The very first person we see in the opening signature is "Bad Bones" John Klinger. This seems like an awfully prominent position to put someone in if you really did have to fire them abruptly under as of yet unrevealed circumstances, and especially when it would be both easy and beneficial to replace Klinger's image with that of new top babyface singles star and current wXw World Unified Wrestling Champion Ilja Dragunov, who only features in the opening signature alongside his old Cerberus running buddies, despite having broken away from them over a year ago and becoming the breakout star of 2017 and top babyface in the company since then. So yeah... I'm leaning towards this whole Klinger being fired thing being a work.
THREE-WAY TORNADO MATCH FOR THE VACANT wXw UNIFIED WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
Jay FK vs. LAX (Ortiz & Santana) vs. Monster Consulting (Julian Nero & "The Avalanche" Robert Dreissker) - 6/10
This was a fine opener in terms of being just plain action, but no one did anything to give me any sort of rooting interest. All the announcers said about Klinger was that he had been suspended and thus the titles had to be vacated.
AUDREY BRIDE vs. KILLER KELLY - 4/10
A good, decisive win for Kelly over another international talent (Audrey is from Hungary) as she climbs her way back up the ladder to once again challenge Toni Storm (who was the one who had suggested that Kelly try to earn a title shot by defeating various stars from around the world while Toni is busy wrestling for STARDOM). Audrey accounted well for herself given her role in this match, so I think she definitely deserves to be brought back at some point for another look.
T-K-O vs. DA MACK (w/RISE) - 4.75/10
All of the remaining members of RISE (Lucky Kid, Tarkan Aslan, & Ivan Kiev) came out to ringside with Da Mack in a show of solidarity that was, quite frankly, shocking, given the way things have gone for RISE over the past few months. Da Mack won clean, with no one from RISE even attempting to interfere but they all celebrated with him afterwards. T-K-O looked good and I'd like to see him brought back as well.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Awesome! Pete Bouncer came out. He's wearing a RISE jacket even though he quit last month because he has spent the intervening time trying to get the others to "reclaim" what RISE was supposed to be and turn babyface with him. He cut a promo in German. Da Mack responded with one of his own and ordered the other three to go deal with Bouncer. They walked about two or three steps forward... and then they all spun around in a nice repeat of the wonderful blocking that made "ECW joining the Alliance" turn so great. They all gave the RISE salute, and Da Mack, realizing what was about to happen, bailed. Bouncer was in the ring by now, and we got shows of mutual respect and forgiveness between Bouncer and each member of RISE, ending in a big hug with Ivan Kiev, showing that there were no hard feelings for his best friend not supporting him in his rebellion against Klinger when the moment finally came to make a choice, even though Kiev had been just as vocal about needing a change in leadership as Bouncer had been.
TLC MATCH FOR #1 CONTENDERSHIP TO THE wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE:
Absolute Andy(c) vs. Marius Al-Ani - 8.5/10
Due to his cheating ways throughout the tournament, Andy is being forced to defend the title shot he is due to receive as a result of his victory in this year's 16 Carat Gold tournament last month. They set the stage for this whole thing with an excellent video package explaining all of the history. While obviously it wasn't mentioned, I did find it interesting that the TLC Match in which these guys won the tag titles- something that features very prominently in this feud, both in Andy's claim that he won the tag titles for them because he was the one who pulled the belts down and that fact being used to justify the stipulation's use here- happened at Broken Rules XVI... which was a show on which the vacant tag titles were on the line because a team that had just won them at the last big show had to vacate the titles due to one member of the team getting mysteriously suspended. Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?
They brought the necessary violence and hatred here. I loved Andy's stone-face disdain for his former partner. Andy worked over Al-Ani's back with all sorts of big weapons spots and they did a great job of building up the drama throughout. The segment of the match that Al-Ani wrestled with his hands duct-taped behind his back was cool, although I was legitimately terrified when he tried to climb that rickety ladder without his hands being free to either help him climb or help break a fall.
