RISE CELEBRATE WITH THEIR TITLES AFTER BACK TO THE ROOTS - Good. They're happy and have the tag titles and have proven themselves to be the one true RISE. Lucky Kid says he still has one score left to settle, though, and tells the others it is something he has to do himself (presumably he is talking about winning the wXw Shotgun Title from Marius Al-Ani). They accept this, but remind him that they'll always be there if he changes his mind and wants their help.
THE HEELS FORMERLY KNOWN AS "RISE" BACKSTAGE AFTER BACK TO THE ROOTS - Good. Tarkan Aslan tries to rally the troops and says that just because they lost the "RISE" name doesn't mean they can't still be successful together, but neither Da Mack nor Marius Al-Ani are buying what Tarkan is selling, each wanting to head off on his own.
ABSOLUTE ANDY, MARIUS AL-ANI & NICK HEIN INTERVIEW FROM AFTER BACK TO THE ROOTS - Meh. They say that everything that has happened involving the three of them was all an evil plan they had from the beginning. They used the 18th Anniversary Show to ingratiate Hein to wXw officials, and so when Ilja talked wXw officials into forcing Andy to defend the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title against him in a cage match, Hein tricked wXw officials into letting him be the referee because they thought he was going to call it down the middle (all of the stuff with Al-Ani getting ejected from ringside was to further lull everyone into a false sense of security). Well... at least they acknowledged that their Russo Swerve needed some sort of explanation, even if it wasn't a very good one.
Al-Ani was suspiciously quiet during all of this, and when Andy finally finished his grandstanding and Hein left, Al-Ani said that, as Shotgun Champion, he gets a title shot during 16 Carat Gold weekend. Apparently that's a thing now. Al-Ani explained that he was helping them because he knows all of Andy's tricks and thus wanted to make sure that Andy was still champion so that he would be the one he got to challenge, as opposed to someone like Ilja or Lucky Kid or David Starr (who will get his title shot in the main event of this show).
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK A SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Mark Davis vs. Oliver Carter - 6.75/10
This was a very good "big vs. small" match, which is kind of amazing when you consider that the size difference between them didn't appear to be all that large. They made it work, though, by having Davis wrestle like a big power wrestler and having Carter use his high-flying skills in a way that showed that he understood that he needed to make up for the size difference by using the ropes to add momentum to his attacks (as opposed to a more standard "I'm too quick for you" big vs. small story, which wouldn't have worked as well here). Props to both wrestlers.
JAY FK BACKSTAGE - Good. They are confident that each will win his block tonight. They also complained about the way they were booked over the past year, claiming that management purposely put them in multi-team matches all the time in the hopes that they would lose, and eventually they did... but at Dead End XVIII they will get their rematch for the tag titles in a regular tag team match and they are certain they will win, citing their victory over Veit Muller & WALTER at Back to the Roots XVIII last weekend.
VEIT MULLER & WALTER BACKSTAGE - GREAT! WALTER blames Muller for their loss to Jay FK at Back to the Roots. The loss certainly was Muller's fault, but WALTER came off like a bit of a dick here, just heaping the blame on the guy because he got rolled up. It only needed to be said once, but WALTER just kept going back to it because he's a big international star and be wrestling so low down and the card at back to the Roots was bad enough, but LOSING (especially to guys like Jay FK) made it even worse.
WALTER says he doesn't think Veit is RingKampf material anymore. Veit notes that he has worked hard and earned both Timothy Thatcher and Axel Dieter Jr.'s approval, but can't seem to get WALTER's no matter what he does. He wonders if it is personal, and the suggestion that he is unable to separate business and personal likes angers WALTER. WALTER shoved Muller, and Muller shoved him right back. WALTER grabbed Muller by the collar and Muller just dared WALTER to punch him, but they decided to settle it with a match at Dead End XVIII in Muller's home city of Hamburg instead.
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK A SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Francis Kaspin vs. Ivan Kiev - 6/10
A good babyface vs. heel match that ended when Jay Skilled caused a distraction, allowing Kaspin to pull down a turnbuckle cover and ram Kiev's head into it, then replace the cover and get the pin.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Jay FK put a beat-down on Kiev and posed with his half of the wXw World Tag Team Titles. I'm not sure why Pete Bouncer didn't come out to make the save for his best friend and tag team partner (we know he was in the building because he came out with Kiev during Kiev's entrance). Maybe he got pumped backstage?
