Ring of Honor
ROH on SBG #472
October 2, 2020
UMBC Event Center
Baltimore, Maryland

Watch: Honor Club & FITE.TV

In Part 3 of the ROH Pure Title Tournament, we saw the debuting Fred Yehi pick up a huge victory over ROH veteran Silas Young, while Young’s tag team partner Josh Woods managed to win his first-round match via split decision over Kenny King. Much like previous weeks, we got highlights of the closing moments from both matches, along with comments from the respective winners. First up was Yehi, who said that he showed up, and did exactly what he said he was going to do. He respects Silas Young for giving him a good fight, before noting that it doesn’t matter who he faces next. As for Josh Woods, he said that Young would probably be proud of him for his win. While Woods wished it hadn’t gone to the judges, he felt that he did enough to get the win, and hoped that he earned King’s respect. The interview finished with Woods looking a little distressed, as he found out that Young didn’t win his match.

We then get into our usual pre-match video packages, with the first focusing on Rust Taylor and Tracy Williams. Rust Taylor (who is the first of two wrestlers making their ROH debut on this episode) started off by talking about how he grew up in the middle of nowhere (a bunch of acres, a lot of different farm animals, and so on). He played sports to stay out of trouble, and it led to him becoming a competitive person. Taylor was always a fan of wrestling, and mentioned how the mat wrestling/grappling style, before bringing up that he was taught to wrestle by the likes of TJ Perkins, Rocky Romero, and Ricky Reyes. He then went into a recent rough patch in his life, where he was told he wasn’t good enough following a tryout for another promotion (I assume this was WWE, but I can’t say for sure, as the promotion was never named), and talked about how he dealt with depression. However, he noted that a strong heart can carry you through the darkest of times. Hardship strengthens the heart, which is your most important muscle (I really liked that line). Even though Taylor had never wrestled Tracy Williams before this tournament, he’s well aware of his work. He doesn’t know what to expect, but he knows he’ll fight hard and show off his resilience. Taylor said he would be disappointed if Williams didn’t give him a good fight, and added that by the end of this tournament, you won’t forget his name.

Up next was Tracy Williams, who said that wrestling is his life’s work, and that in ROH, his work is just beginning. He mentioned that while he did do some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, he also used to just….fight his friends for fun in a local Brooklyn, because they all had the urge to compete. There were several vague references to CHIKARA throughout this piece, without mentioning the promotion by name or the character he mainly wrestled as in that promotion. The references we got included going to Philadelphia in 2008 to start his wrestling training (that’s likely the Wrestle Factory), not trying to be something that he’s not (perhaps referring to the fact that he disliked his previous character), and some of his best fights against bigger opponents (that is something he had a lot of experience with in CHIKARA). Williams was also very open about how Lifeblood was ultimately a failure, which was pretty interesting. In terms of his wrestling style, Williams noted that understanding the roots of the various aspects of wrestling (along with what combat sports these wrestling styles came from) is important, and that he wants to represent the modern version of pure wrestling by winning this title. He puts over the conditioning and strength of Rust Taylor, before talking about some of his big moves, like the crossface and the piledriver. We also got a nod to Catch Point’s philosophy when he said that he’ll take advantage of/exploit any weakness he can find if it can get him the win. Williams closed by saying that while his temper can come out sometimes, you’ll see effective pro-wrestling

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block A – First Round
Tracy Williams def. Rust Taylor

Rust Taylor’s pre-match facts included being 1-1 on New Japan’s Lion Break show, as well as appearing on four different televised wrestling shows since 2019. He’s also had very little interactions (in terms of matches) with other wrestlers in this tournament, which just adds to the fact that he comes into this match as an unknown. As for Tracy Williams, he has victories over every competitor in this tournament, both inside and outside of ROH (aside from Matt Sydal and Rust Taylor, the latter of whom he’s facing here). Williams did the Catch Point hand sign during his entrance, and commentary made sure to point it out.

This wasn’t a stellar matchup by any means, but there was solid wrestling throughout, and it managed to tell a decent story throughout. There was a lot of back and forth in the opening minutes (mostly technical wrestling, of course), with things getting a little more intense down the stretch. I really liked how they played up the unfamiliarity the two had with each other. The way they decided to show that off was by having Williams use up all three of his rope breaks (the first time in this tournament anyone has done that). He first used a rope break about four minutes in, and then used two more in quick succession in the closing stages. We then got our first instance of the ropes being in play, as Taylor was able to keep the London Dungeon (the submission move that Nigel McGuinness once used) on until Williams dragged Taylor to the floor. Once they both got in the ring, Williams fired up, and connected with a piledriver before forcing Taylor to tap to a crossface with about thirty seconds to spare. I also thought it was cool that they teased a draw after we saw one last week (and the announcers pointed out that Taylor was on his way to winning a decision had it gone to a draw). Again, nothing amazing here, but good wrestling, and good storytelling from start to finish. Tracy Williams will now face his former Catch Point teammate Fred Yehi in the next round. ***

