SHIGEHIRO IRIE vs. BOBBY GUNNS (w/Vinny Vortex) - 7/10
Irie's knee is all taped up, but Bobby Gunns worked on Irie's arm instead because both of Irie's win over him have come via Beast Bomber Lariat so the story of this match Gunns trying to avoid that move, both by working over Irie's arm and by trying his damnedest to avoid getting hit with the move when Irie went for it. Everything in this match was built up very well and holy crap the impact Irie got when he actually did hit it was crazy!
JURN SIMMONS vs. "THE AVALANCHE" ROBERT DREISSKER - 5/10
They were in each other's face and brawling before the bell even rang. They kept brawling for most of the match, with some power stuff thrown in as well. The finish was a double count-out, but instead of the stuff we usually see where someone hits a big move and both guys just sell for most of the count or where they just brawl around on the outside and completely ignore the fact that the referee is counting them out, the finish they did here ended in several spots where on guy made it to the apron but the other pulled him down. I liked this because it showed that they were still trying to win the match rather than the usual "look at our cool big spot!" or "GRRR! We hate each other so much." I'm not saying that those are bad, as they can each be used to build to something (a Last Man Standing Match in the former and any sort of big brawl without count-outs in the latter) but doing the finish that they did here shows a better understanding of where these two are in their feud. The big spot situation would feel very forced, and their not at the "we don't care if we get counted out, we just want to hurt each other" stage yet, either. They certainly don't like each other, but this is nothing close to a blood-feud, either. All of Jurn and The Crown's manipulations have been based around winning matches not any sort of effort to hurt Avalanche or Sitoci or anyone else.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Having been the one to pull his opponent off the apron last, Jurn was the person in the best shape after the match, so he took the opportunity to get into the ring and cut a great promo. In this promo he noted that Avalanche had once again failed to beat him and emphasized the fact that at the end of the day, he was the one standing while Avalanche was having trouble pulling himself to his feet.
Avalanche tried to get back into the ring but Jurn attacked him. Avalanche made a comeback and told Jurn that this wasn't over between them but it would be in March because he wanted into 16 Carat Gold. Maybe there was something lost in the translation for the subtitles or maybe Avalanche just forgot to say something he was supposed to say because I'm not totally clear on how being in 16 Carat Gold connects to ending his feud with Jurn. I guess they could have some sort of big gimmick match in the first round like Marty Scurll and Axel Dieter Jr. did in 2016, but if that's the case then Avalanche really should have said that.
As Avalanche went to put the mic back, Jurn attacked him from behind and they brawled, with first referees and then security coming in to break it up. I like the fact that wXw distinguishes between referees and security because the idea of the referees being used as a security force really doesn't make much sense, so having referees be the initial wave to try to calm everyone down and pull them apart and then having real security to break it up when things really get out of hand makes more sense. It also makes the times that the referees have to call for security feel wilder and more important than when it's just the referees breaking people up (and, by lacking this distinction, other promotions don't have the ability to use it to make certain situations feel more special).
Jurn walked away with Avalanche still in a rage and being restrained by security. Unlike in most other promotions, the various break-ups and restarts in this brawl actually served a purpose, which was to show us that Jurn was really able to get inside Avalanche's head, with his parting line that "everyone is leaving you" sending Avalanche into a whole new rage, playing off of something of a theme in this feud (the first two men Avalanche recruited to place the injured Julian Nero both decided to stop teaming with him, and Jurn's own tag team partner Alexander James was annoyed by Jurn taking all of the credit for their victories over Avalanche and blaming him for their losses, so he decided to go back to the USA so Jurn could see how he fared on his own. And, notably, Jurn did not actually win this match but instead we went to a double count-out).
JAY FK vs. VEIT MULLER & WALTER - 6.75/10
Despite what it looked like after watching Road to Back to the Roots XVIII, Muller is apparently not yet officially a member of RingKampf, though they are letting him wear their t-shirt and be in their corner and putting him over on the mic every chance they get. They told two stories in this match: Jay FK's double-teaming and WALTER's size advantage over them- and did a great job of integrating the two with some very creative spots. Throw in a creative finish to have Muller get pinned crating friction between him and WALTER (which also gives Jay FK momentum going into getting their return match for the tag titles that they lost last month). WALTER was very upset after the match, yelling at Jay FK, the referee, and eventually turning his frustrations on Muller, who he not only scolded but also snubbed a handshake from.
