TIMOTHY THATCHER AND BOBBY GUNNS RUN INTO EACH OTHER BACKSTAGE AFTER SHORTCUT TO THE TOP - Meh. They establish that despite their friendly tones, there is still some resentment on Thatcher’s part for Gunns almost blinding him with a cigarette to the eye back in 2017, as their well should be on Thatcher’s part, if even we the fans have accepted the conventions of professional wrestling and are treating post babyface turn Booby Gunns as (as Gunns himself told Thatcher we was) “a different person” back then. Gunns was actually the one who started this conversation by telling Thatcher off for announcing he was using his freshly-won Shortcut to the Top title shot to get a shot at Gunns’ wXw Unified World Wrestling Title instead of earning a shot the old-fashioned way. I bring up that Gunns’ started things because while Gunns has been rather confrontational even as a babyface, this does feel a little hypocritical, as it is basically equivalent to telling the Royal Rumble winner that he/she didn’t do enough to earn a title shot. Thatcher also suggested that Gunns too a “shortcut” by capitalizing on the damage to Lucky Kid’s ribs to retain his title, which is a completely unfair criticism. Lucky hurt himself by missing a dive. Since when is it not fair game to work over a body part the opponent injures in the course of the match with nothing illegal going on? As a little tease to set up some tension for World Tag Team Festival this was good, but two of the three arguments the two babyfaces (arguably the two in the company right now) brought up were not arguments a babyface should be making.
JULIAN PACE vs. DANIEL MAKABE vs. CIMA vs. BRENT BANKS - 4/10
Everyone got to get some sh*t in. CIMA pinned Makabe cleanly in six minutes. This booking makes no sense at all, as just yesterday Makabe, in his debut for the company, made the world champion tap out cleanly.
LUCKY KID & IVAN KIEV BACKSTAGE - GREAT! I’m not even sure if I should call them “RISE” anymore. Lucky excitedly asked Ivan how the Shortcut to the Top match went for him, and Ivan angrily asked him if he had even watched the match. Lucky replied in the negative, admitting that he was so wrapped up in his earlier loss to Bobby Gunns in the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title match and telling Ivan “you know how much that belt means to me, and when I held it in my hands and 18th Anniversary, and… I want it. It’s just a feeling I can’t shake.” Lucky says he is sure Ivan would have stopped Pete Bouncer from screwing him out of a title shot back at Drive of Champions 2019 and tells Ivan that his feud with Pete Bouncer must be put to bed and he is going to go ask Karsten Beck to book him against Bouncer at FAN 2019: Du Entscheidest and he gives Ivan a big hug and runs off to go find Karsten.
And through all of this Kiev stands there, almost emotionless, and Lucky doesn’t even notice. It seems that Pete Bouncer was correct after all, and- even though I can’t fathom it being ill-intentioned- Lucky Kid really has been focusing completely on himself to the exclusion of RISE, just like Bouncer had argued that he was doing. This doesn’t make Bouncer not the heel here and it doesn’t make Lucky not the face. After all, who among us hasn’t gotten a little too wrapped up in our own project and wound up inadvertently insulting a friend by ignoring him or her? But it definitely makes it more understandable when Kiev will almost choose to side with his best friend Pete Bouncer over Lucky Kid even though Bouncer is morally in the wrong.
Also, to give some credit where it’s due, I had heavily criticized the restart in the title match at the 18th Anniversary Show for being something that felt like the entire point of it was to set up a swerve with Nick Hein, and screw the fans via Dusty Finish. I still contend that it would have been better to not do a lot of the stuff wXw was doing in the world title picture around that time (the bait-and-switches on the Anniversary Show card and the overbooking and almost Russo-like swerves in Andy’s title defenses against Lucky Kid and Ilja Dragunov)… but at least some of that has now been given real storyline relevance beyond merely being an ill-advised way to set up a rematch and protect a babyface in defeat.
wXw SHOTGUN TITLE MATCH:
Emil Sitoci(c) vs. “The Avalanche” Robert Dreissker - 6/10
This was a decent brawl with a fine little story about Sitoci working the arm, but I have to ask: Have they REALLY still not added a stipulation to this match to prevent Sitoci from walking off like he always does? Well… at least they didn’t repeat the same finish yet again. This time they came up with another dastardly way for Sitoci to cheat to retain his title. This does keep the feud alive and the story of Avalanche going for his first singles championship in wXw is a good one, but they really to start moving this feud to the “big gimmick matches” phase. The booking here felt like they only did another match because they wanted another title match for their debut in Canada, and if the next show had been in Germany instead, they would have moved to the next chapter of the story instead of finding a way to just tread water.
