16 CARAT GOLD SEMIFINAL MATCH:
David Starr vs. Keith Lee - 7.5/10
They told the story of the size difference between the two men. I thought it was a mistake to rush through the build up to trying to get the body slam as quickly as they did and to do that in the middle of the match. Props to the announcers (Alan Counihan & Jeremy Graves) for bringing up Starr's inability to beat another similarly-sized opponent, WALTER, throughout last year, which not only made the story being told in the ring mean more, but also allows Starr's win here to plant the seeds in our mind that maybe he will finally be able to beat WALTER next time.
16 CARAT GOLD SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Absolute Andy vs. Timothy Thatcher - 8.25/10
Take a very great babyface vs. heel match with an extremely hot crowd that is 100% behind the babyface... and then throw in one of the best finishing sequences I've ever seen- and PERFECT one for this match- and have the heel somehow manage to pull out the win in such a way that even though the pin itself was clean, everything that build up to it made it feel like he was totally undeserving a stole the win. As Andy made his way up the ramp, it seemed like every last one of the thousand fans in attendance was flipping him off, and I was doing the same sitting in front of my computer. Andy has made himself quite the distinguished front-runner for Best Heel of the Year early on here in 2018.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Ivan Kiev & Pete Bouncer of RISE came out onto the stage and Kiev cut a promo in German. While the camera wasn't looking, WALTER had somehow made his way to the ring so he grabbed a mic and responded, also in German, which I don't speak... but that last bit seemed pretty universally understandable as "BRING IT!". We would later learn that a challenged had been issued for the tag titles for later tonight.
MARK HASKINS vs. EMIL SITOCI vs. ALEXANDER JAMES vs. LUCKY KID (w/Tarkan Aslan) - 4.75/10
They tried to do a lot of spots that included everyone. Sometimes it worked, but often it just looked really forced.
FOUR-WAY MATCH FOR THE wXw WOMEN'S TITLE:
Toni Storm vs. Killer Kelly vs. "Session Moth" Martina vs. Wesna - 5.25/10
F*CKING WESNA BUSIC IS BACK! This was a relatively short match, but it was fast-paced and fun. Seeing Wesna trade strikes with Toni and Kelly was great, and seeing Wesna get her hands on Martina was... well... honestly a little disappointing because all she did was give her a Samoan drop rather than what I was hoping for, which was for her to clothesline Martina's head into the third row.
wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Ilja Dragunov(c) vs. Matt Riddle - 8/10
This match was set up by Riddle making an open challenge and Ilja coming out to answer it and offering to put his title on the line. I'd argue that the mirroring spots came off a bit too cute, but other than that this was a hard-hitting fight for survival, which is the environment in which Ilja thrives.
CCK & JONAH ROCK vs. MATT SYDAL, MARIUS AL-ANI, & "SPEEDBALL" MIKE BAILEY - 7/10
Brookes is looking extra-lanky today. This was a great filler action match. Speedball and Sydal seem like they would be a fun team. Jonah Rock meshed very well with CCK.
RISE SEGMENT - Good. They came out onto the stage and Ivan Kiev announced that the men who would challenge RingKampf for the tag titles tonight would be himself & Pete Bouncer, but Klinger used his position as the leader of RISE to overrule this decision and said that instead of Kiev & Bouncer, it would be Da Mack and himself. Kiev was clearly not happy about this.
This segment did a great job of continuing to build dissension within the ranks of RISE, and particularly between Kiev & Bouncer and Klinger (though they have had separate issues with Lucky Kid as well). Considering that RISE's story for the first part of this year was Kiev threatening Klinger that they might need new leadership soon and Klinger pointing out that he was the only one of them who managed to retain his title at the 17th Anniversary Show and he had retained his title without their help then, and repeated the feat at Dead End XVII, I had expected this next confrontation to be a bit more explosive now that Klinger had lost the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title last night, but not having the explosion right away is probably a better way to go here. RISE's mindset has always been one of keeping their disagreements out of the public eye, and this segment, with Klinger throwing his weight around even though the thing that gave him his claim to uncontested leadership is gone does an excellent job of setting up a more private airing of grievances, which will likely air on the next episode of Shotgun. But, seeing as how next month's big show is called "True Colors," I do expect something soon.
