After the shenanigans of the Saturday night after party, including the now infamous ‘Cerberus Forsyth’ line delivered by one Mike Kilby, it’s time to end the WTTL weekend with the Night 3 show. In Group A, Massive Product look to sweep the block by beating the Young Lions, while every team in Group B is tied on 3 points, though the Rottweilers have to pull out due to Low Ki’s injury on Night 2, so if Ringkampf need to beat EYFBO to qualify for the final and stop The Briscoes from doing so. And you better believe there will be fallout after last night’s DQ finish to the Unified title match…

Westside Xtreme Wrestling
World Tag Team League
October 8th 2017
Oberhausen, Germany

Low Ki and Homicide came out to start the show, explained Low Ki’s injury to the crowd and thanked them for their support, only to be interrupted by the absolute bastard that is Bobby Gunns. Gunns has had a strong year in wXw, winning every feud he’s had and claiming big name scalps like Koji Kanemoto and Tim Thatcher. By picking a fight with Homicide here for later in the evening, he looks to take another big name down.

Spirit Squad [3] def. A4 [3]

Spirit Squad had a rough start to the weekend by playing babyfaces against the Young Lions when the crowd wanted to boo them, but warmed up as heels against Massive Product in an antics-filled match. Here they go all in against the crowd, who respond with a love-fest for A4. The Squad don’t mind humiliating themselves for laughs and to get the other team over, as they lurch into the old indie ‘trading quick pins’ spot with full gusto. This is what they were booked to add to this weekend and break up the more serious but potentially same-y matches. It’s harmless fun and leaves room for the real takeaway of this match to take centre stage.

Absolute Andy’s superkick to Marius Al-Ani was devastating. The A4 team has been the cornerstone of wXw’s tag division for over a year now. The mix of Al-Ani’s athleticism and Andy’s utterly lovable shtick was a winning formula, but that formula was also the reason for their demise. wXw had planted the seeds subtly but brilliantly, with comments like Al-Ani’s “only I can call him ‘Fat Andy’” when defending him against heels, and going as far back as Al-Ani defeating Andy to take a place in 16 Carat this year, all laid the groundwork for Andy’s jealousy of his younger, fitter tag team partner. Why he chose this very moment to turn on him is yet to be explained, but the execution made a profound impact. Andy standing motionless over Al-Ani’s body, long after he had let Spirit Squad pin him and after they had hightailed it out of the ring, was an amazing visual. We’ve all seen countless tag teams break up over the years, but for the fun-loving Andy to turn in such an unexpected yet understandable way was genuinely shocking. They’ve stirred up genuine emotion with this moment and I can’t wait to see the follow-up. **½ 

Massive Product [9] def. The Young Lions [3]

The sombre mood created by Andy’s turn continued into this match, as the usually fired up pair of David Starr and Jurn Simmons made a subdued entrance. As Arn Furious noted to me, they were as shocked as we were over the turn and were now each wondering if their partner wasn’t going to turn on them too.

The Lions haven’t had a great weekend but Lucky Kid is starting to stand out from the other RISE henchmen. One of the wXw’s goals for the group is to find future stars from a bunch of new faces, and Kid seems to be the guy who has the most potential to stay on in a different role once the RISE story is all said and done. Having said the Lions didn’t have a great weekend, they did deliver in this match. They established some proper heel tag work early and Massive Product’s comeback into the match was very drawn out through the whole match, the pace accelerating gradually as Starr and Simmons built themselves back up. The Lions’ tag moves were still unremarkable but their control of the match was logically built and then unravelled, so the ‘feeling’ of the match was there even if the ‘movez’ weren’t.

The final run of Massive Product moves was a great climax, ending with their assisted piledriver/suicide dive combo, just as they won on Nights 2 and 3. Starr and Simmons sweep the group and strip long-time rivals RISE of the Tag Team Championships, which will be contested in the final of this tournament. A satisfying match that paid off Massive Product’s fight against RISE as well as making perfect sense in a vacuum. RISE relinquish their Tag Team Championships by failing to make the tournament final. ***

Ringkampf [6] def. EYFBO [3]

EYFBO rounded off their excellent weekend with another strong performance here. I and most of the other Brits abroad didn’t know much about EYFBO coming in, but they were here to make an impression on a different audience and they certainly made it, showing off creativity in abundance while displaying their infectious personalities well. They also didn’t mind getting chucked about by Ringkampf here and making them look even better than they already did. WALTER powerbombing Drastik onto Ortiz or big booting Drastik so hard his bandana fell off made for some great visuals and showcased the instant chemistry these teams had. In general, Thatcher took the EYFBO double teams while WALTER took hot tags and cleaned house, but the match was never tied down by its formula. Everything felt intense and physical, even the niftier EYFBO moves. That’s a boon for them, because no-one likes a flippy tag team who don’t look like they could hurt a fly. Instead they are physical yet nimble, fun personalities but never goofy.

