This review is very late, a situation that you can blame on New Japan’s Super Junior Tag League.
wXw were forced to change the main event of World Tag Team League’s second night as an injury to everyone’s least favourite da, Absolute Andy, morphed the triple threat into a straight-up match between Ilja Dragunov and Bobby Gunns. However, rather than removing the title from the equation, they’ve taken a leaf out of MMA’s book and made it for the Interim Title. That’s exciting, isn’t it?
Marius Al-Ani defeated Julian Pace to retain the wXw Shotgun Title
Pace earned a crack at Al-Ani on night one, and this was a big opportunity for the youngster to impress. Although it wasn’t going to come easy for him. Early on, Pace was struggling to stay in the ring, never mind get into the match. Marius Al-Ani was bullying the rookie, dumping him out to the floor at every chance he got. The pace that gives him his name was neutralised as The Ninja proved to be just as light on his feet.
Julian did have his moments. With the fans were firmly in his corner, he was inspired into bursts of offence. The key word is bursts. wXw were sending a message which was clear for all to see: Pace might have heart, but he isn’t on Al-Ani’s level.
A fun opener, with the hot crowd adding an extra dimension to proceedings. Pace managed to look good even as they established Al-Ani as the better man. They can both come out of it happy.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Okami (Daichi Hashimoto and Hideyoshi Kamitani) (1-1) defeated CCK (Chris Brookes and Jonathan Gresham) (1-1)
Okami vs CCK is an exhibition of two very different tag team philosophies. Gresham and Brookes spend the match flitting in and out of the ring, using the number game to try and prevent their intimidating foes from controlling the action. On the other side of the ring, Okami are a team of individuals. Hashimoto and Kamitani bring different skillsets to the equation with Kamitani bringing the muscle and Hashimoto the stiff kicks. They’re two warriors who are happy to wrestle both as a team and individually.
In the end, that warrior mentality would prove decisive. Try as they might, CCK couldn’t keep Okami down. They were too God damn tough, with Gresham even making the mistake of getting into a striking battle with Kamitani which ended with him eating one hell of a Lariat. That kicked off a fantastic finishing stretch which was brought shuddering to an end when Hashimoto dropped Brookes on his head for the win. After great matches on the first night, these teams delivered again.
Verdict: Four Stars
Jay FK (Jay Skillet and Francis Kaspin) (1-1) defeated Team SPLX (Jeff Cobb and Angelico) (0-2)
I’ve been very pro-Jay FK post-heel turn, but this match saw them playing up to it a bit too much. They’re pest heels, who are at their best when they’re smarter than their opponents. Finding tiny opportunities and exploiting them to the max. In this one, they were closer to petulant teenagers. Throwing temper tantrums and acting scared of Cobb and Angelico.
Not that it was without its pleasures. Jeff Cobb is a freak and watching him throw the two trolls around was a lot of fun. Jay FK also settled down as the match went on, isolating Angelico and working more towards their strengths.
Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be enough to push this past good. Cobb was the only one who came out of it with anything memorable to his name as everyone else seemed to be going through the mentions. Combine that with Kaspin and Skillet sneaking away with a dirty win, and this was a hard match to get excited about.
Verdict: Three Stars
There was a Dirty Dragan segment before the next match where he revealed that he was putting his wXw career on the line the next night. After some mucking around Alexander James and a newly bald Jurn Simmons conducted a brutal beatdown of Dragan while Emil Sitoci was forced to watch on.
Dragan came across well in his promo, and it’s the first time I’ve come close to understanding the wXw’s crowds adoration of him. I suspect that career settling match will now feature the other three men involved in this segment.
RINGKAMPF (WALTER and Timothy Thatcher) (1-1) defeated Lucha Bros (Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix) (1-2)
wXw’s fans treating Timothy Thatcher like the stud he is will never stop making me happy. Props to Rey Fenix too who managed to hold his own in a grapple off with Beautiful Timothy. I loved the way he incorporated flashes of Lucha into that style.
As much as I enjoyed that, everyone was waiting for this to turn into a slugfest and when it did, it delivered. There aren’t many teams better than these two and watching them lay into each other was perfect.
Which is all the more impressive when you consider that they could have got away with a hell of a lot less. If WALTER and Penta had stood in the centre of the ring chopping each other, the fans would have been left screaming with delight. Although now I think about it, that would probably leave them in more pain than working an intricate match.
They didn’t do that, though. Instead, this was a chaotic tag war, flitting between the groundwork of Thatcher, the flying of Fenix and the brute strength of WALTER vs Penta. Three different styles brought together into a seamless whole that produced some truly stunning wrestling.