KARSTEN BECK & AMALE WINCHESTER BACKSTAGE - Mixed bag. Amale is upset that Toni Storm attacked her after their match at Shortcut to the Top and tells Karsten that this was “unacceptable” behavior. Karsten fires back by telling Amale that her attacking a referee to get DQed and keep her title was the truly unacceptable behavior in that situation and tells her that he has to suspend her. She begs him not to and vows that she will never do it again and he gives in, but warns her that he has to at least fine her because “what will people think?” This last line was our strongest hint yet that these two are f*cking. The booking/storytelling aspect of this was good, but once again, Amale is a downright terrible actress when she has to speak English instead of French and Karsten himself is only passable in English, so the verbal performances here dragged things down (their body language was fine, though).
KARSTEN BECK, MIKE SCHWARZ, & MARIUS AL-ANI BACKSTAGE - Good. Karsten and Schwarz are palling around like old buddies do, and Schwarz, as usual, is drinking beer. Schwarz brags about the eliminations he got in the Shortcut to the Top match. One of those eliminations, Marius Al-Ani walks by and says that Schwarz should be ashamed of his beer-bellied body and not taking things seriously. Al-Ani tells Karsten that he wants a match with “the fat one” in Oberhausen (so presumably World Tag Team Festival weekend).
ALLYSIN KAY vs. AMALE WINCHESTER vs. LUFISTO - 4/10
They started with the story of the two heel champions (Amale for wXw, Kay for the NWA) teaming up to work over the home-country babyface, inevitably leading ot them fighting over the pins, turning this into a regular three-way. Amale pinned LuFisto clean, with Kay just a moment too late to break up the pin.
BOBBY GUNNS & VEIT MULLER BACKSTAGE - Very good. Veit asks Gunns about the title shot Gunns promised him in February. As I said in a recent review, I don’t think Gunns promised Mueller a title shot so much as held Muller up as an example of the kind of honorable wrestler he’d like to defend the title against. That being said, Since this last came up Muller has won two matches and has a pretty good record in his last bunch (especially if we exclude the dirty loss to Wheeler Yuta), so it’s definitely fair to argue that Veit has earned a shot since then and Bobby should give him won.
Bobby declines, citing his busy schedule, with defenses against Speedball tonight and Thatcher at World Tag Team Festival… about seven weeks later. Muller says that if Gunns was really as honorable as he claims to be- and as he acted when he gave Lucky Kid a title shot when Lucky got screwed out of one by Pete Bouncer’s dastardly turn- Bobby should give him a title shot, too. Karsten Beck showed up and suggested that they book the match at FAN 2019: Du Entscheidest to play off of the sports rivalry between Gunns home city of Bremen and Muller home city of Hamburg, where the show happens to be taking place. Gunns did not like this reasoning, and, quite frankly, I don’t blame him. Eventually he agreed that he would accept the challenge to his title as long as the fans let wXw know that they wanted to see the match.
wXw UNIFIED WORLD WRESTLING TITLE MATCH:
Bobby Gunns(c) vs. “Speedball” Mike Bailey - 7.75/10
Why is Speedball getting a title shot here? His last two singles matches in wXw have been a clean submission loss to WALTER yesterday at Ambition 11 and a clean loss at 16 Carat Gold 2018: Night 3 in a wXw Shotgun Title match to none other than the man he challenges for the world title tonight, Bobby Gunns. If anyone should be getting this title shot here it’s Daniel Makabe, who MADE THE WORLD CHAMPION TAP OUT CLEANLY YESTERDAY!
Anyway, these two had a heck of an intense match that mixed their styles wonderfully. Just about the only thing I didn’t like was how lenient the referee was on the count-outs. wXw has established itself as a promotion where the referees take a LONG time between counts, but this referee waited so long to that that it was a bridge too far for me. Gunns retained his title in the face of a hostile crowd, but shoving the referee into Bailey like this is definitely a heel turn in my book.
TIMOTHY THATCHER & VEIT MULLER INTERVIEW - Great! This started out with Thatcher cutting a promo telling us all that not only will he challenge for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Title on the second night of the World Tag Team Festival, but even though he is no longer a member of RingKampf, he respects Muller and thinks that Muller has done a much better job representing what RingKampf stands for that guys like Axel Dieter Jr. and WALTER have recently, so they are going to enter the World Tag Team Festival Tournament together (and, yes, WALTER is one half of the wXw World Tag Team Champions).
We then shifted over to Muller who cut a promo lobbying his hometown fans in Hamburg to vote for him to get the title shot there at FAN 2019: Du Entscheidest. They’re pushing this Bremen vs. Hamburg sports rivalry way too hard for my tastes. Sure, New York and Boston don’t like each other, but you’d almost never hear a New Yorker cut a promo about how he is going to beat up “that Bostonian” unless it was being done for cheap heat or a cheap pop. The interviewer notes that if Muller wins the vote and wins the match, then he will be the champion who Thatcher is lined up to face in the middle of World Tag Team Festival. They say that if that’s the case then they’ll have their match and then team up again the next night. I really enjoyed the fact that wXw is at least paying lip-service to this scenario (even though I doubt it will come to fruition), and even better, they are doing so in a way that shows us something about Muller and Thatcher’s characters.
