2019 isn’t even three weeks old and we’re already in with the tournaments, as PWX hosted their annual X16. Here’s our look at night one!

We’re inside the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, North Carolina, with a rather sudden end to the intro music. Kevin Kelly’s on commentary by himself… or so we thought, as Elijah Evans IV gatecrashed and had some trouble making his belt stay upright.

X16 First Round: Ethan Case vs. Sugar Dunkerton
The sound levels are all over the place as Case, the winner in 2015, came out. He’s apparently the only guy who has a shot of becoming a two-time winner. Dunkerton replaced Sean Carr in the line-up, apparently due to weather issues in the States.

Dunkerton takes Case to the mat early in an overhead wristlock, before he worked over into a toe hold as Kevin Kelly extolled the virtues of Dunkerton’s recent tours of the UK. Perhaps he’ll be taking the mantle of El Ligero? Case, whose story going in was that he was having to fight his way into a title shot, responded with a headlock takedown as Dunkerton tried to shove him away, only for Sugar to scoot away from the headlock as Case just froze there like a dummy, thinking Dunkerton was still there.

A knuckle lock from Case looked to force a pin, before he was caught in a wacky leg spreader from Sugar, who then wrapped himself in a ball a la Johnny Saint. After that Dunkerton kicks the leg and sells it for Ethan like Peter Griffin, only for Case to catch him out and take control of the match with a series of chops. The tide swings again as a headbutt from Dunkerton and a headlock suplex gets a near-fall for Dunkerton, only for him to get lifted up top by Case, who almost put him away with an Iconoclasm.

Dunkerton looked for a backslide, only for Case to counter into a cutter before a running knee to the back of the head and a small package got the win for Case. A pretty decent opener, with Dunkerton showing the strides he’s taken in recent months. ***

Backstage, a guy called Ricky Cruise interviews John Skyler with a bit of a delayed loop to the audio. Skyler fought Zack Sabre Jr. and Juice Robinson in the first rounds of prior tournaments, but this year he’s going to prove he is the top guy. That wasn’t quite the promo they had pitched to, but eh.

X16 First Round: Serpentico vs. Andrew Everett
Until fairly recently a part of Impact, Everett’s been hitting the indys hard in the last few months. Right now though, Everett seems to think he’s “Andrew The Giant”. I kinda prefer the panda…

He starts by going for a chokeslam on Serpentico, which is quickly broken away as a shoulder tackle took down “the giant”. Lucha rolls are next, before Everett cartwheels out of a ‘rana, as we’re going all lucha here! Headscissors take Everett down, as does a dropkick as he was perhaps being overly cocky… which may be something Serpentico’s tope could figure out? Back in the ring, a leap over out of the corner from Serpentico’s caught and turned into a back suplex for a near-fall, allowing Everett to take over with… a claw hold? He lets go so he could run and apply a chinlock, as “Andrew The Giant” looked to be asserting himself here, following in with a dropkick after Serpentico tried to get back into it.

Everett calls for a chokeslam, but a leaping knee stops it, as does a superkick as Serpentico gets a second wind, flying into Everett before cornering him with some chops. A Slingblade’s next for a two-count, before Serpentico counters out of a chokeslam with a rebound cutter out of the corner for yet another near-fall. Waistlocks lead us to an Everett Pele kick, as he then gets that damned chokeslam before a big moonsault gets the win. This was fine, but I guess you’ve got to establish the comedy gimmick if he’s going far in the tournament. **¾

Post-match, Serpentico’s slapping hands at ringside until a guy in a hoodie stops him. The mask’s pulled up… it’s another masked guy. The crowd doesn’t react, nor when he throws another Serpentico mask at him as we seem to have a feud between two masked guys in the works. You can always trust the US indys for not even playing along with reactions…

X16 First Round: Drew Adler vs. Tracer X
Adler, who comes to the ring drinking pre-workout, apparently had to “steal his way” into the tournament. His opponent, Tracer X, will forever be part of a pub trivia answer: who won a Style Battle episode?