DAVID STARR vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER - 6.75/10
This was pretty much ten minutes of Thatcher destroying Starr's injured arm, with Starr getting a bit of offense every once in a while, before Starr managed to catch Thatcher with a roll-up for the pin. This not only highlights but exacerbates Starr's injury going into this title shot next week in London as well as giving Starr a clean win while still allowing Thatcher to lose in a way where it feels like he doesn't lose too much momentum (this was his first time on the losing end of a match since Road to Broken Rules XVIII almost two months ago, his first time taking a fall since World Tag Team League 2018: Day 1 a few weeks before that, and his first singles loss in wXw in almost a year).
LOSER LEAVES TOWN wXw WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Toni Storm(c) vs. Melanie Gray - 7.75/10
At this point I should point out that in wXw "Loser Leaves Town" is applied in a rather literal sense, with the losing wrestler being banned from wrestling in the city rather than having to leave the promotion. Props are due to announcer Alan Counihan for pointing this out to us right up front, as well as for the way he was still able to sell this as being a huge deal, as this is wXw's home base and 90% of the big shows take place here.
This was a hate-filled encounter that took a scary turn early on when Toni missed on a tope and appeared to hit her head on a fan's leg or on the floor. She appeared to be okay, though, and they kept brawling on the outside and throwing each other into chairs and with Melanie winding up with a bloody nose before they finally (after way too long without a count) made it back into the ring. After that point this was a parade of big moves that were spaced out extremely well, both women doing a great job of selling not just their injuries but also their desperation and determination to not lose. I was certain going in that this would be them writing Toni Storm out (while still allowing for her to be used on big shows outside of Oberhausen) in preparation for her inevitably having to devote more and more time (and having more and more of her bookings controlled by) WWE, but instead it was Melanie who took the loss.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - GREAT! Melanie was utterly devastated, as you'd expect, and they gave this all of the gravitas it deserved and made it feel like a really big deal because that's exactly what it is. Melanie Gray and Toni Storm were the building blocks of this division, and Melanie in particular has almost certainly had the most memorable career of any woman in wXw (combining that "building block of the women's division" title with her storyline with Kevin Roadster and the resulting Alpha Lovers vs. Marius von Beethoven & Alpha Female feud). This is something that demands that attention be paid t it and they did, first with Melanie in the ring, then with her interaction with Killer Kelly, and finally with her walking out through the crowd, with the spotlight on her in Oberhausen one last time.
That being said... if anyone has any idea what Kelly gave to Melanie (it looked like some form of paper currency) please let me known. That was the only thing about this that dragged it down for me.
CAGE BATTLE FOR THE RIGHTS TO THE "RISE" NAME IN WHICH TITLES CAN ALSO CHANGE HANDS:
Marius Al-Ani(wXw Shotgun Champion), Da Mack, & Tarkan Aslan(wXw World Tag Team Champions) vs. Lucky Kid, Ivan Kiev, & Pete Bouncer- 8.25/10
This was violent and brutal and everything it needed to be. In a rarity in competently-booked War Games matches, the babyfaces won the coin flip, but wXw has done such a great job of making me want to see the babyfaces get revenge on their enemies that I honestly didn't care that they had the numbers advantage while doing so.
There was a year of history to the core part of this feud, but some of the ideas (like Ivan Kiev & Pete Bouncer dreaming of being wXw World Tag Team Champions together, and the way Da Mack joined RISE) go back even further than that. They had a lot of history to play a round with and a lot of notes to hit, and they pretty much hit them all. Lucky got his revenge on Tarkan, hitting him the head with a chair like last year, but this time on purpose as enemies rather than accidentally when they were teammates (and after overcoming Tarkan preying on his emotions to make him hesitate the first time he tried it. Pete Bouncer also got to get some revenge on Tarkan by making him tap out. Kiev & Bouncer are finally wXw World Tag Team Champions together. They used many of the motifs established throughout the year (though the brass knuckles and title belt shots were sadly absent), had callbacks to last year's Kafigschlacht (Lucky hitting Tarkan in the head with a chair, Kiev's big dive off the top, etc.), and getting to hear the babyface trio announced not only as victors but as the one true RISE was an awesome moment. It would have been really cool to have John Klinger show up to try to help the heels as another of Tarkan's devious plans but to have the babyfaces ready to counter it by having the original RISE babyface break-away Chris Colen return to take him out (both showing that the babyfaces have finally outthought Tarkan and allowing Colen to get a measure of revenge on both Klinger and Da Mack), but I realize that whatever management's falling out with Klinger was makes this unrealistic.
