Greg DeMarco continues his catch-up on ROH as the Pure Championship tournament continues with David Finlay vs Rocky Romero and Delirious vs Matt Sydal.
If you know me, you know I am a huge ROH fan going back to the “old days” when the company featured stars like CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Kevin Steen (Owens), El Generico (Sami Zayn) and many more. Recent years turned me off of the of the product, but with ROH making a return and focusing on the Pure Championship, I am ready to make my own return…to honor.
ROH episode #470
Quinn McKay welcomes us and we see the end of both matches from last week, followed by comments from the winners. I don’t hate it, but this show (on FITE.tv) is 50 minutes long. Both promos were effective, addressing their possible block semifinal opponents, all of whom are wrestling on this episode.
Quinn then introduces our upcoming matches for this week, before we head to commercial. At this point, I don’t know if we’re getting the promo packages like we got last week.
David Finlay promo
I enjoy Finlay’s backstory–fourth generation pro wrestler, injured in his last ROH match, and his history with Rocky Romero (including Finlay doing Romero’s laundry). My problem is simple: he comes off as a geek. He’s not imposing as an athlete, and doesn’t jump out as anything special. I know what he’s capable of, and in the ring he suits ROH. But…he’s just so blah.
“We have to figure out who the best one is. I think that’s me.” You think? Okay…
Rocky Romero promo
Man, these sit down promos aren’t helping either guy. Rocky Romero is a great athlete, charismatic wrestler, and someone who can still deliver on all fronts. But here he seems boring and bland. Maybe it’s the sit down concept? I don’t know, because Jonathan Gresham and Wheeler Yuta delivered in these last week, and Jay Lethal showed a ton of intensity. But these two are just boring.
I do have to praise Rocky for the way he talks strategy in terms of his match with Finlay. He plans to focus on his armbar submission and make Finlay exhaust his rope breaks early. THAT is great. Just zero intensity.
Pure Championship Tournament Block A First Round: David Finlay vs. Rocky Romero
Fifteen minutes and 2 commercial breaks later, we have a match! Love the stats for Rocky, including his record over Finlay in Japan and his notable wins in ROH (including Daniel Bryan and Cesaro–but they insist on avoiding those names). David Finlay enters still devoid of any charisma. Code of Honor is respected with a handshake before the bell, and we are reminded that the winner will face Jay Lethal in the Block A Semifinal.
Caprice Coleman with the great point about both men being active in New Japan this year, meaning they have less ring rust than most. Of course, they’re opponents, so it gives neither the advantage. Ian Riccaboni gives the rules during the opening moments of the match, which at least wastes less time.
Three minutes into the match and David Finlay is finally showing some charisma. This tournament is all about athleticism and in-ring prowess (a fact which Coleman just remind me of on commentary), but it’s STILL pro wrestling, and you need the whole deal to keep people engaged. Also, we go to commercial 4 minutes into the match, giving us three commercial breaks and less than 4 minutes of wrestling in the first 22 minutes of the program.
No offense to Riccaboni, but reminds me of how much I miss Dave Prazak calling ROH matches. Ian is a great host and would do well if ROH utilized panels, but this just isn’t working as well for me.
Rocky cuts off Finlay seven and a half minutes in, meaning that we are halfway through the time limit of the match and nothing of significance has happened. But with Rocky in control, and with a face towards the camera, the storytelling finally begins. I really hope Rocky wins, because this tournament needs personality.
Rocky shows some fire after not getting three, using his warning on a closed fist. He moves to another Diablo Armbar, getting Finlay to use another rope break. Finlay reverses Sliced Bread into a back breaker for a nearfall, then gets the win with his Last Shot
Winner and advancing to the Block A Semifinals – David Finlay
Rating – ***
Impression: Good match, started off slow, but picked up. Watch for the brilliance of Rocky Romero.
I am bummed that Rocky Romero was eliminated here, because he was really shining in the match.
Matt Sydan promo
In the opening 30 seconds of Matt Sydal’s promo, he’s outclassed everyone on this episode. He speaks with a certain urgency that was lacking. He puts over himself, his opponent in Delirious and their history, and the importance of Ring Of Honor both historically and today.
I remember when Delirious took over the ROH Academy, and all the talents suddenly started to have personas. This man is a fantastic character, and proves so here. Talking in jibberish with subtitles, he tells a better story than Finlay or Romero before him.
“I’m doing this because I’m bored, and I want to play chess with the best wrestlers in the world” is a brilliant line that perfectly sums up this character.
Pure Championship Tournament Block B First Round: Matt Sydal vs. Delirious
Lots of intensity despite the opening being an obvious “feeling out process.” These two know each other so well, and it shows. The intensity also minimizes the need for commentary, making it complimentary to the product, it doesn’t have to make up for anything like we saw earlier.
Both guys are also, for lack of a better word, noisy. And that really makes a difference as we don’t have fans. Four and a half minutes in, Delirious uses a rope break to impact Sydal’s shoulder, showing how smart he is in the ring. He had been focusing on the leg, but commentary brilliantly points out that Sydal had shoulder surgery in 2010 and it’s always bothered him, proving that Delirious had this set-up in mind all along.
