“Yet another match that when you look deep into the psychology and how everything was put together; you like it even more. The gauntlet started with Francis and Colen vs. London and Mack. The combos were excellent and paid off right away seeing all the action. Mack was ready to dive but Colen POUNCED him. Colen is one of the most underrated “unknown” wrestlers in the world. London got dazed on the apron being hit off but was back in for the finish as Colen was pushed off the top rope, crashing into the other ropes, as a Mack Magic outta nowhere and a London shooting star press were hit on Kaspin for the victory. My favorite match in terms of entertainment in the gauntlet. Avalanche and Julian Nero were in next to take on the entertainment powerhouses. It wasn’t much to write home for but was still enjoyable. Avalanche kept destroying whomever entered his path. We once again got the Mack Magic/SSP combo but this time Avalanche kicked out. Nero hit a double dropkick and Avalanche hit the blue thunder bomb on London for the victory. Your champs A4 were finally out as the main takeaway as that Ani was out quickly as not only was he shook up but he hurt his ear again which was taped up. Medics took him to the back as Andy had to fight on his own to stay in the gauntlet and to keep the title.s He did just that, as Avalanche hit a splash but he kicked out, then avoided Avalanche and hit a superkick on Nero for the win. Out came Ringkampf, and I just have to share this tremendous shot. I thought to myself, “OH GOD!” Andy was the fallen hero ready to be put to rest by the menacing, pissed off, unsuccessful during the weekend, Ringkampf. Simply great storytelling played out in the finishing stretch of the gauntlet. Andy had to stay in multiple times, and when he got in offense after being worked over for so long, Thatcher sold the suplex as if he broke his back. Ani was back at the last second all bandaged up, but his involvement was mostly one to shift momentum, as Andy still was in the ring the entire time. Thatcher’s roll-up was reversed as Andy sneaks out the win HBK underdog style to keep their tag titles. AMAZING finish which was made even better when Thatcher whined on the outside, complaining about the finish, as Ringkampf remain losers for the weekend. Even if I did fall off the in ring for a bit, I remained invested in the storytelling at hand, and so much added to it. I loved this.”
In further hindsight: This did not make the list due to its in ring work, although that’s not discrediting the work. This is one of the most memorable matches of the weekend to me. If I still remember a lot of a match I loved, it makes it special. The classic story of Al-Ani being out only for Andy to survive, then to be faced with Ringkampf last, was out of this world amazing. I loved everything about it.
9) Alpha Kevin vs. Marius van Beethoven – 16 Carat Day Three on March 12
“The ring looks so much scarier to bump on, and in general stature, when there’s no supporting ropes. It’s bare and naked, as we got down to the nitty gritty in this grudge match. Marius ran away to start but Melanie Gray brought him back. Gray ate a punch to the face though. Highlights included a chair to the head, kendo stick shots to Kevin’s HEAD, Marius raking the eyes of Kevin only to be slammed on the bare apron multiple times, and an insane suplex on the floor. This went from spot to spot quick at only 14 minutes, but the scariest was to come. A table was set up on the outside as the two brilliantly teased who’d to be going through it. Marius locked in a leg lock surprisingly as there were no rope breaks. Gray came out with a weapon as Kevin hit Marius with it in the same way Marius betrayed him last year. Beautiful storytelling and continuity. Marius tried to attack Kevin but Kevin absorbed everything and hit a piledriver. In the cover he picked Marius back up, brought him to the apron, package piledrivered him through a table, then covered him to win the feud. This was a great gimmick match to put an end to their feud. Melanie was involved and used at the right moments. No Alpha Female was satisfying. Everyone can gloat happily headed into the last match before the finals.”
In further hindsight: Not much more to say in correlation with the review. This was the best grudge match the two could have. I loved it all; especially how it built to the package piledriver spot.
8) Matt Riddle vs. Bobby Gunns – Ambition 8 on March 11
“I would have never guessed this would be an Ambition 8 semi-final, but here we are. I also had a gut feeling that this would be the shortest match of the tournament, and I was right. It was exactly what I wanted. About a minute in Riddle tapped Gunns in the bromission. There was zero chance that Gunns was going to hold his own, and it was also a perfect cowardly loss after beating Starr in controversial fashion. Highlights in the short time included Gunns slapping Riddle right away, a gut wrench into rear naked choke into arm bar combo from Riddle, and that’s all the time allowed for! Great stuff.”
In further hindsight: This is one of my favorite ONE MINUTE MATCHES ever. The story told in correlation to the tournament was amazing, and is exactly what I wanted coming in.