JULIAN PACE, KARSTEN BECK, AND PRETTY BASTARDS BACKSTAGE - Great! Pace is complaining to Karsten about the backstage attack on Leon vanGasteren from a mystery opponent took him out of Shortcut to the Top. Pretty Bastards show up to sympathize. They ask Pace who he thinks did it. Pace, for reasons I found a little silly (he’s known them since he started in he business) doesn’t think Jay-FK would have done it. Pretty Bastards insist that Jay-FK is devious enough to do it. They vow to watch Pace’s back and work to track down who did this… but they were also a little quick to ask when Leon would be back and whether Pace & vanGasteren’s spot in World Tag Team Festival was now open (Pretty Maggots are not in because they have been losing too much), so they are automatically my prime suspects.
TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. YUKI ISHIKAWA - 8/10
Fifteen minutes of first-class grapplef*ck!
THE CROWN PROMO - Great
KARSTEN BECK, IJA DRAGUNOV, & WALTER BACKSTAGE - Good. Karsten tells them they have to show up in Hamburg or else they’ll be stripped of the titles. Ditto for World Tag Team Festival. After much grousing, they say that they will be, but only to prove how much better they are than everyone in wXw… but after World Tag Team Festival, they have no more dates on their contracts, so after that they will only be working where they want to work, even if they still are the wXw World Tag Team Champions.
AUSSIE OPEN PROMO - Good. They set up winning World Tag Team Festival to regain their titles as redemption for being unable to fulfill their promise of going in as champions and retaining the titles throughout.
TORNADO TAG TEAM MATCH:
The Crown vs. Aussie Open vs. Stronghearts (T-Hawk & El Lindaman) - 6.5/10
Decent action, but not close to good enough for this spot on the card. On the positive front, The Crown picked up the win, translating the momentum of their amazing promo from Road to Shortcut to the Top: Gutersloh into actual in-ring success here.
EMIL SITOCI PROMO - Fine. The way he sees it, he beat Avalanche again tonight so he is done with him forever. “Have a nice life.”
“THE AVALANCHE” ROBERT DREISSKER PROMO - Fine. He was very angry and determined. He talked to Karsten Beck, who has granted Avalanche a rematch at FAN 2019: Du Entscheidest in which- following the theme of the show- the fans will get to choose the stipulation.
WALTER VS. SEKIMOTO VIDEO PACKAGE - This didn’t do a very good job of explaining to us what the actual history between these two men is. It just told us that hey faced off once in 2009 and that in 2012 they had a title match that many consider the best in the promotion’s history, and that they have also had matches in Japan and the USA. No story or theme or motifs for us to be on the lookout for. I don’t feel any more educated having seen this video package.
DAISUKE SEKIMOTO vs. WALTER - 7.75/10
This was an intense slugfest that was a worthy main event and certainly enough to get me interested in looking up their previous encounters.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Awesome. WALTER showed Daisuke respect after the match, which was a little surprising considering his current “being in WWE makes me a bigger deal than all of you” character, but Sekimoto is a legend in his own right and one who WALTER sees as a mentor, so WLATER still showing him respect not only makes sense but also plants the seeds for the mentality that will likely eventually be used to turn him back babyface, with the company that spawned him in the role of Sekimoto.
WALTER then started cut what seemed like the usual show-closing promo that you’d expect from the star who has been essentially the avatar… and that f*cking bastard suckered me in with it before picking the perfect point to take it off in heelish direction, telling everyone that the fact that he has wrestled six matches already this weekend “is a disgrace” because he realized when he was standing in New York with a WWE championship around his shoulder that he was “born for bigger things” that this little promotion.
Then David Starr showed up and to it to WALTER, sending him scampering, fulfilling the promise he made at the end of Shortcut to the Top 2019 that he would show up anywhere, anytime in order to take it to WALTER.
This was an up-and-down show from wXw. Booking-wise it very much felt like a maintenance show- or, at best, like the “Road to…” show for FAN 2019. In the ring, the first half was a huge disappointment, but the second half delivered enough to save it. As always with wXw, however, it’s the backstage segments that really put the show over the top for me. They’re just so good, so natural, and have so many little things going on that they do a wonderful job of really making the characters feel like real people and thus making the storylines come alive (aside from the few times people are forced out of their element by speaking a non-native language like has a been a problem with Amale and Karsten, but even their body language is often good). Put this one down in the recommended column.