In the end though, they are there to fall to the Ringkampf assisted powerbomb that put away The Briscoes on Night 1 as well. Ringkampf looked like absolute bosses throughout Group A, only losing to The Rottweilers because they made it an unconventional brawl – in the ring, Ringkampf have been unbeatable. EYFBO get a lot of love from the wXw fans post-match, they definitely succeeded in making an impression in Europe and hopefully get plenty more opportunities to come over. ***½ 

Bad Bones and his RISE goons came out, for the first time with new member Da Mack in tow. Mack was trained by Bones and helped him defend the Unified Title last night against Ilja Dragunov, so he’s automatically getting preferential treatment. He gets to stand just behind and off the shoulder of Bones, while the other RISE guys stand further behind. It’s such a simple visual but it says so much about Mack’s importance in the group and his relationship with Bones. A lesser promotion would never have thought about it but wXw deliver in the details.

Bones didn’t get to say much before Julian Nero of all people interrupted him. He began with his Nero Consulting shtick but declared war on RISE by cackling maniacally and heralding the return of Cerberus, the old big heel faction in wXw. The music blared, the titantron changed, and Adam Polak brought out Avalanche and Ilja Dragunov, forming his three-headed dog. Then for an even bigger reaction, he brought out Dirty Dragan, the group’s former drug dealer and belated fourth member. This was such a well put together moment, with the old heel act forming up against the new one. It had been built to over the weekend with Nero and Da Mack crossing paths, Avalanche getting frustrated with Ivan Kiev in their Shotgun title matches, and of course Ilja getting screwed by Bad Bones in the title match, so everyone had a motive and Dirty Dragan just wants to be loved, so of course he was also in there.

Cerberus (Ilja Dragunov, Avalanche, Julian Nero and Dirty Dragan) def. RISE (Bad Bones, Da Mack, Ivan Kiev and Pete Bouncer)

Cerberus stormed the ring rather ineffectually, because within a minute Bad Bones and Da Mack had control of the match. Alan Counihan and Rico Bushido on commentary focussed on Da Mack’s new heel character, noting that he looked “dead inside”. He’s been run out of his hometown, lost many matches, and now has sold his soul to the devil in his ear. Throughout this match he stood with his arms by his sides with his face remaining unflinching. The old Da Mack is still somewhere inside him, but he’s repressed it deep down. Intriguing character work.

Cerberus had some success early, but after Dragan took a page out of the Captain New Japan playbook and called for the tag in, they quickly fell on the back foot. Dragan got a starring role as the face in peril, and after he made the tag back to Avalanche and Ilja, the match picked up in pace to almost a PWG spotfest-style, but with plenty character-based showdowns and interactions too. This was the culmination of three weekend-long feuds and certainly felt significant on a character level as well as an ‘awesome shit’ level. Even Polak got involved in the fun, knocking out an interfering Tarkan Aslan. Rico noted Polak and Tarkan were tag partners in another time, so even that had meaning to very long-term fans.

That cleared the way for a showdown between Dragunov and Bones, which Dragunov won cleanly with a Torpedo Moscow, pinning the champion and clearing the way for a rematch in the future. This was such a fun match that started hot with the Cerberus reunion that the crowd were dying to see, and stayed hot with many crazy spots and character interactions. Some of the throwaway matches earlier in the weekend helped make this match even better, so this wasn’t only good in a vacuum but also redeemed, for example, Da Mack/Nero from Night 1. The final visual sets up Dragunov/Bones one more time, presumably at the Anniversary show to round off the tour-long top of the card story. **** 

The Briscoes def. Jay-FK

With the Rottweilers out of Night 3, The Briscoes were matched up against the young team of Jay-FK, Francis Kaspin and Jay Skillet. They didn’t appear on Night 1 and Night 2, but got a big chance to show what they were capable of here. The dynamic of surly veterans against the young guns full of pep was set out immediately, with Mark Briscoe putting Skillet through his paces on the mat. If wXw want Jay-FK to be a long-term tag team, there’s few teams better to put them up against than the Briscoes. They didn’t have an easy time in there though – I don’t think Jay-FK hit an offensive move in the first 5 minutes of the match. Skillet and Kaspin have a connection to the crowd though so the crowd was solidly behind the younger team, making for a really good atmosphere.

