Maria Fanning’s Pick
MOTY: The Pure Tournament, Ring Of Honor
Alright, it’s not technically a match. But for a self-contained event that breathed new life into a declining major promotion, Ring of Honor could not have asked for a better opportunity than the revival of the Pure Title. And more exactly, the Pure Tournament to crown its revitalized champion.
Tournament arcs in wrestling often feel thrown together for a hastily, unearned sense of tension and build to a title match. The Pure Tournament solves this by having a well-produced and edited pre-match interview with each wrestler before the respective two wrestler’s round. When you watch these interviews, you immediately are filled in with the character’s motivation going in and how they plan to achieve that through their skill and technique.
This brings me to the true highlight: Pure Rules allow a new (or rather, resurrection) of storytelling in wrestling. Through the use of limiting normalized rules in wrestling, it’s as if you are brought into a new world of wrestling. The usage of strategy within each match, the building tension of each rope break out of the wrestlers allotted three being used up and the impact that a punch can truly hold when the performers are given a “one-per match” limit to it. By limiting and refining rules, they expand the versatility of what can be done in the ring.
And what it also unveiled was talent, both known and unknown, on a stage truly fitting for their skill. Tony Deppen, who’s chaotic style in-ring earned him a meteoric rise through ROH. Fred Yehi, who went over the established veteran Silas Young in the first round. And that’s not even saying how it reinvigorated current ROH roster members such as Josh Woods.
But what this event will ultimately and justifiably be remembered for is the beginning of Jonathan Gresham’s Pure Wrestling crusade. Fighting through each round with determination and obedience to the Pure Rules, Gresham ended the tournament with two things: The Pure Wrestling Title. And the forming of his own faction in The Foundation. Cutting a blistering promo about how Rush had not upheld was Ring of Honor “stood for”, Jonathan Gresham made clear what this tournament represented.
It represented the ROH would not be what it became anymore. It would take what made it amazing in the past but also the learning of the present in going towards the future. A resurrection of not only the Pure Title. But of the spirit of Ring of Honor itself.
A fine match can breathe new life into a career. A fine show can breathe new life into fans of the show. But it takes something truly special to breathe new life into a promotion itself.
And the Pure Tournament did just that.
Honorable Mention: Calvin Tankman Vs O’Shay Edwards, For The Culture:
Big men often get a bad rep as “slow” and “uninteresting” performers in pro wrestling. Those people don’t know jack, otherwise, there wouldn’t have been a match like Calvin Tankman Vs O’Shay Edwards that showcased just what big wrestlers can do.
Taking place at easily the best show of The Collective, For The Culture, this bout brought it for its short runtime, making use of each second within. While it would be easy to see Tankman and O’Shay as both powerhouses. And there is no denying they are both phenomenal in that role. But when you put two hybrids of different varieties in the air-defying Calvin Tankman and the stiff striker O’Shay Edwards, you just see how so much can be done with so little time.
If I had to use a single word to describe this match and how it made me feel, it would be “invigorating”. From the high-intensity selling such as the goliath O’Shay Edwards flinging himself across the ring after a pounce. Chop exchanges from both men that would make even WALTER wince. Or the never-gets-old aerial ability of Tankman being nearly matched by the even more surprising agility of O’Shay, that match grabbed your attention for the ten minutes it occurred and makes you wish it went on an hour more.