OPENING VIDEO - Too goofy. This is one of the biggest shows of the year. You shouldn't open it up with the ring announcer doing a parody holiday season thing, and even more so, don't open it up with the ring announcer doing a lame and hackneyed parody holiday season thing.
GAUNTLET MATCH FOR THE wXw WORLD TAG TEAM TITLES:
Jay FK(c) vs. Emil Sitoci & "The Avalanche" Robert Dreissker vs. The Crown vs. RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) vs. RISE (Tarkan Aslan & Da Mack) - 6/10
Sitoci & Avalanche vs. The Crown started things off, which was the right call. The heels went over clean, so Avalanche's new partner didn't work out against The Crown as well as he had hoped, so it's probably back to the drawing board for him again. The Crown were then defeated by babyface RISE, at which point the champions entered. They took advantage of the beaten-down Bouncer & Kiev but the babyfaces made a comeback... until the injured Marius Al-Ani of the heel RISE moseyed on down to the ring, and punched Francis Kaspin in the face with brass knuckles right in front of the referee. This temporarily surprised everyone (well... not me. I figured out what had happened right away, but the announcers and wrestlers seemed surprised) until the referee did what the rules demand he do in this situation and disqualify Bouncer & Kiev... meaning that not only had Al-Ani cost his enemies the match, but in the process of doing so he had also incapacitated Kaspin so that his allies would have a major advantage when they came out next.
We then got a little segment of the heel RISE vs. Jay FK (but really mostly Jay) before RISE got the win. Personally, if I was booking this, I would have kept this segment much shorter, because every moment that Skillett was fighting two-on-one made him feel like a babyface, and cheering for Jay FK made me feel like I needed a shower.
That aside, I really liked the booking here. Combined with Al-Ani's injury making him unable to defend his Shotgun Title against Lucky Kid tonight as scheduled, it is now the heel RISE who walk out with both the Shotgun Title and the World Tag Team Titles as opposed to the babyface RISE who had made a big deal about all being champions together at the end of this year (and would have made for a great completion of their babyface journey, winning the belts the right way as a opposed to the wrong way like they did when they were heels, and would have served as a nice artistic counterpoint to the all-heel RISE matches for these same two championships at last year's Anniversary Show), and in a way that not only avoids beating them, but also adds fuel to the fire of their feud with the heel RISE, and shows us the heels once again being a step ahead of our babyfaces. Meanwhile, this also sets up a (heel) RISE vs. Jay FK issue, playing off of their backstage segment at Road to 18th Anniversary where the two heel groups had promised to have a "fair" match if they met in the gauntlet... which obviously this wasn't, but I'm sure Tarkan & Da Mack will insist that they didn't cheat during THEIR match against Jay FK at all. I can completely understand why some might feel this finish was cheap, but this wasn't a major match, it was the opener on this show, and it sets up big things for the future, so I'm okay with it here.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Babyface RISE (minus Lucky Kid) came out to brawl with their heel counterparts (minus the injured Al-Ani). They won the brawl, then Pete Bouncer cut a promo demanding RISE vs. RISE next month in the Kafigschlacht!
KILLER KELLY vs. ALPHA FEMALE vs. YUU - 4.25/10
This was a decent little match for the time it got. This now marks the second straight three-way that Kelly has lost while she was knocked to the outside. I assume at this some point she'll start demanding either singles matches or elimination matches.
DOUG WILLIAMS IS INDUCTED INTO THE wXw HALL OF FAME - Good speech.
SINGLES MATCH FOR THE wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE WITH UFC FIGHTER NICK HEIN AS SPECIAL GUEST ENFORCER:
Absolute Andy(c) vs. Lucky Kid - 8/10
David Starr- who was originally supposed to be challenging for this championship but got injured- was on commentary for this match. Basically, this show got bitten by the injury bug taking out the babyface challenger for the world title and heel Shotgun Champion, so wXw adjusted by taking their babyface challenger for the Shotgun Championship and giving him the world title shot instead. It makes sense, and Lucky Kid is super-over with the crowd so they'll definitely be going bonkers for everything he does, but at the same time, it really kills any suspense in this match, as Andy is clearly going to cheat to win here, keeping Lucky strong for his eventual Shotgun Title challenge as well as keeping Andy's cheating heel storyline going until a babyface they actually want to put the belt on (i.e. not Lucky) can be set up against Andy.
Anyway, they started off by brawling on the outside forever without being counted out because "we wouldn't want to have a count-out here" in this big match. Well if that's the case then why don't you make that part of the rules? At least they actually used this time to set up Andy working over Lucky Kid's back as opposed to just doing it for the sake of building to a count-out tease that everyone knows won't be the finish so no one ever buys. They did that spot, too, don't get me wrong, but at least the sh*t that happened outside of the ring actually mattered, as opposed to 99% of New Japan matches where it doesn't.
Once Lucky made it back into the ring, Andy worked his back over in the ring some more as well. Lucky made a comeback and they traded nearfalls and the crowd was going nuts. They had Marius Al-Ani, Lucky's originally-scheduled opponent for tonight and Andy's former tag team partner before Andy turned on him at the end of last year's World Tag Team League come out and try to attack Lucky, which led to Andy accidentally hitting Al-Ani with the title and Lucky getting to repay Andy for all of his cheating by hitting Andy with the other title and Lucky came off the top rope with his double-stomp and got the pin... but Andy's foot was under the ropes.
