The end of 2017 in wXw saw Unified Champion Bad Bones send Ilja Dragunov packing in a bloody and emotional end to an engaging year-long story. wXw showed Ilja’s human, family-oriented side in a series of excellent documentary videos, easing the pain of his championship match loss by knowing he’s going back to an incredible family that he cares about more than anything else. Time will tell whether or not we see Dragunov back in the ring, for now though, other members of the roster will have to step up to continue this great run of momentum wXw are carrying.

Back to the Roots means that it’s Käfigschlacht time, wXw’s War Games-style match, which Avalanche has dominated the first two editions of. This time though he’s on the babyface team, as he and Monster Consulting partner Julian Nero team up with the Ringkampf boys in an attempt to take down RISE, Bad Bones’ heel thugs. RISE is formed of unstable alliances though which are always threatening to pull the faction apart though, so the makeshift MC/Ringkampf alliance may actually be the stronger team going in.

Westside Xtreme Wrestling
Back to the Roots XVII
January 20, 2018
Oberhausen, Germany

Watch: wXw Now

No DQ Match
Session Moth Martina def. Melanie Gray

This matchup was supposed to be the final of the Women’s Championship tournament, but Melanie took out the Moth pre-match, before replacement Killer Kelly embarrassed her in the eventual championship match. Gray is now full-on heel, which is the role she was more famous for pre-2017. This one was No DQ because Martina was understandably pissed off at losing her deserved shot at the title. She was still in ‘Session mode’ with antics aplenty though, just mixed in with some surprisingly violent hardcore spots. Martina suplexing Gray through a row of chairs before pinching fans’ drinks set that tone very well. All the usual suspects came out such as thumb tacks and a table, but the novelty of the women getting to play with them kept them interesting, because outside of the visceral reaction live some of those hardcore spots can get lost in the shuffle. Martina went through the tacks but recovered to send Gray through the table, before hitting a chair-assisted Codebreaker for the win. Melanie is losing left, right and centre in a small women’s division but wXw trusts her with her character work to get the heat back. Meanwhile it looks like Martina’s sticking around in wXw – she’s a great addition to help them get the women’s division rolling. ***

New Shotgun Champion Bobby Gunns came out for his Smoke Break segment, but was quickly interrupted by Absolute Andy. Since becoming a snake and turning against former tag partner Marius Al-Ani, Andy has changed from ‘Yer Da who stands at the side of the party, quietly enjoying everything’ to ‘Yer Da who reckons he’s definitely gotten over the divorce’ – one of the most recognisable face-to-heel shifts I’ve seen. He’s still the same character, but his insecurities have made him become a dick. In contrast, Gunns is on the verge of becoming a babyface after receiving violent comeuppance at the end of last year at the hands of Ringkampf. Since then he beat RISE member Ivan Kiev for the title and is now up against Andy – both heels.

Andy and Gunns threw insults back and forth, culminating in Andy saying it would take Bobby 100 years to have sex with as many women as he had. Andy truly is the unsavoury, portly, upper-middle class dad who is desperately clinging on to faded youth. It’s only a matter of time before Marius Al-Ani kicks his arse. Oh, and these two are having a non-title match later tonight!

Jurn Simmons def. Dirty Dragan

This wasn’t a ‘star ratingz’ match, but it got a great emotional reaction out of me and established a new side of Jurn Simmons that we’ve never seen before. After losing in the final of the World Tag Team League and becoming frustrated with his partner David Starr, Simmons lost a ‘friendly’ match against Starr in December and attacked him afterwards. Dragan has seen the path his ‘best friend’ has gone down, so even though he knows he doesn’t match up to Simmons in the ring, he needs to fight him in an effort to change his ways. Jurn just sees Dragan as another person to defeat. It’s not a ‘new attitude’ for Jurn so much as an evolution of his old one. He’s always been a self-serving dick, but now it’s affecting his friends and as before, all he has to say about it is ‘I don’t care’.

