ROH commentators Ian Riccaboni, Caprice Coleman and Quinn McKay provided their analysis and predictions for the ROH Pure Title tournament final between Tracy Williams and Jonathan Gresham, which airs on this weekend’s episode of “Ring of Honor Wrestling.”
IAN RICCABONI: I'm a big enough man to admit when I am wrong, and I've been purely wrong about this whole Pure tournament. In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense that the two Pure Championship finalists, Tracy Williams and Jonathan Gresham, are in the position they find themselves in. The two most technically sound wrestlers in the entire tournament should have been in the best position in any normal year to make their way to the finals. But 2020 has not been a normal year.
I tried to view the tournament from the stance of the NCAA Tournament -- who had the toughest path, who had the matches that most-prepared them ahead of the tournament on the way in, who was wrestling at their highest level before the tournament began. Because of the circumstances of the year, I anticipated a UMBC-level upset.
Tony Deppen had been wrestling more than almost anyone in the tournament field once pandemic restrictions were lifted. Would he be the Cinderella? Josh Woods was training with elite professional MMA fighters and teaching some of the world's best amateurs as restrictions allowed. Would this be the year he took the ball and ran?
And it was easy for me to see why David Finlay might jump ahead to the front of the pack. A fourth-generation wrestler who had arguably the most successful 2020 coming into the tournament, Finlay already had wins at the Tokyo Dome and a handful of wins in NJPW Strong coming out of the restricted environment.
But in the end, it wasn't those men, a virtual unknown like Rust Taylor, a former World TV Champion like Kenny King or Silas Young, or even a former World Champion like Jay Lethal. Stripped to its core, the Pure Tournament highlighted two athletes in a match to determine who the best wrestler is. In the end, it is the two best wrestlers Ring of Honor has to offer.
With apologies to both Gresham and Williams, I apologize for overlooking them again. And with apologies to both, I refuse to pick a winner in this bout.
Williams has exhausted his rope breaks in his bouts but has done so incredibly strategically. In his career-defining win against Jay Lethal, Williams went immediately for the ropes after the Lethal Injection, continuing a trend of limiting variables and making the match his. Conversely, Gresham won his first three matches by cccc: referee stoppage, submission, and pinfall, maximizing the variables on the table. These two are like each other's yin and yang, the peanut butter to the other's jelly.
The trials, hardship, and heartache of the pandemic have brought yearnings for simplicity and a want for things to go back to the way things were. There are few things more satisfying than a great wrestling match and a great peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And there are few more predictable things than me getting a sports prediction wrong.
CAPRICE COLEMAN: The Pure Title tournament final is almost impossible to predict. Both Jonathan Gresham and Tracy Williams are walking in more than wounded. My pick for the tournament is Gresham simply because when you take punches to the face away, you are forced to wrestle. And “The Octopus” has proved to be the greatest pure wrestler on this planet.
One of his only weaknesses is the ability to recover from impact. Sudden impact is Tracy Williams’ speciality, whether it’s a piledriver, top rope DDT or blind cutting elbow/knee strike.
Both men have shown to have tempers. However, there is no turning off a hot Tracy Williams. On the other hand, Gresham has proven to be the only hot thinker. This means he can use his anger and tunnel a strategy at the same time. This is impossible for most athletes, especially when in danger. That's why my pick to win the tournament is Jonathan Gresham.
QUINN MCKAY: I went on the record at the very beginning of the Pure tournament that “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams was my pick to win. The last time I spoke with Tracy Williams and Mark Haskins, Haskins was making his intentions for the Ring of Honor World Championship clear, leaving Tracy’s trajectory in question. Then the world shut down.
Jonathan Gresham is arguably the best pure wrestler in the world. He is the DEFINITION of pure wrestling, but everyone knows that. He doesn’t have to prove that to any of us. Even if he loses this tournament, he still walks away a champion (as a co-holder of the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship with Jay Lethal). Gresham’s legacy in Ring of Honor is secure. But Tracy Williams? Tracy has something to prove, and in my eyes, that makes him a very dangerous man.