DAVID STARR PROMO - Great! Starr first explains his connection with the wXw fans, first talking about how they have seen him grow through the good times, but also been there with him when he hasn't gotten the job done, including both falling victim to John Klinger's treachery at the end of last year's Shortcut to the Top, and his loss to Absolute Andy in the finals of this year's 16 Carat Gold. But recently he has not only emerged victorious from his big feud with Jurn Simmons, but he also beat PCO just last night, and so he is asking wXw management for a shot at the wXw World Unified Wrestling Championship at the 18th Anniversary Show. We were then told that this request had been approved by the committee. I have no problem with Starr wind up with a title shot in theory, but it definitely does make last night's dirty finish in the Absolute Andy/Ilja Dragunov title reunification match feel frustrating for the reasons I laid out there (basically if Ilja isn't going to be the challenger at the next big show, it would have been better to have Andy win clean and rebuild Ilja as a challenger than to do a dirty finish and then wait two months to give him another title match, while giving someone else a title shot in the interim).
One other thing in this promo that I have to comment on is how much I adore the fact that Starr brought up his inability to defeat WALTER as some of his big failures that fans have stuck with him through. I absolutely love the idea of building up currency in a little story like this even if you have no real plans for when you will eventually pay it off, because having this little thread alive gives the matches a little more of an aura than they would otherwise had if the rivalry had been even, or even if it had been 80-20 in one guy's favor, and it's something that you can pay off relatively out of the blue and still have it mean something if you need to build the guy in Starr's role up quickly for something else, or that you can use to give the end of the journey extra meaning by making the final challenge feel like it is truly the biggest of all due to the history you have built up already rather than needing to spend time doing a bunch of angles (careful readers of my BRM Books Raw 1,000 and Beyond fantasy booking thread will note that in the over three and a half years that I have booked that out, not once has Jack Swagger defeated Dolph Ziggler. That is not a coincidence).
THE ARROWS OF HUNGARY CONFRONT JAY FK BACKSTAGE - Okay. They demand to know if Jay FK are proud of their cheap win, and the heels say that they are. One of the Arrows yelled angrily in Hungarian (without subtitles) and Jay Skillett made fun of it, getting the Arrows very angry.
"THE AVALANCHE" ROBERT DREISSKER vs. ALEXANDER JAMES - 6/10
James worked the knee to try to stop Avalanche from hitting his big running splashes in the corner. Avalanche sold well and eventually picked up the clean win.
It was announced that the 18th Anniversary Show will see Jay FK defend the tag titles in a Gauntlet Match, featuring Avalanche & Emi Sitoci, The Crown (Alexander James & Jurn Simmons), RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) and the heel duo of Tarkan Aslan & Da Mack , who have also apparently resumed using the RISE name.
This is just so strange. The natural match-ups based off of just what we've seen over the past month feel like they should be Kiev & Bouncer vs. Tarkan & Da Mack (RISE vs. RISE, with perhaps some sort of stipulation on this undercard match affecting a Lucky Kid vs. Marius Al-Ani Shotgun Title rematch), The Crown vs. Avalanche & Sitoci (The Crown beat Avalanche and a partner he had to recruit last week at Broken Rules XVIII, then last night in Hamburg Avalanche and a new partner beat James a new partner James had to find because Simmons was sick, so now we see if Avalanche and his new partner can beat The Crown at full strength), with Jay FK defending the titles against The Arrows of Hungary, who screwed them last night and who will presumably get a big win over them tonight in the big six-man tag. But instead we've got this odd hodgepodge of things getting mixed together, with the Arrows completely absent.
JAY FK & (HEEL) RISE BACKSTAGE - Meh. Jay FK's new thing appears to be assuming that winning World Tag Team League (and with it, the wXw World Tag Team Titles) makes them sure-ins for the Hall of Fame. It's dumb.
The heel version of RISE shows up and we get a little build to the possibility of these teams facing off in the gauntlet. They all agree to wrestle a "fair" match should they meet each other... an agreement that I think it's pretty obvious neither team has any intention of holding to.
