wXw SHOTGUN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:
Bobby Gunns(c) vs. Marius Al-Ani - 7/10
This was a GREAT opener, with both guys doing what they do best. The crowd was split, which I expected, but it always baffles me because I do not understand the love for Bobby Gunns, and he's usually booked as a heel who is happy to feud with other heels as well (he's an equal opportunity dickhead), so I figured some of that support would dissipate against true-blue babyface Marius Al-Ani, but apparently not.
The match build very well, and the finishing sequence was quite exciting. Gunns, being the aforementioned equal opportunity dickhead, made for an interesting run as champion, but at the same time, he's not really much better than average in the ring, so I was happy with Al-Ani taking the belt off of him. Al-Ani winning the belt here also plants the seeds in our heads for a kind of mirror-image thing with Absolute Andy- Al-Ani's current rival and former tag team partner- winning the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title later tonight... though it would also play into their feud to have Al-Ani win a singles title in a title shot which he earned via winning a tournament on the same night that Andy fails to win a bigger singles title in a title shot he earned via winning an even bigger tournament.
DIRTY DRAGAN vs. WALTER - 3/10
The Dirty Dragan Trial Series continues... and his mystery opponent is WALTER. So yeah; he got his ass kicked in relatively short order. But at least put up a fight against WALTER and didn't go running off like a coward rather than take a licking, so that's kind of a step forward for Dirty Dragan.
THREE-WAY ELIMINATION TABLES MATCH FOR THE wXw WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
Monster Consulting(c) vs. Jay FK vs. RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) - 6.75/10
We started off with the classic scenario of the heels caught on the ramp between the two babyface team... but these heels were smart enough to jump down and run into the crowd. It didn't stop the babyfaces from following them, of course, but at least they were able to make a run for it and not look like morons who don't understand the concept of moving sideways.
The heels took out one member of each babyface team, resulting in Pete Bouncer and Julian Nero having to work together. Eventually Bouncer and Nero got Francis Kaspin onto a table on the stage and Ivan Kiev climbed a part of the entrance set and dove off for a big elbow drop to put Skillet through the table... and the table didn't break. That must have sucked even worse than an elbow drop like that would normally suck to take. Nero would later try to drive Jay Skillet through the same table as it was leaning in the corner of the ring but again it didn't break. Nero and Bouncer would then powerbomb Skillet through the other table that was in the ring, and while this one did break, it did so with one hell of a crack. Maybe use a different brand of tables next time?
Bouncer then dumped Nero out of the ring, just in time for Avalanche to get back up. They fought for a bit, with Bouncer eventually coming out on top... and then things just kind of ground to a halt for a while, with everyone just selling, but for what felt like an inordinately long amount of time. My guess is they were waiting for Ivan Kiev to be in position for the spot they were about to do, which first saw Avalanche save Nero from getting put through a table by crotching Bouncer on the top rope as Bouncer was about to leap off, then Kiev showed up to save Bouncer from being superplexed through the table by Avalanche, and finally Nero saved Avalanche by pulling the table out of the way when RISE shoved him off the top rope. We then got a few more minutes of good table teases before Avalanche hit Bouncer with a running splash off the apron with Bouncer on the remaining table... and that same f*cking table wouldn't break.
I felt really bad for the wrestlers at this point, and even worse for them when the fans started to chant "UNBESIEGBAR!" (Ilja Dragunov's catchphrase, which is Russian for "Unbreakable") and yet I couldn't stop myself from laughing at that one, either. This also would have hurt the match, as it made it quite obvious who was going to win if they had tried to keep going, but instead they just set the table up at an angle in the corner and had Avalanche- the heaviest guy in Monster Consulting throw himself at the table at full speed with Bouncer- the heaviest guy in RISE- on the table and that finally broke the damn thing.
RISE SEGMENT- F*cking weird. Tarkan Aslan, who has been out of action and basically had to retire due to a head injury in January, gave a retirement speech, complete with boots, which he threw down... but then he picked them back up and said the journey was not over. Tarkan's best fiend Lucky Kid was out with him, and was overjoyed at this, freakin' out as only his crazy ass can.
Then Tarkan ordered a video be put up on the screen that showed him talking to Pete Bouncer, who confronted him over a letter from the hospital revealing that Tarkan has been lying about his injury. Tarkan slapped some sort of black patch onto Bouncer's neck, which made him drop into unconsciousness. Lucky Kid freaked out about this (in a negative way, this time) and started crying and screaming in the ring as Tarkan walked off. As Marius Al-Ani said to Lucky on Shogun, "things aren't always what they seem."
This all answered the mystery they've build up on Shotgun recently (and we'd get another answer later tonight), but Tarkan's zapping powers are f*cking weird. Hopefully we'll get a real explanation of what he did to Bouncer at some point.
The other problem I have with this was the question of the existence of the video in the first place. wXw's backstage segments follow the WWE "just pretend the camera isn't there" model. It's not my favorite way of doing things, but if you stick with it then I'll come along for the ride. The problem here is that Tarkan apparently has the ability to summon this theoretically non-existent video. And if it is actual video that he could have played on cue, then that means that he set the whole confrontation up even though Pete Bouncer found this all out against Tarkan's goals, and it also theoretically means that the rest of this stuff is actually being taped, thus contradicting the whole "just pretend the cameras aren't there" approach.
wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Ilja Dragunov(c) vs. Absolute Andy - 7.75/10
The crowd was a lot more pro-Andy than I would have expected, considering that Andy has been the top heel this year while Ilja has been the top babyface. It was only about 20% pro-Andy, but that 20% was still pretty jarring. The referee's enforcement of the count-out rules were very liberal. Andy worked over Ilja's ribs. Ilja sold it very well, and made his usual big comeback. They traded a lot of strikes and Ilja even managed to get Andy up for the F-5 TWICE, but Andy eventually won with a chairshot and a sit-out Dominator. This was hard-hitting, but felt like it lacked the intensity of most of Ilja's other matches. The crowd just wasn't quite as hot and the struggle didn't feel anywhere near as epic as usual. My theory is that this two-and-a-half-month break wXw took wound up cooling things down rather than making the fans eagerly anticipate seeing their favorites in a wXw ring again.
2018 SHORTCUT TO THE TOP MATCH - 7/10
They did some stuff here that all worked very well, but this wasn't the storytelling or excitement tour de force that we have seen for the past two years. The important points coming out of this are as follows:
1. Jurn Simmons is back from injury, and they quickly and efficiently reintroduced him into his feuds with both David Starr and the Dirty Dragan/Emil Sitoci pairing.
2. Marius Al-Ani has joined forces with Tarkan Aslan, who is now also officially no longer part of RISE.
Other stuff happened and it was fun, but a lot of it either felt totally self-contained to this match or like generic interactions in other feuds rather than moments that were really important to the story. Bobby Gunns winning makes some sense, I guess, due to his feud with Absolute Andy earlier in the year, but the decision to run Al-Ani baffles me. He's a popular babyface whose arch-nemesis just won the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title, with the anniversary of the very event where their feud started coming up during the next major tour. Why would you turn the guy heel?
This was a solid show from wXw and vey newsworthy, but nothing was great enough to really stand out. If you're into wXw's storylines (and you should be!) it's a must-see, but if you're just looking for workrate, you're money and time is better spent elsewhere.