Tracer X looked to start out hot, but Adler takes him down into the ropes with some clubbering forearms. Tracer hits back with a springboard forearm for a near-fall as Adler turns it back around, charging Tracer into the corner, only to run into a big boot as the momentum swings. A crossbody from Tracer’s caught and turned into a Bossman slam backbreaker for a near-fall, as Adler looked to rough up Tracer in the ring. Another backbreaker gets Drew a two-count, as he chokes on Tracer in the ropes… but it’s all feeling a little rushed, at least until some shots pin Tracer by the ropes again.

Adler looks for a suplex, but Tracer counters into a small package for a near-fall as Adler boots his head off from the kickout… and another near-fall. A waistlock takedown keeps Tracer on the mat with a modified bearhug, before he got free and tries to fight back… rolling past a charging Adler, who sails acrobatically to the outside. Tracer can’t capitalise though, instead waiting for Adler to come back in as he lands a double stomp and some kicks, before a roundhouse kick almost put Adler away. From there, Adler’s caught in a pumphandle, but Tracer can’t quite lift him up for a pumphandle driver, before he’s able to counter a counter, as the springboard whatever it was gets countered and back into a crucifix for a near-fall. After the kick-out, Tracer drags Adler to the corner then heads up for a 450… but Drew rolls away!

Adler rolls under the ring, but there’s no plunder as instead Tracer kills some time as he prepared for a tope. Except Adler sprays his drink into Tracer’s eyes as a big boot and an air raid crash gets the win. This was fine, but it felt way too rushed at times, with Tracer going from selling the back to suddenly being fine… **½

They pitch to an interview with Jason Cade – he’s backstage, as is that infernal echo. He’s asked about his status for the X16 tournament. Cade refuses to say if he’s wrestling or not as they’re teasing he has a broken leg.

X16 First Round: Alexander James vs. John Skyler
Kevin Kelly’s painted James as a guy “straight out of wXw”, which may be true, but that’s kinda glossing over his early days in the States. Kelly reckons James’ll be a household name by the end of the year… we’ll see.

James doesn’t exactly endear himself to the North Carolina crowd, prompting Skyler to threaten to implant his boot in his rear end. That’ll make walking tough. We finally start with Skyler grabbing a headlock, only to get nonchalantly thrown into the ropes before James uses a wristlock and a simple trip to make a fool out of Skyler.

Skyler tries another headlock, but he clings on as he took James down for a back rake. James manages to score a shoulder tackle as commentary goes over some of the folks James has wrestled in wXw, but a missed charge into the corner opened it up as a diving uppercut from Skyler gets a near-fall. James rolls to the outside, but he’s caught on the apron… only for James to slip Skyler’s arm under the ring skirt as he kicked it.

Back inside, James gets caught with some right hands, but Skyler’s left hand is a clear target as James makes the most of it with a chinbar. A drop toe hold proves to be an effective move after a rope break, but Skyler’s attempt at a Muta lock doesn’t even get going as James frees himself and goes back to the left arm with a deathlock of his own. James turns it into a roll-up for a near-fall, before he tripped Skyler and went back to that left arm with another kick.

An armbar follows from James, who bends Skyler’s wrist back for the sake of it, ahead of a stomp to the body part. Every time Skyler looked to get back into the match, James went right back to the arm, at least until Skyler figured out he could throw a superkick without using the arm. Finally Skyler goes after James’ arm, whipping him down to the mat before kicking the arm away as a Finlay roll almost went south!

Skyler takes his straps down on his singlet and lands a slingshot spear… but James comes right back in with some leg scissors on the injured arm, only for Skyler to make it to the ropes. Forearms follow as Skyler and James tried to edge ahead, but James knocked him down before Skyler snapped in with a tornado DDT out of nothing for the win. I liked the story of the match, with both men going for each other’s arm, but the “out of nowhere” pin didn’t sit well with me. It was almost like they hit a time cue and they had to pull a trigger… ***

PWX Tag Team Championship: The Revolt! (Caleb Konley & Zane Riley) vs. Ugly Ducklings (Lance Lude & Rob Killjoy) (c)
The Revolt stole the tag titles apparently, so they’ve been given this match to try and win them for real. They get “welcome back “chants despite being villains, and we have a brief pull apart before the bell.

