wXw World Tag Team League 2016 Night 1
Watch: wXw Now
Turbinenhalle Oberhausen, Germany
wXw return to their spiritual home in Oberhausen for their now-annual tag team tournament. They are trying a different tournament structure than previous years here, with eight teams booked in two round robin blocks of four. The two group winners then face off on Night 3 to determine the new tag team champions (a format that is a little unfair on current holders Cerberus). The emphasis this year has been on assembling eight teams of the highest quality rather than a more diluted sixteen. The round robin format is a good idea as it allows us to become more familiar with the teams involved as the weekend progresses and gives greater scope for the wrestlers to tell ongoing stories over the course of the three days. Timothy Thatcher is a late replacement for the injured Axel Deiter Jr. in Ringkampf.
The teams are grouped as below:
Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate/Trent Seven)
Los Gueros del Cielo (Jack Evans/Angelico)
JML – (David Starr/Shane Strickland)
Team Ringkampf ( WALTER Timothy Thatcher)
Death By Elbow (Chris Hero/JT Dunn)
LDRS (Zack Sabre Jr./Marty Scurll)
Cerberus (c) (Julian Nero/Ilja Dragunov
A4 (Absolute Andy/Marius Al-Ani)
Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs. Ringkampf (Big Daddy Walter & Timothy Thatcher)***1/4
Our opener sees Ringkampf facing off against the smaller British duo and it is this size difference that makes up the story of the match. Thatcher and wXw have always been a perfect fit and in Ringkampf he seems to have found the perfect home for his unique wrestling style. This match does a great job of getting Ringkampf over as the monster killer heels in the tournament. They dominate much of the offense throughout and do so with an intensity and focus that I find particularly pleasing. Bate, for his part, does a great job of working from beneath and he times his explosive comebacks like a veteran. The fact that this guy is only nineteen simply terrifies me. He wrestles like he’s been doing this for fifteen years and over the course of the weekend showed that he can adapt to all manner of different wrestling styles. Similarly, Walter impresses me no end here. He is one of the more underrated big man talents in world wrestling and has been superb from a very young age. Ringkampf cements their status as the team to beat in Group A when Walter takes a dominant win by choke out. This was an enjoyable opener that got the heels over as a force to be reckoned with and introduced Moustache Mountain as babyfaces who got over immediately with the German crowd.
Ringkampf def. Moustache Mountain
A4 (Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani) vs. The LDRS of the New School (Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll) ***1/2
It’s hard to think of a better or more interesting tag team pairing anywhere in Europe than the LDRS. Both are top 5 on the continent as singles guys, they are great friends in real life and they have a unique chemistry that makes for fantastic entertainment everytime they wrestle. The heelish antics of Scurll complement the more straight-laced, even-tempered gentlemanliness of Sabre beautifully. Here, Marty wastes no time in going into full-on asshole mode, raking the eyes of Al-Ani. Indeed a large portion of the match is somewhat light-hearted. Zack clearly disapproves of Marty’s antics, but at the same time is happy to let him be himself. This was my first ever time seeing Al-Ani and I have been blown away. He is technically accomplished, looks like a million dollars, has great stiff strikes, can fly with the best of them and throws a mean suplex. Absolute Andy is a solid big man and they mesh really well as a team. The story here is that the LDRS underestimate their opponents initially, only to realize around halfway through the match that they need to show them more respect. After some fun control segments from the LDRS, the match really hits top gear when the structure is abandoned in favor of a chaotic closing stretch. The Englishmen take the win when Marty taps out Al-Ani to the infamous chicken wing, while Zack simultaneously stretches out Andy. This was a really fun match which will be particularly memorable for the impact of Al-Ani in his breakout match.
LDRS def. A4
Leah Vaughan vs. Alexis Rose1/2*
Alexis Rose is a highly inexperienced wrestler, with little over 12 months experience behind her and I question the wisdom of putting her on such a high profile card. Matters are helped little by the fact that although Vaughan is more experienced, she really isn’t quite good enough yet to carry Alexis to something passable. The most memorable thing about this match is Vaughan repeating “Leah Vaughan bitch” over and over as anyone has any desire to remember her name after this. This is a sloppy effort with some really bad striking thrown in. Vaughan wins with a weak looking spear. Completely skippable.
Leah Vaughan def. Alexis Rose
wXw Shotgun Championship: Da Mack (c) vs. Pete Dunne***1/2
Fresh off his exploits in the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, Da Mack is in the midst of a strong reign as Shotgun champion. He is a wrestler that seems invigorated by his trip to the Performance Centre and there is a confident air about him these days that is really impressive. Dunne has appeared for wXw in the past, but it was so long ago and he has evolved so much since than, that this feels like he is debuting again. At only twenty-three is he still a young man but he feels like a wrestler right on top of his game at the moment. She has reached a level that the very least you’re going to get from him every time he wrestles is a good *** match. Everything he does here is controlled, impactful and aggressive. Like all seasoned pros, he takes his time and works the match at a pace that makes everything he does seem important and memorable. He goes through his usual array of heelish spots, including his finger biting (which he seems to enjoy far more than he should) which is always effective in the live setting. Da Mack for his part is by no means outshone. He is clearly very much beloved by the hometown crowd and he cuts a sympathetic figure as he is bullied by Dunne in the early stages. The finish and result are something of a surprise as Pete gets the win with his Drop Dead finisher which rarely, if ever, is kicked out of. I did feel like the ending was little sudden, but it did add to the feeling of shock in the arena as few people expected him to win the belt here with little build. It feels to me like this was the company’s way of moving Da Mack up the card to feud with Ringkampf rather than the demotion for him and Dunne is an opponent of a high enough caliber to make it feel realistic. A good match that could have been a really great one if it had another five to ten minutes.