WOMEN BACKSTAGE AFTER BACK TO THE ROOTS - Good. Killer Kelly is consoling Melanie Gray after her loss in a Loser Leaves Town Match to Toni Storm. In wXw, that stipulation is specific to the city the match took place in (literally, it's "Loser Leaves Town"), but because the match was in wXw's home base of Oberhausen, this loss still prevents Melanie from wrestling 90% of wXw's big shows, so her career as any sort of mainstay in wXw is effectively over.
Melanie cuts the mea culpa babyface turn promo, acknowledging her villainous behavior and wishing she could take everything back. Toni Storm showed up and rubbed Melanie's loss in her face. Toni's comments, while understandable due to their heated rivalry, did come off as kind of jerkish, and after Melanie left the room to avoid Toni's taunt, Kelly told Toni as much with a single glance... though Toni was not willing to acknowledge that she had done anything over the line.
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK B SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Julian Pace vs. Shigehiro Irie - 6/10
This was more your traditional power vs. speed match. Irie got the win off of a VICIOUS lariat, but he showed Pace respect after the match. These are two guys to keep your eye on this year.
TONI STORM & KILLER KELLY BACKSTAGE AFTER BACK TO THE ROOTS - Good. Kelly tells Toni that she knows Melanie has put them both through hell and been quite the "bitch" (her word, not mine) over the past year or so... but wXw was Melanie's life, and so maybe Toni challenging her to a Loser Leaves Town Match "wasn't very nice." If Kelly's comments seem a little off-mark to you (and they did to me), then you'll probably be happy to know that Toni Storm agrees with you. Toni had some words for Kelly, with her ending question of "who do you think you are?" carrying the slight implication of "know your place, rookie" (which it should be noted, was a reflection of Melanie's attitude during her feud with Kelly last winter). Well Killer Kelly isn't going to take that sh*t from anyone, so she stood up, got in Toni's face for a moment, and then left.
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK B SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Jay Skillet vs. Kyle Fletcher - 5.75/10
Decent babyface vs. heel stuff. Kaspin came out to interfere but Fletcher was able to turn Skillet's small package over and still get the win.
DAVID STARR & ILJA DRAGUNOV BACKSTAGE - Decent. Ilja gave Starr a pep talk before his wXw Unified World Wrestling Title match tonight in which he contrasted Absolute Andy's cheating and whining ways to David Starr's babyface fire and thirst for competition and desire to do things the right way. This is one of those situations where I know I really should look at each promotion in a vacuum unless two promotions are working together heavily (like ROH and NJPW or NJPW and RevPro), but when Ilja said that on every show he reads about, there is David Starr's name, competing on the card, I couldn't help but think that Ilja must not be reading very carefully, because tomorrow night David Starr is off to Bristol for RevPro, where he has spent the past year as a whiny, cheating, top heel.
Starr responded positively to Ilja's pep talk, saying that he will win tonight because he has vowed to be the wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion when wXw comes to New York for WrestleMania weekend. More interestingly, though, he said he would be happy to take on all comers, and thus would have no problem accepting Marius Al-Ani's challenge for a title match at 16 Carat Gold. Andy had better hope the cameraperson doesn't mention this to Al-Ani before tonight's main event, or else Andy might be in for a nasty surprise.
BOBBY GUNNS vs. LUCKY KID vs. CHRIS BROOKES vs. ILJA DRAGUNOV vs. TIMOTHY THATCHER - 7/10
The reason we're getting a wacky five-way is that this was supposed to be a six-man tag but Kid Lykos got injured (yes, again), so we're now having a five-way instead, which is actually a more interesting match due to the dynamics of having a desperate Bobby Gunns in there trying to get wins on anyone he can, plus the dynamics between CTK partners Thatcher and Brookes, and the weird little friendship between Brookes and Lucky Kid.
This turned out to be a fun multi-man match with many of those dynamics on display. Any reckoning for Brookes' attempt to roll Thatcher up was put off by Ilja running in with a Torpedo Moscow, so it will be interesting to see how this affects the relationship between those two in the future. Gunns gets the big win over Thatcher, which, when combined with his win over Irie last week puts him firmly back on the right track.