They had one little sub-story which I really appreciated, which was all of the things they did to highlight Al-Ani's agility. And I don't mean that in the Ricochet/Will Ospreay/Dragon Lee way where they do these crazy flips and land on their feet and it makes you say "OMG THAT GUY MOST BE ONE OF THE MOST AGILE PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE WORLD!" They merely did a lot of relatively simple things that always resulted in Al-Ani landing on his feet or hitting a move when a less agile person would not have been able to. It wasn't about making you think he was the next coming of Rey Mysterio Jr.; it was about proving to you that he was, indeed, agile enough to live up to his "ninja" moniker.
FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR #1 CONTENDERSHIP TO THE wXw SHOTGUN TITLE:
Mark Davis vs. Alexander James vs. Lucky Kid (w/Tarkan Aslan) vs. Ivan Kiev (w/Pete Bouncer) - 4.25/10
wXw Shotgun Champion Bobby Gunns was supposed to defend his title tonight but was injured at last night's show, so we're getting this #1 contendership match instead. All of RISE came out together to emphasize their unity. There really wasn't too much interesting happening in this match. Davis got the win, but as far as I'm concerned it's James who they should be pushing, given both his ability in the ring and on the mic.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Bobby Gunns showed up after the match to talk some trash to Davis, show off his title belt, and kick him in the face. He ran away when Davis recovered.
UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Ilja Dragunov(c) vs. WALTER - 8.5/10
These guys had the sort of brutal hard-hitting match you would expect, working in little stories about WALTER working over Ilja's back as well as building up to both men's finisher attempts, including Ilja's seemingly uncanny ability to avoid tapping out to the Gojira Clutch. Ilja took some crazy bumps, and was welting up early on, which only served to get the crown even more on his side (it started at about 70-30 in his favor and finished at about 90-10). He really, truly comes off as a guy who just won't stay down as long as he is still conscious.
At one point WALTER avoided Torpedo Moscow and Ilja hit the referee instead. Ilja went to check on the ref but WALTER just kept on trucking, grabbing him from behind and hitting him with some stuff. Noting that there was no referee, he called for one and then went for the pinfall. Obviously it took a bit of time for the referee to get to the ring, and by the time the ref got there and counted to two, Ilja had recovered enough to be able to kick out before three. WALTER got very frustrated and yelled at the referee and even grabbed him by the collar. The ref fought back and so WALTER booted him right in the face and knocked him out.
This led to a spot where the original referee called for the bell and declared the match to be a "no contest." I guess he thought Ilja hit him on purpose and then saw WALTER hit the other ref so he thought they should both be DQed, but it came off very awkward because it looked like the right call should have just been to DQ WALTER. The fans were obviously very upset about this non-finish in the main event world title match. So was Ilja, who demanded that the match be restarted because he didn't want to retain his title like that, and he did eventually come back and win the match.
I assume that the point of all this was something along the lines of the following: Going into this match WALTER had said if Ilja beat him again, he would have no problem accepting it (his record in non-tag matches against Ilja is a shockingly terrible 1-6-2, with the only win coming by count-out). The visual pinfall and set up a reason for WALTER to be able to claim that he really won this match and slowly turn heel, getting frustrated as others are given title shots that he thinks he should get because management considers this match to be one that he lost cleanly and thus should go to the back of the line, and/or to punish him for attacking a referee.
That's a fine story to tell, but I think it works even better if WALTER is DQed rather than doing the awkward "no contest" ruling. I also think it makes Ilja look even more heroic to risk what is set to go down as an actual W on his record (even if it is by DQ) than to have him want a no-contest restarted.
Another GREAT show from wXw, with big storyline moments, great wrestling of all varieties, and top matches delivering in a big way. Every single match here served to further some sort of storyline, sometimes in a big way, like the title matches, the TLC Match or the stuff with RISE, sometimes in a short-term but necessary way like the Shotgun Title #1 contendership match, and sometimes in a small way like in the women's match, but everything mattered in some way. Take that and throw in some awesome wrestling and you have a show that is fun to watch and easy to sit through in a single sitting. Go check this one out!