Westside Xtreme Wrestling
Ambition 8
March 11, 2017
Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

Watch: wXwNOW

We’re in Oberhausen on the afternoon of Night Two of 16 Carat Gold. AMBITION is wXw’s attempt at a shoot-style tournament, something that was attempted in the UK last year with Tetsujin. AMBITION has a storied history, dating back to 2010. The first winner was Bryan Danielson. Other winners include Zack Sabre Jr. and commentator Rico Bushido. The field for this year’s tournament is perhaps the best in its history.

AMBITION 8 First Round Match
Bobby Gunns def. David Starr

The atmosphere is suitably reverent with the crowd hushed and respectful, applauding sportsmanship and clean breaks. I’ve heard it called ‘weird’ and it’s certainly different. If you want something entirely different to normal wrestling, this could be your bag. It’s a switch of pace. Starr is an obvious pick to advance, after his first round Carat loss but AMBITION can be a bit unpredictable. The idea being that in a shoot anyone can get lucky. In this case Gunns cheats, by pulling back on Starr’s fingers, to set up the cross armbreaker submission. This was Bobby in his element. If he was always working the shoot style he’d be one of my favourites, rather than someone I have a modest dislike for. **3/4

AMBITION 8 First Round
Jeff Cobb def. WALTER

This was the big hit of the first round draw. Everyone was very excited to see what Cobb could do opposite wXw’s ace. There’s a lot of meat in there. WALTER uses his size effectively but Cobb blocks a lot of WALTER’s offence with a strong defence. His overhead belly to belly is the most sensational spot of the entire AMBITION series as it takes phenomenal power and he follows that with a deadlift powerbomb into a neck crank for the win. WALTER is far more sportsmanlike in a ‘shoot’ environment. **1/2

AMBITION 8 First Round
Timothy Thatcher def. Marius Al-Ani

Marius shows off his blue belt on the way to the ring, a reminder that everyone involved here has some shoot background, even if it’s just martial arts. Thatcher’s style is absolutely perfect for this. Whereas in EVOLVE he often draws matches out beyond their usefulness, the shoot-style allows for them to forego the usual feeling out process and get right into the meat of the match. Both guys are quickly looking for submissions and Thatcher loves the mat work. It gets a little stiff with Timmy scraping his boot across Al-Ani’s head, perhaps heaving learned from Koji Kanemoto. Al-Ani does some cracking work in fighting back but Thatcher subdues Marius when he opens up and gets the tap out. ***

AMBITION 8 First Round
Matt Riddle def. Mike Bailey

This is an explosive mix of styles with both content to start the match with stand-up strikes. It creates a thrilling atmosphere, where it looks like they’re actually trying to knock each other out. Riddle’s blocking of high kicks is a lovely little touch. Given his background he’ll have seen those before. Another excellent touch is both guys striking into the ribs where they can lay in an open-handed slap without doing a tonne of damage. It sounds great. As Riddle tries to take it to the mat Speedball shows he can cope there too. From there it goes to stand-up again and some vicious looking kicks. The only real issue stems from the referee not being decisive enough and not getting in to check the action like a shoot ref would. Speedball attempting one of his worked moves, the kick-rush, results in another takedown. Speedball manages to get the back only for Riddle to grab his ankle and get a tap out. The VOD cuts the confusion over the finish, where Bailey was initially announced as the winner. This is one of the best examples of shoot wrestling you’ll ever see. ****

AMBITION 8 Semi Final
Matt Riddle def. Bobby Gunns

Thanks for coming Bobby! Your time is up. Riddle takes him to school, attempting one submission after another until he hooks a shoot version of the Bromission and gets the tap out in 67 seconds. This looked like a legitimate shoot. I loved it. NR

AMBITION 8 Semi Final
Timothy Thatcher def. Jeff Cobb

Cobb’s first round victory prevented a Ringkampf implosion here, although they’ve stated several times that there are no team orders and Ringkampf is about competition. Even with each other. This is another cracking little shoot-style match. Unlike Riddle’s showboating, which was excellent by the way, this is all about the slow burn. Thatcher even shows a touch of personality and there is confirmed banter. At one point he goes to roll Cobb across the mat and discovers the former Olympian is rather heavy. “Uh, Jesus” he grunts, under considerable strain. Tactically Thatcher is very strong, switching from one attack to another, keeping Cobb on his toes with a variety of strikes and submissions. It’s a measured performance. The match, like a lot of Thatcher contests over the years, perhaps goes a little long but Cobb makes sure it’s exciting with big throws. It’s on one of these throws where Thatcher catches Cobb on landing and goes right into an armbar. Using Cobb’s ambition against him. ***1/4

Matt Riddle def. Timothy Thatcher

This is technically incredible as both men are capable of wrestling in a shoot style and making it look like both a struggle and something worthwhile. It’s the longest ‘fight’ on the card but unlike the Cobb match it never feels that long. Mainly because both guys refuse to rest and both want to test the limits of the other. Thatcher especially, looking to prove himself after a longer series of matches coming into the final. Even when Thatcher gets into Riddle’s guard the match doesn’t let up and Timmy starts reigning down hands to try and KO the former UFC fighter. Thatcher gets closer and closer to an elusive win, getting the closest to beating Riddle of all his opponents. The attacks on the arm nearly get him a submission but the wily bro slides and finishes Thatcher with knee strikes. ***1/2

Final Thoughts: 

This was a really solid shoot-style tournament. It’s a tough style to do justice to. You have to be either really good at it or really creative. These guys produced a mixture of both. The Riddle matches were wildly creative and Thatcher’s were rock solid. The final was a mesh of the two. Riddle-Speedball remains my pick for the best shoot-style match I’ve seen where it’s purely that style throughout. The tournament as a whole proved there’s room for this style and I would love to attend AMBITION again next year. I’m excited to see who gets involved.