9/11 ROH TV REPORT: Back with first new content since pandemic hiatus, Pure Title Tournament begins with Lethal vs. Castle, Gresham vs. Yuta

By Ryan Sullivan, PWTorch contributor


ROH TV REPORT (ep.469)
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020

Host: Quinn McKay

-An updated opening theme aired.

-A Pure Title Tournament promo package, aka a hype video, was shown to promote the tournament. It closed with the phrase “This is the pure wrestling tournament, and this is Ring of Honor”.

-Quinn McKay was shown behind a desk, at the ROH studios. She talked about the backstory of the Pure Title in ROH, with AJ Styles defeating CM Punk to be the inaugural champion, and that Bryan Danielson defeated Nigel McGuinness to unify both the Pure Championship, and ROH Championship.

-Next, Quinn listed the competitors in the field for the tournament. They are: Jay Lethal, Matt Sydal, Jonathan Gresham, Tracy Williams, PJ Black, David Finlay, Silas Young, Josh Woods, Kenny King, Rocky Romero, Delirious, Dalton Castle, Tony Deppen, Wheeler Yuta, Rust Taylor and Fred Yehi. In addition, Dak Draper is the “A” block alternate, and Brian Johnson is the “B” block alternate. Quinn then showed a graphic on-screen of the tournament brackets, and the rules for a Pure Title match.

-A graphic was shown hyping the upcoming Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle match, which was next. (c)

-Back from commercial, a video package starring Jay Lethal was shown. Lethal was sitting in a director’s chair, talking about his early days in ROH, with video highlights injected throughout the promo. Lethal explained his journey in ROH and his relationship with Samoa Joe. Lethal said that no one has had the Pure Title twice. He won the title originally at 19-years-old and was defending it against stars like Spanky and Samoa Joe.

Lethal said his experience is his edge in this tournament, and it will take him all the way to the end. He mentioned his last match against Dalton Castle in Las Vegas, which Castle won, and how this is motivation for him to win this 1st round matchup. Lethal then predicted that it would be him and Gresham in the finals of the tournament, and he promised to be the only two-time Pure Champion.

(Ryan’s Thoughts: This was an outstanding promo by Jay Lethal, explaining his motivation for being in this tournament, after all his accomplishments and being the current tag-team champion. Also, mentioning his loss to Castle gave additional backstory to this match.)

-Next was Dalton Castle’s opportunity to cut a promo, and explain his motivation for being in this tournament. Dalton started by discussing his journey to ROH, including his impressive amateur wrestling career. Castle acknowledged he “hasn’t just wrestled for 23 years, I’ve been great at it.” Castle them mentioned his five month layoff from the ring, along with his previous wins and losses against Lethal. He finishes the promo asking into the camera “Why have people forgotten how dangerous I am”. (c)

(Ryan’s Thoughts: This promo was a bit too long for my taste, BUT, otherwise, it was terrific. Castle is a dangerous man and an outstanding wrestler, but his flamboyance and mediocre win-loss record has made fans forget how talented Dalton is in the ring. Time aside, another strong promo and got me excited to see how this match would play out.)

(1) JAY LETHAL vs. DALTON CASTLE – 1st Round Match in the Pure Title Tournament

Both Castle and Lethal received their full ring entrances and introductions. Nick Lendl was working as the ring announcer, with Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman on commentary. While both Castle and Lethal walked to the ring, a graphic was shown on the left-third of the screen, providing some legitimately interesting statistics on their recent matches. This is a new addition to ROH TV, and a fantastic upgrade to the product. Furthermore, during these contests, a graphic is at the bottom of the screen shows the names of the wrestlers, the match time, and the number of rope breaks used so far. Another nice touch!

Nearly immediately into the match, Castle took Lethal down and rolled him into the ropes, forcing referee Todd Sinclair to charge a rope break to Lethal. It was unintentional by Lethal, but a smart move by Castle, and a clever reminder to the audience the differences between a traditional, and pure match.

Lethal and Castle continued mat wrestling, with Castle getting the advantage and outwrestling the veteran. Castle landed two Saito suplexes and an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, which lead to a two-count of Lethal. (c)

Back “live”, Lethal was now in control, and working over Castle’s left leg/ankle area. Lethal continued to punish this vulnerable spot for a couple minutes. Lethal then whipped Castle into the turnbuckle, but Dalton used this as a turning point, dodging Lethal and kicking him into the turnbuckle. Castle was now back on offense, and went for his “Bang-A-Rang” finisher, but Lethal cleverly countered it into his “Lethal Combination”, which earned a two-count on Castle.

After a few moments of back-and-forth action, Lethal again charged into the corner, and again, Castle countered this into his “Bang-A-Rang” maneuver, but the toll of the injured leg earlier in the match, did not allow Castle to get all of it. Lethal placed his foot on the ropes to break the pin, and thus, using his second rope break of the match.

The finished occurred soon thereafter, when Castle went for a gut-wrench suplex, which Lethal countered into a Superkick, and Insiguri, followed up shortly with a Lethal Injection for the 1-2-3.