EMIL SITOCI & AVALANCHE BACKSTAGE - Fine. Sitoci tells Avalanche that "the numbers are up." I have no idea what he's talking about. He then cuts a fine promo about how much he wants to win the wXw World Tag Team Titles because he has never been a wXw World Tag Team Champion before.
KRIS WOLF vs. KELLYANNE (w/Allan Payne) - 4/10
This was short, but they did a good job of telling their story, which was that Allan Payne was a difference-maker on the outside, and that he and Kellyanne are a well-oiled cheating machine.
VEIT MULLER & TIMOTHY THATCHER BACKSTAGE - Good. Last night Muller earned Thatcher's respect with his performance against him, so Thatcher (after having talked it over with Axel Dieter Jr. and WALTER) invites Muller to be in RingKampf's corner when they take on British Strong Style at the 18th Anniversary Show. Muller humbly accepts, and wishes Thatcher good luck in his match against Lucky Kid later tonight.
LUCKY KID INTERVIEW - Everything that happened last night is still on his mind so he will be distracted going into his match against Timothy Thatcher tonight, but he promises to do his best.
(HEEL) RISE PROMO - Great! Tarkan Aslan did almost all of the talking. He says that RISE was his idea from the beginning, and they are the real RISE because they are the same ruthless and "hungry" wrestlers willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top. He says that Al-Ani is the best Shotgun Champion ever and that he and Da Mack will win the wXw World Tag Team Titles at the 18th Anniversary Show.
TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. LUCKY KID - 7.5/10
A fun, exciting clean wrestling match.
NORMAN HARRAS & TIMO THEISS vs. COAST 2 COAST - 6.5/10
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Coast 2 Coast cut their goodbye promo. They thank wXw for a "life-changing" tour and put their opponents over as the future of the company, though they had a bit of fun with Timo while doing so. Coast 2 Coast left and the fans chanted "PLEASE COME BACK!" Then the fans started chanting for Norman, so Timo got angry and jealous and attacked him from behind.
JAY FK BACKSTAGE - They had a wacky conversation in which they said they weren't worried about any of the teams in the tag team gauntlet. From the way they were posed on the couch, I was certain if one of them had complimented the other, they would have started making out like in some sort of teen movie.
JULIAN PACE & NORMAN HARRAS BACKSTAGE - Okay. Harras seems remarkably composed and unhurt for someone who just got assaulted. Either tell the kid to sell, or put this segment much later in the show.
Anyway, Pace congratulates Harras on his debut and tells him that there is no shame in losing to Coast 2 Coast. They both agree that Theiss is a dick. Harras would like the chance for revenge, but Pace happens to already be booked against Theiss for the 18th Anniversary Show.
IVAN KIEV (w/Pete Bouncer) vs. MARIUS AL-ANI (w/Tarkan Aslan) - 5.5/10
They had a decent little match for about ten minutes with Al-Ani working over Kiev's leg. Eventually Al-Ani grabbed his wXw Shotgun Title and first hit Bouncer, then hit Kiev for the DQ.
TARKAN ASLAN PROMO - He says that his RISE is the real RISE and reminds Pete Bouncer that the last time they were in this city together, "I slapped you on the neck and you were down in three seconds" (not mentioning that he used some sort of weird and hitherto unexplained and unseen knockout patch). He taunts Bouncer and suggests that they start their match right now, so we get...
TARKAN ASLAN (w/Marius Al-Ani) vs. PETE BOUNCER (w/Ivan Kiev) - DUD!
They had a short match which Tarkan dominated because Bouncer was already hurt. Bouncer made a comeback but Al-Ani distracted the referee so Tarkan could get the brass knuckles. Ivan Kiev stopped him from using them, but in doing so was clearly grabbing Tarkan's arm in full view of the referee. This was not a DQ. Bouncer took control and was about to go for his finish when he (and the referee) got distracted by a video of Da Mack appearing on the Tron and doing the RISE pose, so Tarkan hit him with the brass knuckles. A terrible and goofy dirty finish that doesn't actually serve to move the story along in any way. Much like the finish of the previous match, it just treads water (although at least there you could use the DQ victory as justification to give Kiev a Shotgun Championship match, so this is even worse).
