ABSOLUTE ANDY INTERVIEW - A very good heel promo by Andy, protesting having to defend his title against Ilja Dragunov in a cage match at Back to the Roots XVIII and expressing his displeasure at Nick Hein's actions at the 18th Anniversary Show. He says that Hein is an MMA fighter so he should stay away from wrestling ("do I pick up a tennis racket and jump into the Wimbledon final?".
NICK HEIN INTERVIEW - His promo was good, but I can't help but let it be overshadowed by the news that he will be the special guest referee for the Ilja Dragunov vs. Absolute Andy cage match for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title. I REALLY don't any sort of f*ck finish in this cage match. We've had three different f*ck finishes in this feud already. A cage match is where we're supposed to go to finally resolve things!
EMIL SITOCI & "THE AVALANCHE" ROBERT DREISSKER BACKSTAGE - Interesting. Sitoci is very unhappy. He is sick and tired of losing to The Crown. Throw in the fact that "everyone around me is getting signed to big-money contracts and great opportunities and I'm... stuck here," and Emil has decided to discontinue his now short-lived association with Monster Consulting. He tells Avalanche that he will be on his own tonight against Jurn Simmons.
"THE AVALANCHE" ROBERT DREISSKER vs. JURN SIMMONS - never happened, decent segment
Jurn came out in street clothes and claimed to still be sick like he was in Hamburg six weeks ago. Of course, said illness did not stop Jurn from competing in the wXw World Tag Team Title match at the 18th Anniversary Show, but Jurn is apparently sick again, so he instead brought out the man who replaced him in Hamburg, Alan Payne.
Jurn's fake coughing elicited a wonderful mocking chant of "please don't die!" from the crowd, for which Jurn chastised them. Jurn asked Avalanche if he was okay with the switch, at which point Avalanche said he was tired of The Crown's games and didn't care if he had to fight Jurn, Payne or "all of you guys." Jurn said "that's not a bad idea," at which point Alexander James slipped into the ring and attacked him from behind, and Jurn then officially accepted this new challenge for a...
"The Avalanche" Robert Dreissker vs. Alan Payne & Alexander James (w/Jurn Simmons) - 3.75/10
Avalanche got beaten down, made a comeback, and got a pin on Payne. Payne was basically the fall-guy here, though at the same time I would think that this could put his future with The Crown in jeopardy. I think that might have been a nice role for him when he isn't managing Kellyanne, but at the same time, he could be just as effective as an undercard singles wrestler or purely as a manager, so I won't be heartbroken if this is the end of that alliance.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Jurn slipped into the ring (now in his wrestling gear) to nail Avalanche with the Consigliere, then The Crowd hit Avalanche with a double chokeslam. Jurn then grabbed a mic and told everyone of his "miracle" of a recovery and said that he was ready for his singles match with Avalanche right now. The referee asked Avalanche if he was okay with this, and despite not yet having made it back to his feet, Avalanche insisted that he was okay with this, so we got the advertised...
"THE AVALANCHE" ROBERT DREISSKER vs. JURN SIMMONS (w/Alexander James) - no rating, fine segment
Jurn showboated in the beginning, allowing Avalanche to reverse an attempted Piledriver into a Back Body Drop. Avalanche then went on offense for a few moments until James provided a distraction that let Jurn kick the middle rope into Avalanche's groin, then hit the Piledriver for the win. Jurn was sufficiently smug after the match, while commentator Alan Counihan derided him for acting like he had actually achieved something with this hollow victory.
MELANIE GRAY ATTACKS TONI STORM BACKSTAGE AT THE 18th ANNIVERSARY SHOW - Good. We first saw Melanie screaming at some young wrestlers, demanding to know where Toni was. She particularly laid into Julian Pace, angry that he got booked on the show and she didn't (he was in a dark match against Timo Theiss), asking him "what have you ever achieved that you're on the card tonight except having a butt-ugly hairdo?" I laughed.
Melanie stormed through a doorway and found Toni, who was minding her own business. Melanie, being a heel, attacked Toni from behind and kept pounding on her until the youngsters ran in and pulled her off.
