You’ve read our live reviews… so what happened in Oberhausen this past weekend?
This was our fourth time over to Oberhausen for a wXw weekender – and while the weather tried to derail things towards the end, I’d dare say this was up there with the best weekender we’ve made the trip for. With perhaps one exception.
We’re not big on the whole “travel blog” side of things, but by this point the travel is pretty much routine. Or at least it was at the start: land in Düsseldorf, grab your luggage, then begin your adventure with the Deutsche Bahn… which this year began with a blue screen of death and a rebooting machine. Still, it wasn’t an issue as after a short wait (during which we managed to book tickets for Kris Wolf’s retirement show) we quickly got on a RegioExpress train headed to Wesel.
Within 20 minutes, we were in the familiar embrace of Oberhausen – five months on from our last visit, yet it feels like it were just yesterday we were there. Unlike past weekenders, the NH wasn’t to be the hotbed of wrestling fans that it usually is – thanks in part to a Post Malone gig at the König-Pilsener-ARENA, which jacked up hotel prices across town. So, with the Tryp becoming the new hub, it was a whole lot quieter around the main train station area.
Inner Circle 7 was the second time we’d made the trip to Essen for wrestling – and by train, it’s pretty straightforward. Just follow the crowds, particularly since trains to Essen Zollverein-Nord run once an hour!
Once inside the wXw Wrestling Academy, you’ve got a pretty decent view anywhere – whether it’s right by the ring, or on the slightly raised area just after you come in. So, right by a door to what was affectionately labelled “Tim’s House” was where we parked ourselves for the Inner Circle. Out of the six match card, most of those went under ten minutes, with only the main event being suitably long – showing that you really don’t need to have long matches for the sake of it. If you weren’t in Germany to see everything live, then you’ll have been happy to see that Inner Circle dropped on wXwNOW before the final night of Carat even started (kudos, and much applause to Katja, Sjoerd and the entire crew for their phenomenal efforts).
Prior media trips have seen the opening day of the weekender have been a mixture of the much appreciated press lunch (a handy indicator of who’s made the trip over) and “press panels” – this time around, the press panels in the afternoon were replaced with the inaugural wXw podcast marathon. Taking place at the Hotel Haus Union, which has previously been used for the Giftschränk special last year at Carat, and a Jim Smallman Q&A at Tag League, the afternoon saw segments from English and German language podcasts including the Indy Corner’s Spotlight, the Brit Wres Roundtable and Alan 4L’s Pro Wres Paradise. The main event of the show? Amid a live rendition of “Sexy Boy” and soap opera talk, was Botchamania, with special guests Jay-FK – which almost threatened to live up to its name as Maffew’s laptop threatened to go into business for itself. Still, after Maffew’d gotten his laptop to unearth some memories from wXw past (including a Bad Bones/Emil Sitoci match that was a comedy of errors), those in attendance were left satisfied and en route to Friday night’s main event.
Turbinenhalle 1 is a lot different to the room wXw usually run in. For a start, you’re climbing steps before you get through the main entrance – so once you’re in, that’s it. There’s the usual enforced purchasing of bons, which isn’t a hardship because everything you eat or drink in the venue can only be paid for in bons.
Since our reports were written “in play”, a lot of the pre-shows were spent setting up a laptop stand (so that the weekend wasn’t spent balancing things on my knees). Being in the queue for doors opening meant we had plenty of time to set up and “go merch” – which involved having a look around the massive room that wXw had set up merch tables in. Fun fact for those who were there: wXw used to run entire SHOWS in that room. Now that’s what you call a “before-and-after” shot…
Missed from our review of night one, by the way, was the revenge of the warm-up show, as we had a rematch from last year’s match that gave Maffew his “who’s nickname is the Ring General?” botch. This time around, we had something different: the Bird Box Bell Ring Challenge, where both Maffew and STRIGGA took turns to be blindfolded and then crawl on the mat to ring the bell. The full pre-show can be seen below, with the Bird Box challenge starting around 13 minutes in…
With this being the first time wXw had run a press event in Turbinenhalle 1, it was a rather different set-up. Instead of there being a “bowl” like balcony like in Turbinenhalle 2, T1 had a balcony set-up that looked a bit like what you’d get with the letter L and a colon – L: – that is, the back and left hand side were continuous balcony/stands, while the right hand side had several “boxes” hanging over the edge where fans with VIP passes sat. The press pack were also assigned one of these boxes, with excellent sightlines of the ring from a near Fire Pro-like isometric angle.
