The dust has settled – after all of the changes and upheaval, wXw’s World Tag Team Festival has to go down as a success in the face of adversity. Here’s how we saw it…
As usual, this isn’t totally going to be a “what happened, when” piece – our array of live reviews have those covered, and I doubt too many reading this will be interested in 2am photo editing sessions…
Even if all you’d been keeping up with was our preview, you’ll no doubt be painfully aware of the changes that wXw were forced into. When we landed in Düsseldorf on Wednesday, news had just broken of Eddie Kingston’s withdrawal, while Saraya Knight getting a dose of the Oberhausen bug while not being in Germany proved to be the last public headache wXw endured.
Until they revealed all on Monday, with things like the ring truck being in an accident, and the Turbinenhalle not being cleaned after a prior event.
Still, if you were going as a fan, the only really visible sign you’d have noticed (other than talent changes) was the moment at Inner Circle where the lighting in the wXw academy completely died during Timothy Thatcher’s entrance. Somehow, it was only the circuit that was responsible for the venue lighting that blew – mains power for the rest of the building remained on, which was handy for the hard camera… and for the emergency back-up plan, which saw the crew bring out four lightboxes to create makeshift floodlights from behind the hard camera.
Heck, even on the hastily put-together back-up plan, this show looked better lit and produced than a lot of indies in 2019. Aside from the lighting, perhaps the big takeaway from Inner Circle was the rocket pack that Norman Harras put on himself with his performance as a late replacement for Veit Müller. Sure, a lot of the match was just Norman having the crap beaten out of him by JD Drake, but considering that the majority of the crowd in Essen had (at best) a limited familiarity with Harras, this was a bit of a proving ground for the lad from Soest.
He’d not be the only one who made the most of the spotlight sent his way this weekend.
While they ultimately finished as runners up in their respective tournaments, Leyla Hirsch and Daniel Makabe grabbed this weekend by the scruff of the neck. Hirsch started her weekend with a win over Sammii Jayne, repeating it at Femmes Fatales before breezing past Martina on her way to a final against LuFisto that some called the best match of the weekend. In terms of experience, that perhaps should have been one-way traffic throughout, but Hirsch brought her A-game and gave LuFisto several real scares. If you’re minded to skip Femmes Fatales… don’t.
24 hours later, having made a trip to Brighton for Riptide’s own tag team weekender, Daniel Makabe had a trickier fight – having to come from behind against James Runyan in his first round match at Ambition, before edging past Dominic Garrini… but it was against a replacement where he came unstuck, as A-Kid – in for an injured Damon Moser – snatched a win in the final with a very pro-wrestling C4 and cross armbar. With all of the injuries and withdrawals, this was quite the opportunity for people to step up… and while some were given more prominence, it was nice to see that others were going for that proverbial brass ring.
Aside from that, the other big highlight of the weekend came not too far away from the Turbinenhalle, in the form of the third edition of the Oberhausen Open. Ironically on the same weekend that CHIKARA were doing King of Trios, Oberhausen Open 3 was all about teams of three… yeah, I can’t finish the “strive to survive”-like line a la Survivor Series. Unlike last time, teams were entered in advance, rather than the prior format of utterly random pairings… it didn’t seem to have any effect on the atmosphere though, as Knippi’s was still packed out for the event, with fans from several countries pairing up for perhaps the best “community feel” the event’s had.
Heck, it even got enough chatter where it made it into Germany’s trending topics on Twitter over the Friday night.
Despite having an absolute ringer on their team in the form of JD Drake, the Work Horsemen and Dominic Garrini could only finish in third place, while defending champion Andre Cartier ended up just outside of the trophies as the Oberhausen Open still waits for back-to-back winners.
Elsewhere across the weekend, there was some good story-telling – from Timothy Thatcher finally winning the big one, to him being so fed up of Ilja Dragunov that he just barged right past him before the former champion could get around to asking for a title shot. If that was perhaps a bit too “unsubtle” for you, then how about the Arrows of Hungary’s progression across the three nights: starting with them winning because Icarus did a dive… only to lose in the finals because another dive off the balcony backfired.
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On a slightly less-spectacular scale, there was also Prince Ahura’s “stripper routine” that be bust out on night one, ripping off his new trousers… which then took an upgrade on night two as his clothing went flying at the hands of David Starr’s Destroyer…
— BackBodyDrop.com #wXwWTTF (@BigBackBodyDrop) 6 October 2019
Or if you’re looking for fan interaction, then how about the pay-off to Absolute Andy’s ongoing battle with academy trainee Kim? If you’ve watched his Oberhausen entrances for the last little while, you’ll have spotted him dousing a fan right by the stage with his water bottle… well, since he was tagging with Jay Skillet to form Jay-AA this weekend, that got upped to two bottles… to, erm, THIS:
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…only for Kim to respond on night three by finally bringing an umbrella. Touche.
What else can be said about this weekend that hasn’t been already? Well, this year we finally did a tiny bit of sightseeing around Oberhausen, making the most of the free afternoon before the wrestling began. Sure, there’s things like Legoland and SeaWorld near to the Centro, but if you walk down the Rhein-Herne canal, you’ll come across the “Slinky Springs to Fame” bridge across the canal. It’s a footbridge, but one that has a cushioned walkway, but also bounces the more people walk across it… which may or may not be to your liking if you’re one for motion sickness.
Aside from sightseeing, we’ve got to give a shoutout to the media panels that wXw put on – the audio of which will no doubt appear on other outlets. Some of the highlights included pulling back the curtain a little on the match of the year 8-man tag on Saturday night… talk of how wXw have learned to work around WWE not having a taping schedule locked down for NXT UK… and just how much extra work the “curse” created (“(Sunday’s) show different than it was two days ago…”)
In spite of all that, in the face of constant change and adversity, not a single person on the wXw crew showed any outward signs of stress or pressure. Far from it. It’s already been said elsewhere, but in particular Katja Pilz looked to be energised by all of it. Perhaps working on putting out the VODs helped break it up, or maybe it’s the amount of British fans heading over that’s made the “stiff upper lip” mentality come across, even when the “Berg und Tal” analogy presents more valleys than mountains…
There’s been much worse weekenders on the European scene, as at least wXw were able to lay some groundwork for the future, with the Bobby Gunns/Norman Harras/Pretty Bastards quartet being the big talking point on Sunday night… where that goes from here remains to be seen, as the obvious feud with Leon van Gasteren and Julian Pace would tie-up loose ends, but perhaps isn’t as top line a feud as you may want for the tag titles. All in all, while some had plenty of reason to go into his past weekend fearing the worst, be it in terms of talent, shows or the weather, everything turned out as fine as they could.
See you in March for Carat, yeah?