KLLER KELLY & YUU SEGMENT - Good. Yuu was being interviewed about her victory at the 18th Anniversary Show, where she tapped out Alpha Female in a match that also involved Killer Kelly. Yuu said she was happy and excited about her victory.
She was then confronted by Killer Kelly. Kelly was wearing a RingKampf sweatshirt, which almost made me have to go change my pants. Is Killer Kelly not the perfect female member for RingKampf? She's intense, feels like a shooter, does not tolerate BS well, has a temper, but always manages to remain likable. I'll give you fifty years to come up with a reason for why she isn't perfect for RingKampf. *Waits fifty years.* See? You can't do it.
Anyway, Kelly congratulates Yuu on her win, but claims that Yuu "had a little bit of luck." This proves my prediction correct that Kelly is getting annoyed at her recent string of losses in three-ways where she was not involved in the decision. Yuu understands what Kelly is getting at and tells Kelly that she beat Alpha Female at the 18th Anniversary Show, and she will beat Kelly tonight.
THE CROWN BACKSTAGE - Great. Alexander James' mustache is HIDEOUS. He with the ugly mustache notes to Jurn that they have finally made an example of Avalanche and "took care of that issue. Together. The Crown." Jurn replies that "I took care of Avalanche. I beat him in a singles match, AJ. He beat you, like, three times." James fires back that it was Alan Payne that lost, and that he didn't even know Payne before Hamburg and was only using him to make the most of a bad situation because Jurn was sick, and then tonight it was Jurn's idea to use him again as part of their plan. Jurn says that he "beat Avalanche fair and square" and suggested that James was both "jealous" and "taking things too personal."
James tried to talk some sense into Jurn, asking him "do you hear yourself talk?" To which Jurn replied, "Yes. I have a lovely voice." An exasperated James then turned the tables on Jurn and told him that maybe he was right and James was taking things too personally... so he is going to go back to the US for a while to "clear my head" and Jurn could handle things here in wXw on his own, and "maybe I'll see you in New York" (for wXw's show in the USA over WrestleMania weekend).
I really enjoyed the way that this mirrored the break-up of Jurn's previous tag team, Massive Product, back at the end of 2017, which was mainly caused by James' sh*t-stirring. Now James has to deal with the monster that he created (or, perhaps more correctly, caused to remerge, because Jurn has always had a massive ego. He just kept in check for most of 2017 when he was a babyface).
KILLER KELLY vs. YUU - 4/10
This was a disappointingly short match. It started off with a very tense handshake. Following that we got Yuu working over Kelly's arm, Kelly making her comeback, and Yuu getting the win via armbar (with Allan Counihan pointing out that this was a different submission from the rear naked choke she used to defeat Alpha Female, so she clearly has an entire repertoire of submissions that can end a match).
TONI STORM PROMO - Great! She's pissed at Melanie for attacking her (obviously) and has come to the conclusion that Melanie was right ("for the first time in your life") when she said that there wasn't enough room in wXw for both of them, so she is not only offering Melanie her contractually obligated rematch for the wXw Women's Championship, but also that they add on another stipulation: Loser Leaves Town!
RINGKAMPF INTERVIEW AFTER THE 18th ANNIVERSARY SHOW - Great! Axel Dieter Jr. did all of the talking. He talked about how great it was to compete in Oberhausen again, put over the fans, and gave Veit Muller his blessing to be part of RingKampf. He then transitioned to talking about the announcement that he will be competing in this year's 16 Carat Gold tournament. He reminded us that he has competed in two previous 16 Carat Gold tournaments and made it to the finals both times... but has never won the whole thing. He says that winning 16 Carat Gold is something he can't stand not having accomplished, and so he is back this year to win it. Cool.
ARROWS OF HUNGARY vs. RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) - 7.75/10
A VERY exciting match with a GREAT finishing sequence.
AVALANCHE CONFRONTS JURN SIMMONS BACKSTAGE - Good. Avalanche says he's tired of Jurn's games and challenges him to a match at Back to the Roots XVIII. Avalanche walks off, and Jurn seems to realize that he is now trapped into accepting a match he doesn't want due to his comments to Alexander James earlier.