As for the rest of the set-up, well, if you’ve seen the pre-show match above, you’ll have seen it yourself. For the marquee events, wXw continues to out-do themselves, increasing the production values exponentially. Three huge video screens that doubled up as an entrance-way may seem simple, but when you add in the lighting, the customised ring aprons and a sound system that was put to the test in the opener (thanks to Leon van Gasteren’s banger of a theme), and you’ve got the best production values on the independent scene. Add in the speedy turnaround of shows from being taped to hitting wXw NOW, and you’ve got a set-up that people are justified in their continual praise of. Heck, if you want to use the “pound for pound” comparison that boxers and MMA fighters do, I’d dare say that wXw is rivalling the behemoth that is WWE.
Straight after the bell rang to signify (yet another) WALTER win over David Starr, a quick dismantling of the stand led us to Knippi’s Bowling Palace… once we’d seen Starr roam the upstairs and the downstairs of the arena in a bid to exercise some of his frustration away. He was one of what felt like a minority of wrestlers not making the trip over, as the two Sarahs (@the2Sarahs, funnily enough) saw the fruits of their labour unfold as all sixteen lanes were full of a mixture of fans, wrestlers and wXw office staff for the second Oberhausen Open tournament.
Sadly, Mort (@brothermort on that there Twitter) wasn’t able to defend his title from last October, as Mark Davis pulled out late… although the trend of the winning team being “fan plus wrestler” did continue, and it wasn’t the “ringer” of Sarah Flann who was involved. Largely because her partner, the handpicked Daisuke Sekimoto, was having problems finding balls he could fit his fingers in. Instead, it was the pair of Allen King and wXw Academy trainee Norman Harras who won (by just one point) over the pairing of Richard Benson (of Indy Corner fame) and Patrick Strübbe (of “putting up with us media lot” fame).
Not getting to bed until nearly 4am, there was no way we were doing any wild rides, so the sold-out WrestlingKult was out in favour of snatching whatever sleep was possible. By the time we got to the Turbinenhalle for Ambition, David Starr was still traipsing around the venue, albeit more clothed and less sweaty than he was about 12 hours earlier. Continuity!
Traditionally these matinee shows aren’t as packed as the evening shows, but year-on-year I’m seeing that more people are making their way to these matinees, be it Femmes Fatales or Ambition. October’s World Tag Team League is going to have both of those as matinee shows, so it’ll be interesting to see which is the bigger draw.
Our review of Ambition went up pretty much instantly, but our favourite memory from the show included the “shoot piledriver” from Shigehiro Irie on Rico Bushido. Speaking of Rico… even though he’s better known these days for his commentary, that guy can still go, and perhaps ought to be one of the first names on the list for Ambition next year?
After Ambition, it was time to do almost a lap of the Turbinenhalle to get to the Steffy for the second annual #WrestlingDeutschland show. See, the way the Turbinenhalle complex is laid out, there’s a dead end that stops you from doing an easy lap of the building, hence the long walk around.This’ll drop on wXw NOW at the end of March, so we’ll save our full match thoughts for that… but this was a completely different presentation to last year. Gone were the representatives of each promotion introducing themselves and plugging a future show, and in its place were just the matches as the upcoming dates were saved for commentary to plug.
