We started off with a replay of the finish of the Pure Title match at Final Battle 2020, which people have criticized for having the ref stop the match right after Flip kicked out of something and was getting back up, but this replay made clear that the ref jumped in when Flip started to fall down again, so that criticism is unfounded.
QUINN MCKAY RUNS DOWN THE SHOW- Look… I’m not saying I have a problem with Quin McKay’s style of dress, but the combination of her wearing the bow-tie and sitting down at a table using a microphone in a stand, in front of a big ROH background makes the show feel old-timey, and that is opposite of what ROH needs to be. Have her stand up and stick her in front of a less color, more sleek background, and make the thing look modern.
She also explained to us that Rey Horus has earned his TV Title shot by pinning former ROH World Champion Dalton Castle at Final Battle and showed us the TV Title division rankings. WHY do we have rankings? They NEVER work well! But if we’re going to do them, ROH needs to get a graphic where the numbers aren’t hidden behind the wrestlers’ names.
THE RULES FOR THE RANKINGS ARE:
1. You can only be ranked in one singles division at a time.
I like this, as it explains why you’re getting a shot at one title but not another when a win is a win.
2. The Board of Directors places you in a certain division based on various things, including fan input, style, quality of opponent, and win-loss record.
I like this a lot. I think a television title in this day and age is rather silly, and especially if you portray it the way Jay Lethal did as champion where he is saying that he is “the best wrestler on television.” Having a system like this makes it clear that the world title more prestigious than the TV Title… and more prestigious than the Pure Title, too, which opens up various storyline possibilities to create a rivalry between the titles.
3. If you want to be put in a different division, you have to bring your case to the Board of Directors, who will decide if your case has merit or not.
Makes sense, and this opens up the possibility for a conflict between a wrestler and management in a more much sporting and reasonable way than usual.
4. Only the top three ranked wrestlers/teams in a division are eligible to challenge for a title.
I also like this a lot, as it creates a stratification among the wrestlers, giving them something tangible to shoot for. Having numbers 4 and 5 be announced rankings but not eligible to challenge for a title creates an intermediate step that illustrates progress in a wrestler’s journey to a title shot. It also creates meaning for a match between two wrestlers who are closely ranked, such as in tonight’s opener with Pure Division #4 Rhett Titus taking on #2 Flip Gordon. A win for Rhett will surely boost him into the top three, knocking out either Flip or the inactive #3 Josh Woods, depending on the strength of Flip’s performance in the hypothetical loss.
And yet, despite gushing over how much I like the rules, I’m still pessimistic. Why? Because while it’s clear that a lot of thought has been put into this, this booking regime has yet to earn back my trust. It has been YEARS of things that seem like they have potential but then get badly mangled or go off in the wrong directions.
Also, Matt Taven and Vincent are barred from appearing on the same shows due to “property damage” and injuries that have occurred when they are together. Fine.
MARIA KANELLIS PLUGS THE RETURN OF THE EXPERIENCE- I hate the concept, but doing a show where fans vote on the stipulations isn’t the worst idea in a pandemic… though it probably IS a very bad idea if you’re trying to be the “real sports” wrestling promotion. Also, Maria being the one to do this plug felt weird. She is a company spokeswoman all of a sudden? This is the sort of thing that should be coming from Quinn or the announcers or even Todd Sinclair. The way this was shot also made it clear that Maria’s role was to be sexy, which was kind of an odd choice considering the “real sports” approach ROH has taken since the beginning of the pandemic.
RHETT TITUS VIDEO PACKAGE/PROMO- passable
Rhett is definitely struggling to find a place where he is this new babyface Rhett Titus but still has some of his old swagger. He’s upset with Flip for not shaking Jonathan Gresham’s hand after the Pure Title match at Final Battle 2020. He says that Pure Rules match is his arena, not Flip’s, and that Flip not shaking hands has disrespected everyone who came before him. I did like that Rhett acknowledged his previous wrongdoing and essentially said that he was more mature now. In a way, that mitigated his flatness a bit, but I still think there a happy medium he needs to find.