TIMOTHY THATCHER & DAVID STARR HAVE A CONFRONTATION BACKSTAGE - Good. This started out as Thatcher giving Veit Muller some advice on holds. He mentioned that a standing double-wristlock works well against people with shoulder injuries, "like David Starr." This annoyed Starr, who came over and told Thatcher so, and asked if they had a problem. Thatcher said they do because of issues they've had in the past, but he didn't elaborate so I'm not sure what he's talking about.
He also seemed to think that Starr was being irrationally angry at him for mentioning this shoulder injury... and he's right. It's not like the injury was a secret or anything because, as Thatcher points out, everyone knows that that was the reason why he had to pull out of his scheduled wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship match against Absolute Andy at the 18th Anniversary Show. Thatcher suggested that they face each other at Back to the Roots and Starr agreed. Thatcher was also kind of being a dick by poking Starr in the shoulder.
BOBBY GUNNS vs. SHIGEHIRO IRIE- 6.75/10
Another solid match between these two, and another win for Irie with the lariat.
ALAN PAYNE, KELLYANNE, & KRIS WOLF BACKSTAGE - Good stuff. Payne vows to Kellyanne that soon "Toni time" will be over and Kellyanne will be the wXw Women's Champion. Kellyanne then started to focus on something behind Alan, which turned out to be Kris Wolf. Alan turned around and said "I knew I smelled excrement," which caused Kellyanne to laugh at his supposed wit. These two are a great heel duo. Kris Wolf responded by plainly stating "I wash myself regularly." Then she sniffed Payne and said "I don't think you do." More amusing lines followed, building up to tonight's match. I will admit that I am warming up to Wolf's backstage antics... but I still hate the gimmick and wish she wouldn't be such a weirdo.
BOBBY GUNNS & VINNY VORTEX BACKSTAGE - Fine, I guess. Gunns is really annoyed that he lost to Irie again. Vinny tells him to move past it but Gunns won't. Vinny then suggests that Gunns wasn't 100% focused. This evidence for this is that Gunns doesn't answer him when he DMs or calls him anymore. Gunns rightfully wondered what that had to do with anything and stormed off.
VEIT MULLER & WALTER BACKSTAGE - Good... and possibly interesting. Muller congratulates WALTER RingKampf's win over British Strong Style at the 18th Anniversary Show. WALTER puts over how impressive Muller has been recently and notes that because Thatcher now has a singles match against David Starr at Back to the Roots XVIII, they can't team together against JayFK like they were planning to, so WALTER invites Muller to be his partner for that match instead (pending management's approval). Muller accepts.
WALTER's phrasing here definitely indicates that he's annoyed at Thatcher for once again going off and doing his own thing, but this time it's as a single... which was exactly what Thatcher was annoyed at WALTER for doing last year, and which Thatcher cited as the reason for him starting to team with Chris Brookes, which was the thing that annoyed WALTER in the first place (WALTER thought Thatcher was spending too much time on CTK and not enough time on RIngKampf). Not only this, but when talking about the 18th Anniversary Show, WALTER put over how great it was to have Axel Dieter Jr. back and said he enjoyed having Muller in their corner... but did not even mention Timothy Thatcher, which is actually even more of an oversight than it seems like at first glance because Thatcher was the one who got the winning pinfall. There might very well be some real trouble brewing within RingKampf.
BOBBY GUNNS & VINNY VORTEX BACKSTAGE AGAIN - Much better. Basically, Vinny is trying to get Bobby to focus on all of the good things he has accomplished over the past year (winning the Shotgun Title, winning Shortcut to the Top, becoming a main eventer), but after his losses to Irie, all Bobby can see is how things haven't panned out for him over the last few months of the year. He lost the Shotgun Title, then failed to win the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title when he cashed in the shot he earned from winning Shortcut to the Top. Vinny (who was his original tag team partner under the name Vincent Schild, and has also wrestled as Vinny Gunns and Vinny the east) talked about Bobby helping him through a tough time when he was confined to a wheelchair so he vowed to help Bobby out of his funk here by becoming his training partner. After seeing this, I'm not even sure what the point of the other segment with these two was.