(BABYFACE) RISE BACKSTAGE - Good segment. They resolve to focus their future matches rather than what just happened. Lucky Kid (who is getting a rematch for the Shotgun Title at the 18th Anniversary Show) will win his title, Kiev & Bouncer will win the Gauntlet Match for the wXw World Tag Team Titles, and they'll all be champions, fulfilling the purpose that they had formed RISE for in the first place.
ABSOLUTE ANDY & DAVID STARR INTERVIEW - FANTASTIC! Andy starts off by insisting that he is now a true legend of wXw, then gets upset because he apparently didn't realize that this wouldn't just be him getting his interview time but a face-to-face with his next challenger. I thought it was really good that Starr was introduced as the longest-reigning Shotgun Champion because of the subtle comparison it sets up. Andy is (pretty legitimately) claiming to now be a legend in the wXw pantheon, so they found a way to present Starr as also having done something legendary in the promotion's history.
These guys got nose-to-nose and cut great promos on each other, but it wasn't one of those "wait for the other person to finish his/her lines and then get mine in" scripted segments, as they were trying to talk over each other and poking each other and rolling their eyes, but still made sure to let the other get his key points across. This got me FANTASTICALLY excited for the possibility of a David Starr wXw World Unified Wrestling Championship run, as well as making me want to see that dishonorable cheater Andy lose the belt.
ABSOLUTE ANDY & JAY FK vs. ILJA DRAGUNOV & THE ARROWS OF HUNGARY - 7.5/10
The heels jumped the bell on the babyfaces to start things off. This turned into your standard six-man tag with a double heat. The babyfaces eventually got the win when the Arrows disposed of Jay FK and Ilja pinned Andy clean in the middle of the ring with Torpedo Moscow, so Ilja is clearly still meant to be in the title hunt, so why doesn't he have a match booked at the Anniversary Show? I checked CageMatch.net and they don't have any matches listed for him somewhere else that day. Him being left off the card with no explanation at all is kind of weird, considering he has been the promotion's top babyface for the past year and a half.
TONI STORM/KELLYANNE VIDEO PACKAGE - Good.
ILJA DRAGUNOV & DAVID STARR BACKSTAGE- Fine. They drove home the "Andy is an undeserving cheater" message while showing mutual respect but also some tension. Ilja says he's not sure if Starr can beat Andy but hopes he does. Starr says that when he wins, he'll give Ilja the first title shot, building up the possibility of a Starr vs. Ilja title match so that Andy retaining against Starr because he has unfinished business with Ilja doesn't feel like as much of a foregone conclusion anymore.
This was a decent show from wXw. It really felt like several episodes of Shotgun mashed together, which is probably what it was originally booked as anyway. In that respect it did a fine job of providing recaps and then moving stories along the way that Shotgun would, but the in-ring quality still felt like several episodes of Shotgun mashed together rather than a full wXw show, which kind of defeats the purpose of the shift away from Shotgun. There are definitely some growing pains in the booking here, but they seem to be procedural errors that could be fixed with a bit more careful thought (like sticking that segment with Harras and Pace right after we saw Harras get attacked in the ring), while some of the booking for the Anniversary Show feels a little odd and rushed to me, most of the announced matches do make an amount of sense (pretty much everything other than the tag title thing, which really feels like an instance of them trying to cram three feuds together into one match in an effort to get everyone onto the show rather than randomly booking a bunch of people in a title match just to have a title match with a lot of people in it the way you'd see from WWE or TNA at their worst). Hopefully, after the 18th Anniversary Show, we'll have a much clearer idea of how different the new booking regime will be from CMJ.