By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Ring of Honor Wrestling TV (Episode 468)
Taped in Baltimore, Maryland
Aired September 19, 2020 in syndication and on SBG regional sports networks
The ROH opening aired and then “Loud Shirt” Quinn McKay checked in and set up highlights of Jay Lethal beating Dalton Castle in the first tournament match last week. A post match Lethal promo was shown. He said said he’s on his way to becoming the first ever two-time Pure Title Champion. He noted that he would face the winner of the Rocky Romero vs. David Finlay match. He said he didn’t care who wins because the tournament is all about pushing yourself to the limit.
McKay set up highlights of Jonathan Gresham defeating Wheeler Yuta in last week’s other tournament match. Gresham spoke after the match and said he knew he knew he was meant to do something important and it wasn’t clear what it was until he joined ROH. He said nothing would stop him from fulfilling his destiny and reshaping ROH from the ground up…
McKay previewed the two tournament matches on this week’s show. She said the first match would begin after a short break… [C]
A David Finlay profile video aired. He noted that his father is Fit Finlay and that he is a fourth generation wrestler. He said he comes from a 100 percent wrestling family. He said wrestling was always encouraged, but it was never pushed. He said he went to England after he graduated and has been working for New Japan Pro Wrestling since 2015.
Finlay said he didn’t know a word of Japanese when he started at the dojo. He said he had to watch the clock to have a rough idea of how many squats they’d done. He said it’s a tough system. “They humble you, and they break you down, and they make you start from ground zero,” he said.
Finlay said it’s his first time back in an ROH ring since February 2019. He recalled that he and Juice Robinson challenged The Briscoes for the ROH Tag Titles in Tokyo when he suffered a torn labrum that required surgery. Finlay spoke of his respect for Rocky Romero and recalled doing his laundry when he was at the dojo. Finlay said Romero is the king of “sneaky style” but he knows what he will do in the ring…
Rocky Romero’s profile video aired. He said he’s been wrestling for over 20 years and goes back to 2004 with ROH. He spoke about being a fan of the Pure Title style. He said joining the New Japan Dojo in Los Angeles in 2002 prepared him the best for this situation. He said he got his butt kicked for over two years. He said all the preparation he’s done in various styles have prepared him.
Romero recalled the first time he met David Finlay and said he was very young and green. Romero said knowing Finlay’s strengths and weaknesses will be helpful, but he thinks he will have to outsmart him. Romero spoke about the experience factor giving him an edge. Romero said he thinks he can out-submission Finlay “pretty easily” and spoke about using an armbar to get the win. “Don’t think for a second that this old dog doesn’t have a couple of tricks left,” Romero said. He said Finlay would be a side note and he will walk out of the tournament as ROH Pure Champion… [C]
Powell’s POV: The profile pieces continue to be excellent. Finlay has improved his look since I last saw him. The trimmed beard and tying up his long hair make him look more mature. Romero did a nice job as the confident veteran. Both men are well spoken and did a really nice job of setting the stage for their match. As much as I love the wrestler profile videos, I do wonder if waiting over 20 minutes for the first match to start is pushing it for casual fans during a one-hour show. Either way, it can’t be a good idea to have McKay tell viewers that the opening match would start after the first break, only to come back with the profile videos and then go to another break before the match actually started, assuming I didn’t misunderstand her (I meant to watch that line back, but I forgot and deleted the episode from my DVR).
The broadcast team of Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman checked in for the opening match…
1. Rocky Romero vs. David Finlay in a first-round Pure Title Tournament match. Finlay used one of his three rope breaks just over a minute into the match. Riccaboni hyped Fred Yehi vs. Silas Young, and Josh Woods vs. Kenny King in next week’s matches. Finlay was in offensive control at 3:25 when the show went to break. [C]
Riccaboni narrated highlights from during the break. The show resumed at roughly 5:40 of match time. Romero targeted the left shoulder of Finlay. Romero looked confidently into the camera. Romero followed up with a springboard double stomp to the back of Finlay after draping him over the middle rope. Romero went for the pin, but Finlay kicked out around 8:45. Finlay stuffed a Sliced Bread attempt and then slammed Romero onto the bottom rope.
Finlay targeted the left knee of Romero and applied a submission hold. Romero grabbed the hair of Finlay, then fired away with some open hand slaps, which are legal using Pure match rules. Finlay didn’t release the hold. Romero used a rope break at 10:00.
Romero rallied with a high knee. Romero punched Finlay and then hit Sliced Bread for a near fall. The referee issued a warning to Romero for using the closed fist punch (one punch is a warning, the second results in disqualification). A short time later, Romero caught Finlay going for a move from the ropes and locked him in an armbar. Finlay used a second rope break at 12:20.
Romero went for Sliced Bread again, but Finlay countered into a backbreaker for a near fall. Finlay followed up with the Last Shot and scored the clean pin…
David Finlay defeated Rocky Romero in 13:02 to advance to the second-round of the Pure Title Tournament.
Riccaboni and Coleman spoke as the updated brackets were shown. Finlay will face Jay Lethal in the second round of the tournament. Riccaboni hyped the second match… [C]
Powell’s POV: A really nice match. We’re only three deep, but this is the first tournament match that didn’t feel predictable in terms of the outcome. In fact, I leaned Romero going into the match to set him up with Lethal. Instead, the unselfish Romero put over Finlay to set up what should be a very good second round match.