KRIS WOLF vs. KELLYANNE (w/Alan Payne) - 2.75/10
Another short match that I would have said was good for the time it got except that there were several points where the referee clearly saw Payne interfere in the match and did absolutely nothing about it. What happened to the well-oiled cheating machine that Kellyanne & Alan Payne seemed like a mere six weeks ago?
DAVID STARR & ABSOLUTE ANDY BACKSTAGE - Decent. This started off with Andy "meditating," which entailed looking at this wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship belt and saying "I am the champion" along with a recording of himself saying the same thig which he was listening to on his headphones. David Starr showed up and Andy accused Starr of faking his shoulder injury, which Starr denied, then responded to by accusing Andy of doing the same to get out of a title match back in October, necessitating the creation of the interim championship that Andy reunified with the proper championship at Shotgun Live Tour 2018: Hamburg. Starr told Andy that the wXw Championship Board of Directors just informed him that whoever wins the cage match for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title at Back to the Roots XVIII will defend the title just a week later against Starr at Road to 16 Carat Gold 2019: London. Andy was very unhappy with this news.
BOBBY GUNNS & VINNY VORTEX BACKSTAGE YET AGAIN - Fine. Bobby really wants to take another shot at beating Irie but isn't sure if he can do it. Vinny tells him to go for it and says he believes in him. Irie happened to be walking by and challenged Gunns to a third match, which Gunns accepted. This last part was a little too convenient, since they were speaking in German and Irie clearly doesn't speak German as the language he and Gunns communicated in when he challenged Gunns to the match was English.
ABSOLUTE ANDY & MARIUS AL-ANI BACKSTAGE - Excellent. It was made clear to us while these two are teaming together tonight, they are NOT A4 again. Andy got on Al-Ani's nerves by trying to claim that his turning on Al-Ani got Ali-Ani to push himself to where he is now, which is the wXw Shotgun Champion. Al-Ani told Andy that he interfered on Andy's behalf against Lucky Kid at the 18th Anniversary Show was him interfering to hurt Lucky, not to help Andy. In addition to reminding us about that on-going Al-Ani vs. Lucky Kid feud (and the greater RISE vs. RISE feud it is part of), they also once again pushed Andy's title defense in a steel cage against Ilja Dragunov with Nick Hein as the referee and how unfair Andy feels that this is. They've pushed this so hard that it makes me think that Andy has to be retaining the title.
ABSOLUTE ANDY & MARIUS AL-ANI vs. DAVID STARR & ILJA DRAGUNOV - 8.75/10
The unofficial nickname for tonight's babyface pairing is "UnbesiegStarr." Cute. We started off with some fun spots to illustrate to us (and especially to the live crowd, who didn't see the backstage segment that we just saw) that the babyfaces are on the same page while the heels clearly are not. One little touch during all of this that I really appreciated was the fact that for the entire duration of this, the heels were basically throwing or tricking each other to get into the ring alone with the two babyfaces while the other stayed on the outside, so during this entire thing you had two guys from one team in the ring and the other team had one guy in the ring and one guy standing around on the floor... so we never got a bell to start the match until Starr finally got out of the ring and Andy climbed up onto the apron in team's corner.
When we finally did get started the babyfaces got shined up a bit but the heels finally started to work together again and cut Ilja off. The teamwork was like riding a bicycle for the heels, as they were able to easily get totally in sync and even pulled out some of their old A4 stuff.
They did a wonderful job of isolating Ilja, and Starr got so frustrated and kept trying to come in so many times that he received an official warning from the referee. Of course, Starr garnering the referee's attention only wound up making things worse for Ilja, as it gave the heels free reign to double-team him.
Ilja eventually did make the EXTREMELY hot tag and Starr ran wild. Ilja soon got back into it as well and we wound up getting one heck of a wild brawl as things broke down into basically a tornado match (which seems kind of odd when Starr got an official warning earlier). There were some fantastic spots in here (particularly Ilja intercepting one of A4's old signature moves via Torpedo Moscow off the top) and the fans went wild for everything. A4 did have one miscue in here, but it didn't lead to the finish or anything, so whether it becomes something that creates and issue between Andy and Al-Ani or it was just a one-off spot for this tag match remains to be seen. These guys went almost a half hour (if you include the action before the match officially started) and the crowd was into every single bit of it. If I had to pick a nit I would say that some of Ilja's movements were a little too cartoonish here, but otherwise this was completely awesome.
