09th Nov2020

‘Ring of Honor: Pure Title Tournament – Final’ Review

by Nathan Favel

Welcome to this week’s Ring Of Honor review, right here on Nerdly. I’m Nathan Favel and we have the finals of the Pure Title Tournament. Before we get started, look at this:

The following is courtesy of rohwrestling.com:

ROH commentators Ian Riccaboni, Caprice Coleman and Quinn McKay provided their analysis and predictions for the ROH Pure Title tournament final between Tracy Williams and Jonathan Gresham, which airs on this weekend’s episode of “Ring of Honor Wrestling.”

IAN RICCABONI: I’m a big enough man to admit when I am wrong, and I’ve been purely wrong about this whole Pure tournament. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that the two Pure Championship finalists, Tracy Williams and Jonathan Gresham, are in the position they find themselves in. The two most technically sound wrestlers in the entire tournament should have been in the best position in any normal year to make their way to the finals. But 2020 has not been a normal year. I tried to view the tournament from the stance of the NCAA Tournament — who had the toughest path, who had the matches that most-prepared them ahead of the tournament on the way in, who was wrestling at their highest level before the tournament began. Because of the circumstances of the year, I anticipated a UMBC-level upset. Tony Deppen had been wrestling more than almost anyone in the tournament field once pandemic restrictions were lifted. Would he be the Cinderella? Josh Woods was training with elite professional MMA fighters and teaching some of the world’s best amateurs as restrictions allowed. Would this be the year he took the ball and ran? And it was easy for me to see why David Finlay might jump ahead to the front of the pack. A fourth-generation wrestler who had arguably the most successful 2020 coming into the tournament, Finlay already had wins at the Tokyo Dome and a handful of wins in NJPW Strong coming out of the restricted environment. But in the end, it wasn’t those men, a virtual unknown like Rust Taylor, a former World TV Champion like Kenny King or Silas Young, or even a former World Champion like Jay Lethal. Stripped to its core, the Pure Tournament highlighted two athletes in a match to determine who the best wrestler is. In the end, it is the two best wrestlers Ring of Honor has to offer. With apologies to both Gresham and Williams, I apologize for overlooking them again. And with apologies to both, I refuse to pick a winner in this bout. Williams has exhausted his rope breaks in his bouts but has done so incredibly strategically. In his career-defining win against Jay Lethal, Williams went immediately for the ropes after the Lethal Injection, continuing a trend of limiting variables and making the match his. Conversely, Gresham won his first three matches by cccc: referee stoppage, submission, and pinfall, maximizing the variables on the table. These two are like each other’s yin and yang, the peanut butter to the other’s jelly. The trials, hardship, and heartache of the pandemic have brought yearnings for simplicity and a want for things to go back to the way things were. There are few things more satisfying than a great wrestling match and a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And there are few more predictable things than me getting a sports prediction wrong.

CAPRICE COLEMAN: The Pure Title tournament final is almost impossible to predict. Both Jonathan Gresham and Tracy Williams are walking in more than wounded. My pick for the tournament is Gresham simply because when you take punches to the face away, you are forced to wrestle. And “The Octopus” has proved to be the greatest pure wrestler on this planet. One of his only weaknesses is the ability to recover from impact. Sudden impact is Tracy Williams’ speciality, whether it’s a piledriver, top rope DDT or blind cutting elbow/knee strike. Both men have shown to have tempers. However, there is no turning off a hot Tracy Williams. On the other hand, Gresham has proven to be the only hot thinker. This means he can use his anger and tunnel a strategy at the same time. This is impossible for most athletes, especially when in danger. That’s why my pick to win the tournament is Jonathan Gresham.

QUINN MCKAY: I went on the record at the very beginning of the Pure tournament that “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams was my pick to win. The last time I spoke with Tracy Williams and Mark Haskins, Haskins was making his intentions for the Ring of Honor World Championship clear, leaving Tracy’s trajectory in question. Then the world shut down. Jonathan Gresham is arguably the best pure wrestler in the world. He is the DEFINITION of pure wrestling, but everyone knows that. He doesn’t have to prove that to any of us. Even if he loses this tournament, he still walks away a champion (as a co-holder of the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship with Jay Lethal). Gresham’s legacy in Ring of Honor is secure. But Tracy Williams? Tracy has something to prove, and in my eyes, that makes him a very dangerous man.

I love that work-up of the finals. That kind of thing needs to be in wrestling a lot more. Also, it filled space. Okay, let’s not waste time here. Let’s get right to it.

Match #1: Shane Taylor and Soldiers of Savagery (Moses and Kaun) def. EC3 and The Briscoes

The following is courtesy of rohwrestling.com:

This match marked EC3’s highly anticipated in-ring debut in ROH. He wanted to start the match against Taylor, but Taylor opted to tag in Kaun. EC3 controlled Kaun initially. Eventually, SOS used double-team moves on Mark Briscoe to gain the advantage. Taylor hit a cutter on Mark as he was draped across the top rope. Taylor later hit a running knee strike to Jay Briscoe for a two count. After Mark was tagged back in, he hit a flurry of offense on all three of his opponents, including a twisting moonsault off the top rope to the floor. Mark set up for Froggy Bow on Taylor, but Taylor moved. Mark landed on his feet, but Taylor snatched him and hit Welcome to the Land for the win.

My Opinion: 2.8 out of 5 – EC3 looked decent for a guy that is debuting, but Taylor was the star here. The Briscoes were solid, but perhaps not strong or sturdy. It’s interesting that this match was so blasé, considering that it needed to be more explosive. Now, you do get to see some big slams and sudden attacks, but it didn’t make the match more exciting. All in all, the match was enough for an opener, but it deserved to be much more.

