BILLY GUNN vs. EMIL SITOCI - 4.75/10
For anyone who has been wondering where Jurn Simmons has been, the answer is that he's injured. He did commentary for this match and told us he'd be out for quite a while. They had a short little inoffensive match. Both guys got their sh*t in. Billy Gunn got the win, but gave Sitoci a respectful hug and a handshake afterwards.
I've been extremely critical of the refereeing in New Japan for being ridiculously lax, but it's rare that we find something so far to the other end of the spectrum worthy of note. Early on in this match, Billy Gunn went to do his usual Billy Gunn shtick and tell Sitoci to suck it... but the referee stopped him from doing so, with the announcers explaining to us that such vulgar expressions won't be tolerated here. WHAT?! I've only seen about two years' worth of wXw at this point, but I'm dead sure I've seen and heard much worse. Even more ridiculously, the referee just let Billy Gunn do it a short while later. Did they have someone check the crowd in between and make sure there were no children present and alert the referee that vulgarities were okay?
JOEY MERCURY vs. DIRTY DRAGAN - 4.5/10
Mercury pretended to be a babyface early on, but this was just to lull Dirty Dragan into a false sense of security so he could use heel tactics to control the match. He then proceeded to be a dick heel, messing with, Dragan, and the crowd, and even the ring announcer. A lot of this match was spent with Mercury on the outside being a heel and working the crowd, but the referee counted consistently throughout, and Joey always made sure to break up the count (which he often did by rolling Dirty Dragan back into the ring, then yanking him right back out and dropping him to the floor). They eventually got back into the ring and Dragan made a comeback. Joey tried to cheat to get the win via illegal leverage. The referee saw this and ordered him to get off the ropes. When he didn't, the ref began to count for the break. Joey let up at four, flipping the referee off as he did so... and with this moment of arrogance Joey managed to distract himself just long enough for Dirty Dragan to flip him over into a pin of his own and get the win. A very fun encounter. I imagine that this what a Cody Rhodes match would be like if he knew how to not be boring when he stalled.
MIL MUERTES vs. ALEXANDER JAMES - 6.5/10
Seeing Mil Muertes without Catrina (and the magical rock) is weird, and seeing him high-fiving fans like a generic babyface was even weirder. The match was fine babyface vs. heel stuff, with James working over Mil Muertes' arm while Mil Muertes just tried to obliterate James with his power. James got the dirty win via using the ropes for illegal leverage. Normally I'd like to see someone going into a world title program (assuming WALTER doesn't win the belt back tonight, of course) win clean, but I think James is one of those guys who can win dirty because even though he is a great technical wrestler, the real threat of Alexander James comes from his ability to out-think you, either by getting in your head or by just plain cheating and taking advantage of a situation where you are distracted by something else.
JAY LETHAL vs. LUCKY KID - 7/10
Tarkan Aslan is not out here at Lucky Kid's side like he usually would be because Lucky refused to use the brass knuckles that Tarkan slipped to him in his match against Zack Sabre Jr. last month at True Colors. Lucky put forth a great effort here, but came out on the losing end. It's worth noting that he did bend the rules a bit, but never really did anything that would have been considered cheating enough for the ref to yell at him for it. Lethal showed him respect after the match for his effort. The match itself made great use of Lucky's character's unique quirks, and Lethal did a good job of staying calm and not letting them get to him. They did some cool stuff here that I don't remember seeing anywhere else (that 619 leg sweep in particular) and build pretty well to their finish.
MIXED TAG TEAM MATCH:
Marius Al-Ani & Killer Kelly vs. Absolute Andy & Melanie Gray - 7.75/10
This match was basically a combination of two feuds where a grumpy veteran is unhappy with younger wrestlers getting more than they think they deserve (although the Andy vs. Al-Ani feud is more personal than that as well because they used to be tag partners and Andy turned on and assaulted Al-Ani). Even before the match things weren't going well for the heels, as Melanie was upset with both Andy and the ring announcer for the ring announcer's intro of them (which I guess Andy supplied) referring to them as (something along the line of) "the unforgettable, historic, Absolute Andy experience... featuring M.G.). Right before the bell they tried to show unity via chest-bump, but the size difference between them was enough that Melanie went flying backwards and sold it. That was funny.
Melanie then just strayed there, crouched in the corner of the ring and stretching her leg until Andy got annoyed and just tagged himself in so that he and Al-Ani could fight, annoying Melanie even more. Then it got a little too over the top and she kind of stayed in the corner like she was stuck in her stretching position and needed both Andy and the referee to pull her up... at which point she started selling her abs. Killer Kelly took this opportunity to tag into the match, charge at Mella, take her down with a double-leg, and start pounding on her.
They did a bit of comedy revolving around the referee asserting himself against the heels that went over the line to me. I understand that it was the heels getting their comeuppance for things they had done to the babyfaces, but a referee should not be poking a competitor in the eye. Yes, Andy had grabbed the ref's leg, but what sort of referee goes right to "I'm going to try to kick your arm off of the thing you're grabbing for illegal leverage (in this case Melanie's arm) without even applying a five-count and threatening the DQ first?
