Ring Of Honor
ROH on SBG #471
September 25, 2020
UMBC Event Center
Baltimore, Maryland

Watch: Honor Club & FITE.TV

In Part 2 of the ROH Pure Title Tournament, we saw two first round matches featuring competitors who were very familiar with each other. David Finlay managed to defeat Rocky Romero, while Matt Sydal picked up a win over his longtime rival Delirious. Much like last week, this week’s show kicked off with post-match comments from the winners (New Japan style). David Finlay was first, and he noted that he’s flying the New Japan colors proudly in this tournament. He explained that if he can beat Jay Lethal (who’s so synonymous with ROH) in the Block Semifinals, then he has a strong chance to win the whole tournament. Finlay also said that his previously injured shoulder was feeling great. We then got comments from Matt Sydal, who felt incredibly high on life after scoring a victory over his longtime rival. He proclaimed that he’s the only man capable of carrying the legacy of the ROH Pure Title, before noting that he’s very excited to face Jonathan Gresham in the next round.

After the recap of last week, we got the video packages for Silas Young and the debuting Fred Yehi, who were in the first of the two tournament matches on this episode. First up was Yehi, who went over some of his credentials in pro-wrestling, before talking about how his upbringing was rough, and how he avoided the temptations that were around him (drugs and alcohol) so he could focus on his dream of becoming a pro-wrestler. He mentioned his background in amateur wrestling, and talked a little bit about what the term “Savageweight” meant. It’s a style that focuses on brutality, and getting the job done. That last bit sounds a little familiar (*cough* Catch Point *cough*). He mentioned Bryan Danielson and Low Ki as some of his inspirations, citing their physicality and technique. Yehi put over Silas Young, and said he planned to push him to the limit. He said he’s focused on wearing his opponents down, and brings up the unique variation of the Koji Clutch he uses. Yehi declares that he’s authentic, and that he will be the ROH Pure Champion.

Then we heard from Silas Young, who was dressed in a suit (attire that you wouldn’t normally expect Young to wear). He started off by talking about his older brothers, noting that not only did he get his ass kicked a lot (I guess to show that he can take a beating), but that all of them were athletes, which inspired him to become an athlete. Young then brought his path to ROH, and how he wrestled some of ROH’s biggest names early in his career, before eventually signing with ROH and working his way up from the bottom of the card to get to where he is (people forget this, but Young was working ROH shows in the Midwest as early as 2007, several years before he actually became a regular member of the roster). He mentioned his previous accomplishments in ROH, primarily the fact that he’s a former two-time ROH World TV Champion, but then said he wanted to mix things up for this tournament. Young talked about going with a different kind of game plan (which included some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training) so that people couldn’t study him on film. He then moved in to Fred Yehi, saying that although Yehi will be a tough challenge, he has the home-field advantage, and that he has experience in a Pure Rules Match, noting his match with Jonathan Gresham from Best In The World last year (adding that he played by the rules in that match, while Gresham had to resort to cheat). Young concluded by saying that he was very confident in his chances.

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block A – First Round 

Fred Yehi def. Silas Young

Of course, much like the previous two weeks, we got some facts on both competitors during their respective entrances. Yehi has a 57.1 winning percentage across all promotions in 2020, and has reached the semifinals in the majority of his previous eleven tournaments outside of ROH. On Young’s side, he has an 11-6 record in singles matches vs. everyone in this tournament since 2017 (I believe this is just in ROH). His facts card also featured the various accomplishments Young’s had in ROH, such as being one-half of the winning team in the 2016 edition of Tag Wars.

These two ended up having a pretty solid match. I wouldn’t call it anything special, but there was good back-and-forth wrestling from start to finish. The first few minutes featured exchanges on the mat, and both men tried to gain the advantage. Yehi managed to trap Young in a standing Indian Deathlock, which forced Young to use a rope break before the commercial break. Young then regained the edge for a brief period, as he targeted Yehi’s back, but after they came back from the commercial break, it became a more even affair. The second half of this bout was actually pretty entertaining, and in the end, Yehi managed to pick up the win at around the thirteen minute mark after catching Young in a small package. Young had a very solid performance here, which was exactly what you’d expect out of a veteran like him. As for Yehi, it was my first time seeing him in a long time, and I was reminded why I really enjoyed his work in EVOLVE. The fact that they put Yehi over a guy like Silas Young in his debut must be a good sign for his future with ROH, beyond this tournament. Hopefully he earns a full-time roster spot. With this victory, Yehi will now face the winner of Rust Taylor vs. Tracy Williams in the Block Semifinals. ***1/4

Up next, we got the video packages for the two competitors in the main event of this week’s episode. First up was Josh Woods, who opened up by mentioning that he signed with ROH in 2017 following his victory in that year’s Top Prospect Tournament. While he’s currently in a tag team with Silas Young, Woods feels that this tournament is a chance to properly prove himself, since he’s been a combat athlete his whole life (he rattled off his various accomplishments, including national titles, conference titles, being a four-time All-American, and so on). He notes that he’s more than just a guy who can throw people around and hit people hard, as he can also get very technical, and hold his own on the mat. Woods then talked about Kenny King, saying that his arrogance is his weakness (got strong Return Of The Jedi vibes from that line), and that he does too much showboating. He talked about his only previous encounter with Kenny King in singles action (which was the ROH World TV Title shot that he earned via winning the Top Prospect Tournament), before then going into a story where King doubted his abilities after Woods told him that he did some coaching (presumably in wrestling). Woods proclaimed that this insult motivated him, and again, said that he wants to prove that he belongs here. He’s been training constantly since the shutdown, and declared that you’ll see a different Josh Woods in this tournament.

