By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
wXw ’17th Anniversary Show’ – 23/12/17
Any promotion in the modern world of wrestling that lasts seventeen years has to be lauded. wXw has grown and grown since its inception in 2000 and has benefited hugely from the internet, streaming and the global interest in the UK and Europe scene. Very few promotions are spoken about in such hallowed terms and this feels as much of a celebration of their continued rise to prominence as it is a chance to look back on the past.
The show starts with a bang as, following an unaired Pete Dunn versus Marius Al-Ani match due to copyright restrictions, Al-Ani spots his former team mate, Absolute Andy, on the balcony. He challenges him to come to the ring, leading to a pull apart brawl that the ring crew fails to control at least five times. Andy is currently suspended after turning on Al-Ani in the World Tag League – I believe – and he potentially adds to his suspension by hitting Al-Ani with a chair and attacking one member of the ring crew with an F5. Not content to leave it at that, Andy throws Al-Ani with an F5 into the ringpost, hits him with another chair and lands a sitout dominator (may have a catchier name than that) to end his destruction, or so it seems. A stretcher is brought out for Al-Ani and Andy hits him with an elbowdrop off of the second turnbuckle. It is interesting to see Andy, who had been so popular with the fans last time I saw wXw, turn so effectively and it is a heated way to begin the show.
The first actual match we see is Monster Consulting (Avalanche and Julian Nero) against Jay-FK (Jay Skillet and Francis Kaspin). Kaspin had a showcase match with Koji Kanemoto at 16 Carat Gold and is one of the up and coming wrestlers in the promotion, whilst Avalanche and Nero used to be members of the stable Cerberus. Nero is basically the brains, Avalanche the brawn, but neither can initially match up to the speed of Jay-FK until Avalanche lands a belly to belly on Kaspin. A lot of the match is about highlighting the power of Avalanche, as he hits a double Samoan drop as well as multiple variations of splash based offense. Jay-FK do hit a double stomp/neckbreaker combination and an awkward springboard spike Michinoku driver, but Kaspin is eventually pinned following a combination Go 2 Sleep and a ripcord-style clothesline by Avalanche. A decent match that lacked heat and was sloppy in places.
The second match is the culmination of dissension between the members of Massive Product as ‘Massive’ Jurn Simmons takes on ‘The Product’ David Starr. Problems have arose after the team failed to win the title, with Alexander James getting involved and Simmons’ missed trip to London also adding fuel to the fire. With the debate about whether they could still be considered friends raging at the commentary booth, Simmons and Starr shake hands. Simmons arrogantly offers his hand several times after outmuscling Starr, with each time just pissing Starr off and leading to the match kicking into high gear with ‘The Product’ using doing his best to at least initially avoid Simmons’ strength yet run straight into a massive clothesline.
The majority of the match has Simmons toying with Starr, with Starr’s comebacks and selling at times weak looking and overused respectively. A spinning side suplex halts a second Starr comeback and the punishment continues with a big side elbow and a vicious Irish whip into the corner, with Starr choosing to put up his middle finger to show what he thought about Simmons’ offense. A belly to belly superplex and apron DDT by Starr are much more impactful looking, whilst the Consigliere that Simmons then hits is caught beautifully on camera. Simmons’ offense is increasingly aggressive, but as he goes for a piledriver, Starr’s leg catches him in the head and ‘The Product’ uses this moment to hit a straitjacket-style German suplex for the surprise win. A better match when Simmons was on offense, but a well booked match nonetheless.
What wasn’t a surprise was the aftermath of the match as a hug between the two men is followed by Simmons kicking Starr in the nuts, seemingly ending Massive Product as a team. Two kendo stick shots to the back of the neck – a move Simmons used on Alexander James after the initial issues with the triumvirate – leaves Starr laying even in victory.
Following announcements for 16 Carat Gold 2018, which tell us that Avalanche and Jonah Rock will join the wrestlers who have already been announced for the tournament, we head to the wXw World Tag Team Championship match between former champions The Young Lions (Lucky Kid and Tarkan Aslan) and the champions, RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher and WALTER). The Young Lions are part of the newest heel stable on the block, RISE. Having debuted only recently, the stable have two titles in their midst and this is a challenge for the only one they don’t hold. The video package is really good to lead up to this match, with WALTER really selling the idea of being a professional wrestler above and beyond a thug.
For the third match in a row, we have a big man/small man dichotomy, but that is common for anyone who is fighting WALTER. The Young Lions lost the titles after failing to win the World Tag League event, so invoked their rematch clause, though may have been regretting it in the opening exchanges as WALTER and Thatcher maintain control of the contest with their slick mixture of power and sound technical fundamentals, including Kid getting hit with multiple gutwrench suplexes. RISE has the advantage generally in terms of numbers and a surprise run-in and Shotgun belt shot to the face by Ivan Kiev to WALTER has Thatcher fighting on his own.