Delirious kicking out multiple times with his legs trapped under him tells me two things: you can still do something new in wrestling in 2020, and Delirious is obviously a fan of yoga. Sydal then taps Delirious’ out with his own move, the Cobra Clutch, right before the 10 minute mark.
Winner and advancing to the Block B Semifinals – Matt Sydal
Rating – ***1/2
Impression: Match of the night, you can tell they’ve done this more times than we know. Great intensity, great wrestling, and great finish.
Matt Sydal advancing makes total sense, since he was wrestling the booker. Glad to see him moving on and I am looking forward to his match with Gresham.
Overall Impression – 7/10
Honestly, my quips are the same: goofiness outside of the ring that makes this look like we are “playing wrestling promotion.” In-ring action was great, but we went nearly 20 minutes before getting to the action. Cut down the promos, and add in a third non-tournament match. It’s a simple idea, and it would add so much.
News From Cook’s Corner 1.17.22: Gory Self-Mutilation
AEW tried to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time. Did it work? What other news struck last week?
Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook’s Corner! We’ve got a short column for you this week, which most of you were probably expecting when the Cincinnati Bengals actually on a playoff game. Nah, I didn’t party too much, just had an allergic reaction with my eye again. We’ve done this before. This time I’m pretty sure it had something to do with cleaning my bookshelf and rearranging my books. Hadn’t done that in awhile, so there was a ton of duct. Sitting down and looking at a computer screen sucks, so we have to limit it as much as possible.
There’s still a couple things that warrant discussion though, so let’s get to it.
WWE On The Offensive
Looks like this week’s top stories are about WWE trying to do things to undermine wrestling promotions. We start with Major League Wrestling, who has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against WWE claiming that WWE has interfered with their ability to make various media rights deals.
Some of the highlights:
-Former WWE executive Susan Levison allegedly warned an executive from VICE that Vince McMahon was “pissed” they were airing MLW programming. MLW claims that WWE had leverage over VICE due to the Dark Side of the Ring series often being focused on WWE subject matter.
-MLW alleges that when WWE found out about their agreement with Tubi, WWE threatened to stop doing business with Fox. The fallout from the Tubi agreement falling through led to a drop in ticket sales & event cancellations & delays.
-As an example of WWE’s anticompetitive behavior, MLW cited AEW being held out of two arenas in the Cincinnati market due to pressure from WWE. Jon Moxley wrote in his book that the Heritage Bank Center on Cincy’s riverfront refused to book AEW due to WWE influence. I don’t know the other, could be the BB&T Arena across the river on the campus of Northern Kentucky University where WWE has held house shows. AEW wound up running the Fifth Third Arena on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and outdrew the Raw taping held at the HBC just prior.
-Apparently starting in early 2020, WWE started trying to poach MLW wrestlers that were under contract, and aired footage of an MLW wrestler without MLW’s consent. (Somebody would have to fill me in on this one, I haven’t the slightest idea who this would be.) MLW also claims that WWE sought to prevent wrestlers from working with MLW by refusing to hire wrestlers that had worked there, and that one MLW wrestler demanded to be released early from his contract so he could join WWE.
Do I think that at least some of these allegations are true? Having followed pro wrestling for over thirty years and having read up on the history of WWE…you betcha!
I don’t think there’s a question that WWE has resorted to any means necessary to drive potential competitors out of their market. They’ve been doing this since taking most of the territories’ top stars back in the mid-1980s. It’s been a monopoly for nearly two decades for a reason. The main question I have: Will a judge actually care, or will they throw it out of court because it’s silly pro wrestling?
How do you think WWE slips under the radar on things that other media companies & sports leagues actually have to deal with? People have been trained to not take WWE seriously. As much as people like us obsess over the rasslin’ business, people that don’t “get it” are happy to ignore it. Vince McMahon can do any darn thing he wants, and the reaction from folks outside the wrestling bubble will be non-existent. It’s wrestling! To outsiders, the whole damn thing is an outlaw mudshow.
AEW = Gory Self-Mutilation
The Toronto Sun did an article on All Elite Wrestling over the weekend, talking about their status as a competitor to WWE. They asked WWE for comment & got one:
“If you look at the gory self-mutilation that bloodied several women in the December 31 event on TNT, it quickly becomes clear that these are very different businesses. We had an edgier product in the `Attitude’ era and in a 2022 world, we don’t believe that type of dangerous and brutal display is appealing to network partners, sponsors, venues, children, or the general public as a whole.”
A few notes here:
1. I’ve been doing this stuff longer than I care to admit, and I never thought of asking WWE for comment on something. Should I start asking people for comments on topics I’m writing about? I doubt I’d get any answers, but it might be worth a shot.
2. This has been WWE’s strategy when asked about AEW for some time now. We remember Vince McMahon using the phrase “Blood & Guts” to describe the promotion on a conference call. They know that people get squeamish about blood, especially when it comes to blood coming from women. The Fabulous Moolah never busted anybody open on television, and she trained most of the women for years. People aren’t used to seeing it, and they often get uncomfortable with things they aren’t used to seeing.
