Baltimore, MD – 6.11.2021
Commentary is provided by Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman.
On the June 8th episode of “Week By Week”, our second of six first round Survival of the Fittest matches took place:
2021 Survival of the Fittest Opening Round Match
Sledge vs. Brian Johnson
Johnson attacks Sledge’s knee and hits Spike Eskin before the bell, but Sledge tells referee Todd Sinclair he is still able to compete. The match goes mostly as you would expect: Sledge overpowers Johnson when on offense, and Johnson attacks the knee to turn things back in his favor. It looked like referee Todd Sinclair was going to call the match for Sledge when he had Johnson knocked down with a forearm, but Sledge told him not to. Johnson clipped Sledge’s knee when he fell from being passed out, and then schoolboyed Sledge for the pin at 11:05. The shouty pre-match video was already a big turn off, and the pedestrian match didn’t do much for me either. *
The June 9th episode of Women’s Division Wednesday featured a tag team match:
Miranda Alize & Sumie Sakai vs. Trish Adora & Mazzerati
All competitors, with the exception of Sumie Sakai, so far have been invited into the Summer’s Women championship tournament. Sakai does not let Adora use her height advantage against her. Alize is offended that Mazzerati is able to keep up with her, and even kick out of her Magistral cradle, and gives her a hard dropkick in response. Alize and Sakai work over Mazzerati’s left arm and implement some tandem offense to keep her trapped in their half of the corner. Mazzerati lures Sakaki into a roundhouse kick to the stomach and follows up with a knee trembler for two. Adora gets tagged in and helps Mazzerati keep Sakai trapped in their half of the ring. Sakai fires up after taking a German suplex from Adora and gives Adora a German suplex of her own. After tagging in, Alize stacks up her opponents down in one corner and lands a running dropkick. Alize helps Sakai block a suplex from Mazzerati, and Sakai drops Mazzerati with a neckbreaker for two. Adora saves Mazzerati from being pinned after a German suplex/jackknife pin combo from the opposition. Adora slams Alize into a running legdrop from Mazzerati for two. Adora pummels Sakai on the outside as Mazzerati Northern Lights suplexes Alize for two. As Sakai holds onto Adora’s leg, Alize surprises Mazzerati with a cutter and the Miranda Rights for the submission at 11:11. Not a bad idea at all to give these tournament entrants more of a spotlight before it begins, especially since we got to see some more personality from them during the course of the bout. Having a tag match also freshens things up of which I am always in favor. **½
Max The Impaler comes out after the match and leaves all four competitors laying. They even attack the timekeeper, taking her into the ring and giving her an over the shoulder backbreaker! Amy Rose from the aisleway applauds Max’s actions, and the two leave together. Backstage, Bateman approaches Maria Kanellis-Bennett with Vita VonStarr by his side. Bateman believes VonStarr should be in the women’s title tournament. Maria gives her a proverbial golden ticket on the condition that VonStarr forfeits the invite if she interferes in any men’s matches. That’s a solid deal, but there’s three other Righteous members to interfere for one another, and it doesn’t keep her out of interfering in women’s matches. Close those loopholes, Maria!
Now onto this week’s episode! So far, Demonic Flamita and Brian Johnson have advanced to the Survival of the Fittest finals, and tonight a third name gets added to that list.
2021 Survival of the Fittest Opening Round Match
Eli Isom vs. Dak Draper
This is a rematch from Episode 501 which ended in a 15 minute time limit draw. Dalton Castle attacked both men after that match, and he’s back for this match to watch the bout from ringside with four boys in tact. Draper boots Isom in the stomach before the bell, but Isom takes over very quickly after with a tope con hilo. Isom dizzy’s Draper back inside the ring before dropkicking him back to the floor. Castle’s gaggle of boys distract Isom with their applause, allowing Draper to kick the rope as Isom attempts a springboard dive. He brings in Isom with a deadlift superplex and pummels him on the mat. He clotheslines Isom after Isom attempts an O’Connor Roll. After the commercial break, Draper crossbody’s Isom over the top rope and to the floor. He whips Isom towards Castle and his boys who scurry out of the way, and Castle is delighted! Draper controls Isom in a grounded waistlock. Isom schoolboy trips Draper and tries for the Promise. Draper escapes and hits the Doctor Bomb for two. Isom comes back with a Sidewinder. Draper escapes another potential brainbuster with a Denver Stampede for two. Draper has Isom set up for Magnum K.O. but decides instead to place Isom on the top turnbuckle. Castle decides to leave, which distracts Draper as he is looking for a superplex. Isom headbutts Draper, then tornadoes his way into the Promise brainbuster to get the pin at 11:17. These two have very good chemistry and building the match around Isom’s brainbuster worked very well. Dalton’s presence loomed large at points of being distracting, and I think hurt the match’s overall presentation. I am pumped Isom is advancing to the finals; however, I fear that after being off of TV for two months, Draper’s incredible showing at 19th Anniversary fades from memory the less consistent his presence in ROH becomes. Both these guys definitely deserve to be in ROH’s upper echelon by the end of the year, if not sooner. ***
We get interviews hyping up O’Shay Edwards vs. Chris Dickinson in the opening round of the Survival of the Fittest. That match happens on the June 15th episode of “Week By Week.”
