After a long old wait, it’s finally time for me to dive into 16 Carat Gold. I’ve been looking forward to it and the first day is packed with exciting match-ups, which means I’m not going to delay any further. Let’s dish out some stars.
Keith Lee defeated Avalanche
The crowd were a group after my own heart as they were desperate for some hoss action. Thankfully, in Keith Lee and Avalanche we had two men happy to deliver it. If the sound of two behemoths throwing themselves at each other again and again in an attempt to figure out who will crumble first sounds good to you, get over to wXw Now as soon as possible.
As usual with Lee, the astonishing thing is how fast he can work. There were no flips here, yet it was still a sprint with Avalanche running right along with him. Every slam looked like it was going to cause the ring to explode and the fact they kept going as long as they did was a minor miracle.
In the end, Lee managed to hoist his fellow big man up for the Spirit Bomb followed by a Ground Zero for the three. A fantastic start to the show as they provided the rabid crowd with exactly what they wanted.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Chris Brookes defeated Alexander James
If the opener was two sledgehammers going at it, the follow-up was two precision tools, grappling for position. Brookes and James couldn’t have gone out and had a more different outing to Lee and Avalanche, and yet they delivered just as much entertainment.
James came into this with a clear plan. He was looking to focus on that perpetually strapped shoulder of Brookes and neutralise the gangliest member of CCK while doing so.
That’s easier said than done, though, and watching Brookes wrestle with people is always fascinating. That lanky frame provides him with so many options. James could never seem to assert himself on the action in the way he wanted to. Brookes always had an answer and was able to slip out of his holds or find a rope with those long limbs.
In the end, the CCK man was a step too slippery, escaping James and putting him away with a Praying Mantis Bomb. Another impressive showing from both men as the tournament gets off to a hot start.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Lucky Kid defeated Matt Sydal
Another change in style as we go to two of the flippy boys.
Lucky Kid is the right kind of mental. Matt Sydal is the wrong kind. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a fantastic wrestler, I just think his gimmick is atrocious.
The crowd seemed to agree with me as they were firmly in Lucky Kid’s corner. To be fair to Sydal, he adapted well. After a fast-paced opening, he switched up his style, moving to floor Kid Lucky and work over his leg all while throwing in some stiff kicks.
Unfortunately, things stuttered alongside his heel work. It wasn’t awful, but if you were hoping for a frantic, action-packed battle between two eccentric wrestlers, you will be left disappointed; it was a restrained affair.
It also seemed to be leading Sydal straight to victory. Perched on the top rope, he seemed destined to come down with Air Sydal. A destiny he met, it just wasn’t on to Lucky Kid. Lucky Kid grabbed the opportunity and with an inside cradle stole the win.
Booking wise – especially when you take into account the crowd reaction – this was a well-worked match. Lucky Kid was presented as the underdog, working from underneath and sneaking out with a victory. Sadly, that story wasn’t conducive to the kind of insanity you might have hoped for. It’s hurt by what I had in my head outstripping the reality.
Verdict: Three Stars
David Starr defeated Emil Sitoci
Jurn Simmons’ injury gave the alternates a chance to compete for a spot in the tournament. Sitoci won the four-way, and the commentators did a good job of putting over how the change could throw Starr off his gameplan. Rightly pointing out how different Sitoci is to Simmons.
It was a fact that came to the fore straight away. While I don’t want to do Simmons a disservice, I don’t think he could have started at this pace. The two of them slipped seamlessly into a series of fast-paced counters and counter-counters. It was the kind of speed that I expected the last match to be worked at.
As they got deeper into the match, it was also clear that neither man had an advantage. Starr was going to win a striking war, but Sitoci had him beat for pace. The momentum was swinging between the two of them even as the crowd chanted Starr’s name.
In the end, their support might have paid off. Sitoci went for a top rope Spanish Fly which Starr found the energy to reverse, shoving him from their perch. The distance created was enough for him to wind up the big Han Stansen for the win.
I think with another few minutes it could have been something special. However, it’s only the first round, so it’s understandable that they’re keeping the action short and sweet. This was still a very impressive showing.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
WALTER and Speedball Mike Bailey defeated John ‘Bad Bones’ Klinger and Bobby Gunns
They weren’t messing around here. Everyone came charging out of the gates and bodies were hitting the floor like a bad YouTube compilation.
There were a lot of fun dynamics weaving in and out of this story. Bailey and WALTER make an enjoyable odd couple, with Bailey apparently bonding with the RINGKAMPF boys during his time in Germany. Gunns and Klinger are on slightly shakier turf, it not being that long ago that they went to war with each other.
However, when you’re across the ring from WALTER, you need to put things like that behind you. Chops are coming your way, and you’ll need all the help you can get. Unless you’re Bobby Gunns apparently, who stood in front of the Ring General and asked for more, I don’t want to say he’s insane, but he’s insane.