We started with a battle royal, featuring names from every outfit who’d be included on the show… and there were a few familiar faces, starting with Psycho Phillips, whose appearance completely took me by surprise. He’s over in Germany with the wXw academy, hence his inclusion here… also in the battle royal were Matthias Bernstein (the germophone from last year), Matt Buckna and Rick Baxxter (der Schwinger Club), Alpha Kevin, and eventual winner Lukas Robinson, who luckily still had the map from last year for this show.
On the whole, the show felt like a bit of a step down from the inaugural affair last year, with the event showing off fewer names that seemed to be ready for the next level. Still, it’s not like there were folks going through the motions, and for whatever reason, we all left the show with something as a memory of the show: whether it was the I don’t think it necessarily is an “all time bad” show, but we’re not likely to see many of these names in the near future… unless you’re seeking them out.
After that, it would have been time to grab something to eat… except Oberhausen was in the midst of a monsoon-like storm that meant that just walking the few hundred metres from the Steffy to the nearest McDonalds left you soaked through. Add in that the McDonalds (which was pretty slow all weekend, to be honest) had a queue going out of the door, and you were left with little choice but to either cram into McDonalds, head over to Burger King… or get drenched. We went with option B, which also had a similarly long queue… so once the rain passed, we headed back to the Turbinenhalle so we could set up and swap some bons for “schnitzel in a bun”. Which actually was schnitzel in a bun, unlike the Bratwurst, which was literally a sausage and two slices of bread…
The Saturday evening show did feel a bit weird, in that the first portion of the show was fairly top-heavy, with six matches in the first “half” as they ran through all four quarter-finals while also building up the next night’s women’s title match and the four-way match that also featured a surprise return at the end. Really though, it was the second half of the show that contained the creative juice of the evening: from the arrival of Schadenfreude as a group in wXw, to the surprise return of the former Axel Tischer, to the main event, where wXw really pulled out all of the stops.
We’ve already heaped praise on the wXw NOW editing crew, but this was the culmination of what was undoubtedly a team effort. WrestleMania-style entrances greeted both champion and challenger; Bobby Gunns entering from what was the merchandise area, with lights and smoke pouring from behind him as he came in through his people… while Absolute Andy descended from the heavens like an eagle/God (delete as necessary), with both men eliciting reactions from the packed crowd of over 1,500 fans – a wXw record, and one that could well be broken once fears regarding sight lines are put to rest.
Our review of the show kinda brushed past this, but much like the World Tag Team League match in October, this was a Bobby Gunns match where the crowd were the story. I’ve not had a chance to watch the show back in full (it dropped on the night we finished writing this up), but after having had the near miss at Tag League, and the brief storyline where Bobby doubted himself towards the end of the year, this was the celebration that everyone had been bottling up for over a year.
Now the question turns to something far meatier: can Bobby sustain and grow even further as champion?
Since we skipped the after party in favour of the rare commodity that is sleep on these weekends, we rocked up to the media centre entrance for the only two panels that’d take place on this trip.
First up was WALTER, who revealed that he’d never spoken to anybody from New Japan, despite the slew of matches against New Japan guys in 2018… while also reaffirming that he has no plans to ever move to the US. The topic of his WWE-issued nickname “(Austrian Anomaly) is not an official one so I don’t mind” also came up, along with his thoughts on some up and coming wrestlers, including Julian Pace, who “has more tools after two years than 90% of German wrestlers after ten because of the work he’s put in.”
After that, the remaining panel involved two of wXw’s higher ups – Tassilo Jung (when not refereeing, is the head of communications and talent relations within wXw), and Felix Kohlenberg. A variety of topics were covered here, including whether Shotgun would come back (“it’s not reasonable for us to do it”), whether WWE could shut down wXw (“no other company or person has a right to acquire (shares)… or to close down wXw”), and their feelings regarding “home grown” talent expanding beyond wXw.
From there, it was another trip around the Turbinenhalle to get into position for the Road to New York City taping. We’ll not spoil the results as this drops on wXw NOW at the end of March, but if you hear any podcasts with sections of the press panels taped, you may be able to guess who was on the show by the background noise!