The only belts to change hands were the ones involved in the fall, so Lucky's chase for Shotgun Title will continue, and commentator Alan Counihan implied that Lucky probably could have made Tarkan tap by slapping a submission hold on him but instead allowed Bouncer to do so (and then, after the match ended, immediately indicating to Bouncer that he was only interested in the Shotgun Title, freeing Bouncer from any feelings of obligation to pick Lucky as his championship partner), ensuring that Bouncer & Kiev's dream could finally come true.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. We got a good RISE celebration from the babyfaces. After they left, Al-Ani walked out on Da Mack and Tarkan. Da Mack then shoved Tarkan and walked out on him as well, disbanding this heel alliance that can no longer be known as RISE. This was important not just because it's kind of cheap to keep them together after they lose the big blow-off in a feud where the naming rights are on the line, but also because establishing that they're all going their separate ways gives us a reason for why Tarkan and Da Mack won't continue helping Al-Ani against Lucky Kid as Lucky continues to pursue the Shotgun Title, ensuring that the faction vs. faction feud did end here in the promised big blow-off match.
CAGE BATTLE FOR THE wXw UNDISPUTED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE WITH NICK HEIN AS SPECIAL GUEST REFEREE:
Absolute Andy(c) vs. Ilja Dragunov - 7.25/10
This started off with Ilja diving out the open door onto Andy. They proceed to brawl around on the outside for well over ten minutes before Nick Hein finally got fed up with it, grabbed a chair out of Andy's hands, tossed it through the open door and ordered Andy to get into the cage. I thought this was a good little spot where Hein was acting reasonably in his role as referee but that Andy can later use as a claim of bias against him.
Andy defiantly got in Hein's face over this, then went and grabbed a whole bunch of chairs, through them into the ring, and went in after them. Hein then helped Ilja into the cage, which was necessary because 1) Ilja was so beaten down that he did need help getting in, and 2) it establishes that Hein was not being biased against Andy by choosing a time when Andy was on offense to step in and order him into the cage because he is not giving Ilja any time to recover, either. Hein would also refuse to count a pinfall Andy attempted on Ilja before the cage door was closed and locked (because the match still technically had not started), which I also found pretty reasonable, but is something I'm sure Andy won't see that way.
The brawling and weapon use and emotion here was all great but OH MY G-D THE F*CKING OVERBOOKING! I've said before that I'm not a fan of A4 getting back together less than a year after their big blood-feud, but they're already both heels and they have done some stuff to build towards it a bit so I can't complain about Al-Ani's presence here too much. Similarly, most of the stuff with Hein were mistakes I can definitely see an inexperienced referee make (which opens up the question of why wXw assigned an inexperienced referee to a world title match, but I guess they were worried about Andy attacking the referee as he has done in the past and they figured he'd have a lot more trouble beating up a UFC fighter than pro wrestling referee)...
Or so it seemed. As I said, that all would have been frustrating, but at least there would be some sort of logic behind it. Then they killed all logic by doing a f*cking RUSSO SWERVE on the finish with Hein slamming the door on Ilja's head, then celebrating with Andy. If he was on Andy's side the whole time then why didn't he just attack Ilja right away? Or try to screw him via a pin count that was faster than usual but not quite fast enough that there is no plausible deniability that it wasn't done on purpose?
Making things even more baffling was the post-match segment where, after Andy left, Hein tried to put Ilja through a table but Ilja made a comeback and put Hein though the table instead. If this was Hein's last show then why would you do any sort of angle with him that you'll never be able to pay off? And if it wasn't his last show then why did you have Ilja get his revenge on him right away, killing his heat?
And just looking at this show... if you absolutely HAD to do a finish like this when why not have this be the semi-main event and let the other Kafigschlacht- you know, the one that has been a whole year in the making and which ended in a babyface victory to send the crowd home happy?- be the main event? That way, in addition to sending the crowd home happy you would also provide the company with enough kayfabe time to put together some sort of statement about this that lets us know before the end of tonight's show that something will be done to address this. That this injustice will not stand. That this isn't just YET ANOTHER F*CK FINISH IN A WORLD TITLE MATCH but rather something with SOME CLEAR, SOLID DIRECTION TO IT.
This was a very good show from wXw then just fell off a cliff with that main event finish. This new booking team seems just as capable of nuance as CMJ was, but they really, truly need to knock it off with these obnoxious f*ck finishes in title matches. I'm getting really f*cking tired of it.