Westside Xtreme Wrestling
16 Carat Gold Night 1
March 10, 2017
Turbinenhalle, Oberhausen, Germany
The Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen was the site for three nights of wXw’s ‘wrestling festival’. This show kicked the weekend off with 8 first round matches in the 16 Carat Gold tournament. The tournament lineup featured a mix of European and North American talent, as well as Japan’s Koji Kanemoto, and made for some very interesting first round mashups of wrestlers you would never otherwise see have matches with each other. Two of these matches though are blow-offs to ongoing feuds within wXw, with the drama surrounding the Cerberus breakup coming to a head as Ilja Dragunov takes on ‘Avalanche’ Robert Dreissker, and in the main event, David Starr looks to defeat an opponent who has bettered him since his first match in wXw, Ringkampf’s WALTER.
Cody Rhodes def. Da Mack
Cody came across as a huge star all weekend, receiving adoration from the crowd and the largest pop during the tournament introduction video. Over the weekend, he would have matches that matched such reactions, but this was not one of them. He and Mack seemed to have very little rapport and more than once dropped out of spots with complicated setups, such as a Tree of Woe, before anything moves had been executed. The finishing stretch saw Mack attempt Mack Magic several times, as if he was expecting the eventual counter into Cross Rhodes for the finish every time. It was a clumsy match, but Cody’s star power and the excitement of the crowd kept it watchable. *½
Marius Al-Ani def. JT Dunn
JT Dunn’s elbows are as good as advertised; they look great and make a cracking sound live, but in general Dunn felt like the least important man in the 16 Carat tournament. Al-Ani’s great in the A4 tag team but still getting there as a singles wrestler. This meant both guys had to work really hard to make an impression and to be fair to them, they made this match feel more exciting than I was expecting. Al-Ani slipped up in the middle of a sequence early on, but both men covered for it well and it didn’t slow down the pace of the match. The pair didn’t get a lot of time to build anything beyond a decent match, but the action was fun throughout, if a little insignificant in the grand scheme of the 16 Carat weekend. Al-Ani won with a frogsplash and Dunn would have to wait until the Night 3 Flippy Tag to appear in a truly meaningful match. **
Timothy Thatcher def. Koji Kanemoto
Thatcher is much better in wXw/Ringkampf than anywhere else. He trained at the wXw Training Academy all week prior to 16 Carat, has nailed his Ringkampf character and mannerisms, and just seems so much more comfortable in the wXw ecosystem. Seeing him live in this environment gave me a newfound appreciation for what Thatcher does, as his nuances came across a lot better and his performance was just generally better than in his non-Ringkampf matches. Like Cody though, Night 1 was his worst match of the weekend, but that can’t all be put on Thatcher. Kanemoto was not putting his all into 16 Carat and, while it was a pleasure to see the Junior legend live, he felt like more of a novelty throughout than a really important part of the weekend. Koji still had a strong presence so his matches were always easy to watch, but his strikes and holds felt a little limp at times, and against a bigger guy like Thatcher, this never felt like a real fight. In the end, Thatcher cradled Kanemoto into a pinfall, a rather unsatisfactory end to a match that only occasionally felt compelling. **
Ilja Dragunov def. ‘Avalanche’ Robert Dreissker
This match is where the tournament really got going and it actually never really lost that momentum over the entire rest of the weekend. There was loads of heat going into this match due to the backstory of the destruction of Cerberus and this marked the definitive end to that story. Dragunov is the biggest babyface in the history of wrestling to be billed from the Soviet Union and have a Hammer and Sickle in his titantron; it’s fantastic to see that his character has transitioned so well into being a babyface while completely retaining his psycho intensity. The pair charged straight at each other when the bell rang, setting the physical tone of the match straight away. Dreissker is, as his t-shirt says, a monster of a man. He’s the perfect foil for a fired up Ilja to stand up to. Every move he hit on Ilja looked vicious and Dreissker’s size made Ilja’s ability to hurt him all the more impressive. The dynamic between the pair was a lot of fun and the level of physicality was very impressive. Polak’s interference was only a minimal part of the match, in general it was all about to beefy bastards beating the shit out of each other. A great-looking lariat and a Torpedo Moscow was enough for Dragunov to pull out the victory in the end. ***½
Post-match, Dreissker attacked Polak and officially put an end to Cerberus. Whether Dreissker goes face or heel from here is unknown; the man himself wants the fans to make up their own mind about him.
