wXw 16 Carat Gold 2018 – Night 3
March 11, 2018
Oberhausen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland

Watch: wXw Now

We’re in Oberhausen. Germany at the Turbinenhalle. Myself and Oli Court (who reviewed Night 2) were once again invited over to wXw for Carat weekend and once again we had a wonderful time. The promotion is the best in Europe and one of the world’s most professional Indies. Only behind WWE and New Japan in terms of production values, staffed by some of the most professional people in the business. Night Two was a genuine contender for show of the year, with the shocking return of Ilja Dragunov being one of the most amazingly well orchestrated main event angles in recent memory. Oli immediately claimed Night Two and who can blame him. This left me with the final night of action.

Before the show kicked off we got a video of all four participants showcasing their reasoning for being there, their history and once again it was a slick professional piece of business that got the live crowd fired up and does the same on VOD.

16 Carat Gold Semi-Final
David Starr def. Keith Lee

Everyone’s pre-tournament prediction was Starr winning. It seemed like a no-brainer. Until Ilja Dragunov came back. Then all bets were off. The position of top babyface is filled. That said Keith Lee never felt like a tournament winner. wXw has done such an outstanding job of booking their own internal domestic talent, and regular visitors, that a super Indies guy like Keith didn’t feel like a natural solution to their main event issues. As it turns out CMJ, who is all about wXw and doesn’t watch a tonne of non-wXw wrestling, didn’t know who Keith Lee was and he was recommended by other employees.

The crux of this match is these two men have made it this far with relative ease. Nobody has been kicking out of their big moves. Now it’s business time. There’s an underlying story that Starr can’t beat WALTER and Keith is basically here as a WALTER surrogate. Starr’s superman routine started rubbing people up the wrong way by night three and while I felt he would be largely supported that wasn’t always the case. Yes, he had vocal fans but his ‘underdog’ persona might even be tainted by winning the tournament. Starr had been winning with his ridiculously named lariat (Han Stanson, I know, I know) but it’s not enough to put Lee away, which would become a running theme of night three. Much like the Spiritbomb doesn’t put Starr away. Starr’s bump came in for a lot of criticism as he attempted one of those ‘Rock Stunner’ sells and it didn’t work at all. It also made the near fall less entertaining. Starr ends up finishing with a ridiculous Canadian Destroyer. This was really good as is any Keith Lee match where he gets to trade big moves. These guys are ideally suited to each other in that respect. ***3/4

16 Carat Gold Semi-Final
Absolute Andy def. Timothy Thatcher

These two guys have already had a stunning weekend. It’s taken Thatcher six years to get this over in wXw but it’s been a natural occurrence. A steady build and his promos over the weekend have been heart-wrenching. People were genuinely invested in Thatcher, myself included. We wanted to see Tim win the big one for the sport of professional wrestling. Meanwhile Andy, dickbag snake that he is, had cheated to get by Marius Al-Ani, cheated to get by Matt Riddle and would now cheat to overcome Tim Thatcher. The bastard.

This was the perfect storm of dastardly heel Andy and pure babyface Thatcher. When you’re booking a wrestling tournament the aim should either be to hit a ‘dream’ final or end your tournament with the underdog face versus the devious bad guy. The presence of Andy here should have been a dead giveaway. Absolute Andy has been superb since turning heel. While Al-Ani has been lost since the break-up of A4, focused entirely on getting revenge, Andy has simply entered his zenith as a performer. His range of big moves are effective enough but add the wrench shots and shortcuts on top of that and Andy is the big threat in the tournament. The result here is a quiet crowd, who suspect Andy is about to dick Tim over. When compared to how riotous they were for the bulk of the weekend it’s perhaps a slight on what they’re being presented with. Or there are a lot of sore throats in the Turbinenhalle. Most people had lost their voices around me, myself included, so there’s a lot of clapping instead. On night three you have to pick your spots. As with Lee/Starr moves that have finished beforehand do not here. This includes the superkick and the F5, which cannot put Timmy away. Tim does an insane job of breaking up Andy’s cheating, blocking a kick to the nuts with his thighs and a wrench shot at the same time. So Andy intentionally lays out Tas and cheats to win, using WALTER’s Gojira Clutch and eventually flipping over on a reversal to get the pin. It boils my blood just watching this. That Andy is a total swine. ***1/2

Post Match: The RISE boys shows up to challenge Ringkampf to a tag title match tonight. The crowd are very into Pete Bouncer, which will be important later.

