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ROH Pure tournament recap: Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham prove themselves as favorites to win

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The ROH Pure Championship tournament is underway. Episode 469 of ROH Wrestling featured two first round bouts as Jay Lethal battled Dalton Castle and Jonathan Gresham clashed with Wheeler Yuta.

Pure wrestling can sometimes be slow and grinding. That was not the case with these two contests. The pace was quick and the action was constant. They set the bar high for the rest of the competition. I definitely recommend giving the ROH Pure tournament a chance to win your fancy. Watch the episode on ROH Honor Club (here) or Fite TV (here).

Let’s break down the show.

The intro package explained that the ROH Pure Championship tournament will bring back the core principles that the company was based on. Athleticism, technique, skill, intelligence, and honor. When the smoke clears, a new champion will be crowned for the the first time since 2006.

The 16 participants and first round matches are:

Block A

  • Jay Lethal vs Dalton Castle
  • David Finlay vs Rocky Romero
  • Silas Young vs Fred Yehi
  • Tracy Williams vs Rust Taylor
  • Alternate: Dak Draper

Block B

  • Jonathan Gresham vs Wheeler Yuta
  • Delirious vs Matt Sydal
  • Josh Woods vs Kenny King
  • PJ Black vs Tony Deppen
  • Alternate: Brian Johnson

Pure rules have a variation from standard rules. The main changes are only three rope breaks then it’s fair game after that, no closed-fist punches, and an automatic firing for anyone that commits outside interference.

Jay Lethal and Dalton Castle received the the professional hype video treatment.

Lethal aims to become the only two-time Pure champ in ROH history. Last time Lethal held the belt, he was only 19 years old. He believes his experience will take him over the top. Castle spoke on people forgotting how dangerous he can be. He won the ROH Championship with a broken back. Castle has legitimate amateur wrestling accolades. He plans to use his raw wrestling talent to advance.

First round: Jay Lethal vs Dalton Castle

15-minute time limit. Castle secured a front face lock early. Lethal rolled to the ropes to use his first break. The action progressed with chain wrestling on the mat at a quick pace. Castle took charge with Saito suplexes and an overhead suplex into the corner.

Lethal rebounded by focusing on Castle’s leg. That strategy paid dividends when Castle couldn’t execute his Bangarang finisher. Lethal easily escaped to hit his Lethal Combination signature maneuver. Castle kicked out of the pinfall.

After some turnbuckle fighting, Castle was able to hit the Bangarang, however, he couldn’t achieve full force due to his tender limb. Lethal got his foot on the ropes to escape the pin. That counted as Lethal’s second rope break.

The finish was explosive with a superkick and enziguri from Lethal. The former Pure champ ducked a clothesline from Castle then bounced off the ropes for Lethal Injection to win at 13:10. Lethal advances to the second round of the Pure tournament.

Next up was the hype video for Jonathan Gresham and Wheeler Yuta.

Yuta calls himself the decoder. He decodes patterns and tendencies to exploit them to his advantage. For Gresham, winning the tournament is bigger than the Pure title. It is about restoring honor in ROH and reshaping the company as pure wrestlers see fit.

First round: Jonathan Gresham vs Wheeler Yuta

15-minute time limit. The two did a little knuckle lock dancing before Yuta used his height advantage to take Gresham down. Gresham used a monkey flip to reverse position, but Yuta was able to cinch in a rear naked choke due his height. Gresham leaned back for a pin to break the hold.

Yuta was the quicker man until Gresham neutralized him with an Indian Deathlock to weaken the legs. Gresham had full leverage. Yuta used a rope break to escape, but Gresham wouldn’t let go. He utilized his five count to full effectiveness. Once Yuta got to his feet, he clocked Gresham with a closed-fist punch. The referee issued a warning to Yuta.

That frustration led to fast and furious fisticuffs followed by speedy transitions and moves. Yuta connected on a flying crossbody, so Gresham went back to work on the legs. He applied a figure-four. Both men rolled under the ropes and out of the ring to crash on the floor while the hold was still applied. That did damage to the knees of each man.

When they got back in the ring, pinfall attempts were exchanged. Gresham upped his aggression to close it out with jumping stomps to Yuta’s leg then viciously banging Yuta’s knee repeatedly against the mat. Yuta tapped to the the pain at 10:25. Gresham advances to the second round of the Pure tournament.

The ROH Pure Championship tournament is off to an excellent start. I love how ROH made the tournament feel like a big deal. The intro package had regal music with a mighty narration voice. The hype packages did well to introduce each man and provide insight into their strategies. The scoreboard graphic on the bottom was a nice touch. I appreciate being able to know the time limit and number of rope breaks remaining.

My only complaint is the commercial breaks mid-match. It was particularly noticeable for Lethal vs Castle. Castle was in control, commercial break, then Lethal was dominating. It kind of ruined the flow. I don’t like that we missed part of the action, but I don’t know what a remedy would be considering the length of these bouts. I’m expecting contests to exceed 20 minutes the deeper we go into the tournament.

Both matches earned two thumbs up. I like how Castle and Yuta were impressive in defeat. It elevated the quality of victory for Lethal and Gresham. The second half of Yuta vs Gresham was badass. It was a great way to use the closed-fist punch. Gresham deserved it after not being respectful on the rope break. One thing to keep an eye on will be Gresham’s health in future contests. He banged his knee hard when rolling out on the figure-four.

Let’s take a gander at the updated bracket.

Next week’s episode will feature David Finlay vs Rocky Romero and Delirious vs Matt Sydal.

Share your take on episode 469 of ROH Wrestling. Do you like the pure style? Which wrestler stole the show?

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