Matt Riddle def. Donovan Dijak
Matt Riddle carries his PROGRESS Atlas Championship everywhere, to the point that like his snapback cap and flowing locks of hair, it’s part of his distinctive look. He’s clearly taken on board Marty Scurll’s advice that a wrestler should be able to be recognised by their silhouette alone. Dijak is building a nice indie resume for himself and got given some very good matchups on this 16 Carat weekend. It’s rare that Riddle has to fight from underneath, but this match was all about him trying to capitalise on any mistake Dijak made before the bigger man put him down. Riddle avoided Feast Your Eyes a few times before being caught by it, but was able to get his foot on the rope, which let Dijak look strong. Eventually though, he missed a moonsault and got caught in the Bromission, forcing him to tap out. Dijak looked really good here and anyone who dismissed him after his early ROH run need to check him out now, even just to see his awesome chokeslam-into-backbreaker move. Riddle was awesome once again, of course. ***½
Bad Bones def. Paul London
Oberhausen really hates Bad Bones. He was working against their negative reaction in this match, but later in the weekend wXw seemed to embrace the negativity and made Bad Bones a de facto heel, which actually only made his matches better. Paul London continued to look super motivated after his strong performance at Inner Circle; we may not see him much on the indies, but he picks his spots and always performs at a high level when he does. He bumped like crazy for Bones here and also wrestled with extra physicality that you may not have expected from him. London as a wrestler may never have been better than he is right now. Near the end of the match, London hit two Shooting Star Presses in a row, but Bones kicked out afterwards and shortly afterward hit two corner dropkicks to win. I’m not entirely happy about Bones kicking out of two SSPs, but he had dished out a lot of offence on London up to that point, so it’s only a small gripe, not a match killer. This was a well-paced match between two of the most underrated wrestlers in the tournament, with London especially being far more impressive than I expected him to be at 16 Carat. ***
Mike Bailey def. ACH
This started with an obligatory dance-off, with ACH’s Carlton dance trumping Bailey’s karate. The pair were certainly having fun, but this match was also very hard-hitting at times, as Bailey’s kicks were replied to with ACH’s chops, as well as some ‘look over there’ groin shots too. This mix of silliness and strikes was exactly what was needed at this point in the show. The pace really picked up towards the end, with ACH showing off his brand of high flying; he’s decided to avoid doing the Air Jordan to avoid being pigeon-holed as ‘the flippy guy’. Instead he’s using his dynamic offence in a smarter way and picking his spots to hit the crazy moves, and he’s better off for it. Bailey managed to dodge enough of those moves though to get ACH into a position to hit the 450° knees for the win. A really fun match that contained fewer flips than you might imagine. ***½
WALTER def. David Starr
This match has been in the making since Starr’s very first match in wXw, where he lost to WALTER. Back then, Starr was just trying to make a name for himself in any and every promotion. Now he’s wXw’s top import and actually doesn’t even feel like an import anymore. Despite his success in the promotion, he has not been able to get past WALTER, losing after a tough fight in the tag team main event at Dead End a couple of weeks ago. This match directly carries on from that one. Starr is a much smaller man than WALTER, but has great chemistry with him and is completely believable in the way he wrestles him, dodging out of WALTER’s grasp and using his agility in smart ways. When he does get caught by WALTER though, he gets smothered. It’s a compelling dynamic and it’s kept up throughout this match.
Things got very heated and emotional as the match went on, with Starr going all out to try and bring WALTER down, hitting multiple suicide dives and showing the intensity with which he was fighting on his face. The crowd were the loudest they had been all night, mostly in support of Starr but also some chants duelling back in favour of WALTER, creating a really crazy atmosphere. Starr went bug-eyed as he kept on the attack, having to work twice as hard to do half the damage. His rolling elbows to the back of WALTER’s head looked vicious and I thought he was going to win when he set up the Product Placement afterwards. WALTER powered out though, battling back and matching Starr’s intensity, roaring in his face before kicking him in the head. Starr’s ragdoll selling leading into him going bug-eyed again made him impossible not to root for.
Everything seemed to be leading up to Starr’s underdog win, but it wasn’t to be on this night, as eventually WALTER knocked him down one too many times and locked on the Gojira Clutch, causing Starr to pass out. Ringkampf stamped out Starr’s fire on this night, but hopefully he gets the chance to heat up again and have one more match at WALTER, because the atmosphere would be incredible if this match is anything to go by. ****½
An emotional main event capped off a really strong opening round of 16 Carat. The first three matches weren’t up to much, but everything afterwards was very good. On top of that, wXw’s production values were excellent on this show and throughout the weekend in the Turbinenhalle, with the video board standing out as the best in any promotion outside WWE and was something that helped create several great visuals. This and all the other shows from 16 Carat weekend are must-watch for any European wrestling fan.