Throughout the match, the announcers had an on-going debate about Killer Kelly's attractiveness. It's really not a debate they should be having at all, but at least they had the babyface announcer Rico Bushido saying she was attractive and the heel Jurn Simmons insisting that she wasn't. I bring this up solely because I would be remiss in my duties if I did not mention what will almost certainly be the funniest thing you hear a wrestling commentator say all year. At one point when Kelly nailed Mella with a running dropkick while Mella was seated in the corner and Jurn called this move by Kelly- who is 5'5, 128lbs of lean muscle, and does an MMA fighter gimmick complete with mouthguard and her hair tied back in braids- by saying it was "shades of Tugboat!" I laughed my ass off. In further heel excellence, when Kelly did the same move Andy later in the match, Rico Bushido made sure to call it by exclaiming "SHADES OF SHIBATA!" to which Jurn casually asked "who's that?"
You know what? F*ck it. Jurn Simmons is the best heel commentator in the business right now. At one point Melanie distracted the referee so Andy could hit Kelly with a MONSTROUS F-5 (a spot that I will admit would have worked a little better if she hadn't been the one to break the intergender violence rule first). Melanie then went for the pin but Al-Ani grabbed her by the leg and yanked her out of the ring to break it up... at which point an outraged Jurn Simmons shouted "HOW DARE HE PUT HIS HANDS ON A LADY!"
In all this was a dual grudge match that managed to be tremendously fun without ever losing the hatred between the two feuds. They mostly did good job with the stipulation, although they did start getting too liberal with the inter-gender violence towards the end (though at least unlike in WWE with that spot where Ronda had Hunter in the armbar, everyone remember that this was not legal and thus shouldn't be treated like it was a possible finish). After feeling that the feud seemed all but done after last month's TLC match, the stuff between Andy and Al-Ani towards the end of this match was not just exciting, but was heated enough to now make me think that this feud absolutely must continue (and, with Al-Ani finally having gotten a win, I'm sure it will). Props to all four wrestlers for this awesome match!
wXw SHOTGUN TITLE MATCH:
Bobby Gunns(c) vs. Christopher Daniels - 6.75/10
Gunns was, as always, an excellent heel, while Daniels was the consummate respected veteran babyface. Gunns worked over Daniels' knee and used some underhanded tactics to help retain his title.
wXw WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Monster Consulting(c) vs. RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) - 5/10
Lucky Kid came out with RISE before heading to the back but Tarkan Aslan was nowhere to be found, so I guess he's not here at all tonight. Some fans were chanting "WE WANT BAD BONES!" but others tried to drown them out, first with boos before escalating to "SHUT THE F*CK UP!" chants. My gut instinct is that this John Klinger firing has been a work, so it's possible that these are plants and this is somehow going to lead to Bad Bones' return... but these are wrestling fans we're talking about so it's also possible that the whole thing was a shoot and the chanters are just really annoying people.
Speaking of missing former members of RISE, Da Mack is apparently out of action with an injury. This is all according to Jurn Simmons, who tells us it's a herniated disc and there is no timetable for his return.
These guys had a nice little match that ended just as it was heating up because JayFK ran out and turned heel, attacking everyone with the belts to cause a no contest. They even took out the referee during this. This was a good beat-down. I particularly liked the way they still allowed Avalanche to look like a monster even while being laid out. More importantly, though, this angle gives wXw's tag team division a much-needed shot in the arm to help it through what is essentially a rebuilding stage.
wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Ilja Dragunov(c) vs. WALTER - 9.5/10
The story here is that after the evens of True Colors, Ilja wants another match so that they can have a decisive finish with no "what ifs" of any kind. Seems to me like maybe they should have added a stipulation here to ensure that? Based on their previous match, I think "two referees" would make the most sense. Then again, the fact that they haven't done so and are also putting this match on second to last makes me suspicious that we're not going to get anything resembling a decisive finish here, either, with a stip being built to put into place for the next big show.
Or maybe they'll just let these guys go out there, blow off their feud, and blow us away. The story of this match was that Ilja was actually out-wrestling WALTER, causing WALTER to get more and more frustrated. Unfortunately Ilja this resulted in WALTER also getting more and more vicious. These two beat the sh*t out of each other as you would expect from them, but WALTER took it to a whole new level here. Ilja did a wonderful job of staying out of the Gojira Clutch, worked on WALTER's arm, and eventually made the big man tap out to retain his title in an ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDNIG MATCH! GO WATCH THIS ONE RIGHT NOW!
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Ilja offered WALTER a post-match handshake. WALTER snubbed him at first, but came back and shook his hand, remaining a babyface.
wXw WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Toni Storm(c) vs. Tenille Dashwood - 6.75/10
This was the first time the wXw Women's Title was main eventing a show so this was a very big spot, but unfortunately the match just didn't deliver to the level it needed to. That doesn't mean it wasn't very good, but it was not good enough for the spot it was in. I don't blame the wrestlers for most of it (although their match did have a bit of an "everyone get your sh*t in" vibe to it). They had to follow an absolutely outstanding match between the two most over wrestlers in the company and were only given eleven minutes to do so. But that doesn't change the fact that the match was a let-down of a main event.
A great show from wXw, despite the disappointing main event. We had some storyline developments, an extremely fun mixed tag match, and an absolute classic for the world title. wXw usually brings in an eclectic mix of outside talent for Superstars of Wrestling, but this year was quite the group. Most of them delivered for the role they were put in, though, and it didn't feel like they were taking the major attention away from wXw's big names. This show tends to be hit or miss, but I'd definitely say this year's was a hit, purely due to the world title match and mixed tag alone.