Hello, I’m Arnold Furious (@ArnoldFurious). You may know me from 411Mania where I used to write or perhaps from History of Wrestling and the books we put out over there or possibly because I’m one third of the BritWres Roundtable for Voices of Wrestling. Or you might not know me at all. Anyhow, I was invited along to review one third of wXw’s 16 Carat tournament this year and was available. So here’s a review for your reading pleasure.
16 Carat Gold 2016 – Night 2
March 12, 2016
Turbinenhalle – Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen
The first night of action saw nine matches take place culminating in a dramatic win for Axel Dieter Jr. over Britain’s own Marty Scurll. There were no surprises, bar Ospreay and Strickland having a dance off to Uptown Funk, and everyone I was rooting for won. Only three quarter final matches are on tonight’s card but they are all potential show stealers. We’re in Oberhausen, Deutschland. If you’ve never seen a wXw show the most alarming thing is the closeness of the audience to the ring. It always feels like a nightclub atmosphere with fans banging on the ring apron. Once you get adjusted to the vibe it’s all good.
Tyler Bate def. Silas Young
This promises to be a manly contest. Both guys sport moustaches, musk and muscles. Silas, the last real man in professional wrestling, is the more experienced of the two and is getting up there in age at 35. Tyler is a veritable rookie by comparison, having wrestled for four years but he started as a child, such is the tradition in Britain. Silas works heel, at one point calling Bate a “European piece of shit”. For this he gets the Moustache Ride. There are few spots as entertaining as the Moustache Ride followed by the diving headbutt in the business today. I like Young’s manliness but there is a feeling he’s not really progressed as a wrestler beyond being manly and hitting clotheslines. The result of the match is perhaps a shock as Bate scores the win but that’s only because I’m used to seeing him lose in PROGRESS. We all knew someone would push him sooner rather than later. This was solid. **1/2
Shane Strickland & David Starr def. Big Daddy Walter & Da Mack
Strickland, Killshot in Lucha Underground, and Walter were both in the 16 Carat but lost in first round action. Walter to his normal tag partner Zack Sabre Jr. and Strickland because he couldn’t dance as well as Will Ospreay. Starr is an American who’s working on building a reputation for himself. He’s in his mid-20s and has shown considerable improvement of late. Da Mack is not a good wrestler. He hits a lot of spots, some of them connect, and his approach to wrestling usually involves telegraphing what’s about to happen. I’m not cool with this. At least he’s not dragging Axel Dieter Jr. down in this match. Starr makes a point of showing Da Mack what clean high risk spots look like, which combined with his stiff chops make me enjoy his work. When he starts going after Walter the potential for a great match rumbles into view. Strickland and Starr get on the same page and Starr downs the hapless Mack with Product Placement, his German suplex. I’m glad Mack lost and Starr won. It reflects my opinions of the two as workers. ***
16 Carat Gold Quarter Final
Axel Dieter Jr. def. Ilya Dragunov
These are two men who just want to beat the sauce out of each other. I fully support this. Dragunov is 22 years old but he looks like a henchman from a Bond film. Stick a suit on this man and he could be throwing Daniel Craig around. There’s something very pleasing about two hungry, angry young men slapping each other in the face and chest until one of them can’t do it anymore. The match is helped along by all the wonderful drunken Germans in attendance making a huge amount of noise. There’s nothing better than a hot crowd. Especially when the wrestling is great too. Not that there’s much wrestling in this. It’s just two guys slapping the piss out of each other. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I enjoyed it. It can’t possibly last and Dieter Jr. wins with a backdrop driver inside nine minutes. Brisk. ***1/2
Marty Scurll def. Trevor Lee, Mike Bailey & Angelico
All these guys were in the 16 Carat. Angelico still is. His quarter final with Drew Galloway kicks off night three. It’s a weird combination of guys. You’ve got an American, a Canadian, a Brit and a South African luchadore. Only in Germany? Because there are four guys involved it’s constant action with Bailey hitting fantastic kicks, Angelico amazing lucha, Lee throwing suplexes and Marty being British. I love the reaction of the crowd to Scurll’s finger snapping spot, as if it’s the most disgustingly brutal thing they’ve ever seen. To be fair, it’s one of the few moments where there isn’t mental action taking place. Sometimes less is more. That’s not the mentality of these four. They fully intend to go out there and steal the show. The effort levels and high spots are insane. Bailey is in his element. Nobody seems to give the slightest of fucks. Angelico dives off the stage. Scurll straps him in the Chickenwing for it and gets the submission. This was only eight minutes long but had an insane amount happening in it. I would have been in favour of a longer match given the craziness they had in mind. ***1/2
16 Carat Gold Quarter Final
Zack Sabre Jr. def. Will Ospreay