(BABYFACE) RISE CONFRONTS (HEEL) RISE BACKSTAGE AFTER THE 18th ANNIVERSARY SHOW - Didn't like it. Heel RISE were bragging about them all being champions when babyface RISE burst in and started a shouting match. Their contention seemed to be more about who was the real RISE than about the personal issues between the groups, which bothered me. The babyfaces insisted that the presence of Al-Ani in the heel group made their claim more legitimate, and also called Da Mack's claim to the name questionable due to his disappearance after the initial post-Klinger split-up in March/April (before returning to screw Lucky Kid out of the Shotgun Title at Shotgun Live Tour 2018: Hamburg, Da Mack had last been seen back in April at True Colors, running from the other members of the group after recent babyface turn).
Lucky Kid then claimed that Al-Ani faked his shoulder injury to get out of defending the Shotgun Title against him at the 18th Anniversary Show, which Al-Ani denied. Lucky eventually goaded Al-Ani into offering to put not just his title but his comrades' wXw World Tag Team Titles on the line in the Kafigschlacht as well, which angered Tarkan Aslan & Da Mack. Pete Bouncer then suggested that the Kafigschlacht should also be used to settle the question of who gets to keep the RISE name, and the heels agreed.
My main issue with this segment is that based on when this supposedly happened, the confrontation really felt to me like it should have been physical. Tarkan & Da Mack screwed Ivan Kiev & Pete Bouncer out of the tag titles by getting them disqualified in their portion of the Gauntlet Match, and Marius Al-Ani interfered to try to prevent Lucky Kid from winning the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title. That, plus everything that has come before it (especially Tarkan's betrayals and the number of times Lucky has been screwed out of the Shotgun Title) made this feel like it should have been a much more physical confrontation and like the arguing over who the real RISE is should have been a much more minor issue than it was portrayed as here. Don't get me wrong: I like that stipulation for the match... but one side making the challenge via backstage promo and the other then accepting it via their own backstage promo feels like it would have been a much better route to get there. The Kafigschlacht does feel bigger after this segment due to the new stipulations (both the RISE name and titles), but the feud doesn't quite feels as heated anymore.
This was a pretty good show from wXw. At this point I think it's fair to conclude that the new regime's philosophy for these "Road to..." or "XYZ Tour" shows is to give us all of the segments we would have gotten on the now-departed Shotgun, several matches that are kept short but all serve a storyline purpose, and then a few "full length" matches that they try their best to make matches you should go out of your way to see, to ensure that these shows don't just feel like several episodes of Shotgun mashed together. While I'd obviously rather have more longer/better matches, I do like their approach. It certainly makes their "Road to..." shows actually feel like a necessary part of the journey to the marquee shows (as opposed to, say, New Japan's, which aren't actually on the "Road to..." the next marquee event so much as they are some strange and wacky tourist photo-spot on the side of the highway that will occupy your time if you can spare it, but isn't actually a necessary part of the journey to your destination). This show definitely accomplished those goals.
It has also been brought to my attention that this show was actually taped in December, a week before the 18th Anniversary Show. Nothing was spoiled and this wasn't really a Disney Tapings situation because none of the fans realized that what they were seeing was kayfabe happening after the big show, but I REALLY hope this doesn't become a regular thing. If it does that is when this turns into a Disney Tapings situation because all of the fans will know that the results of the shows beforehand spoil the big show. For now, though, I am content to believe that this was merely an issue created by the fact that the new system of "do a real show instead of Shotgun tapings" was not in place when the current schedule was booked, and so what would normally have been a week or two off for Shotgun and some weeks that would have been filled with matches with undercard guys from these tapings and promos from top stars now had to become matches with top stars, too, and this was the only show that enough of their guys were booked for to be able to do it.