wXw 16 Carat Gold 2016 – Night 1
March 11, 2016
Turbinenhalle
Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Watch: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/wxwmtw2016/159605235

David Starr def. Aaron Insane, Tyler Bate and Mike Schwartz

A short dark match to get the crowd hyped up with some fast-paced spots, the winner of which will enter the tournament in place of an injured wrestler if someone was to go down. Starr was the star of this match, oozing charisma and jumping all over, and out of, the ring on multiple occasions. Starr is from CZW but has been working in wXw for the past couple of months, and clearly has built up a fan following in Germany, and could be their next big regular import in the future. Tyler Bate also had a good showing here, and is in the same boat as Starr; young, lots of potential, and good fan support. Aaron and Schwartz were filling up the numbers here, this match was about showing off the skills of the youngsters and it certainly succeeded in doing that.

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Big Daddy Walter

A fantastic match-up to kick off the tournament, with former Tag Team Champions Zack Daddy exploding. The pair know each other very well, and their rapport was on display here as they crafted a very logical and intriguing match around some basic holds, with Walter using his size advantage to ‘lean on’ Zack and stay in control. Zack was cut off every time he attempted to slip out or reverse leverage on Walter, and it was obvious that he needed to change up his strategy and stray away from his usual imperious technical skill due to his size disadvantage. The entire match felt like a struggle for superiority because of this very simple but effective dynamic, and both wrestlers sold the effects of their size difference very well, making the match that much more believable. Zack couldn’t out-wrestle Walter, so he moved towards a more high-flying style, throwing out dropkicks and tilt-a-whirl moves to throw Walter off balance. Zack now used the size difference to his advantage, as Walter couldn’t keep up with the lucha-style moves, allowing him to battle back and eventually hook Walter into a bridging cradle pin for the win; even though he was outwrestled, Zack couldn’t resist bringing out that extra signature flair on his winning pin. Walter was pissed off straight after the match, as he should be after dominating but not winning, and didn’t allow Zack a moment of celebration before levelling him with a lariat. An excellent, well thought out match to start the tournament off, setting a very high bar for the subsequent matches to reach for. ****

Timothy Thatcher def. Sasa Keel

Timothy Thatcher does nothing for me, and this match was a total Thatcher-style match, with lots of MMA-style ground grappling, complete with Thatcher stumbling around the ring as if he’d just gone 5 rounds with Nate Diaz… even though the match was barely 2 minutes in. Keel was along for the ride here, and was barely able to show off any of his own skills. Unlike Zack and Walter in the previous match showing their audience why they were doing the holds and moves they were doing, i.e. the size difference and Zack needing to overcome it, Thatcher just seemed to do moves because he wanted to do them, seemingly never actually trying to win the match, or build to winning it, with particular holds or a specific strategy. This was evident when, despite the entire match being fought as a grappling contest, the finish was a flash headbutt knockout strike from Thatcher, making the previous 6 minutes of grappling on the ground and wearing down Keel obsolete. And just ignore that the headbutt very obviously hit Keel in the shoulder, and that Keel had to do an embarrassingly good sell-job to bail Thatcher out of the terrible-looking move. If you’re a grappler who just has to have a flash striking move as his finisher, you at least need to make that strike look good, not like you’re just leaning on the other person. If you like Thatcher, you’ll like this match, but he has too many flaws that I can’t look past, and Keel could have been anybody else and the match would have been exactly the same. ½

Toni Storm def. Leva Bates

Storm is developing into a really strong performer in 2016. She’s clearly gained a lot of confidence by living in the wXw training school and touring with the company for most of the year so far, and she really outshines Bates here. Good for Bates that she has managed to use the funny-while-it-lasted Blue Pants act as a springboard to becoming an import and getting some good money, but she’s not great in the ring. She attempted a lot of ambitious moves in this match, most of which didn’t come off looking that good, and she received plenty of boos from the crowd for her trouble. Storm keep things more simple, selling for Bates very well and using her impressive strength to score some great-looking slams and pick up the victory. Post-match, wXw’s resident female heel, Melanie Gray, attacked Storm, setting up a match for later in the weekend.

Ilja Dragunov def. Mike Bailey

No messing around from either man here; this was 8 minutes of straight up war between two renowned strikers. There’s no real psychology or story at work here, but the match doesn’t suffer because of it since the action is so good; this match would fit tidily into New Japan’s NEVER division. Bailey is the smaller man but his kicks are vicious, while Dragunov is just completely insane, throwing dangerous spinning lariats from seemingly nowhere, and willing to take a beating from Bailey. At one point, the two just trade running boots into the corner for almost a whole minute, working the crowd into a frenzy. It’s Dragunov’s resilience which allowed him to outlast Bailey, defend his kicks, and eventually find the space to hit his Torpedo Moscow finisher to pick up the win in one hell of a sprint that picked up the show after the last couple of slower matches. ***½