ROH World Tag Team Championship; Pure Rules Match
The Foundation (Tracy Williams & Rhett Titus) vs. La Facción Ingobernable (Dragon Lee & Kenny King)
The Foundation have been champions since 3.26.2021 and this is their second defense. LFI is receiving this rematch due to Lee’s injury preventing him from defending the tag titles at the 19th Anniversary Show. It was that match in which Williams and Titus won the titles. The rules for this match are as follows:
*The competitors are to obey the “Code of Honor”, shaking one another’s hand before and after the match.
*Tags only count by one wrestler reaching over the top rope and tagging his partner hand-to-hand while holding the tag rope.
*Each wrestler has 5 seconds to exit the ring after a tag is made.
*Each team has 3 rope breaks to stop submission holds and pinfalls. After a team has used all 3 of their rope breaks, submission and pin attempts on or under the ropes by the opponent are considered legal.
*Each time a team breaks up a pinfall or submission, that team will lose a rope break. A pinfall or submission breakup when a team is out of rope breaks will result in a disqualification.
*Closed-fist punches to the face are not permitted. Punches to other parts of the body are permitted, excluding low blows. The first use of a closed fist results in a warning, a second will be a disqualification.
*The titles can change hands due to a disqualification or count out.
*This match has a 45 minute time limit. If the match goes past the time limit, three judges will determine the outcome.
*Any wrestler who interferes will be automatically terminated from the roster.
Williams makes King use his team’s first rope break very early with a cloverleaf. Lee and Williams trade overhand chop, and during the exchange Williams’ takes off his shoulder protector. On the floor, Lee sends Williams bad shoulder first into the barricades and delivers a top rope double stomp to the shoulder back inside the ring. Williams takes Lee down with a tear drop suplex. King kicks Williams in the spine from the apron, and LFI nails him with a seated dropkick/leg lariat combo. Williams eventually escapes LFI’s corner by avoiding a chin checker from King and tagging in Titus. King uses the ropes to halt a pin after Titus gives him a belly-to-belly suplex. King cartwheel kicks Williams off the apron and hits a flying Blockbuster on Titus for two. LFI tries for a powerbomb/blockbuster comob, but Titus turns the Blockbuster portion into a suplex on Lee. Williams puts King in a crossface after King kicks out of a brainbuster, and King uses LFI’s third and final rope break to escape. Titus saves Williams from King’s bow and arrow submission with a super knee drop off the top. This costs The Foundation their first rope break. Lee hits Titus with a big seated dropkick. Titus fires up after a German suplex and clotheslines Lee for two. Lee traps Titus in a tree of woe and double stomps him in the position. Lee dives onto Williams before passing him off to King for the Royal Flush. Titus spends his second rope break saving Williams from being pinned. Lee gets Williams in another tree of woe position. This time however, Williams headbutts Lee from underneath and gives Lee a super piledriver. He pins Lee and King breaks up the pin. However, since they’re out of rope breaks, this means LFI is disqualified and The Foundation retains at 16:09. I really dug that the finish. The Pure Rules played to LFI’s weaknesses, and King was beaten to the point where he didn’t even realize what his interjection meant for the match. Interestingly, King also lost LFI all of their rope breaks in the match, and then lost it for them. We’ll see if that has any long term implications. It’s a finish I would use sparingly, and in this context it was perfect. The good thing about Pure Matches is it kept LFI’s nonsense from ruining the match, which means these four wrestlers just got to produce a very good wrestling match. ***½
La Bestia del Ring runs out and helps King and Lee beat down Titus and Williams. Jay Lethal and Jonathan Gresham come to their partners rescue. All of VLNCE UNLTD watches on from the apron with a smirk as the two groups fight ringside.
Overall: Another very good episode from ROH this week. The faction warfare stuff may not being doing it for me, but as long as the wrestling stays consistently good and some of the other stories keep my interest, this will continue to be a worthwhile investment.