September 11th, 2020
Before the pandemic hit, Ring of Honor decide to bring back a championship that was active in the promotion for a few years (2004-2006) - the Pure Championship. A title held by the likes of Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, and Nigel McGuinness. A title that clearly has a legacy, hell, the finals of the tournament to crown the first champion was between AJ Styles and CM Punk. The most notorious match associated with it however was the five star classic between Bryan Danielson & Nigel McGuinness when the title was unified with the ROH World Title in 2006 at their "UNIFIED" event.
The rules of Pure Titles vary slightly from normal matches and handshakes are required pre & post match. I’ll let you google all the specifics if you don’t already know.
The first two matches in this single elimination tournament take place on this show. In the tournament, first round matches have a 15 minute time limit, semi finals have a 20 minute time limit and the finals have a 30 minute time limit.
Before the matches, we get some super well done sit down interviews/video packages with each wrestler. Honestly some of the best video work I’ve seen ROH do. Lethal & Castle’s here were particularly exceptional and made me care way more about their match than I ever would have before.
1) Jay Lethal vs. Dalton Castle - Block A First Round Match
So yeah as I said before, the pre match video made me care about this match more than I ever would have prior. I love Lethal, but Castle has never done much for me however his pre match promo honestly changed that. He felt legit and serious and had me invested. The sad thing is, this only has 15 minutes max and although they do make the most out of that time, it can’t help but feel like it had just started kicking into gear when it ended especially considering how invested the interviews made me. Maybe I should go back and watch their prior matches. So, fun stuff here. Lethal Injection gets the win for Lethal in a fun 13 minute pure struggle.
Match rating - **1/2
2) Jonathan Gresham vs. Wheeler Yuta - Block B First Round Match
Gresham’s video package here was really good. Yuta’s was fine and a solid introduction to him as I’ve never seen or heard of him before. This match felt super reminiscent of old ROH matches as they went hold for hold early and often. It’s easy to see that Yuta was trained by Drew Gulak and Tracy Williams. The match turns serious when Gresham is unable to break his submission hold bc of how the legs were locked, but Yuta takes it personal and when it is broken by the ref, he charges Gresham with a closed fist shot which sends the momentum of this match right up. It’s also a great play on the rules of pure title matches. This leads to a fast paced final few moments where the leg Gresham had been working over throughout the match is slammed repeatedly into the match and Yuta is forced to tap. Simple and to the point. I loved this match. Gresham should win this whole thing and this sub 10 minute match is an example of why. He makes the most out of everything.
Match rating - **3/4
Final thoughts: Good kick off to this tournament. I will definitely be turning in each week to see how things unfold. I just hope some of the other first round matches can hold my attention as I’ve been out of ROH viewing for a while. One things for sure though, I want Lethal/Gresham in the finals! It was teased here and I hope that’s the route they go.