Ring of Honor
ROH on SBG #470
September 18, 2020
UMBC Event Center
Baltimore, Maryland

Watch: Honor Club & FITE.TV

In Part 1 of the ROH Pure Title Tournament, ROH World Tag Team Champions Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham picked up victories over their respective first-round opponents (Dalton Castle and Wheeler Yuta) to advance to the Block Semifinals. This week’s episode started with a look back at the finishes of both of those bouts, before turning to post-match comments from Lethal and Gresham. The setup was very reminiscent of the backstage promos we see following New Japan matches. There really wasn’t a ton to these particular interviews, but they worked for what they were. They simply featured Lethal and Gresham briefly talking about their victories before saying that it didn’t matter who they were going to face in the Block Semifinals, because they were going all the way.

After that recap of last week, we dive into the video packages behind this week’s matches, with David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero coming up first. Finlay’s video package started out by going over his family’s long history in the wrestling business, before transitioning to the time he spent in the New Japan dojo, and how grueling of a process it really is. Finlay then talked about the last time he challenged for an ROH championship, which was the Honor Rising events in 2019, when he and Juice Robinson challenged The Briscoes for the ROH World Tag Team Titles. Of course, that was the match where Finlay suffered a significant shoulder injury (more specifically a torn labrum) that kept him on the shelf for many months. He saw this Pure Title Tournament as a chance to redeem himself following that injury, and then went into his relationship with Rocky Romero. Finlay said that he knows him so well that he’ll be ready for whatever Romero will throw at him. He brings up his finisher, called the Trash Panda (a brainbuster on the knee that’s pretty much the same move that Adam Cole has used for many years), before talking about a new leg submission he’s been working on that he hoped to bust out against Romero. He noted this new submission will help him keep Romero ground so that he can remain in control.

Up next was Rocky Romero’s video package, which started by going over his long history with ROH, which includes his multiple reigns as ROH World Tag Team Champion. He loves what the Pure Title stands for, and mentions how his training in the original New Japan LA Dojo with the likes of Antonio Inoki helped prepare him for a tournament like this. Romero also brings up his extensive training in MMA, Jiu-Jitsu, and Kickboxing, before diving into his relationship with David Finlay, and how he plans to beat him. He talked about his experience will obviously be a huge factor in his favor, and that he’ll look to outsmart Finlay. Romero mentions that he plans to use his Diablo Armbar, and force Finlay to go through his rope breaks early.

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block A – First Round
David Finlay def. Rocky Romero

Some of the facts we got during the entrances included Rocky Romero’s singles record vs. Finlay in New Japan (including two victories in the Best of the Super Juniors), Romero’s wins over various ROH stars of the past (such as Bryan Danielson, Davey Richards, Claudio Castagnoli, and Tommaso Ciampa), and Finlay’s win-loss records in both ROH and New Japan. Another thing that I notice both during the entrances, and during the match itself, is that David Finlay is now apparently part of CHAOS. I’m sure if this has been officially announced or whatnot, but we did see the CHAOS logo used during Finlay’s entrance, and commentary mentioned late in the match that this was a battle between two CHAOS members. I guess we’ll find out in the future what the story behind this is, but with Juice Robinson clearly being listed as part of the New Japan home army for the G1 Climax, maybe the FinnJuice team is a thing of the past (or maybe they’ll team again anyway, since CHAOS and the home army are basically one in the same now anyway, who knows).

Anyway, these two went on to have a thirteen-minute match that saw David Finlay score (what some might call) an upset victory over Rocky Romero. The match itself was pretty good, and I would say it was the best of the two matches on this episode. Commentary mentioned very early on that both men likely have the least amount of ring rust out of anyone in the tournament (which is true, since both have been wrestling on the various New Japan of America events that have been taped in California). Romero followed up on a promise he made in his video package right out of the gate, as he forced Finlay to use a rope break very early on after locking on the Diabo Armbar. From there, Finlay gained the edge through the middle portion of the bout, before the pace picked up a bit down the stretch. Finlay had targeted the knee of Romero, and at one point, nearly got Romero to tap out to an Indian Deathlock (not sure if this was the new leg submission that Finlay referenced earlier). Romero got a warning for an apparent closed fist to the face that he briefly argued, but he continued to push ahead and eventually forced Finlay to use a second rope break. This proved to be Romero’s last stand, as moments later, Finlay counted a Sliced Bread Attempt into a big backbreaker, before hitting the Trash Panda to score the win. Again, this was a very solid match between these two, and it was a nice surprise to see Finlay move forward. ***1/2

