The biggest week of the European wrestling year is upon us; the wXw 16 Carat Gold Festival is within touching distance. Wrestlers and fans hailing from all over the globe will be converging on Oberhausen for what is sure to be a wonderful week of wrestling action.
The festival kicks off with wXw’s bi-annual inner circle event, the most intimate top level wrestling show you can find anywhere in the world. Emanating out of wXw’s wrestling academy, the exclusive event is always the perfect taste ahead of the main course that’s set to come.
The Inner Circle cards are always a lovely blend of top level stars in a unique setting where they feel comfortable to let their hair down and underexposed talent having their first opportunity to get over with the travelling crowd.
This year’s show is main evented by a fascinating encounter that will see Battlarts legend Yuki Ishikawa team with Shigehiro Irie to face off against the Ringkampf team of Timothy Thatcher and WALTER. It’s a match that’s sure to be hard hitting, raw and brutal; I’m very much looking forward to witness the showdown in such a close environment.
16 Carat Gold Tournament
This year’s tournament boasts a participant list that rivals, if not bests, the fantastic level of talent that has made up previous years’ line-up. The above graphic displays all the participants grouped into their first round matches, and shows the wonderful assortment that is being brought to Oberhausen. Elite talent from America, Mexico, Japan, the UK and Australia are all coming in to test their mettle against the best continental Europe has to offer.
The first round match which jumps immediately off the page for me is David Starr taking on his forever-rival WALTER. Theirs is a rivalry that has transcended promotions and produced epic after epic; their chemistry together is near unrivalled. In the unpredictable times which European wrestling is currently in, one thing has remained constant: WALTER beats Starr. Ten times have these two men faced off in singles matches, and ten times the Ring General has had his hand raised.
When David Starr won the right to hand pick his opponent for the first round there was no thought required; Starr will test himself once again against the giant Austrian with the aim of finally picking up the victory that has proved oh so elusive for him. The stars feel like they may finally be aligning for it to happen, and if that’s the case I can only imagine how great the match is going to be. They’ve delivered time upon time with every match of their series, so I can only imagine the conclusion to Starr’s hunt will be nothing short of majestic.
Another first round encounter that I’m greatly looking forward to is the Falls Count Anywhere match between Avalanche and Jurn Simmons. These two bruisers have been engaged in a heated rivalry for most of the Winter in wXw, and on this big stage I’m confident they’ll deliver.
Lucky Kid going up against Timothy Thatcher will be a wonderful example of how well the German promotion has built up these two guys for their fanbase. Lucky Kid came into the promotion as a relative unknown, whereas Thatcher first made the trip over with a shaky reputation at best from an EVOLVE run that received mixed receptions. Now both men are incredibly popular with the German crowd, and it’ll be interesting to see how they split their allegiances between these two beloved uber-fan favourites.
Conversely, Ilja Dragunov facing Daisuke Sekimoto is bound to be a tremendous one-off spectacle. I expect their styles to mesh seamlessly, and that this will be a hard hitting contest to remember. There are sure to be more grunts and gurns than anybody is attendance will possibly be ready for.
As for who is primed to go on and win the tournament, I’d be lying to you if I said I was confident in making a prediction. This year more than most the field feels wide open, but I’ve narrowed it down to four guys I see as favourites.
First up is David Starr, with the large asterisk attached that I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see him go out in the very first round. When Starr faces WALTER he does have a strong tendency to lose after all. If, however, he does manage to overcome that huge roadblock I think he’ll be well primed to go all the way. It would feel a strange decision to finally pull the trigger on his victory against WALTER only to have him lose the next night.
Another guy I wouldn’t be too surprised to see lose in the first round is Timothy Thatcher, as Lucky Kid going deep isn’t out of the question either, but should he make it past that point I think he’s a very strong contender to reach the finals. With his fellow Ringkampf stable mates off making waves around the world, the story of Timothy Thatcher has been how he has been the one guy committed to wXw above all else. What better way to cap off that story than by having him win the crown jewel of the promotion?
Axel Dieter Jr. is a guy that I think is a lock to reach the semi-finals at a minimum. Since returning to wXw, he announced his participation in the tournament by saying that he has one thing left to do in the promotion that he never managed to achieve, and that was to win their premier tournament. With a clear stated motivation like that an early exit would make no sense. When you then add in how beloved he is in his home country, ADJ finally picking up the Carat victory that has eluded him is far from out of the question.
Finally, my dark horse to win 16 Carat is Avalanche Robert Dreissker. I’ve been saying ever since his return from injury that he’s on the verge of breaking out as the next big continental European star. He’s another guy that has the crowd deeply invested in his success, and what better way to capitalise on that and create a superstar than to have him run the table in the deepest 16 Carat Gold field ever?
In non-tournament action there’s two featured title matches announced to take place on nights two and three. The night two main event will see Absolute Andy defend his wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship against the uber-popular Bobby Gunns. These two were meant to face off in a triple threat at World Tag Team League, but Andy’s injury paved the way for the infamous chant match between Gunns and Ilja. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see a title change.
Night three will feature a very well built match for the Women’s Championship between Toni Storm and Killer Kelly. The build to this match has involved their competitive instincts straining their friendship, and I expect for it to pay off very nicely in the title bout. Killer Kelly has come on leaps and bounds as a worker over the last few years since debuting in the company, but is yet to have that signature match to cement her in the top tier of women’s wrestlers worldwide. This could well be it.
Outside of that there’s sure to be plenty going on surrounding the RISE faction. I for one wouldn’t be surprised to see their former leader make his big return here on the biggest weekend on wXw’s year.
The weekend will also play host to a second tournament: wXw’s 10th Ambition Shoot Fight tournament. Ambition always provides a unique vibe for European wrestling, offering something completely different for the weekend.
The eight man field is made up of Spain’s A-Kid, England’s Chris Ridgeway, Japan’s Shigehiro Irie, Netherlands’ Rico Bushido, Wales’ Danny Jones, Australia’s Istria and two German representatives in Veit Muller and Laurance Roman; it’s a supremely international field. I’m going to be paying particular focus to Veit, as he’s a guy I really think could break out over the weekend and his showing at Ambition could be a large part of that.
The show will also have the honour of hosting Battlarts legend Yuki Ishikawa in a non-tournament Super Fight against Timothy Thatcher. I can think of few better matches to have as part of a shoot style card.