Jurn did definitively have a new look though, as he’s noticeably leaner and more menacing, with gladiatorial ring attire to boot. It was a great visual indicator that Dragan was in for a world of hurt. He got in a run of offence on Jurn but didn’t affect the bigger man to any real degree. Simmons toyed around with Dragan like a playground bully picking on the nerdy kids, with some tricks that conjured up painful reminders of being 10 years old again and unable to stand up for oneself. Dragan and Jurn played their roles perfectly in this regard, cementing Simmons’ status as a first-rate dickhead. Dragan drooling while in Simmons’ Rings of Saturn was the final little flourish. A painful match to watch. N/A

And it wasn’t over post-match, as Simmons continued his streak of ‘decapitating’ his opponents with a kendo stick. He first did it to Alexander James in an I Quit match, where he was the babyface punishing the coward heel for bailing out of the match. That moment was one of joy for me as that match cheered me up out of a bad mood at the time. Now that he’s doing the same move to Starr and Dragan as a heel, it’s a spit in the face. That’s some excellent long-term, emotion-based storytelling. It’s been a slow-burn turn for Jurn with some subtle but brilliant story beats that got paid off in this match, so it’s worth watching some of the smaller shows from November and December to get the full impact of this match and of Jurn’s betrayal of his friends.

Da Mack def. Chris Colen

Mack replaced Colen as Bad Bones’ right-hand man in RISE, essentially because one guy’s more compliant than the other to playing sycophant to their weird abusive boss. Colen had a great story run as Bad Bones’ challenger for the title back in November, but now he does feel a bit like a spare part and this match only served to definitively take him out of the RISE saga.

Mack and Colen did not have great chemistry. Mack’s so much smaller than Colen that his working the heel side of the match didn’t quite play right visually. He’s still settling into his new RISE persona too so there’s kinks to work out in regards to how to play to the crowd when he’s essentially supposed to be an emotionless zombie. Colen was over to an extent but not enough to keep the match flowing naturally, so only the last couple of minutes of this match really went down well. The finishing sequence was exciting and athletic, so there was potential here had the match taken place a couple of months down the line or in a different environment, but this did feel ‘just there’ in comparison to the rest of the card.

Absolute Andy def. Bobby Gunns

Following on from their verbal sparring earlier, Andy showed how Gotten To he was by attacking Gunns during his entrance. Again this would seem to establish Gunns as the pseudo-face here, but the majority of the Turbinenhalle took to cheering for Andy. The crowd were lively throughout though and the lack of a clear favourite made the match more dynamic as each man could play up his character a lot more. Gunns is a prick but after his Ringkampf beating he has gained somewhat of an underdog’s chip on his shoulder, which he plays up to against another Big Lad opponent.

There were some great spots near the end with Gunns trapping Andy in his armbar out of nowhere, but I do wish wXw were more consistent about the effectiveness of Gunns’ armbar. His victory over Timothy Thatcher and Rico Bushido’s “once it’s in, it’s in” call of the armbar was a significant moment for Gunns last year, but that immediate danger wasn’t felt here as Andy spent a fair while writhing around in the armbar and it was applied on him more than once too. This is the sort of thing wXw are usually great at establishing and the details are what is setting them apart right now, so it’s a shame to see that consistency not applied here.

Andy attempted to cheat to win by grabbing a wrench and then a ring bell hammer in order to distract the ref, but in the end he didn’t even need to, as a superkick put Gunns down for good. A fun but inconsistent match that sets both characters off into new directions – they will have a rematch for the Shotgun title at Dead End. **½

wXw Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Killer Kelly (c)

Killer Kelly only came to wXw three months ago, was a replacement for the injured Pauline in the Women’s Championship tournament and was a replacement in the final too, but despite all that she ended up winning the whole thing. A lucky rookie champion hasn’t gone down too well with the rest of the Shotgun-verse and Kelly’s been given no end of verbal abuse since her big win – she’s the person the office moan about when the fridge is empty and everyone automatically assumed Toni Storm, winner of Femmes Fatales in October, would wipe the floor with her. It’s difficult not to root for Kelly under such circumstances. She’s already shown great signs of improvement in the ring and has natural star charisma, so even though she really isn’t on Storm’s level, she looks and feels like she belongs anyway.

