By Kevin Eck
Rocky Romero has wrestled all over the world and won numerous championships. He’s one of only three men to have won titles in Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and CMLL in Mexico.
But there’s one goal that has eluded Romero, a three-time ROH World Tag Team Champion and record eight-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. The veteran, who made his ROH debut in 2004 and has wrestled at least a handful of matches in the company almost every year since, has never won a singles championship there.
He’s determined to change that and has set his sights on the ROH Pure Championship. Romero’s quest begins with a match against fellow NJPW star David Finlay in a Pure Title tournament Block A first-round bout that airs on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” the weekend of Sept. 19.
“It would mean the world to me [to win the title],” Romero told me on the latest episode of the “ROHStrong Podcast.” “I’ve done the tag stuff for so long with so many different partners that I just feel like winning a really major singles title would be like the icing on the cake for me. I feel like maybe all the hard work that I put in, 20-plus years, that it would just all culminate into that one moment, that one title. It would be something that would be mega to me.”
Romero never got a shot at the Pure Title during its original run from 2004 to 2006.
“I should’ve. That was somebody’s bad,” Romero said with a laugh. “I think I would’ve been great at it. That was my stuff. … [But] I’m fortunate and grateful that I get the opportunity now. It’s something that I was interested in when I was a young man. It went away. I started doing other stuff. … And then to have it come into your life and it’s presented to you, especially during this time, it’s like, ‘OK, cool, now I need to prepare for this. I need to get in the right mental state. I need to do what I can physically in the short amount of time to get into shape and treat it like if it’s [Mike] Tyson’s comeback. For me, it feels like that.”
During the podcast, which drops this Monday at 7 a.m. ET on ROHWrestling.com and most podcast platforms, Romero also talked about training under Japanese icon Antonio Inoki, wrestling as Black Tiger, the Talk ‘N Shop A Mania pay-per-view, which ROH star he thinks will be a major player, and much more.
Real deal https://t.co/bh5hpXwgol
— ROCKY ROMERO (@azucarRoc) September 8, 2020
Also on the podcast, the legendary Chico El Luchador graces us with his presence for “10 Questions!”
This weekend’s episode of “Ring of Honor Wrestling” features the first two matches in the Pure Title tournament -- Jay Lethal versus Dalton Castle and Jonathan Gresham versus Wheeler Yuta -- and you can watch along and interact with the stars of ROH on Twitter (@ringofhonor) Monday at 7 p.m. ET using #ROHPure.
The competitors in the matches will answer questions from fans, and other ROH stars will comment on the action as it happens. To participate in the Twitter watch party, view the episode on ROHWrestling.com or FITE. The watch parties will continue at that same time every Monday for the duration of the tournament (eight weeks).
A programming reminder: The Pure Title tournament bracketology special premieres on YouTube today at noon ET. The show is hosted by ROH commentators Ian Riccaboni and Caprice Coleman and includes analysis from former Pure Champion Doug Williams and myself. Also, the international competitors who were originally slated to be in the tournament offer their insight and predictions.
ICYMI: Check out the preview videos for the Lethal-Castle and Gresham-Yuta matches, featuring comments from the four competitors. To read more on those matchups, click here, and for the full bracket and schedule of first-round matches, click here.
THE TIME HAS COME...
A NEW ROH PURE CHAMPION WILL BE CROWNED
THE PURE TOURNAMENT BEGINS THIS WEEK ON ROH TV! #ROHPure
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) September 9, 2020
With Lethal in Block A and Gresham in Block B, I’m predicting the friends/co-holders of the ROH World Tag Team Championship meet in the finals of the tournament.
I know I’m not exactly going out on a limb with that prediction. Lethal is a two-time former ROH World Champion and the only former Pure Champion in the tournament, and Gresham is arguably the greatest technical wrestler in the sport today, so they’re undoubtedly two of the favorites.
That said, however, I fully expect there to be some upsets, and Lethal and Gresham both have tough first-round matchups.
My sleeper pick to win it all is Josh Woods.
Don’t be fooled by Woods’ fun-loving personality and the goofy sense of humor he displays when teaming with Silas Young as 2 Guys 1 Tag. Woods does indeed have the goods to become Pure Champion.
Prior to winning the 2017 ROH Top Prospect Tournament, Woods was an outstanding collegiate wrestler at Central Florida, where he won a national championship and was a four-time All-American. He also was the captain of the 2012 US Mixed Martial Arts team and has run camps for MMA stars such as King Mo, Seth Petruzelli, Alex Nicholson, Mike Perry and Tom Lawlor.
Woods faces Kenny King in a Block B first-round match that airs on TV the weekend of Sept. 26. Young, by the way, takes on Fred Yehi in a Block A first-round match on that same episode. It’s conceivable Woods and Young -- protege and mentor -- could square off in the finals.
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) August 20, 2020
Death Before Dishonor 2017 will air on ROH Best On The Planet (Channel 357 on STIRR) tonight at 5 p.m.
The show was headlined by Cody’s ROH World Title defense against Minoru Suzuki. Other matches on the show included: The Young Bucks versus. The Motor City Machine Guns for the ROH World Tag Team Championship; Lethal versus Young in a Last Man Standing Match; KUSHIDA versus Kenny King for the ROH World Television Championship; and Jay White versus. Punishment Martinez in a Las Vegas Street Fight.
TONIGHT at 5 PM ET ROH Best On The Planet revisits Death Before Dishonor 2017!
MCMG and The Young Bucks face off for the ROH World Tag Titles, and Cody defends the ROH World Championship against Minoru Suzuki!
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) September 11, 2020
More matches from 2008 have been added to the HonorClub archives for Fresh 50 Friday, including: Bryan Danielson versus Kevin Steen; Danielson versus Nigel McGuinness; McGuinness versus Tyler Black; The Age of the Fall versus the Briscoes; and Sara Del Rey versus Daizee Haze.
Until next time, keep safe and stay #ROHStrong!
Kevin Eck is a veteran pro wrestling journalist who has worked for The Baltimore Sun, WWE and WCW before joining ROHWrestling.com.