Matt Sydal’s profile video aired. He said he holds an advantage exponentially, potentially, physically, mentally, and spiritually over every person in the tournament. He said that means he’s winning the mind game, the head game, and the heart game.
Sydal said some of his earliest memories were flipping on a trampoline and that helped him get a feel for the air. He said he got his feel for the ground as an amateur wrestler. He said he quickly abandoned it because his destiny was to be a pro wrestler. He said he also learned kicks from Tae Kwon Do.
Sydal said he’s had to overcome a foot injury and he walks with a limp. He said his foot is actually loaded because he has a huge lump on the top of his foot that is made with outside bone. He said he places a kick that does the most damage, but he has to suffer for it.
Sydal said he was in his junior year of college when he got his first shot with ROH in Minnesota. He said he was wrestling blind when he was younger until he met Delirious. He said he was the only person within 500 miles of where he lived who saw wrestling the same way he did. He said Delirious pushed him outside his comfort zone.
Sydal said he would have no career if it wasn’t for Delirious. He said facing Delirious is like facing himself in a funhouse mirror. He said they had created an explosion when they first met and would recreate it again. Sydal said he feels an obligation to the veterans who taught him and the fans to win the Pure Championship. “My name is Matt Sydal, come see what I’m saying,” Sydal concluded…
The Delirious profile piece aired. He did his usual mumbling while subtitles made sense of it. The subtitles read that he’s been a pro wrestler or 20 years and he’s been in ROH for 16 of those years. He said he’s been all over the planet and competed against some of the best wrestlers in the world (footage was shown of him in the ring with Bryan “Daniel Bryan” Danielson and others. He has experience in every style and unpredictability has been at the forefront of his style since he debuted.
Delirious said doesn’t train like other wrestlers or diet like other wrestlers. He said he’s never held an ROH championship and it’s time to change that. He said this would be unlike anything anyone has seen from him in a long time. He said there would be no fun and games and there’s no crowd to make laugh. He said he was coming into it as an absolute beast.
Delirious spoke about his early battles with Sydal and said they both won some and lost some. He said they are the same and without Sydal there is no Delirious. He said he’s not in the tournament to prove anything or for validation or vanity, he’s going in because he’s bored and he wants to play chess and beat everyone… [C]
Powell’s POV: I was wondering how they would handle the Delirious video package since he speaks in gibberish. That was pretty clever and the subtitles actually made it a good promo. Sydal has improved tremendously as a promo over the years. It seems like he’s found the right balance with his spiritual gimmick, as it was way too over the top in Impact Wrestling to the point that it felt like it limited him to a mid-card position when he had main event level talent. I should note that Delirious is the masked persona of ROH booker Hunter Johnston. Well, technically, they gave the booking job to Marty Scurll, but Johnston was back in the booking chair at these tapings as ROH’s seemingly endless investigation into Speaking Out allegations made against Scurll apparently continues.
2. Matt Sydal vs. Delirious in a first-round Pure Title Tournament match. During the entrances, a graphic noted that Delirious is just 1-0 on ROH TV and listed some other facts about his career. The broadcast team noted that there was an eery vibe because Delirious was so much more subdued than he typically would be. Delirious dove right at Sydal in a takedown attempt to start the match. Delirious targeted the left arm of Sydal early on and was in control going into a break around 5:00. [C]
Riccaboni recapped some of the match highlights from during the break. The action resumed around 6:35 with Delirious still targeting the left arm. Delirious fired a couple of chops at Sydal, who returned the favor. Both men met in the middle of the ring with a double clothesline. Sydal ducked a couple of punches and then blasted Delirious with a high knee lift that resulted in a two count.
Sydal performed an impressive standing corkscrew moonsault for another two count. Delirious has his knees tucked under him when he took the moonsault. Delirious sold right knee pain and removed a kneepad. Sydal targeted the back leg with a couple of kicks and then delivered another to the head that resulted in just a one count.
Delirious went for a Cobra Clutch, but Sydal resisted. Delirious performed a suplex from that position and then locked in the Cobra Clutch. Sydal rolled onto him to break the hold. Sydal caught Delirious in a Cobra Clutch and got the submission win…
Matt Sydal defeated Delirious in 9:57 to advance to the second-round of the Pure Title Tournament.
The updated graphics showed that Sydal will face Jonathan Gresham in the second round of the tournament. Riccaboni hyped Fred Yehi vs. Silas Young, and Josh Woods vs. Kenny King for next week…
Powell’s POV: An entertaining match. It seemed odd to have Delirious in the tournament on paper, but the profile pieces established his history with Sydal and it came off like this match meant a lot to both men. As such, it worked for me. And, really, everything about the tournament has worked in the first two weeks. It continues to stand out as something unique compared to what other promotions are doing and the presentation is slick.
I am looking forward to seeing Yehi in this format next week. I spoke with Kenny King on this week’s Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast about his match with Josh Woods (no spoilers included) and the Zoom calls that gave the wrestlers a chance to contribute to the planning of the tournament, so be sure to check out my free weekly podcast. Meanwhile, Dot Net Members have access to my weekly audio review of the ROH Wrestling show, and they will hear my review of this episode this morning. Join us on the ad-free website via PWMembership.net.