We then get the video packages previewing Delirious vs. Matt Sydal, which is the main event of this episode. Sydal is up first, and he brings up how bouncing on a trampoline in his backyard was where he first discovered his love of the high flying style, before bringing up his past in amateur wrestling and Taekwondo. He then mentions how a foot injury has left him with a permanent limp, but it now means that the top part of this foot is now loaded due to the calcified bone. Sydal dives into both his history in ROH, as well as his history with Delirious. He talks about how Delirious was the only one who saw wrestling the same way that he did, and that he was the first person to push him outside of his comfort zone. He wouldn’t be who he was today without Delirious (he says this while footage of all of their previous ROH encounters is being played). Sydal isn’t sure how he’s going to handle Delirious in this particular match, but noted that he wants to live up to what the Pure Title embodies, and wants to carry its legacy forward.

This is followed up by the Delirious video package. After seeing the video packages in the first week, I was very curious to see how Delirious would be handled. Well, we got our answer, as Delirious did speak in his usual gibberish language, but it was more subdued and featured subtitles that translated what he was saying. Delirious noted how long he’s been in ROH (and wrestling as a whole), along with briefly mentioning that he’s competed against some of the best (while footage of his matches in ROH against Danielson and others played). He talked about how he’s completely different from most wrestlers, and that he’s never held a title in ROH before. Delirious then has his turn discussing the relationship between himself and Matt Sydal, bringing up their many battles in the past and the fact that he wouldn’t be who he is without Sydal. In terms of the match, Delirious noted that the lack of crowd will help him be more focused, while his knowledge of Sydal’s strengths and weaknesses should be beneficial. He then closes in the most Delirious way possible, by saying that he’s in this tournament because he’s bored, and because he wants to play chess with the best.

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block B – First Round
Matt Sydal def. Delirious

The facts listed during the entrances for this one included 2009 being the rest run of singles matches (presumably referring to ROH) that Delirious has ever had, mentioning the various tournaments Delirious has either won or done very well in, Sydal having a winning record vs. Delirious in singles matches in ROH, and Sydal having won 86% of his singles matches across ALL promotions since 2009 (that must’ve required a lot of deep diving on Cagematch). Ian Riccaboni also brought up on commentary all of the various promotions that Sydal has held titles in, which includes ROH, Dragon Gate, WWE, New Japan, and Impact.

The first few minutes of this match saw both men going back and forth with various grappling and submission exchanges on the mat. In some ways, it felt like something we might’ve seen on an EVOLVE show from four years ago. Delirious went after the legs of Sydal right away, before later targeting Sydal’s arm and shoulder. He even used a rope break to set up an attack against Sydal’s arm, which was an interesting spot. Sydal would force Delirious to use a second rope break during the commercial break, and the match picked up in the closing stages. Sydal managed to do damage to the knees of Delirious by hitting a twisting variation of the standing shooting star while Delirious was bent backward on his knees. Sydal ended up scoring the win a minute or two later after using Delirious’ finisher, the Cobra Stretch, against him. This wasn’t nearly as good as Finlay vs. Romero, but still a relatively solid match from start to finish. Sydal getting the win wasn’t a shock (since Delirious never wins), but at the same time, I don’t believe Sydal will end up going much further than the Block Semifinals. That’s partly because he’s got Jonathan Gresham (a favorite to win the whole thing) up next, but the fact that he’s working with AEW now probably means his return to ROH was just for this tournament. ***1/4

Jay Lethal vs. David Finlay and Jonathan Gresham vs. Matt Sydal are now confirmed as the first two matches for the Block Semifinals. Next week will see two more first round matches, with Fred Yehi vs. Silas Young, and Josh Woods vs. Kenny King.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure if this was a total coincidence or not, but I love how the theme of this episode was “guys facing off who know each other very well”. It just adds to the story of those matches. In terms of the in-ring action, this was another solid outing from the Pure Title Tournament, with the New Japan offer match of David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero being the better of the two singles bouts. The video packages continue to be a strong point for this tournament, and I’m intrigued to see how the next two weeks turn out, since we’ll be getting more first time appearances in the remaining first round bouts. Another easy hour of ROH TV, and I expect that trend to continue as the tournament moves on.