The bell sounds with the Ducklings looking to work over Konley, taking him down for a snap legdrop that gets a two-count. Frequent tags are made between Lude and Killjoy, who slingshot onto Konley for more two-counts, before a whip into the ropes sees Konley slip through and make a blind tag to Riley, who just pounces Lude out of his shoes. Killjoy tries to fight the Revolt one-on-two, before they come back and drop Lude onto Killjoy for a Hart Attack and a sliding lariat for a near-fall. A crossbody’s caught by Riley, but he can’t finish the move as the Ducklings clatter into him with a pair of low dropkicks and a pair of moonsaults as Killjoy can only get a near-fall.

Riley charges Killjoy into the corner before he’s shoved away… Konley looks for a save, but he’s stopped as Riley ends up slamming Konley onto Killjoy for a near-fall. Konley gets a tag in as he continued to rough up Lude with some chops and another low dropkick for a near-fall. A chinlock keeps Lude down, but he does fight back before a tag out’s stopped by Riley giving him a wedgie en route to a back suplex.

The Revolt keep Lude in the ring as Riley lands a handstand senton into the ring from the apron, but some headscissors finally get Lude free as Killjoy gets a hot tag in. A quebrada takes down Konley for a near-fall, before a springboard dropkick knocks Riley off the apron ahead of an Arabian press! It’s Konley who’s legal, as Killjoy finally turns his attention back to the Revolt, as a pair of topes con giro wiped out the challengers.

Back in the ring, Killjoy heads up top but misses a stomp. He doesn’t miss a boot to Konley’s face as he set up for a superplex… only for Riley to cut him off as the challengers head up the ropes. Lude’s dropkick stops RIley as Konley ends up getting superplexed off of Riley’s back, before a frog splash off of Riley’s back, then a double stomp plants through Konley for a near-fall. My feed goes out as Konley kills Killjoy with a bucklebomb before Riley’s cannonball and another Konley moonsault drew a near-fall… and I think this must be heading to a climax, right? A tag’s made to Lude, who has to fight the numbers game… and succeeds when RIley clotheslines Konley, before headscissors took Caleb into the corner for a Killjoy Meteora, as the monkey flip cannonball kills Konley for another two-count.

From there, a Doomsday Device is attempted, but Riley crotches Lude in the turnbuckles… Killjoy has to lift Konley to the floor while Riley looks for a superplex… he’s stopped as the Ducklings somehow land the Ducksday Device… but Konley breaks up the cover. The lights go out after that, then turn back on with no change…

The Ducklings keep the upper hand though as everyone just seems to freeze, with the Ducklings looking for their launchpad cannonball… but this time Riley catches it and passes Lude onto Konley for a release suplex before a springboard stomp-assisted Pedigree gets the Revolt the win. This felt like they were shooting for an “epic blow-off match”, but not knowing the storylines going in, it felt like they had a match that went a little too long with too many kick-outs for the sake of it. ***

They keep turning the lights out here as if there was going to be a run-in, but instead it’s for a to-camera piece from Kevin Kelly.

X16 First Round: Harlem Bravado vs. Saieve al-Sabah
al-Sabah had a brief push for EVOLVE last year, but left just before their big reinvention as he opted to go onto the indys rather than stay in the land of sort-of NXT…

We start with Bravado taking down al-Sabah with a hammerlock, before an escape led to the pair standing off… and re-engaging as a cravat’s broken by al-Sabah going into the ropes. A shoulder tackle from Bravado’s neutralised with a kip-up, with Saieve heading into the corner for some methodical punches. Harlem’s back with a Blockbuster out of the corner for a two-count, before they head outside as Bravado’s plancha’s cut-off with a knee.