Much of the first half of the match took place on the outside, with some good physical striking culminating in Storm clattering Kelly over the first row of chairs with a Rear View. Once back in the ring, Kelly took control and hit a big dive to the outside, but was dispatched relatively soon afterwards with a Strong Zero. At just under 7 minutes this wasn’t a long back-and-forth match but Kelly looked on par with Storm for much of it. The title is on a big name now but Killer Kelly still looks to be the focus of the division, only now she has something to strive to gain back. **½

Käfigschlacht III
WALTER, Timothy Thatcher, Avalanche and Julian Nero def. RISE (Bad Bones, Lucky Kid, Tarkan Aslan and Ivan Kiev)

WALTER and Bad Bones started the match off as captains of their team, while their teammates would come to the ring, first after 5 minutes, then in 2.5 minute intervals thereafter. The heels have the advantage in that regard, naturally.

The showdown between Bones and WALTER to start off was excellent – two titans of wXw going at it with a hot crowd behind them. It was a good way to set the tone but the first half of the match after that was relatively uninteresting due to the nature of the gimmick. Dragon Gate gets round the ‘dull first bit’ of War Games with their Dead or Alive cage match by having the wrestlers climb to capture flags or otherwise ‘qualify’ for the second part of the match when someone can actually win the thing. The traditional match structure though has to rely on new entrants to spice things up, and outside of a live environment that just doesn’t do much, knowing there’s still 20 minutes to go until the finishing stretch.

Things picked up once the last man, Avalanche, was in the ring. Avalanche is established as the kingmaker inside the cage, and RISE as a group are excellent foil for such a threat. Their alliance is established as nothing short of volatile, with sub-factions looking out for themselves and boss Bad Bones basically resenting his own henchmen. All the components of the match really came together at this point and helped them produce a ton of drama. The momentum shifts from one team dominating to the other were very well timed, again much like a Dragon Gate multi-man main event, creating an environment where just one little mistake could cost a team the whole match. And with their in-fighting, making little mistakes is something RISE is great at. Bad Bones was flexing by tossing the faces out of the ring to try to beat Avalanche by himself, but had his last attempt reversed and had the cage door slammed in his face by Pete Bouncer on the outside. Immediately the faces set about crushing a vulnerable Bones, but the momentum dramatically shifted again when a cage dive from Ivan Kiev saved the boss and let the Young Lions back in. Bones couldn’t help but get in Bouncer’s face afterwards though and this led to the whole match breaking down on the outside, Avalanche going through a table and Lucky Kid blasting his mate Aslan in the face with a chair.

After all that wacky action the match actually calmed down a bit, with the Ringkampf boys going two vs two against Bones and Kiev. Bouncer introduced a table to the equation, which Thatcher and Kiev promptly went through together, leaving the two captains alone again to finish the match. Without his goons to back him up, Bones fell to the superior wrestling technique of WALTER. Bouncer attempted to save him but was snatched up by a revived Avalanche, forcing Bones to tap out.

This was 40 minutes of meticulously planned action, another RISE multi-man banger as this group has now proven themselves more than capable of delivering the in-ring storytelling side and playing foil to popular acts on the other side of the ring. The RISE henchmen on their own may not be to interesting but they’ve hooked me on these wild multi-mans. Bad Bones took the fall again, as he did against Dragunov and Cerberus at WTTL, but his vulnerability is what makes him a compelling champion and he’s backing up his end of the deal with great singles matches too. wXw managed to reset the RISE storyline without Dragunov in the picture very well here. There’s a lot to digest from this one and a lot of story beats may get lost in the shuffle, but this match certainly delivered an abundance of excitement. ***½

Final Thoughts

wXw are certainly flexing their storytelling muscles and they have the tools in both the production and in-ring aspects to do so with style. Even if you’re not invested in the storyline, this was still one of their better ‘marquee’ shows with the spectacle of the Käfigschlacht being the highlight. 16 Carat is only just over a month away, so the time is now to hop on wXwNOW to check out the lay of the land before the big tournament.