not break the hold. Joe solves the problem creatively, tumbling back first (and thus sending Lethal back first) off the apron and through the timekeeper’s table. When they recover back in the ring, Lethal dishes out some chops. Joe powerslams him for two then puts on a cross armbreaker. Lethal uses his second rope break to escape. He gives Joe a neckbreaker and a Flying DDT for two. Joe slaps Lethal in the face. He lariats Lethal in the back of the head. Lethal ducks a front lariat, then hits the Dragon suplex, the same move that won him the title, on Joe, but Joe manages to kick out. Lethal goes for a second Dragons uplex. Joe however comes back with two of his own Dragon suplexes on Lethal, as well as a cross-armed German suplex (the Chimeraplex) for the pin at 16:32. This was a particularly intense Pure Title match that also utilized the rules of the match in a very compelling manner. Joe losing all his rope breaks early, then having to desperately resort to throwing Lethal through a table just to survive added a lot of excitement to the bout. Lethal looked like he had finally matched his mentor, coming close to putting him away a few times, only to suffer defeat in the end partially by his own signature move. Lethal didn’t show any sympathy like Joe had wanted, but Lethal still wasn’t able to best his mentor on this night. Joe would resume using his “The Champ Is Here Music” after this victory, which ruled. ***¾
Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi
“Joe vs. Kobashi” – New York, NY – 10.1.2005
Joe takes Kobashi to the ropes and smacks him in the face. Kobashi gives Joe a vicious chop in the corner. Joe suplexes him out of a knuckle lock, then shoulder blocks him to the floor when he gets up. Joe follows with an elbow suicida. In the ring Kobashi fires up when Joe starts throwing chops. Kobashi throws them right back with much more intensity. Joe throws some kicks and an enzuigiri in response. Joe throws Kawada kicks to his head. Kobashi feels no pain, so Joe throws a knee at his head instead to take him down. Kobashi eats the Ole kick on the floor. He chops Joe when he tries it a second time. Kobashi then chops Joe into the crowd. Ringside, he DDT’s Joe on the floor. Kobashi chops Joe to the mat and gives him three falling chops to the chest for a two count. Chops are thrown by both men with great ferocity. It is Kobashi who ends up knocking Joe off his feet. Joe grabs the ropes to break an abdominal stretch. Joe blocks a rolling chop. He drops Kobashi with the STJoe and also lands a senton. Joe throws punches and chops in the corner. He powerbombs Kobashi in the corner! Joe only gets two with a facewash kick and Muscle Buster. He powerbombs Kobashi into the STF. Kobashi gets the ropes. He dumps Joe on his head with a half-nelson suplex! Kobashi unloads with an incredible amount of chops to Joe in the corner. We’re talking roughly 100 of them, if not more. Kobashi gives him another half-nelson suplex. Joe grabs the bottom rope to stop the pin count. Joe comes back with some forearms. Kobashi catches him with a sleeper. He drops Joe on his head again with a sleeper suplex. Joe kicks out! He throws rapid fire slaps to the face. Kobashi gives him three rolling chops and the Burning Lariat for the pin at 22:13. When you envision the spectacle of Joe and Kobashi, this is exactly what you would have expected. I’m still surprised Kobashi took so much of Joe’s key offense and made him look so good. Sure, there’s some things to complain about, but this was such a watershed moment for Ring of Honor that its faults are so easy to look past. While I don’t think it’s a perfect match like some, it’s still quite incredible and a must watch for fans. ****½
Deonna Purrazzo held another open challenge for her ROH Women’s Championship at Impact Wrestling’s “No Surrender” event, and it was answered by someone who was very close to winning that title previously:
ROH Women’s World Championship
Deonna Purrazzo vs. Miranda Alize
Impact Wrestling “No Surrender 2022” – Westwago, LA – 2.19.2022
Purrazzo has been champion since 1.13.2022 and this is her second defense. Alize of course made it all the way to the finals to crown the first ROH Women’s World Champion, ultimately won by Rok-C. Alize goes for the Miranda Rights early but Purrazzo doesn’t let her get it. He takes out Purrazzo’s knee and dizzies her with a cazadora and headsicssors. She then wipes out the champ-champ with a suicide dive. Purrazzo pump kicks Alize. She attacks and stretches Alize’s back. Alize La Mistica’s Purrazzo into a schoolgirl pin, but Purrazzo kicks out and boots her down. Alize takes down Purrazzo with a springboard spike Frankensteiner. Alize blasts Purrazzo with a running knee in the corner. Purrazzo comes back with an exploder suplex. Alize ripcords Purrazzo into a knee strike to the face and brings her down into the Miranda Rights. Purrazzo turns it into a pin, but Alize brings her down with a Code Breaker right away. Purrazzo rolls out of the trajectory of the Drive By. Purrazzo locks on a Rings of Saturn, elbowing Alize in the face, until Alize submits at 7:26. Alize looked a bit more timid than usual, which made the middle of the match a bit awkward. By the end it all worked out, but as a whole, the match was in general a bit rough around the edges and the crowd weren’t particularly engaged. A rough couple of first matches for Purrazzo’s ROH reign. **
NEXT WEEK: CM Punk’s Hall of Fame special!