wXw World Tag Team League Night 2
Watch: wXw Now
Turbinenhalle Oberhausen, Germany
After a successful Night 1 of their annual tag tournament, wXw returned to Oberhausen for another night of tag team action, as well as title defences for Jurn Simmons and new Shotgun champion, Pete Dunne.
A4 (Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani) vs. Cerberus (Julian Nero & Ilja Dragunov)***1/2
Having both lost on the opening night of the tournament, this match immediately becomes an elimination match with the losers having no hope of reaching the final. As a result we get off to a hot start with Cerberus hitting the ring and immediately attacking before the bell. Early on Adam Polac is sent to the backstage area after breaking up a pinfall, much to the delight of the wXw faithful. This is immediately followed by an INSANE tope by Marius Al-Ani over the ring post. It is no surprise that Al-Ani has been the name on everyone’s lips after this weekend. He looks like a superstar in the making, combining a fantastic look with realistic, hard-hitting offence. He really reminds me of Austin Aries in the way he moves around the ring and his intensity and athleticism are off the charts. Once he adds a little more personality and presence to his array of suplexes, strikes and insane no-f***’s-given dives, the sky will be the limit for him. In fact, this match turns into a great showcase for these four native talents to show that they are every bit as talented as any of the more high profile imported teams in this tournament. The match’s importance injects an added urgency into proceedings and the fast pace with which it began never relents for a second throughout. We settle into the tried and tested Southern Tag format with Cerberus employing all kinds of tricks to prevent Absolute Andy from getting the hot tag, before everything breaks down into a free for all with numerous near falls, pins being broken up at the last possible moment. It is Cerberus, the current tag champs, who eventually get the pinfall after a Torpedo Moscow from Dragunov on Absolute Andy.
Andy looked as good as he has ever done in this match and he is clearly a big favorite with the home crowd. Dragunov is a personal favorite of mine in wXw and he brought his usual blend of energy and craziness to the table here. Nero is someone I am a little less familiar with but he looks to have improved in leaps on bounds on the last time I saw him around 18 months ago. There is no doubting that Al-Ani was the star of the show and he is someone I will be keeping a close eye from now on. This was a fast paced, fun opener in which made all four guys look good and it felt like there was something important at stake. A great way to kick Night 2 off and set the tone for the evening.
Cerberus def. A4
wXw Shotgun Championship: Pete Dunne vs. Francis Kaspin***
Having won the Shotgun Championship only the night previously, this looked on paper to be very much a match to consolidate Dunne as the new dominant champion. It was my first chance to see Kaspin in action and he immediately strikes me as another one to watch for the future. Dunne is someone I have watched grow and develop first-hand in OTT over the past two years, into a performer that has a considerable claim to being the best in Europe right now. From the get go I, am highly impressed by Kaspin. There’s a snap and a confidence to his movements and everything he does that belie his tender years. They tell the story here of the cock sure champion Dunne, bullying and toying with the rookie initially, only to be surprised by his fire and fight and eventually needing to do far more than he had initially bargained for to put him away. Kaspin does a great job at timing his comebacks and picking his time to fire back. Meanwhile, Dunne is experienced enough to give him just enough offence to shine, but still getting himself over as clearly the dominant wrestler and champion. Dunne gets the win after a valiant effort from the youngster with his Drop Dead finisher.
Pete Dunne def. Francis Kaspin
Los Gueros del Cielo (Angelico & Jack Evans) vs. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)****
Angelico/Evans won their match last night, while Moustache Mountain lost, so another win for the Lucha Underground pairing will see the Brits eliminated. These teams work well together right from the off with the grounded style of the British team acting as a great base for the flips of LGdC. Evans of course tries to initiate a dance off, with the more reserved Englishmen having none of it. While Evans is in the middle of one of his usual break dancing routines, Trent hilariously levels him with a stiff kick. This match is fantastic fun throughout, with some memorable and innovative spots. Moustache Mountain hit a delayed suplex on Evans with the added twist of them passing him back and forth between them. They also demonstrate their high flying ability with a double tope suicide. Evans tries a Sasuke Special which has the crowd on their feet, only for Trent to catch him in mid-air on the outside and toss him to Tyler who hits a huge European Uppercut. The finish is brilliantly worked. Angelico hits a buckle bomb on Tyler and follows it up with a huge tope con giro over the ring post to Trent, taking both of them out of the equation. Evans goes for a 630 splash to Tyler who gets his knees up. Tyler then hits a scoop piledriver for the win.
