SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
BRIAN JOHNSON VS. P.J. BLACK
The pre-match recorded promo between Johnson and Black was really good, adding some story (teacher (Black) vs. student (Johnson)) to their relationship and helping to get the viewer involved in the match up. The follow-up Johnson promo as he entered the ring built on this and was also quite good.
Onto the actual pure rules match. As with most pure matches, the match started off with lots of mat and chain wrestling, with both wrestlers showing talent. A nice touch was that the ring was mic’d in such a way as the trash talking between these two came through loud and clear, which added to the viewers involvement and made up for the lack of crowd noise in the empty, audience-free venue.
As they moved into the “second act” of the match, the speed picked up and there were more strikes and high-flying moves, with Black getting the majority of the impact, but Johnson hung in and the two remained pretty evenly matched. After coming back from break, Black was in complete control abusing Johnson. Again, the verbal talking, grunts and groans added believability and another layer to the match. Much kudos to Johnson who really sold his pain as Black worked him over.
The match ended quickly as Johnson used some dubious methods according to PURE rules but “the referee didn’t see it” and Johnson won the match. After the match, Black acknowledged the Johnson had won but had cheated but that was OK as Black had taught him to do what needed to be done and shook his hand and gave him the “Black Belt” that he had earned by Johnson beating Black.
This match was quite good inside the ring, but was brought to a higher level by the in-ring vocalizations and the announce crew keeping the story of teacher and student going to battle in the forefront of their commentary. Well done to everyone here, this is a big hit.
REPLAY OF EIGHT MAN TAG FROM GLORY BY HONOR
The second match on this show was a replay of wild and crazy eight man tag math from the Glory By Honor PPV. As you may have heard this match was wild with so much action and big moves that at times it was tough to follow but a ton of fun. Yes, this was inserted to get someone to get a membership to see the full show, but it was a great match to get to see and a definite HIT.
One note here, if they can have crowds at these PPV shows, ROH needs to see how they can follow al the protocols (masks, etc.) and get audiences in for their regular tapings. It just adds so much. I will say however, that while it makes the show a bit less interesting, I am OKAY with that if it keeps people from getting sick.
FOUR CORNER ELIMINATION MATCH (KENNY KING, SHANE TAYLOR, BRODY KING, & JAAY LETHAL)
This match was billed as a step up the ladder to get a championship shot. As the match started all four men met in the middle of the ring for the hand-shake and surprisingly there were no cheap shots. The rules here were not your typical four-way match as it was set up as a tag match two wrestlers in the ring while the other two waited in the corners to tag in at anytime.
After Lethal did major damage to Taylors leg, King tagged himself in and took it to Lethal until Brody tagged in and he and Kenny King exchanged huge shots and moves.
Ultimately, Taylor tagged himself in and he and Brody just went after each other. At this point, any structure to the match broke down completely with all four wrestlers fighting in the ring with no thoughts of tags or who was the “legal” man. Ultimately, Brody was in the ring as he and Taylor were they legal men and Brody hit his finisher to win the match.
So, Hit or Miss? This is a tough one. The in-ring action was good and could be called a hit, but the setup for the rules of the match (no explanation of “elimination” or rules for tags, etc.) with only cursory talk about the winner moving up the ladder towards a championship match vs. Bandido left me a bit cold on the match. The announce team could have aided big time here with more depth and explanation of what was on the line and what the constraints of the match were. Instead they settled for just yelling a lot when a big move was hit. So on that basis, I have to call this match a miss, as it didn’t give me any reason to care.
A quick final thought here. The first match of the night between Johnson and Black really drew me in because they started off with a good story, set up by promos backstage, followed that up with good ring action, making up for the absence of the crowd by vocalizing (both talking and selling pain) a good deal during the match, and finally finishing things off with a solid finish and a coda regarding the overarching story line of teacher and student after the match. REALLY GOOD!