Thatcher tries his best to combat the man advantage but has to kick out of a double chop/German suplex combination before getting hit with a backbreaker/double foot stomp manoeuvre. WALTER is back up at this point and the crowd are fired up for the tag, which Thatcher duly delivers. WALTER completely cleans house, including a kick to Kid’s face mid-spinning forearm. Pete Bouncer and Kiev are down at ringside for some more shenanigans, but further attempts by Kid and Aslan to use the title belts fail. Double sleepers have the challengers down in the middle of the ring and that is the finish. The ending was abrupt, but the decision to eliminate WALTER for a decent stretch to build up to the hot tag and make Young Lions dominance in the second half of the contest more believable worked nicely. Simple, yet effective.
wXw is the latest promotion to embrace Women’s wrestling to the point of incorporating a title, with Melanie Gray and Session Moth Martina due to meet for the right to be the first champion. However, SMM is absent from the show and it takes the intervention of Christian Jakobi to turn the match into Gray versus Killer Kelly. My non-existent German doesn’t always help when it comes to interviews, but the commentary team make it clear that Gray attacked Martina and took her out of the contest. Gray’s frustrations at not getting what she wanted are clear in the first moments as she rushes Kelly and drives her into the corner with punches and kicks. Kelly has some success with a basement dropkick in the corner and reversing a swinging slam into a guillotine to the delight of the crowd.
A Gray spear and cloverleaf has Kelly crawling for the ropes, yet as the match spilled to ringside, it was Kelly who went airborne with a big crossbody off of the top turnbuckle. Things continued to escalate as Kelly was thrown into some ringside chairs after getting rammed into the ringside apron. With Gray still intent on causing suffering rather than going for the win, Kelly turns an attempted submission move into a small package for another surprise victory. In some ways, it was good to see Gray get her comeuppance and created a nice moment for Kelly, it was just a shame it occurred on a show which had basically the same finish two matches prior.
After the announcement that the main event will be a No Holds Barred match, a very important moment follows as Karsten Beck is inducted into the wXw Hall of Fame. An important member of the promotion in the past, a brain tumour would lead to him having to step away from the ring. The video they show fills in a lot of the gaps as to Beck’s importance, though the resulting in-ring chat doesn’t help a non-German speaker whatsoever. A great moment no matter what language you speak.
The last two matches both see RISE members defending their gold, with the first one being a wXw Shotgun Championship match between Ivan Kiev and Bobby Gunns, with any interference by RISE leading to Kiev forfeiting the title. The positioning of RISE has made wrestlers like Gunns de facto faces, which is an interesting position for someone who has been presented so arrogantly in the past. The opening moments see reversals and grappling on the mat by both men, with Gunns targeting the arm with two different armlocks before falling a little short on a top rope shoulderblock. Kiev is struggling to get a foothold in the contest at this point, but he drops Gunns throat first on the top rope and lands a running knee to turn the tide.
The contest here is about Gunn’s submissions against Kiev’s aerial offense, with Gunns constantly going back to the guillotine, armlock and kimura variations. Kiev misses an Arabian press but catches Gunns later on with a top rope frankensteiner and a top rope legdrop on a standing Gunns. Similar to earlier in the show, the RISE member tries to introduce the title belt to the match, but fails, leading to a close nearfall after Kiev manages to fight out of a guillotine with Kimura and plant Gunns with a DVD. A second attempt at the move fails and Gunns gets the submission with the cross armbreaker. Another match that suffered early from execution issues, but built to a satisfying conclusion, even if I don’t quite buy Gunns as a submissions expert when his technique can be somewhat haphazard.
With RISE now only having one belt in the stable, it is time for the main event as John Klinger tries to defend the wXw Heavyweight Championship against Ilja Dragunov. With Dragunov’s win at 16 Carat and Klinger’s use of the Shortcut to the Top to catapult himself into the title picture, this collision between two long term rivals is huge on paper, with a Dragunov victory perhaps the perfect way to end the calendar year in the promotion, yet Klinger’s role as the head of RISE making him more dangerous than before.
The crowd are firmly behind Dragunov, who is one of the best face wrestlers in the business in my opinion, and the challenger channels that support into an incredibly quick start where he drops Klinger with a full nelson backbreaker and two suicide dives. A third attempt is halted by a Klinger chair shot to the face and busts him open, perhaps legitimately as there was full contact with the chair. Dragunov works best wrestling as the underdog and he is fighting from underneath once again as ‘Bad Bones’ pounces with strikes and a choke toss across the ring, throwing in some corner knees for good measure. He also takes further advantage of the No Holds Barred rules by introducing several chairs and using them to continue the assault on Dragunov.
Dragunov’s offense became composed of hope spots alone at this point, with a second turnbuckle body attack seeing him eat another chair to the face as he tried to build some momentum, as well as a chair to the face when perched upon the top turnbuckle. This spot is repeated later on and Dragunov catches the chair, throws it at Klinger and goes coast to coast with a Van Terminator in reply, after gaining control with a sunset flip powerbomb onto a stack of chairs in the middle of the ring in the first place.
At one point, Klinger stops messing about and hits a low blow to set up a small package for a cheeky two count. He earns another two count with a headbutt and a double arm DDT onto the chair, but Dragunov still fights back. The two men trade multiple elbows (Dragunov) and multiple stomps (Klinger), with two Dragunov chair spots that looked painful. Firstly, he punches a chairshot, before a Torpedo Moscow headbutt hits the chair and Klinger in one movement. Not finished with his involvement with weaponry, Dragunov then gets speared off of the apron and through a table that he had set up for Klinger.
Klinger lands a one man conchairto that even has the referee asking for clemency, yet Dragunov is somehow still able to get back to his feet. The referee pleads for Dragunov to quit, but he pushes the official out of the way and walks straight into a Shadow Driver for the three count. A brutal, brutal contest that sees Dragunov’s stock rise even in losing. It probably is the best for both men – having Klinger lose here would kill RISE, yet Dragunov can come back stronger in the future.
A good, if not great, show, with a cracking main event. As a way to celebrate their 17th Anniversary, wXw continue to show the consistency and intensity that has made them one of the most talked about promotions in the world. Here’s to another year.