These teams worked really well together and made the most of their clash in styles. Credit, in particular, must go to Evans who flew all over the place to make Moustache Mountain look good and allowed all his big crowd popping spots to be countered for the betterment of the match and tournament. Tyler Bate is a phenomenon. Not only is his mat wrestling as smooth as anyone on the planet, he showed here that he can fly and work a strong style as well as anyone. I cannot emphasize enough how good he is and how good he could become.
Moustache Mountain def. Los Gueros del Cielo
Death By Elbow (Chris Hero & JT Dunn) vs. The LDRS of the New School (Zack Sabre Jr. & Marty Scurll)****1/2
Both teams won on the first night of the tournament and a win would put either team in a strong position to advance to the finals on night 3. This match is a wonderful effort from all four men. They manage to intertwine several little running themes and storylines throughout, while at the same time a delivering a phenomenal, epic 30 minutes of pro wrestling that simply flies by. Throughout the match, we continue to see the development of the relationship between Marty and Zack . Here we see the contrast between their personalities and temperaments. Marty is constantly looking for short cuts, doing his usual eye poking routine and constantly jawing at the referee from the ring apron. When Zack tries to shake hands with Hero pre-match, Marty is appalled and stops him. When Marty flips a ringside fan the bird, Zack hurries over to apologise and shake his hand. At one point the ref even mistakenly blames Zack for some of Marty’s chicanery! In the wrong hands, Marty being the yin to Zack’s yang could come across as a team not being on the same page: here it comes across as two world class wrestlers realising that despite their differences, they could be unbeatable if they pool their differing skill sets and temperaments, with Marty being convinced he can bring Zack around to his way of thinking. It is a compelling little sub theme to all their matches this weekend and it adds greatly to the story being told here. At one point Zack sacrifices himself by pushing Marty out of the way of a double elbow attack and puts himself in harms way instead. We are left wondering if Marty would do similar if the roles were reversed? Another layer to this match is the structure employed, or more specifically the identity of the roles employed. A large portion of the match is dedicated to LDRS working over their opponents. But instead of the smaller Dunn being the obvious choice for the face in peril, it is actually Hero who they identify to work over at length. They constantly attack his strongest weapon, his elbows which is another simple but brilliant wrinkle to the story being told. Their plan of taking out their opponents’ “big dog” puts them across as a clever, calculating pairing who know exactly what they’re doing every time they set foot in the ring. The increasing desperation and exhaustion of both teams is also portrayed brilliantly as the time limit begins to run down. At one point all four men are laid out on the mat after a flurry of strikes. The drama reaches a beautiful crescendo with Dunn and Hero being trapped in an armbar and chicken wing respectively as the time limit expires: right until the bell rings we are convinced that one, or both of them will tap out.
This was one of the best European tag matches I have seen this year and a credit to all four involved. The draw leaves the group wide open going into night three and the “Match of the Year” chants that greeted it from the Oberhausen faithful were richly deserved.
The Match Goes to a Thirty Minute Time Limit Draw
Former wXw champion Karsten Beck is out next to address the fans. He is recovering from surgery to treat a brain tumour as evidenced by the large scar across the top of his head. While my German is non-existent, it is clear that the crowd are glad to see him as he receives a hero’s welcome. Next, authority figure Christian Mickael Jackobi hits the ring. Despite the language barrier, it is clear that he is slowly turning heel as he berates Beck (I later learn he called him the biggest disappointment in wXw history). To a chorus of boos he is joined in the ring by his new allies the Ringkampf faction and Beck is forced to beat a hasty retreat. Clearly this will mean more to those who follow the promotion religiously, but I am left wondering at the wisdom of booking a heel authority figure in 2016. Surely this is one of the most lazy and tired booking tropes in professional wrestling, not to mention the somewhat distasteful of using Beck’s illness as a means to generate heel heat?