After Jay-FK got some momentum going, things got very heated between Mark Briscoe and Kaspin, as they fired heavy slaps at each other. Kaspin wasn’t going to back down and the Briscoes punished him for it, landing a Jay Driller and a particularly nasty Cut-throat Driver to beat him and make Kaspin and his neck think about what they had done. Very nice addition to the card, and an excellent use of both teams. Will Jay-FK be in the WTTL itself next year? ***½ 

Relaxed Rules Match
Bobby Gunns def. Homicide

Much like Homicide’s match against David Starr at Inner Circle on the Thursday before Tag League, this was a weird fever dream of a match that didn’t really work but was a ton of fun regardless. Homicide had his own four day story for the Brit Wres Roundtable team to follow, with Robin Reid desperate to hear a classic “Brrrap”, but after he missed Homicide at Inner Circle and the Brrrap was left undelivered on Nights 1 and 2, Rob was about to go home empty-handed, until tonight. Accepting Gunns’ challenge earlier in the night, Homicide unleashed a Brrrap and microseconds later, I heard Rob screaming with glee. It was a genuinely lovely moment of completely unintended storytelling, and it was remarkable enough to tell you about it.

This match itself was an unremarkable walking brawl redeemed by the strength of both characters. A lot of moves were built around the peril of the table, but the eventual suplex that sent Gunns through had no impact since the table had fallen down the turnbuckle significantly. Gunns won with a low blow and schoolboy combo. It’s another feather in his cap to brag about in his excellent Smoking Break promos, but it’s best to skip over the match itself. ** 

World Tag Team League Final
Ringkampf def. Massive Product

The ‘special entrance’ lasers were busted out for this final, the only time they were used this weekend other than for the Night 2 main event. Every entrance could have looked cooler this weekend with the lasers, but wXw chose to reserve them for only the most important matches, which I appreciate. Massive Product were back to their usual fired up selves, and Ringkampf were all business as usual. Let’s crown some Tag Team Champions!

This was Timothy Thatcher’s match. For the rest of this tournament, he largely played second banana to WALTER, who took all the hot tags and thoroughly cleaned house, but this match was about rewarding Tim for all the time and effort he has put into making wXw better. Leaving America and living in Germany for four months to preside over the wXw Wrestling Academy every day is a huge feat that will assuredly make the promotion better for months and years to come. Thatcher has been unselfish throughout his time in wXw, so it was about time he got the limelight. He started this match off against Starr and they set the tone with grappling attacks. I’ve often lamented that Thatcher has done offence ‘for the sake of it’, but the Ringkampf identity seems to just give meaning to his moves naturally. He’s not doing anything particularly different, but the way it projects in wXw is much more relatable to the fans. It’s a weird intangible that I can’t really describe, but I definitely feel it.

The WALTER/Simmons matchup was a good hoss fight, but the real fire in the match came when WALTER and Starr paired off. They automatically rekindled their heated rivalry from the beginning of the year, picking up right where they left off at 16 Carat, a match that is still in my Top 10 on the year. WALTER’s chops were deathly as always, and Starr turned on the fire and went at him like a terrier. A terrier that lariats people. He used up every last bit of his effort to try and finally defeat WALTER, but just like last time, it wasn’t happening. When it finally does happen though, it’s going to be a huge moment.

Starr tiring himself out left Simmons vulnerable, and he was hit by the Ringkampf assisted powerbomb that given them both their wins in this tournament, but managed to kick out. He also powered out of a Billy Robinson Butterfly Suplex – a big feather in Simmons’ cap to survive two Ringkampf finishers. Jurn’s survival let Starr get back into the game, allowing Massive Product to hit their tandem finisher that cleaned up Group A, but Thatcher managed a perfectly timed 2.99 kickout that brought the match up into a higher gear than anything else this weekend.

This was Thatcher’s moment. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Just a straight up killer. He locked in a sleeper hold on Starr and… SAKA OTOSHI! The best move in all of wrestling sealed the submission victory, and my personal 180° turn of opinion on Timothy Thatcher in 2017 was complete. Confetti rained down for Ringkampf’s championship win – Thatcher’s first title reign in wXw. WALTER and Thatcher’s words post-match were emotional, as were Massive Product’s gutting facial expressions. At the end of the day though, the mat was sacred, as marked by the final visual of Thatcher’s ‘Die Matte Ist Hellig’ scarf lying in the ring until every last fan had left the Turbinenhalle. There’s no better image to sum up wXw’s approach to wrestling than that. ****½

Final Thoughts

World Tag Team League didn’t deliver the utterly world-beating Final that 16 Carat did, but by putting on a full show of super-satisfying story payoffs and meaningful, emotional outcomes, wXw proved that there is a lot more to the promotion than just the one Dragunov/WALTER match. If 16 Carat put them on the international map, WTTL marked that they are here to stay there. There’s loads of good stuff across all three shows, plus Inner Circle and Femmes Fatales, and watching it all only makes the Final sweeter.