Emil Sitoci def. Alexander James, Mark Haskins and Lucky Kid

There’s a suggestion that James is being primed for the ‘Tim Thatcher spot’ in a few years. He has that grass roots support, even if he’s positioned as a heel. It’s been a big weekend for Lucky Kid. He’s seen his star rise (ahem) in wXw thanks to a shock win over Matt Sydal and an excellent performance against Tim Thatcher. He’s the star here too, ducking under moves and yelling “bleh” at people. The match only exists as filler and a chance to get these guys on the card. Especially Lucky Kid. AJ, who’s normally not effective in multi-man matches, has a decent showing. Haskins keeps everything glued together and Sitoci gets the win. Everyone had a role here but the match will not be remembered. **1/2

wXw Women’s Championship
Toni Storm (c) def. Martina, Killer Kelly & Wesna

One of my wXw sources told me that another surprise would happen on Night 3 and that was the surprise use of Wesna, who starred in Femmes Fatales when she beat the shit out of Toni Storm in the tournament. Martina, who made an arse out of herself at the after party the night before suddenly found herself booed by the Irish fans. There will be repercussions in the Tivoli. It is a little weird that Kelly went through a qualifying match for a title shot, lost and yet got a title shot anyway. Albeit in a four-way. I like how Wesna dominates the match but only Toni can stand up to her. It’s as it should be. The champion should be a match for anyone (if they’re a babyface).

The big success story is Killer Kelly. She’s come along so much since October. She’ll be in contention for ‘most improved’ come years end I suspect. Martina is what drags the match down. She brings comedy but not much else and the dynamic would have been better without her; the two big Toni feuds in wXw colliding. The experienced Wesna vs. the youthful Kelly. Wesna vs. Kelly is the most intriguing part of the match. Wouldn’t it be neat for Kelly to have to beat Wesna to get another title shot? Strong Zero puts Martina away and interestingly enough she had Wesna and Kelly beaten during the course of the match too. She is a strong champion and rightly so. I enjoyed most of this. Kelly is one to watch and Toni is a world-beater right now. **3/4

wXw Unified Championship
Ilja Dragunov (c) vs. Matt Riddle

Instead of having Dragunov issue a challenge, they have Riddle issue a challenge and Ilja turn up to be a fighting champion. Smart booking. After all Riddle lost in the tournament and has no claim on the title. What follows is one of those Indie superfights that seem to be happening everywhere. However this is different. Here Ilja is rooted to Germany and any time he fights a global star it feels fresh and different. I’m a big fan of Ilja looking super tough and Riddle allowing himself to look a little weaker than usual while not sacrificing his badass moveset. They hit each other really hard and both guys love that violent realistic style. It’s a match made in heaven. It doesn’t quite fire on the level of Dragunov’s craziest matches, nor Riddle’s wars with WALTER but it’s really good. Ilja isn’t used to getting these big marquee matches but he should get accustomed to it because he’s the man now. Riddle has spent the past few years having these wars with big lads but Ilja is a similar size and weight. It’s a very good match. Now start thinking about how good Ilja will be against all the guys Riddle has great matches with. Riddle gets caught charging into the corner with Torpedo Moscow and Ilja retains. This was a tidy little match up. I’m very excited to see Dragunov take on the cream of Indie wrestling as wXw champion. He’s so ready for it. ****

Chris Brookes, Travis Banks & Jonah Rock def. Mike Bailey, Marius Al-Ani & Matt Sydal

wXw always have this fun tag match with all the crazy guys in before the main event. Seeing as Matt Sydal has done nothing, bar jobbing to Lucky Kid is a delightful moment on night one, it’s high time he showed up. The lads have clearly been told to go out and have fun. The match really clicks into higher gear when Travis Banks and Mike Bailey discover they have incredible chemistry and kick fuck out of each other. That would probably have happened in BOLA if Mike wasn’t banned from America. Bailey makes Sydal useful too. They click beautifully as a team. wXw are doing homework for a bunch of promotions here! Nobody comes off badly, as has occasionally been the case over the course of the weekend, and we have six good performances. While the showy stuff comes from Bailey, Sydal and Al-Ani it’s Brookes who holds the match together.