Will Ospreay def. Shane Strickland

Will Ospreay in 2016 may well be the best wrestler in the world. He is incredible. There’s really nothing more I can add to that assessment of his skills, which were on full display here. Shane Strickland more than matched Ospreay here though, and when you have a match-up of two world-class athletes who move around the ring so exceptionally well, a tremendous contest ensues. The opening minutes were jovial, including a dance-off between the pair to Rich Swann’s ‘All Night Long’ theme, hilariously overdubbed with a generic hip hop riff on the VOD. But as the two continued to attempt to one-up each other with their ridiculously cool moves, their friendly competition turned into a heated rivalry, and the intensity of their strikes went up and up. There were plenty of ‘flippy flipz’, but they flowed together so well and built up over the course of the match that it never felt gratuitous, just two of the very best flyers trying to prove to the other that they were better. Needless to say, some insane things occur in this match; a reverse rana attempt from the top rope and a shooting star press to the outside are among the highlights. It’s both men’s excellent selling that really gives their offences bite though, and make it so much more than just a pure show of athleticism, but rather a dangerous war between two flying maniacs. The match went back and forth with multiple close falls, but Ospreay eventually managed to string a brilliant sequence of moves together, including a story-important Rainmaker setup into a Spanish Fly, as excellently noted by commentator Alan Counihan, to pick up the win in one of the craziest matches you’ll see all year. Go out of your way to check this one out. ****½

Angelico def. Trevor Lee

This match was never going to live up to the one just before it, so it’s odd that wXw chose to put fellow high-flyer Angelico after the crazy showing from Strickland and Ospreay. This match was more of a Trevor Lee match anyway, which meant a lot of jawing with the crowd to rile them up, interspersed with a few big flying spots, such as Lee crushing Angelico, hung up on the ropes, with double knees after an entrance ramp run-up. Nothing really impressed in this match though, and it ended rather abruptly with Angelico hitting two knees and a turnbuckle crucifix bomb for the win. Angelico was likely saving the crazy spots for later in the weekend. **

Drew Galloway def. Silas Young

A very manly match-up, which began the only way it could have; Galloway dragging Young to the bar before pouring and downing a drink. They crowd brawled for a good while, which I’m usually down on, but Galloway has plenty of crowd brawling experience and his fallaway slam sending Young into a barricade was good and satisfying. Once the action got into the ring, Young was more impressive, hitting a nice variety of moves, including his awesome split-legged moonsault. Ultimately though, Young was there to make Galloway look good, and the Future Shock DDT brought the bout to an end quickly. Galloway won’t be competing on Day 2, but will have his quarter final match at the start of Day 3 instead. **

Sami Callihan def. Kim Ray

Callihan is a former 16 Carat Gold winner, so he’s treated as a big deal in wXw, but the crowd were relatively apathetic to him in comparison to some of the other big stars on this show. Kim Ray is a top mid-carder in wXw, but he really showed up here; getting a busted nose from a Callihan dive very early on seemed to fire him up a bit, and certainly gave him an intense edge. Lots of crowd brawling slowed the match down early on, but once Ray started hitting some vicious looking offence on Callihan with his crazed look, hair drooping over his face and blood all over his top lip, the crowd seemed to properly get behind Callihan. Plenty of stiff offence almost turned very sour when Callihan dropped Ray on his head on a failed piledriver attempt, which could have turned out very bad. Luckily they were able to finish at a high tempo, but the botch took the wind out of the match a little bit. Callihan advanced, and he’ll hope for some better showings on the next two shows, but Ray, perhaps knowing this was his only chance to really shine this weekend, had a really strong showing. **½

I Quit Match
Axel Dieter Jr. def. Marty Scurll

Axel Dieter Jr. is being built as the next big star of wXw, and he certainly has all the tools to succeed. As with any budding top babyface these days however, he has been met with some rejection by the crowd, and this match played out in such a way that will only exacerbate the divide between those who really like Dieter Jr., and those who can’t stand him. Axel was firmly in the roll of John Cena here, and Scurll was channelling Randy Orton and Batista circa 2009. The pair threw each other around the arena but it was Scurll who took control early on and, almost literally, hammered it home with some vicious looking umbrella shots. From there, the match essentially became a violent segment, with Scurll cutting a long promo on Axel, interspersed with more umbrella shots and submission holds. It was clear from the start that Axel would ‘Never Give Up’ though, and that this match was designed to display his Cena-esque resilience. Scurll handcuffed him to the ropes and wailed on Axel some more, even knocking him out and having to revive him with water, all the while tormenting him on the mic. Unfortunately, Scurll went to the ‘James Bond School of Villainy’ and for some reason (because Axel had to win the match) let Axel out of the handcuffs to put on a Chickenwing, which Axel immediately fought out of and regained a measure of control. Marty remained dominant though, locking in another Chickenwing and Axel’s own submission finisher, a sitting double leg nelson, all to no avail, before Axel finally locked his submission hold in, leading to Scurll quitting very quickly. If real life logic was applied to this match, it would seem like absolute nonsense. However, the great drama and emotion on display here was enough to carry it off and make it exciting, and Dieter Jr. gains so much as a valiant top face from the win, even if the Cena comparisons are very apt. ***½

Final Thoughts:

A strong opening round of the 16 Carat tournament with two must-see matches in Zack/Walter and Ospreay/Strickland, a drama-filled main event, and very strong commentary throughout as well. There’s a few skippable matches here, so it’s by no means a perfect show or even an easy one to watch, but it’s still a good start to the weekend.