3. Most people find other people bleeding pretty gross. There’s a reason why deathmatch wrestling is a niche produxct. People that love it really, really love it, but it’s a very small percentage of the marketplace.
4. WWE’s belief is that advertisers & media companies aren’t big on blood, so they make sure to mention AEW’s apparent lust for the red stuff whenever the subject comes up. Their hope is that advertisers will shy away from advertising with AEW, and media companies won’t give AEW big money when their current deal with WarnerMedia is up.
5. Thus far, whenever Tony Khan is criticized on something, he doubles down on it. So there’s a pretty good chance that we’re going to see even more matches with female bleeding. AEW’s female workers seem happy to do it.
— The Bunny 🐇 (@AllieWrestling) January 15, 2022
6. WWE could be called out as being hypocritical on this front, but there aren’t many people that will hold them accountable.
It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. All I know for sure is that the smack talk between these two promotions and their fans is just beginning. Think it’s tocic now? Wait a couple of years.
Welp, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading! Join me later in the week for some Divisional Round picks. Until then, keep your stick on the ice.
In Memoriam: Pete was a longtime reader from back in the day. From my dealings with him he was a kind person that knew how to use his head. When you’ve written things on the Internet as long as I have, you learn that’s a rare thing. From what I’ve read from people that knew him in real life, he was the same way off the computer. Sadly he passed away from cancer on Friday night. Pete was always about serving others, as he was a U.S. Air Force veteran & a regular blood donor. He will be missed.
NXT 2021 Year in Review: NXT UK!!!
With the OG NXT rebranding and losing a lot of credibility, at least NXT UK has been consistent! Brad brings his NXT UK awards!
Let’s give out some special awards to the very best hour on the entire WWE Network.
Honorable Mention Most Improved: Mark Coffey
Most Improved is one of my favorite awards. I love watching wrestlers get better. This year, Mark wasn’t just decaf Joe. He showed his personality. Playful little bugger seems like the kind of guy you’d want to have a pint with. Even got a short run as a singles guy. Mark’s growth was definitely one of the highlights of the best overall year in the history of NXT UK.
Most Improved Male Wrestler: Oliver Carter
When Carter first showed up, it was obvious why he was in a tag team, eating all the pins. I don’t know who the trainers are in NXT UK, but someone put in overtime with Carter. Every week, he’s hitting new and exciting moves in the ring. He’s showing more fire on the mic. It’s only a matter of time before Ashton Smith gets jealous and turns on him.
Most improved Female Wrestler: Stevie Turner
Her first few matches made me wonder what anyone saw in her. Now I see it. She’s a real loony character, a female Dean Ambrose. She gets rambling about the Fourth Dimension and I’m not sure even she knows where that boat is sailing to. Add to that a significantly increased move set and Turner has legit championship aspirations.
Most Underrated: Kenny Williams
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. If Williams was built like Drew Mcintyre, he would be on RawDown yesterday. I appreciate a smaller guy who doesn’t rely entirely on the flippy dip and acrobatics. Williams is a big bully in a small man’s body. The Scum of the Earth is ready to infect 2022.
Best talker: Sam Thunderstorm Gradwell
Gradwell might be the best promo guy in all of NXT. He’s solid gold on the mic AND Twitter. He tweeted that WALTER versus Dragunov II is “Unruly Baboon versus Deadly Panda.” I still don’t know which is which, but it sounds fabulous. Now get on that, you bunch of yogurts!
Best Character: Isla Dawn
I prefer personality over character. I don’t want SNL skit rejects. I want to believe there is no separation between who they are in the ring and outside of it. Isla Dawn is the exception. She goes into a trance. She’s collecting trophies from her opponents and doesn’t even care about wins and losses. I’m inclined to believe she’s not a witch in real life, but you never know.
Best Sidekick: Sha Samuels
With just a dry erase board & marker, the East End Bookie adds so much depth to Noam Dar, an already amazing personality. Unlike the terribly awkward pairing of La Familia, I get the feeling Dar and Samuels really are best buds. They seem to bring out the best in each other. I can’t wait for them to go after the tag team titles.
Best Announcer: Andy Shepherd
He’s not just the best in NXT UK, he’s the best in NXT. Period. He takes everything Nigel McGuinness throws at him and he throws it right back, but he does it with an understated eloquence not typically found in rasslin. Shepherd earns the highest praise I can give an announcer: he sounds like a fan watching the show, shooting the shit with his buddies.
Most Improved Division: The Women’s Division
NXT still has the best women’s division. It’s now a little further east. In the past, it was Kay Lee Ray. That’s it. Not anymore. The addition of Meiko Satomura and Blair Davenport. The growth of Amale, Stevie Turner and Aoife Valkryie. The Nina Samuels Show. The steady veteran presence of Jinny and Isla Dawn. The division is not deep, but every week they continue to grow and put on quality matches. It started as obligatory, because you have to have a women’s division. They have since earned their spot. Much respect to the women of NXT UK.
Up next, saving the best for last: 2021 NXT Matches of the Year
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