AVALANCHE IS EXPRESSES HIS FRUSTRATIONS TO THE REFEREE OF HIS MATCH WITH JURN SIMMONS AT BACK TO THE ROOTS XVIII FOR COUNTING THEM OUT - good
This referee is my new hero. He calmly explains to Avalanche that he was doing his job and enforcing the rules, like he always does, and that being frustrated and angry is no reason to assault random people. Avalanche tells the referee that when he faces Jurn again at Road to 16 Carat Gold 2019: Biefeld the referee can count as long as he wants and it won't matter, because he's going to get that match changed to a Falls Count Anywhere Match!
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK A FINALS:
Mark Davis vs. Francis Kaspin - 6.5/10
Kaspin jumped the bell on Davis to start things off hot. This was a good eleven-minute brawl with a good storyline finish that played into the finishes of two earlier matches.
ROAD TO 16 CARAT GOLD BLOCK B FINALS:
Shigehiro Irie vs. Kyle Fletcher - 6.75/10
This was a good slugfest, although there was more of the "GRRR! TRADE PURO FOREARMS!" spot than there really needed to be.
LUCKY KID MEETS WITH FELIX FROM THE OFFICE - Terrible. Apparently the guy Lucky Kid feels he still needs revenge on is not Shotgun Champion Marius Al-Ani but rather the match who cost Lucky that title the last time wXw was in Hamburg: Da Mack. Thus, Lucky wants a match against Da Mack in Hamburg at Dead End XVIII. Felix points out that this is "impossible" due to Da Mack having lost a match with a Loser Leaves Town stipulation in Hamburg to Bobby Gunns several years ago. Lucky insists that he deserves a title shot because Da Mack screwed him out of one, and thus... he wants to face Da Mack in Hamburg? Huh? And then Felix, who just said that such a thing was "impossible" says "okay, fine. You can wrestle Da Mack in Hamburg."
Unless something got lost in the translation (though I don't think it did because we then got a graphic advertising Lucky Kid vs. Da Mack at Dead End XVIII in Hamburg) this was a TERRIBLE segment. They took a stipulation that they've held to for over a year and a half, and just undid it FOR NO REASON... and they did so while they're in the middle of an angle (the Toni Storm/Killer Kelly/Melanie Gray stuff) whose foundation is the effects of that very stipulation being enforced!
Not only that, but there is absolutely no reason being given for why this match HAS to take place in Hamburg! They've got a show in Biefeld the very next day, one in Weyhe a few weeks later, and then they've got all of 16 Carat weekend and a bunch of shows on the 16 Carat Gold Revenge tour in the month after that. Why can't Lucky get his revenge on Da Mack on any of those shows?!
wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Absolute Andy(c) vs. David Starr - 9/10
The fans don't like Andy very much at all. Once Andy stops stalling by playing to the crowd, they start to do spots to remind us all of David Starr's shoulder injury, which caused him to miss his scheduled title shot at the 18th Anniversary Show last month and which Timothy Thatcher mercilessly worked over just last weekend at Back to the Roots. I would have thought that this would be the big story of the match, but instead they had Andy work over Starr's back, although the shoulder did come up a few times as well. One particularly subtle one which I loved was Starr taking a long time thinking if he wanted to go to the top rope or not, as the first time he did so he managed to hit his diving elbow drop, but the impact hurt his shoulder enough to make him think long and hard before trying it a second time.
Andy used a fan as a human shield to prevent Starr from diving on him which got a great heel reaction from the crowd.
There was a big spot where Andy tried to get himself counted out but the referee refused and told Starr he could go get Andy and bring him back. This was a trap Andy laid and he superkicked Starr and tossed him down the stairs behind the curtain, then went back to the ring and demanded that the referee count Starr out, which the referee started to do, albeit at a rather slow pace. Starr, of course, just got back into the ring before the count of ten, after a dramatic struggle up the stairs, across the stage, down the stairs in the aisle and then back to the ring.