We then got Kenny King’s video package, and out of all the video packages we’ve seen thus far in the tournament, this was the one that felt the most like your typical heel promo. King said he’s been wrestling for twenty years, before running down his various accomplishments (which included being a former-two time ROH World TV Champion and a former ROH World Tag Team Champion). He then brings up La Faccion Ingobernable (hey, remember those guys?), and says that while RUSH and Dragon Lee already have gold in ROH (the ROH World Title and the ROH World TV Title respectively) he wants to win this tournament so he can bring more gold to LFI. King then talks about Josh Woods, noting that you can’t let Woods’ smile and personality fool you, since he has an incredible MMA and amateur wrestling background. In anticipation of that, King’s been doing some special training of his own (going to a Gracie gym to work on his wrestling, training with Jeff Mayweather to work on his boxing). King then described his finisher, the Royal Flush, before saying that he’s going to use his size and speed to outmatch his opponents in this tournament. He doesn’t care about the rules or doing things the right way. The only thing he cares about is winning this tournament, so the dominance of LFI can be extended.

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block B – First Round 

Josh Woods def. Kenny King

For Josh Woods, his facts were a little more straightforward, as his card noted that he won the 2017 Top Prospect Tournament, while also mentioning his winning record in ROH (I presume this was referring to singles matches). As for Kenny King, his facts included being 8-1 on ROH events in one fall matches since April 2012, having a 15-7 record in singles matches since June of 2018, and having 9-5 record in singles matches against all the wrestlers in this tournament.

This was by far the weakest match of the tournament thus far, but at the same time, I actually enjoyed the story they told here, particularly with Kenny King. The early minutes of the match saw the usual early grappling, with Woods eventually gaining the edge as the action picked up a bit going into the commercial break. When we came back, Woods caught King with an ankle lock, before transitioning into a new submission that the announcers described as a double ankle lock. King pulled himself underneath the bottom rope and to the floor, which referee Todd Sinclar considered a rope break. King was upset with this decision, and this led to a brief debate about the call by the announce team. Despite that setback, King managed to gain the edge while on the floor, before we got another interesting spot in the ring. Woods went for a closed fist, but stopped himself, and this hesitation allowed King to nail a closed fist of his own, which of course led to him getting a warning. Woods went back on the offense for a little bit, but then was forced to use a rope break (wasn’t really a rope break, but he had his hand under the bottom rope, which Sinclair considered a rope break) after King hit the Royal Flush. The two of them went back and forth in the final few minutes (which included a really cool twisting suplex off the second rope by Woods), before the time limit expired!

This time limit draw meant that, for the first time in this tournament, the judges would be used to decide the winner. While it was confirmed in the first episode that the judges are Gary Juster, Sumie Sakai, and Will Ferrara, we never actually saw them on camera. In the end, the three judges awarded the victory to Josh Woods via split decision, which infuriated Kenny King. Ian Riccaboni then explained on commentary that Sumie Sakai was the deciding vote, and that her decision came down to the closed fist that King used. Gary Juster was the only one who gave the match to King. While I thought it was cool that they actually did have a match decided with a judge’s decision (just to establish that it can happen), I don’t know if I would’ve done it with Josh Woods and Kenny King. That being said, these two still had a relatively solid match (even if it was the worst of the tournament up to this point), and again, I liked the story they told with Kenny King. Woods noted in the video package that King’s overconfidence was his weakening, and King himself noted that he doesn’t care about the rules. In the end, those things are exactly what cost King the match, as the closed fist was the deciding factor in the judge’s decision. As a result of this win, Josh Woods will face the winner of the Tony Deppin vs. PJ Black match. I don’t know how far Woods goes in this thing, but I’ll be curious to see what happens if he goes up against better opponents. ***

Final Thoughts

From an in-ring standpoint, this was by far the weakest of the Pure Title Tournament so far. Fred Yehi vs. Silas Young was perfect for it’s spot on the show (and was actually pretty solid), but what dragged this show down a little bit was the Josh Woods vs. Kenny King main event (it was by no means a bad match, but I’m sure most will be lower on it than I was, especially if you don’t like Kenny King). That being said, there are still a ton of positives to take away from this episode. The video packages are still great, a new talent got a win over an established ROH name in his debut, and we got our first instance of a tournament match going to the judges. Even the weakest show under this format still proved to be a relatively enjoyable hour of television.