Bravado tries to clear the crowd, but they’re not exactly co-operative as al-Sabah ends up getting shoved into the front row. Harlem follows that up with a stage dive-like dropkick over the guard rails, before a lap of honour led to a second one that finds its mark. Harlem doesn’t go for the count-out, instead throwing al-Sabah back into the crowd, where Saieve’s waiting with a charge into the barriers. Back inside, Saieve nails a suplex with an instant kip-up before he puts some boots to Bravado, as a follow-up chinlock’s elbowed out of. An Irish whip takes Bravado into the corner for a body attack from al-Sabah, before a rather desperate crossbody from Harlem’s blocked with some knees.

Saieve followed that up with a moonsault, only for Harlem to have moved away. A right hand from Bravado finds its target, as does a pump kick, as the relative veteran found his way back in… leaping over a back body drop before a scoop slam/reverse DDT left Saieve down for a near-fall. Saieve comes back with a running powerslam and a standing moonsault… following that up with a top rope moonsault for another two-count. So he punches Harlem out, before the pair trade forearms and kicks as they tried to find a way through. Bravado shocks Saieve with a springboard Destroyer then pounces instantly with the Straight Cash Homie (Angel’s Wings) for the win. This was fine, but again largely devoid of heat. I’m hoping it’s just a badly-mic’d crowd… ***¼

We then get a backstage promo with the Revolt, who brag about winning the tag titles. The echo’s still there. In walks an unidentified guy who’s barely audible… he tells them the Revolt defend the tag titles tomorrow.

X16 First Round: Yahya vs. Slim J
Yahya’s built up a bit of a name for himself on the southern scene, with appearances in the likes of AML Wrestling. He actually gets a pop, which says something here…

We start with a lock-up as Yahya switches for a waistlock, before he eventually found his way up into a side headlock. A shoulder tackle effortlessly takes down J, who then eats a dropkick… and decided to try again with the headlock malarkey. There’s no change in response, as Yahya charges through him, but this time J grabs a waistlock as he looked to avoid a dropkick, before headscissors and a dropkick of his own took Yahya down.

A test of strength has Yahya further ahead, as does a headlock takedown which Slim J instantly neutralises with headscissors, only for Yahya to go back to the headlock. Somehow, J escapes and flips around into a modified surfboard stretch, but Yahya frees his leg and scoots into the ropes for a break. Off the ropes, Yahya lands a back elbow for a quick two-count, before he winds the arms of J in a double arm-stretch, snapping them back as he ended his little nursery rhyme. A one-handed suplex is next for Yahya, then a legdrop before another side headlock from Yahya ended with a jawbreaker out of Slim J. J comes back with a slingshot neckbreaker from the outside in as he began to mount some offence…

Until Yahya obliterates him with a clothesline. A belly-to-belly’s next, with J going overhead and into the corner. Things get a little eggy when Slim lands a head kick and a spinning cutter… Yahya didn’t kick-out, but the referee held up the count… and the crowd just don’t buy it. A roll-up from Yahya avoids a riot as Slim J kicks out, before he took off his wifebeater vest and got into a hockey fight with Yahya. That quickly gives way to a headscissor-aided roll-up, as Slim J dumps Yahya on his head and gets the pin. The final minute aside, that was quite good, but my word, a lot went badly wrong in that final stretch. ***

X16 First Round: Darius Lockhart vs. Montana Black
Lockhart’s back in the States after his brief tour of the UK at the end of 2018… he was meant to face Jason Cade, but he came out on crutches as Kevin Kelly refused to believe the broken leg story, especially since there were a lot of people who were looking to get payback.

Cade tells us that X16 came right in the middle of the window he was meant to have been cleared… but the injury was more severe than thought, so he’s not wrestling. His replacement? Montana Black. Black easily throws Lockhart around early on, before butt bumping his way out of an attempted rear naked choke. A second try ends with Lockhart being thrown free, before he’s just lifted to the outside with a choke. Lockhart tries to fight back from the apron, but a distraction leads to Lockhart getting dropkicked off the apron.

