ILJA DRAGUNOV vs. DA MACK - 7/10
The story of this match was Da Mack finding ways to make Ilja fall on his head but Ilja, persistent babyface that he is, always came back no matter how hard he fell. Ilja had the match one at one point but RISE pulled the referee out of the ring and attacked Ilja. Chris Colen came out to make the save the Ilja countered Da Mack's attempted running knee with the Torpedo Moscow for the big babyface win. Great opener!
JURN SIMMONS vs. ALEXANDER JAMES - 6.75/10
The story of this match was James working over Jurn's arm, so Jurn had to improvise and use his weak arm to make his comeback. They did some roll-up spots where Jurn's weakened arm would also be a factor, plus another that was the same move that James had recently pinned Jurn with on Shotgun but Jurn managed to get his shoulder up. He made a comeback and went for his big Piledriver but James managed to slip free and nailed Jurn with a sick Cradle Brainbuster for an even more emphatic victory over Jurn than last time.
ZACK SABRE JR. RETURNS AT THE 17TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW - Cool!
wXw SHOTGUN TITLE MATCH:
Ivan Kiev(c) (w/Tarkan Aslan) vs. Laurence Roman - 6/10
I love the fans chanting "RISE is SCHEISSE" (German for "sh*t"). Because they are. I hated those bastards so much. The match was fine for the time it got. Kiev went over clean to retain.
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS TORNADO ELIMINATION MATCH FOR THE wXw WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
RingKampf(c) vs. Jaxton Stone & Bobby Gunns - 8.25/10
This is a Tornado Tag so wXw has two referees out here. Excellent! They did some pretty great brawling, but things really started once Stone had been eliminated. After that point it was RingKampf getting their revenge and beating up on Gunns, and while they did manage to do a good job of not making Gunns feel particularly brave for going up against two guys, this portion did last a little too long.
Gunns eventually pulled off a desperation counter, hitting both RingKampfers in the nuts. He then dropkicked WALTER through a table that was set up in the corner and WALTER did an amazing job selling it like he had banged the back of his head on the table extremely hard and he was out for quite a while.
While WALTER was out, Gunns got a bag of thumbtacks form under the ring, although he got cut off before he could spill them out. It was actually Timothy Thatcher who spilled them out, which totally shocked me. Thatcher is a guy I never thought would use thumbtacks, so this did a great job of selling his hatred for Gunns. Thatcher tried to put Gunns into the tacks but Gunns countered it and wound up STOMPING THATCHER'S FACE INTO THE TACKS... and when Thatcher came back up in a defiant rage, he had a thumbtack embedded in the bridge of his nose, where it stayed for the remainder of the match.
Thatcher fired up and made a comeback and once again tried to put Gunns into the tacks only to be sent into them again himself, this time via Back Suplex. Thatcher would make another comeback and start pounding the living sh*t out of Gunns until WALTER got back up and pulled Thatcher off, telling him it was time to end this. Thatcher then got a table and set it up in the corner so WALTER could powerbomb Gunns through the table, and this table broke with the loudest "CRACK!" I have ever heard on a wrestling show... including chairshots. Thatcher then pinned Gunns with one foot on the chest, and RingKampf were victorious.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Even after all that they had been through, WALTER is still a believer in respectful competition. As he said to Thatcher at the end, they had won and it was over. And because it was now over, he had no problem offering Gunns a respectful handshake to signify that the war was over and now there was a truce... and just like he did to originally escalate this feud back at Fight Forever Tour 2017: Frankfurt, Gunns responded by flipping WALTER off.
No. 1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Dirty Dragan & Emil Sitoci vs. Jay FK (Francis Kaspin & Jay Skillet) vs. Monster Consulting (Julian Nero & "The Avalanche" Robert Dreisseker) - 5.5/10
wXw WOMEN'S TITLE TOURNAMENT MATCH: Martina vs. Jinny - 0.5/10
The look of disdain on Jinny's face at Martina's antics is mirrored only by the look of disdain on my own face for Martina's antics. The referee lets Martina wrestle with a beer can in her hand. Also, if Martina can't but the damn beer can down long enough to wrestle a match, maybe she should go to rehab. Just saying. At least she was willing to spit the beer out to get an advantage on Jinny by spitting it in Jinny's face. Unfortunately she did so right in front of the referee, but there was no DQ.
The whole match consisted of Martina doing her terrible WWE tribute act. If all you want to do in your matches is drink beer, goof around, and use big WWE spots as regular moves in your matches, why don't you save your body some abuse and just stay home and play WWE 2K17 instead of actually becoming a pro wrestler? The match was boring. Somehow, they would manage to have an even worse one in RevPro a few weeks later.
LADDER MATCH FOR THE wXw UNIFIED WORLD TITLE:
"Bad Bones" John Klinger(c) vs. Chris Colen - 7.75/10
Before we get into this match, there are a few important things to note. First is the backstory: Colen used to be a member of RISE. He asked for a shot at Klinger's title and was finally told that he could have the title shot if he really wanted it, but he'd have to be ready to face the consequences. He was then lured into an ambush by his supposed pals in which he was officially kicked out of the group by Klinger, who Pillmanizered his hand for good measure.