This sounds like the sort of thing I would rant on, but the difference between this and the crap we see in New Japan all the time is as follows:
This played into the story of the match, rather than feeling like an obligatory spot that happens in just about every match and always goes the same way. The wrestlers and referee told the story with their words and body language. The referee did not follow the wrestlers around on the outside and watch them do a bunch of illegal things while he did nothing but plead with them to listen to him, then go back to the ring and arbitrarily decide to start enforcing the rules because it was time to do the spot with the count-out tease. Andy had been going to the outside every time Starr got an advantage, and at this point he decided he had had enough and tried to leave. The referee, already fed up with Andy's crap, refused to allow him to back out of a title defense like this. When Starr went to get Andy, Andy sprung his trap (Andy was happy to get counted out, but was equally happy for his trap to work and to win by count-out), as opposed to New Japan where guys always brawl into the crowd just because and the heels don't care if they get DQed or not even though it's not a title match with them trying to protect their belts (which means that getting DQed would gain them nothing, and there is no reason for the referees not to DQ them, either). When the referee did finally start to count Starr out (after waiting as long as he could) he did so because he was dealing with a particularly litigious heel, after selling regret that he had to do this after stretching the rules as much as he reasonably could (via his body language and facial expressions), and even then he counted as slowly as reasonably possible (which wasn't even that far out sync with counts we'd had earlier in the night). This was a part of the story, while the New Japan crap is "we're going to do this spot we want to do whether it makes sense within the rules or not."
One other thing this spot did for this match was that Andy grabbing his belt to start celebrating with in the ring when he ordered the referee to count Starr out created a reason for the belt to be within reach for a big spot that would happen later when Starr, who had been working over Andy's head and neck, responded to Andy's attempt at cheating via using the ring bell as a weapon by hitting Andy in the head with the belt. Andy managed to kick out, but I imagine that Starr copying Andy's cheating ways rather than fighting cleanly like Ilja told Starr that true champions should do in his pep talk (and which Ilja had lauded Starr for doing) will lead to some issues between the two of them.
This was a match full of wonderful drama, great storytelling on various fronts (the body parts being worked over, Andy's attempts to get out of the match, all of Andy's attempts at cheating being foiled and almost coming back to bite him) and the crowd was so into the match that every time Andy managed to kick out of a big move, the building felt like it deflated a little with the disappointment and needed to build itself back up again. An outstanding world title match main event!
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Bobby Gunns game out and grabbed the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship belt and cockily posed with it while enjoying the crowd's adulation. He let Andy yank it away from him, but Andy wasn't satisfied with this so he pushed Gunns. Gunns shoved him back and put up his dukes, but Andy bailed.
MARIUS AL-ANI INTERVIEW - Good. He cuts a promo to build up what he assumes with be the big main event during 16 Carat Gold weekend (wXw usually has a big world title match be the main event of night 2) which will be him challenging Absolute Andy for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title. He is informed by the interviewer that at Dean End he has been booked to team with Andy against Bobby Gunns and a partner of Bobby's choosing, and that if Bobby's team wins, Bobby will get a title shot at 16 Carat Gold weekend. Al-Ani cut the interviewer off before he could clarify if this meant that Al-Ani getting the title shot was assured and this match would be to determine if Gunns is added to it or if Al-Ani's team needed to win order for him to get the title shot. Al-Ani was a great arrogant heel here.
BOBBY GUNNS INTERRUPTS ABSOLUTE ANDY ON THE PHONE BACKSTAGE - Decent. Andy was complaining to the mystery caller that Al-Ani was being disrespectful by wanting a shot at his title and even crediting his own turn on Al-Ani for giving Al-Ani the tools he needed to have singles success, so things are not suddenly all flowery again in A4-ville.
Even as a babyface, Bobby Gunns is still a dick, interrupting Andy's conversation and bragging about his recent wins. He cuts a promo on Andy and clarifies for us at home that the stipulations of the tag team match are that whoever's team wins (him or Al-Ani), that person gets the title shot. Gunns also revealed that his partner would be Ilja Dragunov.
This was a pretty great show from wXw. A lot of that is owed to the fantastic main event, but everything else was at least solid and the backstage segments built up everything that needed to be built up for Dead End XVIII. The Lucky Kid vs. Da Mack set-up stands out as the lone exception, and it has cemented for me the idea that this new booking regime will be overall rather solid, but is also definitely going to make some big mistakes at times, too. The sooner CMJ gets back the better, but I'm not worried about a major dip in quality until then, either.