There have been some interesting developments across the landscape of ROH in the last two weeks. For as long as I can remember, the only output in terms of content from ROH was their hour-long syndicated wrestling show and pay-per-views. I have mentioned on several occasions just how fantastic Ring of Honor’s YouTube presence has been in the previous twelve months or so, but that looks to be an even more integral part of the product going forward. Using social media and YouTube to put out wrestling content is no longer a novelty at this point, but it is definitely an underappreciated resource. For a wrestling fan, the algorithms of YouTube have led me down some pretty phenomenal rabbit holes that helped me gain a much better understanding of classic Ring of Honor, King’s Road All Japan, PWG and others…and that was all without searching for it. ROH producing content that is meant to fall in the lap of fans is undeniably an intelligent decision. On the previous edition, Joe Keys gained a shot at Jonathan Gresham’s Pure Championship, and while this may seem confusing to someone that JUST watches the television show, at the very least it guides them toward what is being produced online. Aside from the inclusion of Week by Week matches, it looks as though Danhausen and Brian Johnson will be having a Final Battle rematch exclusively on YouTube. Of all the wrestlers to put exclusively on YouTube, is there a better choice than Danhausen? I think not.
Nonetheless, while I have been quite pleased with how the television hasn’t really moved away from the main event and upper-mid card due to the quality of work we have been seeing on a regular basis, we move only SLIGHTLY down the card for this episode…I mean, it’s The Bouncers, The Kingdom, Gresham and Keys…these aren’t scrubs, but it isn’t Shane Taylor pinning Jay Lethal, if that makes sense. While the Pure Division feels completely fleshed out at this point, the ROH Tag Team Division definitely needs a little bit of focus. That is exactly what we are getting this week. Also, I really miss Joe Hendry…just felt the need to say that.
Jonathan Gresham vs. Joe Keys – ROH Pure Championship Title Match
This is obviously a “prove yourself” moment for Joe Keys, both canonically and in real life. This match is one of the oldest stories in the history of humanity: master versus student. I have only seen Joe Keys wrestle twice and both were in “Dojo” matches, so I have no idea what to expect from him in terms of being in the ring with someone as skilled as Gresham. The outcome of this match obviously isn’t in much doubt, but just how Keys stacks up is the aspect to focus on.
As with every match in Ring of Honor throughout the past several months, the solo promo segments remain intact. In his spotlight promo, Keys shines in every way. It is so rare to see “dojo guys” as confident as Keys came off in front of a camera. To be fair, these guys aren’t nineteen year old Young Lions with a one thousand yard stare reminiscent of Master Wato. Keys is in his mid-twenties, so it makes sense to expect a bit more emotional awareness from him that would allow for a more compelling story; and compelling it was. While I still have no desire to see Keys take the Pure Championship off of Gresham, I want him to succeed in the role he finds himself in on this occasion. Keys certainly LOOKS like a professional wrestler. But while he has an imposing physical presence, Gresham has an imposing technical prowess.
Joe Keys has a degree of snap that I don’t usually expect to see from a guy his size…and perhaps that is becoming a sign of the times. A guy like Adam Page doesn’t look like he would be as fast as he is and, on pure physical build, that is who Keys reminds me of. It is no secret that athleticism evolves exponentially with every generation of wrestlers, but even in the most basic of exchanges, it just looks really good. I’m also pretty sure that Gresham is ridiculously strong, so you are always going to have good snap when he tosses you around every which way. That being said, you can’t exactly carry someone through their own transitions so there is a lot to be said for the amount of physical confidence Keys seems to have throughout. It seems silly to say “he knows where to go”, but after watching a twenty-four hour wrestling show this weekend, that is a more impressive skill than one may think.
