Excellent piece of work here to demonstrate the ways that pure rules can be used to add tension and drama to a match instead of restricting it. Gresham and Yuta work very similar technical styles, a fact hammered home by commentary pointing out that Gresham is almost wrestling a younger version of himself in this match. As such, there’s a lot of early chain wrestling work with these guys working their way in and out of a variety of different holds. Lots of neat little trickery down on the mat with Yuta trying to prove he can hang with the veteran and upset half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions.
All of that is fun and good to watch but the match starts really finding its narrative groove when Gresham starts working over Yuta’s legs. This leads to Gresham locking in a particularly gruesome looking variation on the Indian deathlock which forces Yuta to burn his first rope break. Gresham tempts fate a little bit here by pulling the classic “I’m too tangled up to break the hold” trick, a nice little display of the aggressive edge that Gresham has over Yuta at this point. Yuta rises to that indignity with aggression of his own, nailing Gresham with his one free closed fist punch. It’s such a satisfying moment seeing Gresham get knocked on his ass as consequence to his trickery. The fact that the pure rules state that Yuta only gets the one free punch makes it come across even more explosive and meaningful.
Although Yuta fires up with some big strikes that escalate and quicken the action, it’s Gresham’s combined forethought and willingness to get a little grimier with his offense that wins him the day. He slaps on a figure four that he rides all the way to the floor, Fujinami style. Then, at the 10 minute mark with the match approaching it’s time limit, Gresham just goes out of his way to bash in Yuta’s ankle and knee, just demolishing it by driving it into the mat to force a submission. What a finish, not something you’d see anywhere else in wrestling but perfectly paid off and set up here.
This is an awesome match from a great episode of ROH TV. If they can maintain this kind of momentum, it’s going to be a really great eight weeks of television for them. It’s what they do in the aftermath that will be the real challenge however.