wXw SHOTGUN TITLE MATCH:
Marius Al-Ani(c) vs. Julian Pace - 7/10
This was a great underdog babyface story with both guys getting to show off their athleticism. They did a great job of building up Al-Ani's ability to counter things into the ankle lock, which, if I'm bringing it up would then obviously go on to play into the finish. The crowd really got behind Pace and bought him as a credible threat to Al-Ani's title. This was a perfect way to open the show.
WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE BLOCK A MATCH:
Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham vs. Okami (Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani) - 7.25/10
This was a great match! They did quite a bit of stuff that I would normally deride as "cutesy" but for some reason it just didn't bother me in this match. These Okami gentlemen seem to have quite the bright future in front of them as a team.
WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE BLOCK B MATCH:
Jay FK vs. Jeff Cobb & Angelico - 6.5/10
I'm having a lot of trouble getting into the Cobb/Angelico team, and I think there are three reasons for that. The first is that they are a makeshift team in a tournament full of regular teams. Second is the related fact that both of these guys feel like the go-to fly-ins for every company in the world right now, and thus their presence isn't exciting in the least. Thirdly... they just come off as kind of annoying. It doesn't stop me from getting angry at the heels for cheating, but nothing Cobb or Angelico does makes me want to root for their team, either.
DIRTY DRAGAN, EMIL SITOCI, & JURN SIMMONS SEGMENT - Excellent segment! Dirty Dragan is nearly in tears, telling us that his trial series has been going extremely poorly, and that he will have to leave wXw if he doesn't win tomorrow night, but wXw is letting him pick his opponent. He says there is one person he needs to face on his own, but then starts to break down as the fans cheer for him, claiming that everyone who likes him everntually starts to see him as a joke. His friend Emil Sitoci, who got him this trial series, in the first place, tries to cheer Dragan up and assure him that people do respect him now.
Then Jurn Simmons came out. Jurn, of course, had his head shaved after losing a hair vs. hair no DQs blow-off to David Starr, but the shaving only occurred because Dragan and Sitoci prevented his escape, and they participated in the humiliating shaving of Jurn's long, flowing Viking hair as well. So Jurn is in a pretty f*cking bad mood right now, and especially where these two are concerned. Sitoci got right in Jurn's face, but Dragan told Emil that he has to do this alone and asked him to leave. The fans chanted that they believed in Dragan, and Emil said that he did, too... but he warned Jurn that if Jurn laid a finger on Dragan before their match tomorrow night, he would be right back down to the ring and put his foot up Jurn's ass.
Sitoci left, and Dragan formally challenged Jurn to a match tomorrow night. Jurn exploded at Dragan, saying it was total bullsh*t for Dragan to challenger Jurn in his current mental state. He angrily declared "I'm at the lowest point in my life!" and called Dragan a hypocrite for always wanting people to take pity on him in his sad state but now trying to take advantage of Jurn in his, and for now wanting to fight one-on-one after "you and your two friends ganged up on me" last night. He called Dragan a coward, so Dragan got in his face, and said that Jurn was the hypocrite, pointing out that he and Sitoci only showed up because Jurn was trying to run away from facing the consequences of a stipulation he had agreed to.
As Dragan raged on at Jurn, he failed to notice Alexander James sneak into the ring, carrying Jurn's "Kendo sword." James, who got into Jurn's head and convinced him to turn on Starr in the first place, attacked Dragan from behind when Dragan was in Jurn's face, which led to Sitoci coming out to space Dragan. This was all very reminiscent of Road to 16 Carat Gold 2018 back in February, which was when James and Sitoci both first entered into this feud on their respective sides.
The heels overwhelmed Sitoci, then held him and made him watch while they beat up Dragan, including Jurn whipping Dragan with his own belt and demanding that he admit to being a coward. Dragan refused and took his beating. Jurn then spat in Dragan's face when Dragan wouldn't give in, calling back to Dragan spitting in Jurn's face back at January's Back to the Roots XVII when Jurn demanded that a beaten Dragan submit himself to Jurn's "Viking Execution" but Dragan spat on Jurn in response.
James then choked Dragan nearly to the point of unconsciousness with the belt and held him in position for Jurn's Viking Execution but Sitoci grabbed at Jurn from behind so Jurn hit him with the "Kendo Sword" instead. James then hit Sitoci with his big Lifting DDT, and then the heels gave Dragan a Viking Execution anyway. This was a really intense heat segment, but I think it probably went on a little too long. There was at least five straight minutes of just torturing the babyfaces.
WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE BLOCK A MATCH:
RingKampf vs. Penta el 0M & Rey Fenix - 7.75/10
This was one of those "constant stream of haymakers" kind of matches rather than one that told much of a story, and while I can definitely see an argument that that was the best way to go due to the booking of the tournament making a RingKampf victory feel inevitable (and thus at least this way you'll keep the fans constantly in a state of "this one MUST be the finish!"), this didn't really get the time to make it into the upper echelons of those types of matches, so it came off a little disappointing. It was still great, but definitely didn't live up (or even come close) to the dream match billing.