The final two minutes of this match are absolutely fantastic and smooth like a hot knife through butter. After Keys overpowers Gresham to the point where Gresham uses all of his rope breaks, The Octopus gets a little p****d off. After some physical exchanges, a stiff southern lariat and an attempted flying headbutt from Keys, it feels like I’m watching Georgia Championship Wrestling. After some brilliant counters from Gresham, Keys gets caught in the gnarliest hammer lock I have seen…maybe ever? Gresham wins the match with a hammer lock… how awesome is that? This was an excellent ten minute television match that made Gresham look like THE master and increased Key’s stock pretty significantly. I would love to see ol’ Joe make his way into a match that puts him in play for a Television championship opportunity.
The Bouncers vs. The OGK
It is safe to say this match will be pretty important in shaping the future number one contenders for The Foundation’s ROH Tag Team Championships. The return of Mike Bennett to Ring of Honor is one of the feel-good stories of 2020. Aside from 205 Live being the best thing WWE produced between 2017 and 2018, Mike was criminally under-utilized in that company. This is no secret, but the sheer stupidity has become even more apparent when you see what Bennett has been doing since his release. The only notable opponent of Nick Aldis in the pandemic era, Bennett really felt like he broke out of his shell in that match on the United Wrestling Network’s PrimeTime Live. I am seriously SO excited to see the culmination of the UWN World Championship Tournament that took place at the end of last year because the finalists are Bennett and Chris Dickinson. Talk about fire…both of those guys have a surplus. In the meantime, the re-unification of The Kingdom is heartwarming, and with Jay Lethal taking the occasional pin, it isn’t far-fetched to believe Matt Taven and Mike Bennett will be taking those titles from The Foundation.
The Bouncers are a true ROH tag team, and I don’t mean to hand wave their ability to win this match; it just feels like OGK have ALL of the momentum going into this one. Brian Milonas and The Beer City Bruiser do some pretty incredible things for their size, and when paired with the right team, the matches can be absolutely awesome. This is illustrated about five seconds into the match when Milonas literally chucks Bennett across the ring. My predictions for this match are immediately put into question because Bennett is very much still feeling the effects of The Righteous’ attack on his ankle. If Bennett was 100% healthy, I would feel like this match was essentially etched in stone. In losing their speed, The Kingdom’s chances drop.
The Beer City Bruiser looks like an absolute animal once The Kingdom are initially slowed down; to the point he actually gets annoyed with Milonas for not making tags quick enough. I always forget how insane the Bruiser actually is once he gets going. While it may seem like an outlandish comparison, it reminds me of the way Mick Foley would use his body as a weapon in the early days of Cactus Jack in WCW. I always forget what the Bruiser is willing to do, and when he does it, I am flabbergasted. In all reality, both of The Bouncers are well known for doing this…the match they had against each other (which was filled with such moments) is the reason they are a team today.
As I had initially anticipated, even with Bennett not being as fast as he may wish he could be, The Kingdom come out on top. Bennett and Taven are simply at a higher level than Bruiser and Milonas at the moment, and interestingly enough, that idea is explored by Vincent soon after the bell rings. Several weeks ago, the Bruiser specifically stated that The Bouncers were no longer here for fun and games…losing matches and then cracking open a cold one with the guys that just kicked their ass. After the match, Milonas grabs a six pack, hands a bottle to Bruiser who looks as though he is about to toast with Taven. Vincent comes out to pose a question to the Bruiser, considering all of these guys have known each other for an extended period of time. He asks why The Bouncers are essentially continuing to wallow in the muck when guys like Taven are able to buy themselves new houses. As Vincent says his piece and makes his way to the back, Bruiser smashes the bottle on Taven’s head to the dismay of both Bennett and Milonas.
I have to say, I am totally into Vincent’s character at the moment, and the dynamic with The Kingdom has been perfectly timed since ROH’s return to action. I think The Righteous could definitely use someone like the Beer City Bruiser in their ranks and it seems as though this feud will definitely be making its way into the spring. This was a very entertaining ending to a very solid episode and I look forward to the inevitable title match between The Kingdom and The Foundation. Give them twenty minutes and give it to me on pay per view…
Hey people…Ring of Honor is good again…pass it on.