Just when we thought he couldn't get any more devious, Klinger then called Christian Michael Jakobi and offered to make the match with Klinger a Ladder Match, arguing that it is exactly the sort of excitement that fans want to see, and Jakobi, not yet having heard about the ambush, figured that Klinger, as the leader of RISE, was also speaking for Colen and that Colen was, as last he had known, in perfect health, and thus he okayed the change. Upon finding out what had happened Jakobi wanted to change the match but Colen said he would sign a waiver to allow him to wrestle.
The other important thing to note is that in wXw, the belt does not hang from the ceiling for a Ladder Match. Instead it hangs from a cable stretched across from balcony to balcony over the ring. This meant that it was very high up, which made it look even more difficult to get. It would also come into play later for another reason.
They had a good brawl and made use of chairs as well as ladders. Announcer Christian Michael Jakobi more than anyone deserves credit for making several big spots where Colen threw a punch feel like they were playing into the story of the broken hand as a sort of poetic revenge as well. Tarkan Aslan and Ivan Kiev of RISE ran in at various times to help Klinger, often when Colen looked to be moments away from victory. While they did manage to hold Colen off until Klinger could recover, Colen actually did a pretty good job of fighting them off.
After one such moment Colen climbed up the ladder and his victory looked assured... only for the belt to (pun very much intended) RISE out of his grasp. Remember what I said about how the belt is hung from a cable strung across between the two balconies? Well RISE member Da Mack was at one of the balconies and he was pulling the cable up to lift the belt out of Colen's reach.
Aslan and Kiev recovered and took it to Colen, but Ilja Dargunov, who was screwed out of the title last month when Da Mack joined RISE, came out to help fight them off. Da Mack came down to join the fray, too, and eventually the four members of RISE were able to overcome the babyfaces with their numbers advantage, and Klinger eventually was able to retrieve the belt, although he was so beaten down that Da Mack had to put him on his shoulders and climb the ladder for him (like Rhyno and Christian at WrestleMania X-Seven).
I know this all sounds like a nightmare of overbooking, but when you watch the match it doesn't feel that way at all. Yes, there was interference and yes we even had the Attitude Era-esque cliché of the belt literally raising out of the babyface's reach as he goes to retrieve it, but the key difference between this and the Vince & Shane vs. Stone Cold match from King of the Ring 1999 is that we were immediately shown exactly why this had happened, and so rather than just a magical convenience of the plot, this came off as what it was: those dastardly heels using yet another dishonorable trick to screw the babyfaces.
In my review of PROGRESS Chapter 55 I addressed the criticism that the main event had been "overbooked" by saying that interference and ref bumps and cheating and so forth that make sense within the story and are thus used to enhance it story in an artistic way rather than being done solely to "protect" the guy who isn't winning should be viewed as effective tools of storytelling rather than being dismissed out of hand as bad due to years and years of interference, weapon shots, ref bumps, visual pinfalls, DQs, count-outs, etc. being used poorly on the major stages of in pro wrestling.
In his review of that same show, cero2k simply said "it's BSS; it's what they do," and I view RISE in a similar way. This is what they do. But there is one very important factor that goes into that. The thing that sets RISE in wXw or British Strong Style in PROGRESS, or (originally) Bullet Club in New Japan apart from the years and years of n.W.o. and Team Canada and The Revolution and WolfPac and D-X and Corporation and Nation of Domination and Disciples of Apocalypse and Ministry of Darkness and Evolution and La Familia and Bullet Club and LIJ and Suzuki-Gun and BDC and Dixieland and S.E.X. and Planet Jarrett and the Christian Coalition and the Angle Alliance and the Main Event Mafia and Immortal and The Authority and Aces & Eights and Legacy and Fourtune and l.W.o. and New Blood and Millionaires Club and all of that sh*t is that there is only one stable doing it.
ROH had many heels in its early days, but only The Prophecy would violate the Code of Honor by cheating to win matches. Gabe found other ways for the other guys to be heels. That is what wXw has done with RISE. Weapons shots and ref bumps and interference and the rest of this stuff we lump into the category of "overbooking" can work if it is used in moderation. When just one group is doing these things, the narrative is that "RISE cheated to win again." Everyone is doing it then fans lose the feeling that these guys are the ones cheating and instead start to feel like "the promotion is booking all of these things to happen." And that right there is the transition that jars you out of your ability to lose yourself in the story, and thus the heat goes to exactly where the promotion doesn't want it. A good booker understands this. I don't know who is booking wXw (Jakobi would be my guess, but I don't know for sure), but he/she/they are doing one hell of a job.
This was a pretty good show from wXw. Most of the wrestling ranged from solid to great for the time it got (the women's match being the exception, although the #1 contendership match could have been better), and the main event not being clean was made easier to swallow by both the points I made above as well as the fact that we did get a big blow-off earlier in the night with RingKampf's win over Stone & Gunns- and Thatcher getting his revenge on Gunns as an individual as well. Ilja Dragunov continues to be build up as the guy who seems like he will be the big hero who eventually takes the belt from Klinger, but his presence in the main event also signals that he is willing to help a former member of RISE if it means taking the fight to Klinger and his despicable brethren (and perhaps the other babyfaces who have had issues with RISE, including RingKampf, CCK, and Jurn Simmons are willing to do the same). Until then, Klinger has many other challengers lining up for a shot at him, and names like Alexander James continue to rise up the ranks as well. The anniversary show is a month away, but first we have a stop in Hamburg to get to, where the war against RISE will continue.