THE ANNOUNCERS MAKE SOME ANNOUNCEMENTS- First Doug Williams will be inducted into the wXw Hall of Fame at this year's anniversary show. Secondly, after that vicious beating earlier tonight, the Dirty Dragan vs. Jurn Simmons match scheduled for tomorrow night might have to be rescheduled. We'll have an update on Dragan's condition as soon as we can.
TONI STORM vs. WESNA - 6.5/10
Wesna was the big, vicious monster and worked over Toni's leg. Toni Storm remains the best female babyface in the world, and one of the top five regardless of gender along with Messrs. Bryan, Gargano, Tanahashi, and Dragunov. As for Wesna... f*ck all of these random British ladies, semi-interchangeable STARDOM babyfaces and wacky indy gals. What the Mae Young Classic needs is the f*cking Croatian Panther in all of her "I will stomp a hole in your body, then stick my hands in and rip" glory. WE NEED MORE WESNA, DAMMIT!
WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE BLOCK B MATCH:
Aussie Open vs. Monster Consulting - 6.75/10
SINGLES MATCH TO CROWN AN INTERIM wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION:
Ilja Dragunov vs. Bobby Gunns - 8.5/10
Holy sh*t that crowd reaction. A long, passionate, sustained dueling chant that lasted for over ten straight minutes. They BRIEFLY let up after a big bump on the outside into some chairs, and after Ilja nailed Gunns with a big shot to the face and went for a pin. It was almost weird to hear and watch, as when a change of momentum or a pin or submission happened, they would quiet down and cheer, but still kept the chant going on a kind of autopilot, and then once the big spot/potential match-ending situation was over, they would get louder again. It eventually climaxed with just a whole bunch of cheering as the match began to move out of its introductory phase, the stories of Ilja looking for the knockout while Gunns worked Ilja's arm now being firmly established.
They did some spots on the top rope that played into the "Gunns works Ilja's arm" story, and the crowd then transitioned into a more traditional "LETS GO X!" "LETS GO Y!" set of dueling chants. In addition to all of this they also told the usual story of Ilja's spirit truly being "unbesiegbar," as he refused to stay down, no matter the pain, culminating in one hell of a dramatic finish. This was an AWESOME match with an AWESOME crowd, and if you are one of those people for whom hot crowds really make a match, I can see you rating this one much higher even than I already did.
POST-MATCH CELEBRATION/BOOKING ASSESSMENT - I was trying not to spoil this match because it was so awesome, but then I realized that I implicitly gave the ending away already, so I guess I might as well go all in and talk about it, but if the finish wasn't obvious to you based on what I wrote above, I highly suggest that you go watch the match first (hell, even if you think you did figure the finish out based on what I wrote above, go watch the match anyway. For all you know, you misunderstood my inference).
The finish was Gunns snapping one of Ilja's fingers, which Ilja responded to by slipping him off and spitting at him. Gunns responded to this by snapping another of Ilja's fingers, to which Ilja responded by popping up and throwing himself at Gunns for the Torpedo Moscow and the win. Ilja did not no-sell here; he fought through the pain, and the winning Torpedo Moscow truly felt like a last-ditch effort. In a wonderful post-match bit, Ilja needed referee Tassilo Jung to strap his newly-won championship around his waist because he could not do so himself due to his injured fingers. Ilja's selling both here and on the finish itself did an excellent job of making you think that if Gunns had kicked out of that Torpedo Moscow, Ilja would be in HUGE trouble and Gunns almost certainly would have won the match, which helped save face for Gunns, a popular babyface riding a huge wave of momentum right now and getting his first big push, having just won wXw's equivalent of the Royal Rumble (okay, in terms of importance and profile 16 Carat Gold is more like the Royal Rumble and Shortcut to the Top is like King of the Ring, but it's a big Royal Rumble-style match that gets you a world title shot). Gunns is a guy who is in the kind of dangerous place where losing a title shot to an established main eventer can totally deflate fan enthusiasm for him and make him feel like someone they just threw a bone to rather than someone who the company actually sees at a main event level, but between wXw not having a WWE/TNA/Bullet Club of Honor-like reputation of failing to truly elevate people and the way they worked the finish of this match, I think Gunns will not only not be damaged by this loss, but I'd look for him to be winning something by the end of 16 Carat Gold weekend, either the tournament or the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title itself.
Another GREAT show from wXw. I will admit that I was a little disappointed simply because after the first two matches it seemed like it could be heading for epic territory and it wasn't, but the show was still great. If I have one complaint, it's that tonight's show, like night one, felt like it was carried a little more by the non-tournament main event than by the eponymous tournament. Tomorrow night's main event is the tournament finals for the wXw World Tag Team Titles, so hopefully that won't be an issue.