17th Sep2020

‘Ring of Honor: Pure Title Tournament – Week 1’ Review

by Nathan Favel

Welcome to this return of Ring Of Honor reviews, right here on Nerdly. I’m Nathan Favel and we have the first two matches in the Pure Title Tournament, which has been resurrected by popular demand. We’ve got two big matches to get to, so let’s not waste any time.

Match #1: (Co-Main Event) Jay Lethal def. Dalton Castle – Block A First-Round Match

The following is courtesy of rohwrestling.com:

How’s this for a first-round matchup? Two former ROH World Champions in their prime squaring off against each other in a one-on-one singles match for just the fourth time in their storied careers. Lethal has won two of the three previous meetings, including their last encounter in January 2019, when he successfully defended the ROH World Title against Castle. Lethal, currently one-half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions with Jonathan Gresham, is the only former Pure Champion in the tournament and is one of the most technically sound competitors in the sport. “The Franchise of ROH” showed a penchant for bending the rules before ROH went on hiatus, but such tactics will not be tolerated in the Pure tournament. Castle’s technical wrestling skills are sometimes overshadowed by his eccentric personality and flashy ring attire, but make no mistake, his skill set is tailor-made for the pure style. Castle is a highly accomplished college and amateur wrestler and is deceptively strong. Fast facts: Lethal has a 14-2 (.875) career record in singles matches in Baltimore, the site of the tournament. … Castle is 4-1 in his past five singles matches, including a victory in a four-way match over Jeff Cobb, Kenny King and Tracy Williams, the latter two of which are competing in the tournament. Lethal took the first of his allotted three rope breaks within the opening minute. Castle seized control with a series of throws and suplexes. Lethal answered by working on Castle’s hamstring and punishing him with chops to the chest. Castle went for Bang-a-Rang, but Lethal escaped and hit Lethal Injection for a near fall. Later, Castle hit Bang-a-Rang, but his knee buckled slightly while delivering the move. Castle went for a cover, but Lethal got his foot on the bottom rope (his second rope break). Lethal stunned Castle with a superkick and followed up with Lethal Injection for the victory in 13:10. Lethal advances to the Block A semifinals, where he will meet the winner of next week’s match between David Finlay and Rocky Romero.

My Opinion: 3.9 out of 5 – This was excellent wrestling that was smart, snappy and direct. There was no malarkey and no gimmicks here. You got wrestling skills being displayed properly and with enough aggression to sell the wrestlers’ strengths and hide their weaknesses. Lethal, who has weathered the storm of his latest allegations so far, really worked hard to use the full breadth of his technical arsenal, including great transitions that focused on linking one move to the next. Castle was so natural here, with his Greco-Roman technique front and center from bell to bell. If you don’t like watching professional wrestlers be patient and earn their way from move to move, then you will have a hard time with this match. If you love intelligent, clever and intricate matches, then you will love this. I would have loved to see Castle win this, but Lethal trying to become the 2-time Pure Champion is too tempting for name of his caliber. Castle should have been a cinch for this tournament, but perhaps Delirious will book Castle to go on a tear to prove he is the best technical wrestler in ROH. In any case, this match was a hell of a way to get re-introduced to this league and a fabulous way to start this Pure Title Tournament.

Match #2: (Co-Main Event) Jonathan Gresham def. Wheeler Yuta – Block B First-Round Match

The following is courtesy of rohwrestling.com:

Gresham is widely regarded as one of the greatest technical wrestlers in the sport and is among the favorites to win the tournament. However, he would be wise not to look past Yuta, a rising young star making his ROH debut. “The Octopus” has faced Yuta once before, on an independent show in Rhode Island in 2018, and he came out on the losing end against “The Decoder.” Yuta, a well-rounded, cerebral competitor who has trained in Japanese dojos, also holds victories over such stars as former ROH Pure Champion John Walters, Flip Gordon and Chuck Taylor. Gresham, who has been a driving force behind the revival of the Pure Championship, defeated Silas Young in a Pure Rules Match at Best in the World last year, but he did so in dubious fashion. In addition to being a master technician, Gresham also has become a master of taking shortcuts and not getting caught. Fast facts: Gresham has won four of his past five singles matches in ROH, including victories over two-time former ROH World Champion Jay Briscoe and Mark Haskins (in a two-out-of-three falls match). … Yuta trained in mat wrestling under former WWE Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak. The 23-year-old Yuta was the aggressor early and forced the veteran Gresham to go on the defensive. Gresham survived Yuta’s initial attack and went on to trap him in the Indian Deathlock. Yuta used his first rope break. Feeling that Gresham did not release the hold quickly enough, Yuta punched Gresham in the face, which resulted in a warning from the referee. Another closed first punch to the face would result in Yuta being disqualified. Yuta used a backslide for a near fall. Gresham went for a suplex, but Yuta shifted his weight and came down on top of Gresham for another near fall. Yuta hit a springboard crossbody for a two count, and scored another two count on a crossbody off the top rope. Gresham applied the figure-four leglock, but Yuta rolled toward the ropes. They crashed to the floor with the hold still applied, which hurt both of them. After a rapid series of pinning combinations and counters, Gresham stomped on Yuta’s left ankle twice. With Yuta lying on his stomach, Gresham grabbed his left leg and began slamming into the mat repeatedly. Yuta tapped out at 10:24. Gresham advances to the Block B semifinals, where he will meet the winner of next week’s match between Delirious and Matt Sydal.

My Opinion: 3.7 out of 5 – Yuta is still fairly green, but he had enough potential to keep up with Gresham, who was in top form. You can expect a plethora of action sequences here, including a great one where both men rolled out of the ring while locked in a tense, gripping submission maneuver that worked very nicely in establishing how matched these two were meant to appear. Yuta relied on aerial moves a bit too much for my liking, but he did show promise as a technical fighter. Gresham kept this locomotive on the rails, with a motive of making both of them look like legitimate technicians. While a slight step down in a few areas, this match still maintained the overall quality of wrestling that this tournament promised and I was very happy to have watched it.

News Of The Night:

  1. Here are the tournament matches for next week:
    David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero
    Delirious vs. Matt Sydal
  2. Will Ferrara has returned as a judge for the tournament.

Final Verdict: 4/5

This was a fantastic show that had a couple of great vignettes to build toward the two matches. The vignettes were a bit too long, but there was no junk in them. The production quality has improved some as well, with the way the show is presented being altered toward a dry, sports-like atmosphere. A bit of National Football League levity by way of charismatic analysts before, in between and after matches would go a long way to letting a bit of the tension out every so often. That all being said, the lack of the crowd actually helped the matches, as there was no temptation from the wrestlers to please the crowd or make them pop. It was nice to see a match go un-fettered and be un-altered by crowd excitement. This show won’t be for everyone, but it was for me and I’m glad to have it.


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