FLIP GORDON VIDEO PACKAGE/PROMO- good
He didn’t shake Gresham’s hand because he didn’t think there was any honor in the way Gresham won (via referee stoppage). He notes that he has beaten Rhett every time they have faced off in the past, and this time won’t be any different even though it’s under a different set of rules. Flip’s delivery could have been better, but I liked the fact that he came off like an actual heel here, as opposed to pretty much everyone else in these video packages.
PURE RULES MATCH: Rhett Titus vs. Flip Gordon- 7/10
Rhett insists on a handshake but Flip refuses. From that point on they had what was pretty much a straight Pure Rules match, with Rhett working over Flip’s knee and getting him in rope-break trouble. As they headed towards the time-limit they did a great job of upping the sense of desperation with a lot of close roll-ups… and then Flip just hauled back and punched Rhett right in the face, purposely taking the warning for using the closed fist in order to get a decisive advantage, following that up by hitting the stunned Rhett with his finisher and getting the win. After the match, Flip mockingly shook the still-dazed Rhett’s hand.
This was EXCELLENT booking, setting up for a rematch while giving us a reason to think the babyface will win next time (Rhett outwrestled Flip but lost because he wasn’t on the lookout for a dastardly tactic), keeping the “Rhett has never beaten Flip” issue alive to create that moment of accomplishment for Rhett to strive for as the feud goes on, adding heat to the feud with Flip’s mocking handshake, and, most importantly, getting over Flip’s character as someone willing to take advantage of the rules.
QUINN MCKAY INTERVIEWS FLIP GORDON- fine
I liked that Quinn didn’t shy away from calling Flip out for “punching someone in the face on purpose.” This is the sort of question that makes her feel like a real backstage reporter and not someone out there to ask softball set-up questions like we get in WWE. Flip insists that his punch was within the rules, which is only true on a technicality, and I wished Quinn would have pushed back on that a bit.
Quinn informs Flip that due to his antics, he has been “suspended” from the Pure Division. Flip thought being suspended for a punch was BS, though Quinn told him it was more about lack of handshakes. He has a world title shot in his back pocket, so he’s fine with this. He says he’ll go for a different title, and maybe find a tag partner, too, to stick it ROH management. This makes sense, as we need to deal with Flip’s title shot, but I wish more focus had been placed on the fact that despite technically being within letter of the law, Flip’s punch was clearly a violation of the spirit of the rules, and thus he isn’t worthy of being in the prestigious Pure Division. I think this would have 1) made Flip into a bit more of a heel, and 2) played a little better into his comment that the Pure Division is all that management seems to care about right now.
REY HORUS VIDEO PACKAGE/PROMO- This was awesome, but there was a bit of weirdness in it because his English seemed so good that having him do half of this in Spanish for an English-speaking promotion was a little weird, and having him switch back and forth in the middle of sentences the way they did came across inorganic, like they were specifically trying to get an equal amount of both languages so they had him write his own script and then took that script and dictated where he should switch languages.
DRAGON LEE PROMO- bad
Some people just aren’t cut out for heel promos, so they had him overcompensate by having a violent reaction to being offered a chair that he could sit in to cut his promo. Then he said a few random boilerplate lines.
ROH TV TITLE MATCH: Dragon Lee(c) vs. Rey Horus- 7.25/10
Rey Horus jump-started the match with a big tope con giro. That started off the usual Dragon Lee special, which is a Lucha match that is spotty, but paced extremely well and very exciting. He successfully retained his title, which makes sense considering that Rey Horus was never supposed to be a singles guy in the first place. In the long run, though, I think the little bit of individual focus this situation has gotten him (and ROH’s smart decision to have him beat Dalton Castle at Final Battle 2020 to build him up for a title challenge here) will do wonders for him, making sure that he doesn’t feel like just “one of Bandido’s partners” the way Mexi-Blood have in their short run so far.
This was a GREAT episode ROH. What a wonderful way to start off the year.
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