Match #2: (Main Event) Jonathan Gresham def. Tracy Williams – ROH Pure Title Tournament Final Match

The following is courtesy of rohwrestling.com:

After seven weeks of pure action, pure excitement and the best pure wrestling on the planet, the first ROH Pure Champion in 14 years will be crowned when “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams takes on “The Octopus” Jonathan Gresham in the Pure Title tournament final. When the 16-man tournament began, a lot of fans and pundits predicted it would come down to Gresham and Jay Lethal, the ROH World Tag Team Champions. Lethal, who held the ROH Pure Title in 2005 and was vying to become the first two-time champion, all but guaranteed it. But “Hot Sauce” threw cold water on that guarantee. Fighting through the pain in his troublesome left shoulder, Williams scored the biggest victory of his career by forcing Lethal to tap out to the crossface in the Block A final. Gresham held up his end in the Block B final, as he pinned Josh Woods to move within one win of becoming the ROH Pure Champion and fulfilling what he believes is his destiny. While Lethal versus Gresham would’ve made for a good story because of their friendship and storied rivalry, perhaps it’s fitting that the Pure Title tournament final will be between two men who have built their careers on the art of pure wrestling. Williams and Gresham are both master technicians and submission specialists. Williams won all three of his tournament matches by submission, while two of Gresham’s three victories were via tap out. Both competitors have been through three grueling matches, but Gresham appears to be less banged-up than Williams heading into the final. That, combined with the fact that Gresham is 3-0 all-time against Williams in one-on-one singles matches, makes Gresham the favorite. However, Williams has proven throughout the tournament just how resilient and determined he is. Gresham’s best friend, Lethal, found that out firsthand. The match has a one-hour time limit. If it goes the full hour, the winner will be determined by judges Gary Juster, Sumie Sakai and Will Ferrara.

Here’s a closer look at the two competitors:

  • Height: 6-2. Weight: 190 pounds. Pro debut: 2009.
  • Path to the final: Defeated Rust Taylor by submission in the first round; defeated Fred Yehi by submission in the block semifinals; defeated Jay Lethal by submission in the block final.
  • Fast facts: Williams’ victory over Lethal was the longest match in the tournament (19 minutes, 29 seconds). Williams used his three allotted rope breaks in all three of his matches.
  • Height: 5-4. Weight: 175 pounds. Pro debut: 2005.
  • Path to the final: Defeated Wheeler Yuta by submission in the first round; defeated Matt Sydal by submission in the block semifinals; defeated Josh Woods by pinfall in the block final.
  • Fast facts: Gresham used three different moves to win his tournament matches. He had a total of 14 submission attempts and 16 counters and used just two rope breaks (both in the match against Woods).

Williams had his banged-up left shoulder wrapped. Gresham applied a standing armlock, and Williams used his first of three allotted rope breaks. Williams applied a hold on Gresham’s neck, and Gresham used his first rope break. Gresham speared Williams, but Williams answered with a series of chops. Gresham connected on an Enziguri to Williams’ left shoulder and hit a German suplex into a bridge for a two count. Williams rocked Gresham with a clothesline for a two count. Williams landed a brainbuster for a near fall and then transitioned into a crossface. Gresham appeared on the verge of tapping, but he managed to get to the ropes for his second rope break. Gresham hit another German suplex into a bridge for a near fall. Williams landed two running forearms to the face followed by one to the back of the head for a near fall. Williams planted Gresham with a piledriver, but Gresham used his final rope break. Gresham got back to his feet and caught Williams in the Octopus Stretch. Maintaining the hold, Gresham dropped to the mat and leaned back to increase the pressure on Williams’ left shoulder. Williams tapped out at 14:37. After the match, Jay Lethal, Gresham’s best friend and ROH World Tag Team Championship partner, came into the ring to celebrate with Gresham and shake the hand of Williams, who had defeated him in the Block A final. Gresham becomes the first ROH Pure Champion since 2006 and joins AJ Styles, Doug Williams, John Walters, Jay Lethal, Samoa Joe, Nigel McGuinness and Bryan Danielson as the only men to hold the title.

My Opinion: 4.4 out of 5 – While not the best match of the tournament, it was still pretty damn good and a great capper to this Pure Title Tournament. Gresham and Williams definitely stuck to the Pure Tourney rules and methods here, so don’t worry about these guys taking a shortcut to sell the match as a spectacular finale. Holds meant some-thing here, as if they were the air that they breathed. There was a hunger here that these two tried to satiate and I think they do, mostly. Technical wrestling is on display here in a way that is very addictive and succulent, like your mom when I nail her. Williams lost here, but did not lose in the larger sense. Williams has shown that he can be an intense fighter that makes every move look like they hurt and do so in just the way he wants. Gresham, on the other hand, gained more than just the title here. What Gresham gained from this match was legitimacy as a personality. I saw more from Gresham as a top-tier name than I’ve ever seen from him before. It’s always a pleasure to see a match take it’s time, which is what happened with this contest. We got a great champion in the official return of the Pure Title and I think it may just turn out to be a great occasion we’ll remember for years to come.

News Of The Night:

  1. Jonathan Gresham and Tracy Williams are now in a faction called The Foundation, which seeks to legitimize professional wrestling.

Final Verdict: 4.6/5

The main event was why you’re here and it was fantastic. Also, the show was paced well and it was easy to watch. I hope the quality of these shows carries over to the next batch of shows, because this sports-like presentation was better than refreshing and more than just compelling. This format, along with the kind of levity that the National Football League has in its panels and the dry grandeur of CBS Sports and HBO Sports is where Ring Of Honor should go next if they want to capitalize on this new aesthetic. Well, this was a lot of fun. See you next week.


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