All that and we haven’t even gotten to the champions vs the challengers. It’s no surprise that WALTER and Bad Bones have good chemistry and their interactions were a sneaky taste of what was to come. More interesting was Speedball and Bobby. They got a few minutes in the middle to do their thing, and it set up a cool dynamic between Mike’s speed and Gunns’ submissions.
On top of all that, this was a damn fine match. It became a blink and you’ll miss it affair, and as they slid in and out of the ring, there was always something to catch your eye. You had four men who knew what they’re doing going out there and doing it. Lovely stuff.
Verdict: Four Stars
Matt Riddle defeated Da Mack
wXw is apparently taking inspiration from Progress. The bell went, Riddle smashed his knee into Da Mack’s face, the bell rang again. No review needed.
Travis Banks defeated Mark Haskins
A match-up that made sense as Banks and Haskins have similar hybrid styles that focus on a combination of kicks and submissions. Plus, they’ve worked together plenty of times before so you can rely on them to deliver.
These two are experts at taking simple things and making them look great. Their kicks are always spot on, and as they grapple for position, you are glued to the screen, desperate to see who comes out on top. If they’re going through the basics and getting reactions, then things are only going to get better when they up the ante.
A fact that meant the final few minutes were fantastic. Banks hit the Kiwi Crusher, yet Haskins kept going, kicking out and fighting back. He then looked to get revenge, perching Banks on the second rope and setting him up for some evil repercussions. That proved to be his final mistake. As he geared up to attack, Banks struck, dropping him with a second rope Kiwi Crusher for the win.
It’s another bout which with another five minutes could have been fantastic. Thankfully, much like Starr vs Sitoci, it was still good.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Timothy Thatcher defeated Jonah Rock
There was an outstanding video package beforehand where Thatcher spoke openly to the camera. In a few simple words, he got across what wrestling and wXw mean to him. I’ve said it before, but as someone who didn’t watch it, the bad reviews of his EVOLVE run make no sense to me. I can only assume that they were doing something wrong.
On to the match, which featured a hell of a lot of beef. Thatcher is used to being able to dominate his opponents. He loves to grind people into the mat and impose his style on them.
Unfortunately for him, Rock is not a man who allows people to do that kind of thing to him. He was able to use his size and power to switch the game around on Thatcher. Lifting him into the air like he was a normal-sized human being.
It meant that Big Timothy had to change the plan and be patient. Using those colossal arms to hammer Rock and slowly wear him down. Weakening him so that he would be vulnerable to getting dropped on his heads. In other words, he had to use his brains to set-up his brawn.
That turned out to be what separated the two men, as when Rock had his chance to win he couldn’t resist putting an exclamation mark on it. Climbing to the top rope, he leapt off with the Bullfrog Splash and crashed down onto Thatcher’s knees. Tim saw his chance and grabbed an arm, bending it back and getting the submission win.
If you like big boy wrestling, then you’d be mental to miss it.
Verdict: Four Stars
Absolute Andy defeated Marius Al-Ani
Al-Ani got the video package treatment beforehand, and it was another well-told personal story. Although I’ll probably mainly remember the line: ‘and you know me for being the Ninja. Mr No-Bullshit. Why is that? Because I don’t bullshit.’ Keeping it simple, Marius.
This got the main event spot because it’s personal. Marius and Andy used to be partners. That was until Mr Absolute turned on Al-Ani by superkicking him in the face. It served as an explanation for why Marius leapt straight to the attack here. Diving to the floor and brawling with Andy on to the stage.
It was a tactic which seemed to catch Andy off-guard. He couldn’t assert himself on the match as Al-Ani controlled the early going. That was until he dived into his bag of tricks, flapjacking Al-Ani on the apron and driving him into the ring-post.
He then took it a step further, pulling a massive pair of pliers out from under the ring and drawing the ref into removing them. While that disposal took place, Andy tried to use a chair on Al-Ani only for Al-Ani to respond in kind as both men crumpled to the ground.
When they dragged themselves back into the ring, this became a straight-up fight. Both men became defined by their refusal to stay down. There were F5s, Frog Splashes, weapons shots and Ankle Locks. It seemed like they would battle forever.
Sadly, that wasn’t to be the case. Andy’s bag of tricks would come into play once again. Distracting the ref, he low-blowed Al-Ani and followed up with a Superkick. Then to add insult to injury, the ref didn’t notice An-Ani’s foot on the rope, as Andy pulled it off at the last second and got the win.
A great piece of storytelling. Marius Al-Ani went out there and physically dominated Andy. What he couldn’t do, was out think him. The wily old veteran did enough to sneak out with the win and make sure that this feud continues.
Verdict: Four Stars
Fantastic start to the tournament. Nothing stunk, and with a few more minutes the matches that came in at under four stars would have probably hit that level. There wasn’t a Match Of The Year contender on there, but that’s all that was stopping this being a Show Of The Year contender itself. Lovely stuff.