While the rains from the Saturday had subsided, the winds unfortunately persisted… which led to a rather unique event: being in a foreign land with the transport systems shut down due to bad weather. Fortunately for us, our flight back was on Monday – but for those who needed the Deutsche Bahn to get home (or even catch a late flight), wXw hurriedly spread word of a hashtag (wXwMFG) for fans to use if they needed or could offer lifts after the show. Kudos!
As for night three, well, in my opinion it was the best of the lot – from the home grown final four, to the completion of the story of Lucky Kid’s ascent to the top… to the rabid, football-like atmosphere that greeted the final night. If you’re the kind of cynic that leans toward the belief that the reaction to Bobby Gunns wasn’t entirely authentic, then the reactions the later you got through the show were from the heart.
Other stuff worth calling out: the return of Hot & Spicy meant that every night of Carat, we saw a different side of Axel Dieter Jr. Yeah, we didn’t see him win the tournament, nor were the crowd as white hot for him as they were in December, but we got to see “classic Axel”, “RINGKAMPF Axel” and “Nordisch Axel” as he gave a new meaning to the term “playing the hits”. Excellent usage of Junior there!
Speaking of RINGKAMPF, we finally saw Veit Müller get his stripes into the group, in spite of him coming up short over the weekend (save for winning the alternate four-way). With Timothy Thatcher’s status in the group in question, and the obvious questions about WALTER, is Veit going to be the only man around wearing the RINGKAMPF colours… and is that going to be too big a load for him to carry?
After the show, the traditional pilgrimage to the Centro for the post-show weekend turned into a bit of a comedy of errors. With the throng of fans from the UK and Ireland now beyond levels where it’s impractical to book ahead, the search for post-Carat food almost proved to be fruitless. The usual post-show haunt of Alex was full… while the 360 sports bar had stopped serving food for the night. Oh, and while we may only have wanted to eat in Turtle Bay… they too were done serving food for the night.
Cue an influx of fans to Louisiana, which fortunately was serving food and had room at the inn before people started to go their separate ways…
“Go home”. Well, many tried. Unfortunately, Storm Eberhard was causing havoc with flights, with some folks having to rebook new flights or make new plans back in the UK as many flights were delayed or cancelled. Even being an Eagle didn’t protect you from delays, as we saw Absolute Andy roaming around Düsseldorf airport killing time…
While a Starbucks became a bit of a haven for those with time to waste, we were one of the very fortunate ones that had no delays, just a lot of turbulence. Others weren’t as lucky: cancelled flights meant that some had to spend the night in the airport… but I don’t think that’ll put many people off returning to Oberhausen in March – especially since the only tickets left for Carat in 2020 are for standing. Those things sell quicker every year…
So, if all you took out of our coverage was “a lot of good wrestling happened, but what should I watch”, then here’s your list, cherry pickers…
** WALTER/Fenix (Night Two)
** Pentagon/Fenix/Horus vs. Schadenfreude (Night Three)
** WALTER/Lucky Kid (Night Three)
** RINGKAMPF vs. Irie/Ishikawa (Inner Circle)
** WALTER/Starr (Night One)
We’ll wrap this up with a word from our roving photographer, Jen: “The weekend was epic. It was everything wrestling should be, full of drama, story-telling and fun. Surprises and good feels were plentiful. 16 Carat is a must for any hardcore pro wrestling fan and I am extremely grateful I got to experience the weekend, making many memories and capturing the action to view until next year!”
- If somehow, you haven’t already, check out our entire coverage of 16 Carat Gold weekend from Inner Circle, to Ambition, to Carat itself here.
- Our collection of photos from the events are up on our Flickr page at www.throughthelensofafan.com
- Obviously, sign up to watch 16 Carat Gold – and the rest of wXw’s monstrous back catalogue (along with shows from over a dozen other promotions) at wXwNOW.de