That said it’s Bailey vs. Banks that I desperately want in singles action. Someone needs to make that happen. Progress or wXw should logically get on that ASAP. Bodies fly all over the place in this one and the crowd love it. It’s also awesome to hear Alan Counihan call “sick fucking tag moves”. After a frantic 15 minutes Travis pints Sydal with the Kiwi Krusher. As per usual the pre-main event crazy tag paid off. I loved this. It was a lot better on tape, where I could see everything. I actually spent this match chilling out on the back of the balcony and getting fuelled up for the big matches. ****

wXw Unified Tag Team Championship
RISE def. Ringkampf (c)

Ivan Kiev won the tag title shot so he names the participants as Da Mack and Pete Bouncer (with the crowd all chanting his name). Bad Bones overrides this decision, despite having done nothing to deserve it, and books himself in place of Bouncer. Tim Thatcher is leaving Germany for a while after this so it’s not a surprise that Ringkampf lose the straps. Always leave them wanting more and this crowd wants more Tim Thatcher. Whenever he chooses to return he will do so as a conquering hero. It’s just a shame they can’t prolong the tag title run but it also makes sense to switch the straps to RISE, who have lost their Unified World title this weekend and won’t be getting it back anytime soon. Instead the focus has switched to RISE’s internal issues. The crowd are very into Bouncer, even though he’s not in the match, showing the RISE angle is working. Plus you’ve got a super fired up WALTER smashing everyone to bits.

Tommy fucks up the finish by ringing the bell when Thatcher kicks out. Right before Mack pins Tim with the Unprettier. This was going quite well up the last minute, which is pretty bad. The real story is Pete Bouncer who reacts badly to Klinger’s celebration and turns on Bones, leaving RISE in the process. There’s a long, long pause while Ivan Kiev thinks about where his allegiances lie before he poses with Bones and stays in RISE. For now. Great angle. The internal conflict in RISE has been majestically well done. ***1/2

16 Carat Gold Final 2018
Absolute Andy def. David Starr

So it all comes down to this and I don’t think any of us had this pegged as the final (until the last day when Oli called it). Starr was a pre-tournament favourite but Andy was a guy who could have easily gone out in the first round to his nemesis Marius Al-Ani. It’s credit to Andy that he’s here and he feels like he belongs here. He’s a veteran but he’s never won 16 Carat. Hell, he didn’t even get into Carat last year, losing the alternate four-way. The closest he’s come is 2015, going out in the semi-final to Tommy End. This is as big for Andy as it is for Starr, who’s wanted to win Carat since debuting in wXw. He debuted in wXw in 2016. Andy debuted in 2005. It might be Starr’s dream for two years but it’s been Andy’s dream for 13 years and he’s had to turn into an absolute shit to get here.

I love that Andy has one or two very vocal fans who loudly chant his name, while the majority of the fans are into Starr. That one guy loudly chanting “Andy” from the balcony is a goddamn hero. I booed the hell out of him and lost my voice doing so but he was still chanting Andy’s name after the show. That’s dedication. He chanted us all into the ground.

The match has an interesting dynamic with Andy throwing Starr around with his power offence and David having to fight from underneath. Andy doesn’t feel he needs to cheat to win because he has such a size advantage of the “rookie” Starr. When Starr switches his pacing up Andy just cheats. The pliers come out and Marius Al-Ani finally steps up to stop his evil ways. Took your time mate! This leads right into the finisher overkill between two tired wrestlers. Everything in the last five minutes or so feels like the finish and they do a sterling job of that. “Andy like the snake he is just slithered his way into the ropes” – Jeremy Graves maintains the Andy is a snake motif that Twitter has been pursuing. I love the way Andy escapes the bigger spots whereas Starr, overpowered, is left having to kick-out thus weakening him for the stretch. Starr’s desperation kick-outs get more and more desperate until there’s just nothing left. Starr kicks out of so many moves. Andy gets sick of it and puts him away with the A-Klasse (his old finisher, thanks to @Jeszbort for reminding me of the name). On VOD I can see Starr trying to reach for the ropes! That’s brilliant. Andy wins and totally deserves it. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

Night Two was the killer night. In 2017 all three nights were really strong. That’s less so of 2018. There was a definite ranking: Night Two, Night Three, Night One. In retrospect there’s a lot to like about Night Three although some of the multi-man matches came across like filler. The four-way especially. However the tournament left another memorable impression on me. Totally different to 2017 but just as emotional and impactful. I had a wonderful time. You need to see this live. Trust me. The Turbinenhalle is not a church but it’s holy ground.