wXw WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
RingKampf(c) vs. RISE ("Bad Bones" John Klinger & Da Mack) - 6.75/10
Despite Thatcher having wrestled earlier, things were going fine for our babyfaces until WALTER accidentally hit Thatcher with a shotgun dropkick. Both RISE members immediately nailed WALTER with their finishers to take him out, and Thatcher remained isolated for the rest of the match. WALTER tried to get back in when he could, but was thwarted first by Klinger pulling him off the apron just as Thatcher was about to make the tag, then, when he tried to come in anyway after this to get at Klinger he was thwarted by the referee enforcing the rules, and at the end was prevented from making the save by Klinger cutting him off. There was a bit of weirdness on the finish, as the timekeeper rang the bell on what was supposed to be a nearfall, but then Da Mack just picked Thatcher up and hit his next finisher for the win. These two things combined for a finish that felt rather flat, but the crowd was angry enough at RISE's victory that it helped pave over it some.
I like the booking of this title change for two reasons. For RingKampf it can be used to set up a direction for them, as everyone came into this weekend thinking there was a damn good chance that WALTER would win the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title and that Thatcher would win 16 Carat Gold, but now they are coming out of it not only without any of those, but also even without the tag titles they came into the weekend with. For RISE I like this win because having some sort of gold gives the rest of the group a reason to still follow Klinger when Kiev & Bouncer do inevitably break off. Speaking of which...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great! RISE come out to celebrate their comrades' victory. And when I say "celebrate" what I really mean is that Lucky Kid and Tarkan Aslan celebrated with them while Bouncer & Kiev walk slowly to the ring, brooding. Klinger demanded that he be hoisted onto his comrades' shoulders as usual after a victory, and while Kiev did indeed lift him up, he clearly wasn't happy about it. Klinger did his usual pose, his right hand showing RISE's signature hand symbol and his championship belt thrust out in his left hand... and the Pete Bouncer pulled Klinger down, yanking the belt right out of his hand in the process, and nailed him with a double-arm DDT. The place went NUTS!
Bouncer managed to escape Da Mack's wrath by rolling out to the floor, while the other RISE members seemed too stunned to act. The crowd chanted for Ivan Kiev to join Bouncer but Kiev, after much hesitation, gave the RISE salute. Bouncer angrily ripped his RISE shirt off and got in the ring, seemingly to challenge Kiev to a fight but RISE retreated. Seeing all five guys retreat from just Pete Bouncer was a little hokey, but it kind of worked. Kiev's decision to remain in RISE was a major shock, but I honestly don't expect it to last too long. For now, though, wXw just turned an undercard jamoke into a super-over babyface in just one segment.
16 CARAT GOLD FINALS:
Absolute Andy vs. David Starr - 8/10
This was very reminiscent of the main event of the 17th Anniversary Show where you had a defiant, determined babyface and a big mean, heel who just kept beating on him and beating on him but the babyface wouldn't go down until he finally did go down, and entirely cleanly, too... but while that match had months and months of build-up, plus the copious use of weapons, this one didn't have either of those things and thus paled in comparison. It was just a great big bully vs. smaller wrestler story. It was definitely awesome, but almost didn't feel worthy of the spot it was given due to the disappointing ending to the story. Andy cheating his way to victory here would have continued the theme of the tournament, as would Al-Ani's preventing him from doing so (and he did, early on), and then Starr winning clean so that Andy gets some comeuppance, but Andy winning clean felt so weird. This also had that Brock vs. Cena, overly-squashy vibe to it that stopped it from feeling like the truly epic battle the finals of this tournament deserves. It was an excellent match, but still a disappointment.
Another GREAT show from wXw, despite the disappointing ending. We once again got great wrestling in front of a great crowd, some fun surprises and major storyline developments. The finishing sequence to Andy vs. Thatcher really is must-see, and the weekend as a whole has become, to me, one of the major highlights of the wrestling year. I'd go so far as to say that it's the biggest annual single-elimination tournament in wrestling, as BOLA has gotten too big for its own good with the way they force themselves to stuff so many matches into the third day. This is definitely a show you should check out, and definitely a weekend you should check out.