Here we are and Round 2 of the Ring of Honor Pure Title Tournament! We've got Jay Lethal vs Dave Finlay and Matt Sydal vs John Gresham.
Lethal vs Finlay: I wasn't really feeling this match. It felt rather flat and by the book. Finlay felt rather vanilla and perhaps it was unfamiliarity with Lethal or Lethal knows he's got more matches to go and is pacing himself. Nonetheless, Lethal did a fine job selling the leg work but, this was just an OK match. I didn't have any expectations so, not really disappointed. I think they cut 5 minutes or so of the match from the TV episode btw. The match was at the 5 minute mark then, we went to commercial and then they said 10 minutes has passed. I wonder what if that 5 minutes would have changed my opinion.
Then, we get a segment with Vinnie in the ring speaking of some vague nonsense. What is this? Get back to the wrestling! Eventually, we get the answer to the the questions no one's been asking about the The Trend videos ---it's Matt Taven! Taven then proceeds to squash theheck outta Vinne capped off by a sweet flying splash putting Vinnie through a table. There's a couple things going on here for me. I don't want the hokey talkie crap, that's why I watch ROH. That's the benefit of their 1 hour show...they don't have time to waste on guys prattling on about nothing. So, to stick this in the middle of the Pure Title Tournament was jarring for a few reasons. One, it reminded me that ROH still has mediocre guys on their roster like Vinnie that they're trying to do something big with. And in that vein, ROH still wants to play the sport entertainment game despite no one wanting to see it which should be proven to them by the buzz the Pure Tournament is causing. My other concern is that they did this because the Gresham/Sydal match wasn't going long and they needed filler. Thankfully, Taven crushed Vinnie. My hope, although I do think Vinnie has some potential, is that this is the last we see of him in ROH. At least in this Wyatt family/horror movie knock-off incarnation. He and Bateman as a tag team could be good but, I'd take Taven running him out of the company. Its nothing personal but, its a derivative gimmick and looks cheap next to the athletic display of the Pure competitors.
Sydal vs Gresham: I've been looking forward to this match since Sydal beat Delirious on week #2 This did not disappoint. It had excellent counter wrestling and strikes but, unfortunately was over just as it was picking up steam. In fact it was over before, I even knew what happened. Gresham did a Mexican Surfboard and then did some position change where he popped Sydal's torso up and to the side but kept the knees locked in the surfboard position. So, all of Sydal's weight was pulling against the leverage point of Gresham's foot and separating Sydal's knee joint. He insta-tapped so, we didn't get much time to study the hold. It looked like a legit reaction/injury. Sydal was back on his feet to shake The Octopus' hand so, perhaps it was just great selling on Matt's part. Good match but, if given a couple more minutes it could have been great. It just didn't feel like it had an ending third.
A couple things to note from today's episode. Lethal winning was predictable and Gresham's win wasn't too much of a surprise either. I hate to say this but, I think those two are going to be in the finals as I thought on week #1. The reason, I 'hate to say this', is because the stakes are getting lower for me & others to care about the outcome should that be the case. I still want to see the matches but, if they're going to play this safe and use this as an opportunity for re-visiting Lethal vs Gresham then, this will all be a whole lot of nothing. The whole tournament will be just drawing that obvious match out over the course of 2 months.
Last week I had all kinds of ideas with Yehi, Williams, PJ Black, and Josh Woods to a lesser extent. I think ROH may continue to be 'unpredictable' with these matches but, really what does it matter when its seems very clear that they want Lethal vs Gresham? I can see Woods upsetting Black. I could see Yehi going over Williams (that too would be predictable since Yehi is the only invited wrestler to go over an ROH talent thus far further burying Silas Young in the process). I could envision a time limit draw and Lethal gets a by-week into the finals. This would protect Williams and Yehi from losing to Lethal as well as give them a storyline/feud with each other right out of the gate. BUT! That's if ROH was smart and wanted to get to Lethal vs Gresham but, use the losses as part of their booking...and to be honest after this week, I'm really doubting that cleverness. This week's show seemed like business-as-usual in Ring of Honor. Like who ever is booking (is it Delirious still?) has no creativity left and does not want to take any chances. Or perhaps its some suit telling him "No" on doing anything interesting...I was not convinced of that by the mere fact that ROH was doing this Pure Rule tournament in the first place.
I want to take a detour and talk about Yehi because his story seems like the only thing 'up in the air.' If they don't do a draw then, I would love to see Yehi 'shock the world' defeat Lethal. That would take some cajones and it would restore my hope in the company. As far as B Block, its got to be Gresham. No one is left in Block B that can beat him. Especially since Gresham went over a vet like Sydal in less than 15 minutes. Yehi vs Gresham in the finals and have it go long...I would be a happy fan.
That leaves me with the losers in the tournament. If ROH was smart, they should be moving them in story lines to keep them relevant. I would love to see a program with Lethal and Sydal. He left a LOT on the table in both the Delirious and Gresham match so, I think he's still protected somewhat. So, having Lethal lose to Yehi (or Hot Sauce) would free him up. Who knows if that will happen? I'm starting to feel that Gresham is winning the whole shebang though so, perhaps that'll leave Lethal free anyhow. Dalton Castle should be in that mix along with Silas. All I know is that I want to see these guys more.
All in all though, I think I've spent more time fantasy booking this tournament than ROH spent. Some of that perhaps is due to them having to call an audible due to COVID-19. But, I do think some if it is due to uninspired booking. I don't know if they really care about having any kind of interesting story for their fans. And honestly, I don't know if they're interested in giving their fans matches they want to see. I honestly think they still have no idea what to do after the guys who formed AEW left. They were on Bullet Club-The Elite auto-pilot that they didn't even need to book anything so long as the had The Elite and NJPW guys there. I am still hopeful that this Pure Title will help give them some direction and focus. Things aren't going to change completely due to one tournament but, I really do hope that it is a step in the right direction. This week's episode was a mis-step but, want them to get back on track. I know that they can do some really great things.
Thanks for reading! Stay safe!