Pete Dunne def. Da Mack by Pinfall to win the wXw Shotgun Championship
Cerberus (Ilya Dragunov & Julian Nero) vs. Death By Elbow (Chris Hero & JT Dunn)***1/2
Cerberus are the tag champions and are rightly aggrieved that they will likely have to win four matches in three days just to keep their belts. I like when wrestlers have a grievance that genuinely seems realistic and it gives scope for them to demand a title shot down the line if they are unsuccessful this weekend. Good simple, effective booking. Dragunov is a maniac. I have heard stories of him headbutting walls to psyche himself up backstage and nothing we see in-ring leads me to doubt this for a second. This was my first sustained exposure to JT Dunn and I have to admit I was very impressed. I had heard that he is somewhat of a weak link in this team with Hero but I have to say I disagree based on his showing this weekend. These teams meshed well and the match flew by. The story here was Cerberus trying to isolate Hero but finding this difficult due to his sheer brawn and his amazing striking ability. There were some great cameos between Dragunov and Hero which make me want to see them wrestle a singles match and go insane on each other some day. The finish comes when Nero gets destroyed by a barrage of elbows from Hero and Dunn.
Death by Elbow def. Cerberus
Number One Contendership Match for the wXw Unified Title: Bad Bones vs. Mike Bailey***3/4
As everyone knows by now, Bailey is banned from the U.S. so he has been working hard on his excursions to Europe and Japan in order to gain regular bookings. He looks to have lost some weight and he is sporting new ring gear, which helps me to take him more seriously than I may have in the past. Bones is one of the most underrated wrestlers in Europe. He has a fantastic look and I always enjoy his matches, (particularly a brilliant one he had with Dragunov at 16-Carat 2015 that everyone should go out of their way to watch). It feels like they put Bailey in here with Bones because they trusted he could make him look good while at the same time being a big enough name that the win meant something. It really is a showcase for Bailey as he treats us to the full repertoire of his strikes and kicks. This might be the best I have ever seen Bailey look. Everything he hit was crisp, clean and highly realistic and he sold in a really sympathetic way when working from underneath. Bones is really good here in escalating matters towards the end of the match, showing some great Japanese style fighting spirit. It really feels like there is something important at stake here and the lengths to which both are prepared to go to secure a title shot only help to elevate the title further. Bothe guys went all out she and the result was a sneakily good little match. Bailey gets something of a flash win and will face Simmons on Night 2 for the belt.
Post-match, Bailey offers Bones a rematch anywhere in the world “except for the U.S.” which gives me a good laugh. Simmons comes out and cuts a great promo on Bailey calling him a “vanilla midget” and says their match the following night will be nothing more than a squash. Say what you like about Jurn’s in ring abilities: on the mic, he’s really entertaining and he carries himself as a despicable heel champion really well. Credit must go to all three guys involved here: they’ve made me really want to see a match between Jurn and Bailey when I’d have had little interest before today.
“Speedball” Mike Bailey def .”Bad Bones” John Klinger by Pinfall
Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico & Jack Evans) vs. JML (Shane Strickland & David Starr)****
This match is a little difficult to review as it was ten minutes of pure chaos and insanity. Forget all the normal rules that apply to tag matches, of heels working over faces, or southern tag formulas, of fiery babyface comebacks. This was basically a tornado style tag where all four men went crazy with a dazzling array of high spots. There will be some who actively dislike this, but I loved it. Jack Evans is someone I generally don’t enjoy in straight singles matches, but he is one of the best and most spectacular tag workers in the world. His appearance here felt really special and the live crowd was clearly hyped to see him work in person. He is a physical freak and his ability to contort himself into all kinds of ridiculous positions and his complete disregard for his own safety were perfect for this match. Perhaps the highlight of the match was an Ode to the Bulldogs (a move Evans and Roderick strong used to great effect in the ROH glory days) but with Evans hitting the moon sault from inside the ring to the floor. Incredible. Evans and Angelico get the win after a 630 splash from Jack. This was one of those matches where you simply turn off the critical part of your brain and allow your jaw to drop further and further as the highspots unfold.
Los Gueros del Cielo def. JML
wXw WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE NIGHT 1
Good - 7/10
Overall this was a solid show that set a good baseline in quality for the two nights to follow. We were introduced to all eight teams in the tournament in a way that made everyone look credible going forward. Throw in two really good singles matches and you have a show that is a very easy watch, with six matches out of seven between three and four stars. If you are a fan of mindless spotfests like me then you will want to go out of your way to watch the main event in particular. Thumbs up.