Around nine months ago, I wrote an article in which I was extolling the virtues of Bobby Gunns, whilst also questioning whether he was ready to be elevated to be ‘the guy’ in wXw. At a time when Ilja Dragunov had just returned in an emotional main event of 16 Carat Gold Night Two, the route to the top didn’t seem obvious. Coupled with wXw historically being a promotion who weren’t in a rush to elevate wrestlers above where they believed them to be, I queried as to whether the time might pass to capitalize on Gunns’ popularity.
It was at 16 Carat Gold weekend that the responses to Gunns highlighted him as the next potentially big star for the promotion. A raft of drunken British and Irish wrestling fans, coupled with equally vocal fans from the rest of the world, offered vociferous support for the King of Smoke Style. It helped that everything Gunns was involved in delivered. A wild tag team contest on the first night saw him team with ‘Bad Bones’ John Klinger in a losing effort to WALTER and Mike Bailey, before one of the matches of the weekend had Gunns use Bailey’s real life double-jointedness to horrific effect as he stamped bent fingers and armbarred his way to victory.
wXw had pushed Gunns strong in 2017, giving him significant victories over Japanese legend Koji Kanemoto, a Loser Leaves Town win over Da Mack, and a Shotgun Title reign after defeating Ivan Kiev. 2018 looked all set to be the next step in his elevation towards the top and the steps taken at Shortcut To The Top in August seemed to suggest that very idea. Unlike when some wrestlers lose a title, a loss to Marius Al-Ani saw Gunns relinquish the Shotgun Title in a fashion that felt like it was freeing him up for bigger and better things. By the end of the night, Gunns was standing tall as the winner of the Shortcut To The Top, wXw’s Royal Rumble-style event, earning himself a shot at the wXw Unified World Heavyweight Title.
This is where things started to go a little awry, mainly due to things outside of Gunns’ direct influence.
Laying out the challenge for World Tag League, Gunns was scheduled to face Ilja Dragunov and Absolute Andy for the title. Unfortunately, an injury to Andy left the match as a singles contest for an interim championship to be defended against The Veteran upon his return. With a similar make-up to the audience that responded so positively to Gunns at 16 Carat Gold due to be in Oberhausen, it isn’t too far of a stretch to suggest that Gunns might have won the title had it stayed a three-way contest. What we were given instead was one of the most impressive crowds in modern history chanting along for almost the whole match as Ilja Dragunov defeated Gunns to take the gold.
It was a move that made sense insomuch as the injury to Andy left a need for stability. To take a risk on Gunns at this point was perhaps too dangerous for wXw to consider, especially if the return match with Andy might not have engendered the same response as a loyal Turbinenhalle crowd. For a first title victory, maybe it was felt that it needed to be on a grander scale without any of the extra-curricular issues surrounding it.
This desire to proceed with Dragunov versus Andy once more did feel like it stalled Gunns at the tail end of 2018. It required him to lose to Dragunov and to Andy, losing his #1 Contendership that he won at Shortcut to the Top in the process and looking a little like he wasn’t yet capable of mixing it truly with the main event heavyweights. However, a series with Shigehiro Irie has done wonders for making it feel like Gunns has momentum once more. It feels strange to say considering he actually went 1-2 with the physically imposing Irie, but promos and backstage segments that presented Gunns getting his mind back in order, helped by his brother, made the eventual victory feel like it was an important roadblock navigated on a route to another title shot.
A shot that he might get sooner rather than later.
Having outlasted Dragunov, Timothy Thatcher, Chris Brookes and Lucky Kid in a five-way match at Road to 16 Carat Gold in London on Saturday night, Gunns wandered down to the ring at the end of the match between Absolute Andy and David Starr. Using the universal signal for wanting a title shot, using his hands to mimic a belt around his waist, Gunns made it clear that he wanted the next shot at Andy. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from the crowd showed that they wanted it as well. By putting Gunns over such an array of talent before the altercation with Andy at the end of the show, it sets in motion a potential title match at 16 Carat Gold 2019, if not before at Dead End.
The last two years have both felt like the year of Bobby Gunns when it comes to wXw; 2019 is shaping up potentially to be his best yet.