Bad Bones John Klinger vs. Dirty Dragan*1/2
Some clips are aired prior to the match signifying that there has been a feud building up to this match. Dragan is a thoroughly dislikeable figure. He is Adam Polac’s drug dealer, and he wears a bum bag to the ring to further emphasize his “you should hate me” character. The match itself is pretty much a glorified squash. Dragan, with his paunch and limited ring skills, is clearly something of a comedic figure. He does get some quick offense in on Bones after hitting him with a chain before the bell. However his superiority is short lived and soon Klinger takes control, destroying his opponent with stiff elbows and a low-pe suicida. The finish comes swiftly when bones locks in a crossface right in front of Adam Polac and wrenches back viciously on it a number of times for the routine tap out win.
Bad Bones John Klinger def. Dirty Dragan
Ringkampf (Big Daddy Walter & Timothy Thatcher) vs. JML (Shane Strickland & David Starr)***1/2
JML have a mountain to climb here, (having lost last night, while Ringkampf recorded a win) needing to beat the much bigger team to stay alive in the tournament. The story told here is simple and effective: Ringkampf play the heel bullies to perfection, controlling long segments of the match to great effect. Thatcher in particular looks fantastic here. I am pretty much on a island in my continued admiration for Tim as a wrestler and make no apologies for it. While he has had a poor year by his standards and has not been aided by some bizarre booking in EVOLVE, the level of vitriol he receives online is baffling. Here he is right on point. The Ringkampf gimmick of being cold, ruthless, emotionless killing machines suits him down to the ground. In fact both he and Walter work with an aggression that I find particularly satisfying. So often we see “big men” in wrestling who work like they’re the same size and height as wrestlers half their size. Big men should work big and should not apologise for doing so. JML, to their credit are excellent here too. They time their hope spots well and when they do launch a comeback it is vicious and spectacular enough to be totally believable. There is one neck breaker that Starr hits in particular that will live long in the memory. Starr and Strickland pull off something of a surprise victory with the Product Placement – one of the most devastating and impactful double team finishers I have seen in quite some time – on Thatcher.
JML def. Ringkampf
wXw Unified World Championship: Jurn Simmons (c) vs. Mike Bailey****1/4
Bailey earned this title shot after a show stealing match with Bad Bones the previous night. From the outset I must be honest and admit I had zero expectation for this match going in. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a Simmons match I’ve enjoyed at all. Ever. He’s basically a Memphis style heel who values the sports entertainment side of the business over work rate. His matches generally consist of a tonne of stalling before some kind of shenanigans lead to him holding onto his title. As for Bailey, I have often been underwhelmed by his performances and am less high on him than many are. Here, however I was blown away by both. Bailey looks to be in great shape and has invested in some more professional looking ring gear. It seems as if his banning from the US had really focused his mind, as he really has to make the most of his opportunities in Europe and Japan now. Right form the start of the match it appears that Bailey is determined that there will be none of Jurn’s usual delaying tactics as he opens up with a vast array of strikes. As he promised during the week on twitter, Simmons actually broke out a moonsault here (a spot that legitimately had me nearly losing my mind) and generally showed more dynamism and energy than he has in his entire career to date. The match plays out as a classic David vs Goliath contest, in which Jurn eventually prevails, getting the win with a piledriver. This was a stunning performance from Simmons – he managed here what all the great champions have routinely done – pulled of a string defence of his title, but in a way that elevates both himself and his opponent. He was so good that he may even have inadvertently turned himself face – which, in a promotion lacking main event faces to feud with Ringkampf, may be no bad thing. Great stuff all round and a fitting end to a thoroughly entertaining show.
wXw WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE NIGHT 2
Show of the Year Contender - 9/10
This was a phenomenal night of wrestling that was an absolute pleasure to watch and review. A near-three hour show absolutely flew by. All four tag tournament matches were very good to excellent in their own way, and each was completely different from the next. Throw in an unexpectedly great title match and a solid Shotgun title match and this makes for one of the best top to bottom shows I've seen this year. wXw continue to set the standard for all other promotions in Europe with their presentation and match quality. The commentary team of Alan Counihan and Rico Bushido made for a very likelable and knowledgeable pairing and showed impressive chemistry in one of their first appearances a a team. The little promo inserts that were used on the VOD to cover up for the lack of entrance themes (due to copyright isues) was an innovative way around a minor problem. Overall this is a show everyone should go out of their way to see.