Unfortunately, no one seemed to realize this, including the referee and the outside enforcer Nick Hein. After several minutes of Lucky celebrating with his newly-won title and the fans going wild, Hein finally saw Andy's foot under the rope and said something to the referee. I thought this was BS, as did David Starr on commentary. Why would Hein celebrate and even strap the belt around Lucky's waist if he knew Andy's foot was under the ropes? And if he only noticed it right before he told the referee, how the hell does he know the foot was under the ropes at the time of the pin?
The only plausible explanation For Hein's actions is actually one that Starr seemed to hint at: that Hein was in league with Andy and waited this long in order to help him recover. The post-match segment would pretty clearly rule this out, which means that we have to call this what it was: a Dusty Finish. And not even a regular Dusty Finish where everyone thinks they're about to hear the babyface announced as the winner and new champion only to hear a DQ announced instead, but the absolute worst kind of Dusty Finish where you go all the way with telling the fans that the babyface is the new champion and then take it back. This a VERY BAD thing to be doing, and the new booking regime having what seems to be a propensity for overbooking (which was on full display here) is very worrying to me. And it wasn't just this spot, either. If you must have Al-Ani get involved here then have him cost Lucky the match. Don't do a spot that should lead to an Andy vs. Al-Ani match unless you're actually going to do one.
This was an awesome match, but the finish has me very, very worried. I understand the injury situation, but this whole production was the wrong thing to do.
Speaking of things that have me worried, there was also a...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Bad. Hein presents the belt to Andy, but then tugs it away from him. Then, for no reason at all, Andy goes over to attack a security guy. This created an opportunity for Hein to save a security guy, and Hein eventually laid Andy out with a spinebuster. Yes, the Horsewomen and Tom Lawlor and Matt Riddle a lot of other MMA fighters who have come into the world of pro wrestling recently have been pretty darn good, but starting a UFC guy out on top in a feud with your top heel doesn't sit well with me, and when combined with the finish of the previous match has me quite worried that this promotion is about to take a turn in an Inokist direction, and I really don't want to see that.
Then Ilja Dragunov showed up on the Tron and announced that management has booked him as the #1 contender for January's Back to the Roots XVIII, and that match will take place inside a steel cage. The stipulation here makes sense, but it hasn't even been five minutes since the title match ended. Ilja being the #1 contender is something that it makes sense would have been set before the match, but for it to already be announced as a Cage Match and they told Ilja already and Ilja recorded a video and sent it in is getting ridiculous. I guess technically Ilja could have been petitioning for this beforehand and management told him he could have his Cage Match for the title if Andy retained and so he sent in a promo about it for them to use in case the cards fell the right way, but that feels like a stretch to me. This is definitely the sort of situation where it would have been better to just wait a day or two and then make the announcement on your website rather than trying to cram it in on the big show.
This was also weird because it essentially split the segment between Andy and Hein into two parts. The first was what I described above, while the second saw Hein condescendingly hand the title back to Andy then inexplicably turn his back on Andy to pose... so of course Andy kicked him in the nuts. And the fans all cheered for this because it made Hein look like a total idiot, and when you combine that with "MMA outsider invading our pro wrestling" and the fact that Hein was the one who told the referee to restart the match and take Lucky Kid's championship victory away, it's no wonder the crowd cheered for this otherwise dastardly deed by Andy when they had booed every single thing he's done for the past year.
SHIGEHIRO IRIE vs. BOBBY GUNNS - 7/10
A great showing from both guys.
wXw WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Toni Storm(c) vs. Kellyanne (w/Allan Payne) - 6/10
Very early on they did one of those spots where the manager gets caught blatantly interfering but gets ejected rather than causing a disqualification because "we wouldn't want to have a DQ here in this title match." This is stupid and annoying in any situation, but in this case I think the whole spot was a mistake. Having someone on the outside to help her cheat is the element that makes Kellyanne's challenge different from any of the other's Toni has faced this year, and this spot eliminated that element, leaving us with Toni Storm against a woman who we've never seen win cleanly. The match was decent, but the missing element at ringside made the finish feel like a foregone conclusion.
BRITISH STRONG STYLE vs. RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher, WALTER, & Axel Dieter Jr.) - 8.75/10
Veit Muller was supposed to be at ringside with RingKampf but didn't come out with them and we didn't see him at ringside until halfway through the match.
BSS were doing things to get under RingKampf's skin early on. After that we got an excellent six-man tag that at times felt like they were trying to incorporate and very Dragon Gate-ish influence adjusted for the wXw style, which was cool. One thing they build up to was WALTER and Dunne facing off again (they faced off on an episode of Shotgun earlier this year), and once the match was over and everyone else was showing mutual respect, Dunne continued to do things to get under WALTER's skin, so maybe I guess they're building to a rematch there.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Axel Dieter Jr. got to talk a lot. He spoke in German so I don't really know what he said other than announcing that he would be in next year's 16 Carat Gold tournament. He and WALTER both seemed very welcoming of Muller (with WALTER even calling Muller to come join them in the ring for Axel's speech instead of staying out on the floor) so I guess Veit is an official member of RingKampf now?
This was a very good show in the ring from wXw, but I'm just not quite sure how to feel about the booking, and that's a big deal for me. I was expecting to have a better feel for it coming out of this show, but injuries played havoc with things... and yet, at the same time, some of their attempted solutions seemed like ideas that were poorly-conceived from the get-go. Hopefully I'll have a clearer idea of where things stand after next month's shows.