The King Takes the Castle

Ring of Honor Episode #476 Review

The next month of television for Ring of Honor might be the most important month in their recent history. While the final of the Pure Championship tournament wasn’t a blow away banger, the result was far more important than the road taken to get there. It just so happens that the vast majority of that road was paved with gold. The immediate future should illustrate whether or not that road was solid or simply plated.

Jonathan Gresham is the Pure Champion as well as an ROH Tag Team Champion with Jay Lethal; that is fantastic. Rush is still the ROH World Champion, but we have not seen him since the pandemic began. The same story goes for ROH Television Champion, Dragon Lee. To be honest, I have no idea where the women’s division is at this point aside from a Week by Week feud between Quinn McKay and Angelina Love, which I am admittedly here for.

Point being, much of what ROH was in early 2020 is now floating in the ether. The Pure Tournament felt like a needed re-branding of a product that had potentially run its course in prior form, but there are reasons that ROH couldn’t find their way out of the doldrums. With what looks like ANOTHER transition period for leadership on the horizon, I very dearly want to continue feeling just as invested as I had over the previous weeks. While there has been an inclusion of “television” feuds in the final weeks of the tournament, nothing jumps out to me as something that would mold the main event in its image. What I do know is Brody King has been a tremendous presence in New Japan as of late, and if his coming out party happens to be on this night against Dalton Castle…THAT feels like a steak sat next to my potatoes…(Because Brody is a big beefy boy… get it?)

Some of my biggest concerns are immediately squashed as we see Jon Gresham give his post-match comments after the final against Tracy Williams. While Gresham didn’t exactly add anything to his previous narrative, “The Foundation” seems to actually be a stable now as opposed to a simple moniker for Gresham. Tracy and Jay Lethal (as well as a mystery octopus man) stood behind Gresham as he chastised Rush for not being the champion ROH needed. This feels like direction and I’m glad Gresham seems to be on a particular track with two (technically three) other men that could have potentially been left rudderless after the tournament.

Dak Draper vs. Brian Johnson

A battle of the alternates for the Pure Tournament, it is obviously a good thing that we haven’t seen either man in action throughout the previous two months. If we had seen them it would have been due to injury or illness, which nobody would be hoping for, but it is definitely a cute idea for ROH to book a match between the two. ROH is continuing the pattern of emotionally charged video packages that were aired before the first round matches of the Pure Tournament. While these were obviously filmed in case they were needed throughout the tournament, I am glad to see them because they were genuinely one of my favorite aspects of the tournament. Draper’s promo is your basic “I am a good athlete” promo, but Brian Johnson’s is filled with a badass babyface fire that we didn’t really see much of throughout the tournament. I am far more interested in seeing what Johnson is able to do in an empty arena than I am with Draper.

Interestingly, this match is under the Pure Championship rules, which is immediately utilized by Johnson when he uses his one free punch to the face and starts throwing his body all over the place in order to chop down the larger Draper. When Draper gives Johnson the face receipt, I laughed out loud. While this match is under the umbrella of the Pure Title, it has been in stark contrast of anything we saw during those previous Pure matches. What I thought could be an uninteresting opener became fun and interesting in a flash.

While Draper is a solid wrestler, he reminds me of an OVW prospect from 2005 more so than an ROH Pure wrestler. Johnson, on the other hand, I find pretty entertaining. Johnson is an angry little bastard that seems like he is never out of the fight. While Johnson has a surplus of intensity, he also wrestles with a degree of babyface intelligence, finding the ropes when he needs to and discovering innovative ways to chop down his more physically imposing combatant. Draper was the winner of the 2019 Top Prospect Tournament, so it makes all the sense in the world that he would come out on top in this match when it looks as though Johnson is a mentee of PJ Black more so than a singles star. To be clear, I would much rather see a Brian Johnson push than a PJ Black push.

Brody King vs. Dalton Castle

Brody King is the definition of “Destroyer of Worlds” in my mind. The man has such a foreboding presence and a distinct look that he immediately comes off as a star. Probably just over one year ago, I went deep down a Brody King YouTube hole and I could not, for the life of me, understand why he wasn’t making one million dollars a year as a championship contender in a national company. That being said, I would be even more perplexed if he did not find his way into the thirty-first G1 Climax or New Japan Cup in 2021. He has the look, he has the presence, and he has the ability. I want to see a belt around King’s waist sooner rather than later.

Speaking of belts, former ROH World Champion Dalton Castle is the man facing off against Brody. While we only saw Dalton in the first round of the Pure Tournament, I had never been more invested in him as a performer. Two minutes of authenticity was all it took for me to see him as the main event talent I never could before. To be fair, I didn’t watch ROH during his world title run, so my feelings may have been misplaced off the bat, but it really is incredible what an effective promo can do for a performer and their decided performance. I find it hard to believe that Brody will not come away victorious due to the fact that Dalton can take the loss without it harming his character and Brody getting a win over a bona fide main event talent would put him on the fast track to the title picture. Villain Club looks to be dead, and that can only serve Brody King in a positive way. However, Dalton’s pre-match promo got me more fired up than I would have expected. I am surprisingly amped for this main event.

With Dalton attempting to retain the fire he found for the opening round of the Pure Tournament, an extra dimension is added to this match. In a face to face brawl, Dalton would have absolutely no chance against a guy like King. While Dalton is not at all a small man, King’s striking is up there with some of the best in the game. Even when Dalton is able out-wrestle King, the giant is so explosive that there is no known counter plan that could allow one to get their bearings straight. Outside of the first two minutes, Dalton is doing everything he can to simply stay in contention.

The strikes in this match are absolutely disgusting. Dalton’s chest is almost immediately blistered and Dalton’s knees look to put Brody King’s jaw in danger of being broken a second time. It is so hard to invest in an empty arena match unless the performers are giving it everything they have. While that isn’t really fair, it is an unfortunate reality. It isn’t unfortunate in this particular case though because this is worked to both men’s strengths, with an energy that must be difficult to conjure with nobody losing their minds after every stiff slap or chop.

This match is absolutely wonderful for several reasons; while Dalton was getting beaten to a pulp on a regular basis, he always came off as competitive. In a similar fashion to Dalton, King was able to take all of Castle’s offence, make it look rather devastating in the moment, but come back from it in only the way a monster could. This is a stiff fifteen-minute banger that I would suggest everyone watched. I would even say I absolutely loved it. It was a television main event that will probably be forgotten in four weeks’ time, but this felt like Brody King was starting to make his way down the road to Rush and his ROH World Title and that is an important moment in the context of what the future holds. I am still firmly buckled in on this ride. Watch. This. Match.

Written by Andrew Stewart

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