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Ring of Honor Episode #459 – ‘Day by Day: PJ Black’ Review

A journeyman of sorts, PJ Black has been in the wrestling industry for over twenty years. While most fans would know him as Justin Gabriel, PJ Black has successfully shed the image of a talented wrestler that cannot seem to escape from the mid-card. The South African got his start in the United States when he signed with WWE’s developmental brand FCW, eventually becoming a competitor on the original version of NXT and subsequently a member of The Nexus. Once The Nexus was no longer a main event concern, we got the familiar story in regards to Black’s WWE career: a hyper-athletic worker with a mountain of potential that can’t get off of Main Event (Main Event, the “C show”… not an actual main event {see: Ricochet, Cedric Alexander, Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott, etc.}).

Nevertheless, Black has been able to create a persona that has led him to success in Global Force, Lucha Underground, and of course, Ring of Honor. Now known as “The Darewolf”, this extreme sports junkie is able to cultivate a style and character that is all his own. While nearing the age of forty, it seems as though PJ Black still has a significant amount of impressive work left in his system.

PJ Black vs. Silas Young (Nashville, TN – August 25, 2019)

This match looks to be an interesting clash of styles. Silas Young refers to himself as “The Last Real Man”, so one can imagine he doesn’t have much respect for the flippy-dippy-do-dahs of PJ Black. The chain and counter wrestling within the opening moments are as smooth as butter. I have only seen a handful of Silas Young matches, and these opening moments lead me to believe I should be watching much more of him. Once Young slides out of a pin the same way Riho would, I am all in. After each competitor illustrates to the other that they can compete within the bubble of opposing styles, we see each man revert back to what they are most comfortable with.

PJ Black is in incredible shape, but Silas Young is the definition of a big beefy boy. We get the classic overpowering heel beat-down on Black for a few minutes. All the while, Young is attempting to educate his protégé, Josh Woods, on how to wrestle like a “real man” as Woods stands at ringside. Young gets slightly distracted by Woods not helping on the outside and PJ Black is able to quickly roll up Young for the victory.

I have a difficult time believing this is actually one of PJ Black’s “favorite matches”. There really isn’t much to it. The moment I was starting to become invested in the work, the match was over. Perhaps ROH was attempting to make time for at least three matches on this episode, otherwise, I found this a strange choice for a highlight.

PJ Black vs. Bandido (Las Vegas, NV – March 16, 2019)

This is a match that is very easy for me to get excited about. Two super workers in their prime super working each other. Go check out my review on Bandido from two weeks ago if you want more in-depth thoughts on just how incredible he is as a performer. On Bandido’s episode of Day by Day, we got an abbreviated preview of this matchup in the ridiculous multi-man affair that included Flip Gordon and Caristico. I am admittedly a mark for matches that have more 450’s than headlocks, so my hopes are high for this even if it is a simple television match up.

PJ Black approaches a grounded Bandido in Ring of Honor

The commentators do an excellent job of setting up the story for this match. While both of these men are unbelievable athletes, PJ Black uses his athleticism sparingly due to his veteran experience. While a fan may want to see these competitors in sixth gear for twenty minutes, Black understands that may not be the way to actually win a match. Case in point: Bandido is gaining serious momentum with his high-risk offence, but takes one risk too many which allows Black to make a comeback. This match is absolutely awesome. Each man is constantly throwing haymakers in order to get the upper hand. A stand out manoeuvre is the cradled brain buster Bandido hits on Black.

This match is an excellent example of the attack/response style that is prevalent in the independent scene, but it isn’t just a “spot-fest” for the sake of it. It is a comparison of strength, style and experience, and it’s this that allows Bandido to hit an insane German suplex that threw Black directly on the top of his neck. For a main event on a go-home episode of television, this was just about perfect. It was a battle of new blood against the old guard with each man throwing their most powerful bombs in order to get the upper hand. If you are unfamiliar with either PJ Black or Bandido, this would be a solid match to begin with.

PJ Black vs. Triton vs. Flip Gordon (Milwaukee, WI – September 8, 2019)

First of all, let me just say how much I appreciate Colt Cabana recognizing the itty bitty nature of Triton’s tights because I also found them surprisingly skimpy. Once again, I feel as though one can easily predict the style of this match considering those involved. I’m going to need to pay very close attention if I don’t want to miss anything. Apparently Flip doesn’t want to miss anything either; he immediately powders out in order to watch Triton and Black go at it. Update: Triton’s trunks turn into a thong after two minutes.

I assumed correctly when I believed the opening moments of this match would be ridiculous; suicide dives, moonsaults to the outside. Each guy is doing their best to impress the Milwaukee faithful. Flip Gordon is actually taken out of the match almost immediately after attempting to flip out of a move from Black. I was not keeping up with ROH at this time, so when Flip immediately grabbed his knee and was carried to the back, I was under the impression he was legitimately injured. We now have a singles bout between Black and underwear extraordinaire, Triton.

Once the two men beat each other up, Flip comes running down the ramp trying to take advantage of his devious act. I haven’t seen much of “The Mercenary” Flip Gordon, and I appreciate his unwillingness to do the boy-popping high flying moves just for the sake of the crowd. I think AEW’s Pac is one of the best heels in wrestling, and he runs with a similar gimmick… “Yes, I can do incredible things, but I am a heel and you will like it, so screw you.”

The end of this match is absolutely ridiculous but in a good professional wrestling type of way. After some more high calibre offence from all three men, Flip Gordon rips off Triton’s mask, to which Colt Cabana exclaims, “HE’S PRACTICALLY NAKED NOW!” Flip then grabs a chair from outside in order to murder Black while the referee is distracted with Triton. Tracy Williams then runs off Flip because they are in an apparent Television Title feud. PJ Black was then able to hit the springboard 450 on Triton in order to pick up the win. This match had some incredible athleticism and includes several old tropes that tie everything together in an entertaining way. This was more “sports entertainment” than wrestling, but everyone needs a little of that to fully enjoy an entire card, I’d argue.

Final Thoughts

PJ Black is the perfect veteran presence in this current iteration of Ring of Honor. He will always be there to put on high calibre matches in the upper mid-card or even the main event. Will he ever get a World Championship run? Perhaps, but the company is probably best served in putting him with younger talent that he is more than capable of getting over. Black even flows back and forth between face and heel for this very purpose. He is going to wrestle in the style that is most beneficial to the other competitor. While PJ Black may not be known as one of the “greatest of all time”, he is more influential in 2020 than most people are willing to admit.

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Written by Andrew Stewart

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