7) Matt Riddle vs. WALTER – 16 Carat Day Three on March 12
“Oh man. I didn’t even realize that this was a match possible until it happened. Although it was short, it made so much of the time. WALTER was in control early on as Riddle meshed perfectly with the big man offense. He sold a big boot like a GOD and made sure to have me convinced he was passing out in the sleeper or tapping to the ankle lock. The limbwork was wonderful as well as WALTER wouldn’t stop destroying Riddle’s foot. He even took him to the ring steps and smashed his foot into it with a stomp. A fired up Bro absorbed a German suplex and also hit a knee and fisherman’s suplex for a near fall. Riddle pulled out a huge swanton to keep WALTER grounded. The Bromission was countered with an ankle lock on the bad leg of Riddle’s at that. The last few minutes were even more insane with Riddle staying in it, but missing his high kick, being put into the sleeper. He ended up on top of WALTER with huge hammerfist strikes and I thought it was over. The match climaxed with WALTER not being able to tap out Riddle, avoiding the TKO, then hitting two massive powerbombs for his golden ticket to the 16 Carat finals. The more I think about it, the more I love this match. Tremendous work of art shoved into a 10-11 minute time-frame.”
In further hindsight: Like I said in the OG review, the more I think about the match, the more I love it. It was all you wanted the combo of the two to be, with intense limbwork, great near falls, and a different heartbreaking loss WALTER gave out in the form of a pinfall.
6) JT Dunn vs. Marius Al-Ani – 16 Carat Day One on March 10
In further hindsight: This is one of my favorite short matches all year. It helped kickoff the tournament in marvelous fashion and gave tons of great moments to recall on. One of the best JT Dunn matches ever.
5) David Starr vs. ACH vs. Absolute Andy vs. Paul London – 16 Carat Gold Day Two on March 11
4) ACH & Mike Bailey vs. Donovan Dijak & JT Dunn – 16 Carat Gold Day Three on March 12
“This was perfectly slotted into the card as it was a match you could take at face value; it being one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament with fantastic wrestling and an unexpected manager at hand. Cody was out with the Northeastern pair, prancing about like a territory manager would, with a suit and sunglasses on. It was genuinely hilarious and added a lot to the match. The fans threw money into the ring right away again for ACH, as Cody stole some thinking it was real money. It was just the Marius money from his entrance last match. Highlights included stereo PKs, kicks from Bailey and a slap from ACH, Cody distracting the ref for a rolling elbow to be hit, and the Dijak and Speedball interactions being a ball. Dijak all huddled up, flopping like a mad man when hit with Speedball kicks is exactly what I love from pro wrestling’s absurd nature. The trend of middle fingers while being downed continued with Dijak, but Speedball kicked the turnbuckle and was hit with a flapjack cutter combo, but ACH broke it up. The finishing sequence was amazing with ACH taking a tombstone on the ramp and the FEAST YOUR EYES ON ROLLING ELBOW being hit……….for a goddamn kickout. One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was Bailey staying in it. Speedball hit a moonsault to the outside as ACH came flying in from the ramp to hit a cutter and Buster Call for the win. One of my favorite matches of the year and an incredible way to bridge into the finals. What a match!”
In further hindsight: Just a ball, and something that managed to get the crowd amplified in hype prior to the final. Whether it was Cody being a goof turned up to 110%, Dijak and Speedball killing each other, or ACH stealing the show as always, this entire tag exemplified what this weekend was all about: Kickass pro wrestling and having fun. The finishing sequence will be memorable for a long time, and is one of my favorite ones in a few years.
3) Bad Bones vs. Cody Rhodes – 16 Carat Gold Day Two on March 11
“This was the smartest worked match out of every match to happen so far (before Day Three at least). It was a weird ass match on paper, and hell, it was fantastic, and VERY weird. Cody crowd surfed during his entrance, as the atmosphere was special, but I had no idea how special this match would become. Cody was speared mere seconds into the match for a near fall. The lines were drawn as Bad Bones was the asshole trying to end Cody as fast as possible, and the import WWE release that’s still out to prove himself is over as hell with the fans, now an underdog in the Carat tournament/this match. The rebel lock and figure four were both applied, but then it just got hotter. Bones leading Cody through in control was a perfect dynamic, as Bones would continue to get more and more heat for the things he’d do. A codebreaker counter to the disaster kick happened for a near fall. That wasn’t even the best spot in the match. Commentary lost it for Dusty offense and the bionic elbow. A ref bump occurred and the ref wasn’t there to count 3 on the Cross Rhodes. Cody drank water on the outside, as I didn’t realize what was going to happen next. Bones grabbed Cody but Cody misted him, hit Cross Rhodes, and Bones kicked out. Cody also kicked out of the wrecking ball knees. WHAT THE HELL?! “John Klinger sucks” chants to the tune of Cena’s theme happened as the finishing stretch came about. A huge knee counter to the wrecking ball knees second attempt was landed yet Bones avoided a moonsault, then hitting wrecking ball knees for the win and to advance to the semis. Here’s how else I’ll sell the match to you: It was the best Cody match since leaving WWE. Enough said.”
In further hindsight: I love this match. It was worked so brilliantly allowing for Bad Bones to embrace his inner villain while painting Cody as a larger than life underdog. The near falls had me nearly dead as I did not expect either finisher to be kicked out of, nor what was to happen at the end of the match. Unpredictability, unique situations, and awesome in ring work led this to be Cody’s best match since leaving WWE as well as being one of Bad Bones’ best performances in a long time.