And for a second it looked like RINGKAMPF were going to have their tournament brought to an early end. The Lucha Brothers were setting up for the combo Fear Factor/Double Stomp only for Thatcher to shrug off the Stomp and slip out of Fear Factor. RINGKAMPF would then lock on a double submission in the centre of the ring before Wonderful Tim rolled Penta onto his shoulders for the win.
This was stunning, right down to the moment where the four men shared a moment of mutual respect after the bell, a second of appreciation for a battle well fought. Gosh, can we do it again?
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Toni Storm defeated Wesna
Storm and Wesna had both competed in Femme Fatales earlier in the day eating first-round defeats. This was also a rematch of last year’s Femme Fatales final, so it had some history behind it.
Not to sound like a stuck record, but this was a Toni Storm match. The same one that we’ve seen a million times before. After a little bit of grappling, Wesna took control and worked over Storm’s leg. That gave Toni the chance to defiantly battled from underneath, getting short bursts of offence that couldn’t floor the larger woman. Right up until they could that is. A Strong Zero out of nowhere put things one to bed.
Look, Toni Storm is a fantastic wrestler, especially when you take into account the fact she’s only 23. However, her path is laid out, and it leads to WWE (has she signed a proper contract yet? Winning the MYC suggests she might have). That match I just described is their ideal, and she will thrive in that environment. I just hope that they have the foresight to force her out of the pattern and have her challenge herself. If she does that she will be something truly outstanding.
Verdict: Three Stars
Is there a claim to be made that Mark Davis is one of the best big men working in Europe today? Obviously, there’s a WALTER shaped hole in that argument, but outside of The Ring General, there are few better. Even as a babyface Davis carries himself with the arrogance of someone who knows they can use their power to get out of any situation.
Another man who could make that claim was involved in this match, and Avalanche vs Davis was hella fun. Those two charging into each other like a couple of pissed-up thugs who have forgotten they’re supposed to feel pain was outstanding. They’re men who understand how to combine their strength with their agility. There’s no moonsaults or Lucha tricks, but instead bursts of acceleration which are used to put emphasis on their power moves.
I don’t want to make it sound like Fletcher and Nero were mere bystanders. They were just as crucial to this match as they made sure it never felt like it was standing still. Fletcher, in particular, shined, using the fact he was dwarfed by his opponents to his advantage, he bumped around like a madman and was always on the move.
The final few minutes were chaos as bodies were catapulted throw the air on a regular basis. It would finally come down to Aussie Open hitting an Assisted Spinebuster for the win. Lovely stuff.
Verdict: Four Stars
Bobby Gunns defeated Ilja Dragunov to win the Interim wXw Unified World Wrestling Title
People like to claim that European wrestling crowds are like football crowds. The truth is that I’ve never been at a wrestling show that came close to catching that atmosphere. At the best football, there is a back and forth. Two competing set of fans battling to assert their dominance of the ground, never giving up no matter what happens. That’s what happened here, and it was quite something.
And yet, it also makes this a tough match to review. Because rather than having a crowd react to moves and spots, you just had a constant series of chants which provided an almost dreamlike quality. It was hard to get invested in the action without the oohs and ahhs. You couldn’t hear the slaps of chops or the thump of the mat over the noise of the fans, and that made a difference. Quite honestly, it took me out of the action.
Which is a weird complaint to make because these fans were obviously incredible and I imagine everyone in that building will remember this match until the end of their days. However, I wasn’t in that building. I’m sitting at home reviewing a wrestling match, and truthfully it was only alright.
Because stylistically, these two aren’t a natural fit. Ilja Dragunov’s greatness is built on having a monster to battle. He needs to fight from underneath, snarl in the face of adversity and headbutt it. That’s not Bobby Gunns. He worked a technical match, attacking the arm and while you could see they were trying, they were overshadowed by the atmosphere.
wXw have, quite rightly, put this match out for free on YouTube (it’s at the top of the page) because while it’s perhaps not the best wrestling, it’s the perfect advert for their product. You can’t watch it without wanting to get yourself out to Germany to experience it live. That will be its legacy, not what happened in the ring.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Another fantastic show from wXw. The tag team tournament is delivering at every opportunity, and while the other matches feel like they are playing second fiddle to it, they are still quality. Ultimately, this will be remembered for the atmosphere of the main event. However, from top to bottom, it was a fantastic showing from one of the best wrestling companies going.
Watch World Tag Team League: https://www.wxwnow.com/en