WINNER: Jay Lethal at 13:01 to Advance to Round 2 of the Pure Tournament

(Ryan’s Thoughts: This was a solid match, and told a quality story of two talented and experienced veterans. The ending felt a little rushed, perhaps because of the 15 minute time limit for Round 1 matches. This had a nice pace, did not have an interference, and had a clear winner, which is refreshing in this era of wrestling.)

-Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle adhered to the Code of Honor post-match. (c)

-The show returns to a Wheeler Yuta promo video being aired. Yuta talked about going to college in Philadelphia, specifically so he could train with Drew Gulak and ROH star Tracy Williams. Yuta talked about his travels across the globe, working in Germany and Japan, and the lessons he learned. He said his style is a “Decoder” and he figures out his opponent’s weaknesses and how to beat them. Yuta said Gresham was the best technical wrestler in the world, and he will need to use his mind to outsmart him.

(Ryan’s Thoughts: Third consecutive strong promo on this show, with this one particularly getting over Yuta’s drive to be a professional wrestler, and his preference for a more “pure” style of wrestling.)

-Next, Jonathan Gresham’s cut his promo, talking about his lengthy journey to ROH. He said his road hasn’t been easy, and specifically mentions his ROH debut, a loss to Kyle O’Reilly. After that loss, he traveled the world to train with the best. Gresham then talked about his tag-team and friendship with Jay Lethal, and mentioned that this tournament is bigger to him than their tag-team belts. This tournament is everything to him and he is looking forward to using his technique to beat Wheeler Yuta. (c)

(Ryan’s Thoughts: This was a good promo, but the weakest of the four on the show. I wish (selfishly but honestly) ROH had used our interview with Gresham and his quotes when talking about the Pure Tournament. He was phenomenal in our interview. Nonetheless, his passion for restoring this style of wrestling is evident, and came through in this promo.)

(2) JONATHAN GRESHAM vs. WHEELER YUTA – 1st Round Match in the Pure Title Tournament

Gresham and Yuta both received their full ring entrances and ring introductions. Gresham was conspicuously not wearing his tag-team championship belt, something the announce team wisely noted. Furthermore, the commentators mentioned that Wheeler Yuta had a previous victory over Gresham, in another wrestling company. Gresham and Yuta adhered to the Code of Honor, and the bell rang to start the match.

The match began with a knuckle-lock test of strength, with Yuta gaining the advantage. Gresham attempts to reverse it, but Yuta countered into a body scissors. Yuta continued to use his size advantage to work over Gresham on the mat. About two minutes later, Gresham reversed the hold into an ankle-lock, but Yuta countered this into a clean break. Yuta stays on offense, working on Gresham’s right leg. Soon again, Gresham countered into another ankle lock, and was punishing Yuta into commercial break. ©

Back from commercial, Gresham seemed quite pleased with him, almost cocky, which gave Yuta a small opening, and Wheeler delivered a sweet dropkick to Gresham. Yuta used this opportunity to go for a flying cross body, but Gresham countered it into an Indian Deathlock. Yuta needed a rope break to escape the hold. Yuta stood up and delivered a stiff closed-fist punch to Gresham, clearly against the rules and was Wheeler’s one and only punch in the match, before being disqualified. This punch fired up both men, and forced the pace to quicken. Yuta took advantage of the up-tempo pace, hitting a top-rope cross body, that garnered a two-count on Gresham. Yuta tried to follow-up with a kick, but Gresham quickly countered into a corkscrew leg-whip, followed by a figure-four leg-lock. Yuta creatively broke the hold, rolling all the way to the floor. There was no rope break because both Gresham and Yuta went to the floor, and both men sold injuries to their knees while outside the ring. Gresham and Yuta beat the referee’s count, and got back into the ring at 16.

Inside the ring, both Yuta and Gresham traded a series of pinning predicaments and counter moves. Gresham gained the advantage by stomping on Yuta’s ankle twice, and then began slamming Yuta’s knee repeatedly into the mat, forcing Yuta to submit in pain.

WINNER: Jonathan Gresham at 10:23 to Advance to Round 2 of the Pure Tournament

(Ryan’s Thoughts: I was very surprised by how much offense Yuta had in this match, and the amount of selling Gresham did for Yuta. I thought the story of the match would be the determined Gresham steamrolling the inexperienced Yuta. That said this was a much better and more entertaining story to tell, and was a quality television main event. In particular, it feels like ROH is trying to show that Gresham is supremely determined to win this tournament.)

Gresham and Yuta adhered to the Code of Honor after the match, while Ian Riccaboni hyped next week’s matchups involving Rocky Romero vs. David Finlay and Matt Sydal vs. Delirious, as the show faded to black.

FINAL THOUGHTS: While acknowledging all recentcy bias, this was my favorite hour of wrestling television in 2020. The new changes to the product, like the promos before matches and the statistics on the way to the ring, give a much stronger sports-like feel to the product. It was so refreshing to watch two wrestlers tell their story in the ring, with no outside interference, and have a clear winner and loser to the contest. Ring of Honor is definitely onto something with this updated and clean portrayal of professional wrestling, and I cannot wait to see the next seven weeks of television!

RECOMMENDED: 6/12 ROH TV REPORT: Silas Young talks about life during quarantine, including chopping wood and grilling steaks, matches against Kenny King and The Briscoes

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