2) WALTER vs. David Starr – 16 Carat Gold Day One on March 10
“Quentin nailed it on the head when he said this would be a special match, especially if it was the main event of Night 1. It was indeed. From the jump you could tell how special this would be, as two of the best in the world, and arguably wXw, went at it in the main event. Starr was rammed into the ringpost and smashed into the ring apron right away, screaming in pain as the ring-out count started. Starr chants picked up right away as well. As I said in my notes, “just fucking great wrestling!” The sleeper was avoided by Starr multiple times, as it was almost cat/mouse like for portions of the match. Starr sold everything so well, paying attention to detail, which helps him get over as a larger than life babyface. For example, Starr got side-slammed and SHOT UP in pain only to fall back down. Starr continued to be a wrestling Jesus, giving the middle fingers to WALTER on his knees, refusing to die. Highlights included a brutal shotgun dropkick that sent Starr flying into the corner at 200 miles per hour, a powerbomb reversed into a DDT, a brainbuster kickout, dives, and most importantly, Rico Bushido losing his mind on English commentary so loud and hard that it picked up on the German feed. WALTER got the ankle lock on and clamped down like no tomorrow as the crowd chanted “you suck”. Starr continued to fight, hitting a top rope belly-to-belly suplex as well as a sunset bomb, and three elbows, but WALTER absorbed that all hitting a lariat before Starr could hit product placement. It was a next level match kicking into the home stretch. Starr was as fired up as ever, shaking the ropes, exemplifying the emotion of pro wrestling, trying everything to put WALTER away, making him cradle up while selling. A rolling elbow was caught into a sleeper, which was transitioned into a sleeper suplex. Another lariat and another sleeper caused Starr to collapse. The ref checked for motion in the arm, which led to a 3 count, as Starr only was able to get his arm half limp. Not good enough as WALTER advances to the next round as the crowd is shocked.”
In further hindsight: You’d be lucky if this was to be your best match of the year in a given promotion. It was beaten out two days later, yet still remains as one of the best matches of the year; showing just how good Starr is in his element in wXw, and how WALTER is a wrestling machine. The emotional drain was a huge factor in both’s timelines throughout the weekend, with one of the most heartbreaking finishes in the last few years occurring too. You couldn’t have asked for a better match to launch into the next rounds.
1) WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov – 16 Carat Gold Day Three on March 12
“It’s only fitting that the main event and final of the tournament delivers to the same degree that these set of shows (among some of the best wrestling shows I’ve seen in tournament format) have. It’s also important to note how we got here. Ilja worked from under in every match he was in, and no matter the situation, would win with Torpedo Moskau. WALTER dominated the competition when it came down to the end-game. No one escaped the sleeper when it was clenched in at its peak, or when he powerbombed you two times. These forces somehow ended up on opposing sides of the brackets, meeting in the finals of the tournament, with the stakes at the highest they could be. The intensity scale was broken as the initial feeling out process was already at 100 miles per hour. Highlights included WALTER hitting a dropkick, punching Ilja in a headlock only to apply that very sleeper. Suplexes were hit too. It was all WALTER from the get go with kickouts. WALTER was chopped off the top rope and hit with a huge senton fit for the finals! Although we’d soon find out that a suicide dive and Torpedo Moskau early on wouldn’t nearly take enough. Ilja’s chest was already damaged but WALTER made it fifteen times worse. Ilja just wouldn’t die though. My brain scrambled trying to compute the match as it kicked into its highest gear, with so so so many counters. A top rope underhook suplex kickout happened, then Ilja took gunshot chops…again, then a POWERBOMB OFF THE TOP ROPE, then multiple sleepers were applied and Ilja literally had to fight for his life. This is where the most important spots come of the entire tournament. Ilja survived what no one else could. WALTER survived what no one else could. Ilja survived the sleeper David Starr didn’t. The Torpedo Moskau was kicked out of. It became the ultimate battle because nothing else could work. CHOP FRENZY and finishers were teased again only for WALTER to hit the Rikishi driver for a KICKOUT! WALTER slapped the hell out of Ilja but Ilja came back out of nowhere with the third Torpedo Moskau of the match. YOUR WINNER OF 16 CARAT GOLD 2017…..ILJA DRAGUNOV!!!! What a fucking match. This is everything great about wrestling. So many layers of violence and psychology that rippled throughout the entire tournament. There was the arch of both men throughout the tournament that combined to tell the A+ story of the finals. Pro wrestling at its best.”
In further hindsight: We are too blessed that this main event delivered beyond what anybody thought it could do. It was a five star foil to the entire weekend, with both somehow surviving the Torpedo Moskau and the ways others were beat because they wanted that trophy that bad. To sum the weekend, matches on this list, and this match up all together?
Pro wrestling magic, friends!