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Jonathan Gresham retains ROH World Championship in excellent match on Impact

Jonathan Gresham is a stud. Ever since Ring of Honor went on hiatus, the man hasn’t rested defending the ROH World Championship. In the past two weeks, Gresham has retained the title against Chris Sabin, 2 Cold Scorpio, and Josh Alexander spanning through the Impact, GCW, and Terminus promotions. The Octopus’ next challenge was a thrilling affair against Steve Maclin on Thursday night’s Impact Wrestling.

ROH Pure rules were in effect. ROH ring announcer Bobby Cruise introduced the champ, and ROH commentator Ian Riccaboni helped call the action.

Gresham opened the bout by offering his hand for the Code of Honor handshake. Maclin contemplated then denied the request. Gresham took it to Maclin early with a drop toehold into the ropes forcing Maclin to use his first rope break. Maclin used the same move on Gresham, but the champ stopped short of the ropes. Maclin pushed Gresham into the ropes anyway causing Gresham’s first rope break.

Gresham reset the mood by offering his hand again for the Code of Honor handshake. Maclin refused, so Gresham used a hammerlock enticing Maclin to grab the ropes for his second break. Gresham requested a handshake for the third time. Maclin smirked then punched Gresham in the face with a closed fist. That was an illegal tactic in Pure rules and earned an official warning. One more closed fist punch would earn a disqualification for Maclin.

Maclin seized control as Gresham was dazed from the punch. The challenger focused on weakening the lower back with a double underhook backbreaker. On a waist lock lift, Gresham grabbed the ropes for his second break. Maclin went back to work hammering the lower lumbar. He followed with an Olympic slam and Boston crab. Gresham crawled to reach the ropes for his third and final rope break to escape. Not many men have managed to do that to Gresham in ROH, so that shows how Maclin took Gresham into deep waters during this contest.

Maclin resumed assaulting the spine with a camel clutch. Gresham reached the ropes, but it didn’t matter since he had no more official breaks remaining. Gresham pried Maclin’s fingers loose to escape. Maclin ate some strikes, which only fired him up for three consecutive body slams to Gresham.

Gresham rallied with an upkick as Maclin was bent over taunting him. Gresham followed with a springboard moonsault and a flying dropkick. Gresham tricked Maclin by leaving a leg unguarded to score a magistral cradle, but Maclin kicked out. Maclin regained control with a spear in the corner.

Gresham finally turned the tide with a dirty tactic. He pulled down Maclin’s knee pad to hyperextend the knee. Maclin tumbled backward into the ropes, and the referee ruled that as his third and final break. Maclin charged forward, but his knee gave out. Gresham pounced for two stiff running elbows. Maclin’s warrior spirit screamed for two clotheslines. Maclin lifted Gresham for his driver finisher, but he dropped the load due to his knee not cooperating. Gresham blasted Maclin with another running elbow.

When Maclin kicked out on the cover, Gresham transitioned to a figure-four. Both men exchanged furious open palm slaps. Maclin was able to roll over to the ropes, but the official could not separate them due to the Pure rules. Gresham took advantage of the situation to pull himself up using the ropes as leverage for extra pain. Maclin’s shoulders were on the mat for three, so the referee counted it as a pinfall victory in favor of Gresham.

At the conclusion, Gresham offered his hand one final time for the Code of Honor handshake. Maclin teased to accept then walked right past the champ instead.

If you are a fan of Gresham’s Pure wrestling style, check out this excellent bout. I’m amazed at how Gresham still keeps the strategic storytelling fresh after so many Pure matches. I genuinely wondered if Maclin would steal the win in this one. That’s how well they hooked me. Gresham outsmarted him in the end by adapting to his surroundings to use the ropes as an advantage.

Gresham’s schedule remains busy after this defense. He has Blake Christian on the horizon in GCW on January 23 and a date with AEW’s Santana in Terminus on February 24. If Gresham still holds the ROH World Championship on April 1 , then he has a showdown booked against Bandido at ROH’s Supercard of Honor PPV.

How do you rate the match between Gresham and Maclin? Would you like to see Gresham return to Impact to defend the ROH World Championship?