Back in the ring, Lockhart tries to chop through the monster, but Black just takes him down with a chop as the size difference came into play. Just a shame Montana’s strikes don’t look too solid. Darius tries to hit back, but he’s caught in the corner with some rapid-fire chops before a running splash crushes Lockhart in the corner. A sidewalk slam’s next for a near-fall, as the match continued down the same squash-y vein until Lockhart managed to get his feet up to block some charges in the corner. A tired enziguiri finds its mark, but Lockhart’s sunset flip is broken up as Black pulls him up… before some wild swings from Montana miss, allowing Darius to leap onto his back with a choke. Montana backs into the corner to break it up, only for his charge to miss as Lockhart comes in with an overhead kick as he tried to dive for a non-existing tag.

Nevermind, Black goes for a powerbomb, but Lockhart counters into a facebuster before he floats over into a Muta lock… but Black breaks it up with ease as he then climbs the ropes, but gets caught and brought down with a powerbomb. Lockhart can’t make a cover as Montana monsters up a la the Undertaker, only for Darius to land a couple of running knees as he dropkicks away more interference from BOSS. Another knee to the back of Black connects… and that’s enough for the upset! On paper, this read fine, but a lot of the crowd just didn’t get into this slow-paced underdog vs. monster match, and as such it just felt like a plodding mess. **

X16 First Round: Billy Brash vs. Eddie Edwards
Eddie’s got a bit of a loose cannon character in Impact these days, and is out with a Kendo stick as he’s selling how he’s been driven “mad” by Sami Callihan in 2018.

We open with a lock-up into the ropes that ends with Edwards breaking cleanly, as Brash grabs a side headlock in… only for that to end up in a shoulder tackle as Edwards is kidding around. More shoulder tackles led to neither man budging, until Brash backflips over a back body drop and finally takes down Eddie. We’ve a chinlock next, but Eddie shoves Brash away and hits an overhead belly-to-belly as chops follow in the ropes for the former TNA champion.

A dive follows from Edwards as he took Brash out with a tope, following him around ringside with some more chops as he slowed the pace down. Brash has chops of his own, but Edwards hits back and rolls him back inside as the camera crew tried to get a close-up view. A suplex is good for a two-count for Edwards, but Brash keeps trying to chop back, except this time he’s knocked loopy with a big boot as Eddie looked to claim a KO win.

Brash manages to chain something together, clocking Edwards with a diving knee and a crossbody in the corner, as a slingshot cutter leaves Eddie down for a two-count. On the top rope, Brash is caught with a gamengiri as Eddie instead brings him down with a superplex. A Blue Thunder Bomb’s next as Brash’s attempts to fight back were moot, at least until he caught Edwards with a knee to the temple. The pair get back to their feet and trade rights, which quickly become chops before another gamengiri catches Brash on the top rope. Eddie heads up for another superplex, but this time it’s blocked as Brash headbutts free before he drops Edwards into the turnbuckle ahead of a Buckshot lariat out of the corner as Edwards almost got pinned. He responds with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall as Eddie’s crazy eyes began to appear – along with Kevin Kelly’s timechecks. Could we be going to a time limit draw?

Brash almost nicks the win with a fireman’s carry bomb – EVIL’s Darkness Falls – but Edwards gets a foot to the ropes as we finally get a time call by the ring announcer… both men go back into the corner, as Brash took a sunset flip bomb off the top rope, then a clothesline as Eddie worked his way up into a Tiger Driver… for a one count?! The crowd barely pop for that, so Eddie runs in with a forearm and a double-arm DDT as the Impact star books his spot into the quarter-finals. This was okay, but the fact that Eddie made it through with 19 seconds to go was something that was horribly underplayed – and as such the match lacked any kind of drama surrounding that. ***

On this evidence, any fears about the depth of the US scene aren’t entirely justified. While this year’s X16 line-up wasn’t that much different from the 2018 field (minus David Starr and Juice Robinson), this series of opening round matches felt fine and little more than that. That’s not to say the entire scene is trash, but here there was little spark and absolutely no buzz… We’re likely to have a spell where the scene may be trundling along until something clicks?

Perhaps it was the time limits that rushed things through, but this was a show that perhaps would have benefited from some matches having a little longer, and perhaps not having the distraction of the tag title match…