Ospreay is seriously hot, having just signed for New Japan. I second Oli’s claims during night one where he referred to Ospreay as “maybe the best wrestler in the world”. The crowd love him. Sabre is the best technician in the world but Will is out to try and dispute that. In response Zack starts making up counters on the fly. You can tell Ospreay is having the time of his life because he stops off to dance. Everything is golden in Will Ospreayland. However Sabre has scouted Ospreay and every flip seems to be met with technical excellence. Eventually Ospreay, because he’s relentless, gets spots through based on sheer volume. Once Will is on top the spots are a barrage of insanity. One dive and flipping kick after another. Sabre doesn’t know where the next attack is coming from. It’s a solid storyline from two guys who’ve wrestled each other a fair bit. The effort is again exemplary. They go full tilt for most of the match, except when Sabre is busy inventing a new submission hold. It almost feels like they’re working too hard. It’s difficult to process everything. Ospreay can’t win with his top rope moves because Sabre keeps dodging but once Sabre grabs a hold of Ospreay it’s over and he submits him. Blinding match, even if it felt like a twenty minuter on fast forward. ****
Melanie Grey def. Toni Storm
Mel is German and the local girl. Toni is from Australia and I admired her no nonsense attitude in PROGRESS recently. These two are keen to impress and bomb along quickly, which is the same pace everyone has been on tonight. It’s like they had to trim an hour off the show and told everyone to just work quicker. Oddly enough it’s the ladies who put the brakes on and turn a superplex into a big spot. The match is a little rough around the edges with Grey taking a few landings that don’t look particularly safe. Toni puts in a decent shift but gets planted with the TKO and that does it inside seven minutes. **
16 Carat Gold Quarter Final
Sami Callihan def. Timothy Thatcher
The other BritWres Roundtable guys, Rob Reid and Oli Court, aren’t keen on Thatcher but I still don’t understand why. I dig mat grappling and Thatcher does that to a tee. Callihan, despite getting loudly cheered, opts to act like an asshole. Meanwhile Thatcher stands there like he’s lost a game of freeze tag. Tim is not impressed with your heel antics. The match is a lot slower than anything else on the show, mainly because it’s the semi-main event and will get more time due to card position. The energetic crowd don’t get restless though and don’t stop chanting. Thatcher goes after a lot of submissions but also hangs with Callihan when Sami instigates strike duels. They end up trading on body parts with Callihan’s injured arm against Thatcher’s injured leg. Like most modern wrestlers the selling is horribly inconsistent. The striking is a lot better. Sami is particularly vicious, at one point stamping on Thatcher’s head until he stops moving. That’s enough for a ‘submission’ win with the Stretch Muffler although Thatcher being unconscious doesn’t really count as a submission. This was patchy with the big striking sequences working perfectly but the submission attempts in between not working at all. Some of the striking in this was absolutely brutal though. So if that’s your thing, and you want to see Thatcher get kicked in the head a lot, this could be your match. ***1/4
wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship
Jurn Simmons def. Karsten Beck ©, Absolute Andy & John “Bad Bones” Klinger
There are three pretty well travelled domestic talents in this and Simmons, who’s an up and coming young Dutch grappler. Beck has been on quite the run as champion, even if he’s not what you’d call good in the traditional sense. Both Andy and Klinger have lost to Beck during this title run. This was originally pitched a three-way match with Klinger and Andy getting second chances. Simmons is Karsten’s buddy. Interesting to note he gets the most enigmatic entrance with dancing girls and such. Not sure about his tag of “Massive” Jurn Simmons though. He’s 6’2”, which is big-ish outside of WWE but not that big. This match, being the title contest, gets the longest of any match on the show with a lengthy twenty-five minutes. Given the talent on the rest of the show it’s perhaps not the best allocation of time. Bad Bones is the heart of the match, standing up to the duo of heels, and hitting aggressive offence. The match has a mountain to climb though, after a terrific night of wrestling and barely reaches base camp.
The whole thing feels like an attempt to steal the show, only much slower than the earlier four-way and so much clumsier in the execution. The camera angle does them no favours as no one works snug and you can see the space between the strikes. That was where Callihan-Thatcher really worked because the camera was near enough to see the actual impacts. Here it sees the lack of contact. Then there’s the selling.
Multiple man matches often have issues with selling but there are long sections of this match where two guys lie around selling. It’s terrible. As the match progresses it get sloppier and the only entertainment is the storytelling. In particular when Simmons turns on Beck. The reaction of the crowd is great and Karsten’s look of shock is perfect. If you can ignore the gaping issues the match has, then the near falls down the stretch draw the crowd in nicely. Especially the timing on the spear through the table at ringside and Simmons kicking out of Karsten’s piledriver. Simmons ends up pinning Beck with a sloppy version of his own piledriver. Whether you enjoy this will depend hugely on whether you can overlook the flaws. The live crowd could, I could not. *3/4
This was shaping up to be a great show until the stumbling main event. It’s still worth a look courtesy of an energetic and fast-paced undercard. Dieter Jr.-Dragunov is great considering how short it is, the early four-way is sensational spot work and Sabre Jr.-Ospreay is as great as you’d imagine it would be. Callihan-Thatcher is also really good and David Starr forced his way onto my radar with that performance in the second bout. There’s a lot to enjoy until the main event drags everything down just a touch.