After that first match, we got the video features for our main event. The first of the two competitors to be featured was Tony Deppen. He noted that he’s from Hershey, Pennsylvania, though Ian Riccaboni mentioned later on commentary that Deppen is originally from Shamokin, Pennsylvania (which is only a ninety minute drive from where I live). Deppen said that a lot of people speculated what he’s going to do in this tournament, but they’re not him, and they don’t know what he’s going to do. He didn’t play sports when he was a kid, noting that he was more of a skateboarder and a punk rocker, and later tied those two things to his wrestling career (being a skateboarder taught him about getting knocked down and getting back up, while being a punk rocker taught him the DIY mentality). He brought up how he did some wrestling and boxing with friends when he was younger, before going into some of his influences, which included first seeing ROH in 2004/2005, and being inspired by wrestlers like Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and Kyle O’Reilly. Deppen then talked about PJ Black, and while he put over his ability as a wrestler, his advantage is that Black doesn’t know him (he mentioned how he could learn all about Black on Wikipedia, while he doesn’t even have Wikipedia), and that he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. He proclaimed that Black will have to kill him if he wants to beat him, and that we should expect a lot of passion and aggression. Deppen is also fighting for his unborn son, and declared that failure wasn’t an option.

It’s fair to say that PJ Black is a VASTLY different competitor, in more ways than one. Black went over his family history (mentioning how his father was a wrestler/promoter while his grandfather was a boxer) before going into his vast background, which included rugby, muay thai, jiu jitsu, greco-roman wrestling, and training with the various shamans and witch doctors from the various South African tribes. He talked about how his training with the tribes was metaphysical, while also bringing up techniques like imitating animals movements and not wearing shoes in nature so you can exchange positive ions with the earth (yes, he said all of this, I promise). Black said his style is a blend of the Japanese strong style and Lucha Libre, before noting that wrestling in ROH was one of his goals (even after wrestling in a number of large promotions). He talked about how excited he was to compete for the Pure Title, and how he wanted to show that he’s more than just a high flier. Black also brings up his protege Brian Johnson (one of the alternates in the tournament), saying that while he does have an awkward style, he hopes to teach him more by competing in this tournament. While he doesn’t know much about his opponent, Tony Deppen, Black said that he must be pretty good if he’s entered into this tournament.

ROH Pure Title Tournament – Block B – First Round
PJ Black def. Tony Deppen

Tony Deppen’s pre-match facts included having a 3-1 singles record outside of ROH against competitors in this tournament (wins over Wheeter Yuta, Jonathan Gresham, and Tracy Williams), and an 8-3 record in his last eleven singles matches outside of ROH. For PJ Black, his pre-match states included defeating Luchasaurus in his ROH debut, and having wins in 2019 over former ROH World TV Champions Kenny King and Silas Young. There was also a note that Black has won three straight matches in ROH against talent that weren’t under contract to ROH. Brian Johnson was at ringside with PJ Black.

This was definitely a step up compared to the first match on this show, and a lot of that had to do with the pace of the bout itself. It was a much quicker pace, and featured a lot more action right from the opening bell. This started with your typical opening exchange before Deppen forced Black to use one of his rope breaks early on. From there, Black gained control after connecting with a superkick on the floor. It was at this point that we saw some of Black’s technical ability in the ring, as he used a variety of submissions in an attempt to wear Deppen down. However, Deppen was able to gain the edge during the commercial break, and we got into a nice closing stretch that saw a lot of fun action between the two. Deppen really took the fight to Black at points, forcing Black to use another rope break after locking in the STF and connecting with a big dive on Black to the floor. He put his body on the line and, true to his word, PJ Black had to inflict a ton of damage to even beat him. Eventually (after Deppen kicked out at one and later at two after a series of big moves), Black was finally able to put away Deppen with a crucifix bomb to score the win. This wasn’t the best match of the first round, but it was definitely a super fun and enjoyable contest. I really hope Deppen gets more opportunities in ROH. As for PJ Black, he’ll be facing Josh Woods in the next round. ***1/4

The show closed with a video package for EC3. I’m pretty sure this is the exact same video package that he used to hype his return to Impact, but I’m not 100% sure (it could be slightly different). One news item that did leak from these TV Tapings as they were happening (or shortly thereafter) was that EC3 was coming into ROH, and I’m honestly not sure what to expect. Of course, EC3 going back to Impact fits like a glove, but ROH? It sounds like a strange fit on paper, but I’m curious to see what he ends up doing.

Final Thoughts

Another solid episode of this ROH Pure Title Tournament. The video packages (of course) were as good as always, and these final two first-round bouts were relatively good. One thing that has to be said is that ROH has done a fantastic job weaving the different elements of those video packages into the matches. The fact that Rust Taylor and Tracy Williams were wrestling for the first time played into their match (as Williams did have trouble with Taylor). As for the main event, not only did PJ Black show that he’s more than a high flier, but Deppen proved that it would take a lot to keep him down (both points were mentioned in their respective video packages). Now that we’re going into the later rounds, my hope is that the match quality slowly starts to go up as well. There were good matches throughout this first round, but hopefully, we’ll get better matches as the stakes get higher in this tournament.