The penultimate round of World Cup qualifiers saw the Americans come to Manchester as some of the biggest indy names tried to claim one of the remaining spots in August’s finals.

Dave Bradshaw and James R. Kennedy are on commentary (huzzah!), and it’s straight into action, albeit with the trademark WCPW “fade to black a touch too soon”. There’s a nice touch from David Starr wearing the wXw Shotgun title and a wXw NOW t-shirt in his promo piece. Subtle plugs for the win!

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – First Round: David Starr vs. Bobby Fish
It’s a different ring announcer, who claims this is a round two qualifier. Eh? He gets off all of Starr’s nicknames, save for the “one oh four minute man”… which’ll probably become the 120-minute man after his announced double-iron-man-match for wXw in October.

They open up on the ground as Starr and Fish went in search of a body part to work over, with Fish’s attempt at an early leg grapevine ending via a rope break as Starr implored Bobby to “follow the rules”. The back and forth sees Starr dropkick Fish to the floor, as the ensuring exchange ended with Fish getting clotheslined back out ahead of a tope that sent both men into the crowd barriers.

Fish took over outside though, kicking away at Starr’s hamstrings, before working over Starr’s back as the crowd started to boo the recent NXT debutant Fish. That descended into a striking battle as Fish tried to chop down Starr with kicks, but Starr’s able to come back with a reverse slam for a near-fall as Fish again went after him with kicks.

Out of nowhere, Starr catches Fish with the Product Recall (Downward Spiral in the ropes) for a near-fall, before Fish countered a Product Placement into a knee-bar that’s quickly broken via the ropes. Fish keeps up though, trapping Starr in another knee-bar after a back flip saw him land awkwardly… but still Davey Wrestling tries to free himself, bridging back into a pin to force Fish to release the hold.

A Blackheart Driver onto the injured knee leaves both men down, before Starr fires back with a discus forearm to the back of Fish as a set-up for the Product Placement which gets the win. A fun match, as you’d expect from these two, with Starr selling his knee as a way to build up to his final later tonight. He’ll face Jay Lethal or Moose later on… ***¼

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – First Round: Moose vs. Jay Lethal
Jay Lethal tries to end this early with a Lethal Injection after riling Moose, but there’s a lot of swings and misses here before Lethal hit a series of topes to Moose on the outside… only for the third to be caught and eventually turned into an apron powerbomb.

That put Moose in charge for a spell, at least until he whiffed on a dropkick before pushing away a Figure Four as he shoved Lethal into the ropes for a dropkick that found its mark. Lethal’s kept on the back foot again outside as Moose levelled him with a pump kick against the guard rails as Moose favoured low-speed, high-impact offence.

Lethal tries to mount a comeback, but instantly takes a pop-up powerbomb and a back senton for a near-fall, before Moose sunk in a bearhug. For whatever reason, the ref doesn’t ask about a submission, and Joel Allen’s decision to stand back allows Lethal to fight out… and back into another running boot.

A superkick rocks Moose into a hiptoss, before a dropkick and an Ace crusher took the big man down, before landing the Lethal Combination for a near-fall. Jay flat-out appealed to the crowd from there as he tried to get their strength to help suplex Moose, eventually succeeding for a near-fall. Moose clung onto the trunks to avoid a Lethal Injection, but Jay frees himself as the pair went back and forth some more, with a corner dropkick by Moose earning him a near-fall.

Moose nearly gets it with the Go To Hell chokebomb off the top, before springing into life with a crossbody off the top… but Lethal apparently switched it into an Ace Crusher on the way down for a near-fall, before a Lethal Injection earned just a one-count! Jay fires back with a flurry of superkicks to knock Moose to his knees, as a second Lethal Injection finally did the business. This picked up at the end, but this started out painfully slow… and hey, Lethal/Starr is undoubtedly a better stylistic choice of a final. **¾

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – First Round: Keith Lee vs. James Storm
Having not had the mainstream exposure of the likes of James Storm or even Moose, Lee came into this a relative unknown to a large chunk of the WCPW audience. By the end, that wasn’t the case… The early going saw Storm struggle against Lee’s size as Keith displayed his agility for a sequence that’d be more typically be seen in lucha!

That sequence interrupted commentary’s attempt to announce the return of Loaded, which’ll be airing from this Thursday (August 3) on YouTube, Twitch and the WhatCulture Extra services.

Lee keeps up the impressiveness with a springboard into the win, but it was turned into a Codebreaker/facebuster variant for a near-fall, before Storm finally knocked him down with a clothesline. Regardless, Lee’s able to compose himself and land a couple of shoulderblocks, before getting up for a ‘rana to Storm as the crowd rallied behind the Cowboy.

Some double-handed chops sorted that out.

Storm’s able to shrug them off and land a neckbreaker for a two-count though, before taking Lee down with a top rope ‘rana and a big splash off the top for a near-fall as Storm barely connected. A simple left-hand from Lee nearly ends things, as Storm’s forced to cling onto him to try and save himself from a moonsault… but in the end he takes him out of the corner with the Eye of the Storm (spinning crucifix bomb) for another near-fall, only for Lee to bounce straight back with the Ground Zero (fireman’s carry into a powerslam) to book his spot in the final. Impressive stuff from Lee, who is facing a styles clash in the final against Ricochet or Matt Sydal… good luck lads! ***½

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – First Round: Matt Sydal vs. Ricochet
Sydal came into this match still suffering the effects of a shoulder injury picked up at a recent Impact taping, so I wasn’t going into this expecting both men flipping and flying. There’s the usual “can you top this” exchange at the start as Ricochet cartwheels out of a ‘rana as Sydal tried to be like Ospreay, before dropping a knee onto Ricochet’s shin.

A baseball slide dropkick into the corner rocks Ricochet, as Sydal starts to work away on Ricochet’s leg to prevent him from being able to spring into any kind of aerial move. That leads us to some chops in the ropes as Sydal again grounds Ricochet, this time with a Muta lock, before Ricochet finally got free and rolled up into a clothesline to take his former tag partner down.

Ricochet comes through with a 619 in the corner before a springboard uppercut took Sydal down again. A running cutter and a standing shooting star press gets a near-fall, before Ricochet’s beaten to the punch with a Benadryller as both men landed kicks… with Sydal able to slump on top for a two-count.

Sydal looks for the Air Sydal shooting star press, but Ricochet popped up as the pair traded blows before Sydal spiked Ricochet with a headlock driver. A shooting star press is aborted as Ricochet rushes in with a knee strike en route to a Benadryller, which connects flush as that’s proven to be enough for the win. Really solid, if not spectacular, but that’s the tournament format for you! ***½

A trailer airs for the return of Loaded, which is making a comeback despite the YouTube monetisation policy change. Stuff was taped during the Japan World Cup qualifiers, and that’s going to be part of the first episode that’ll air this week (as you read this!).

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – Second Round: David Starr vs. Jay Lethal
All credit to Ryan Devlin for reeling through David Starr’s nickname for a second time in the same night. Lethal made a beeline for Starr’s injured leg, going after it with a Dragon screw and a couple of shots as he was immediately put on the back foot.

Starr tried to come back for a dive, but his knee buckles as he did the run-up, which just gave Lethal more of an incentive as he tied up that leg with a simple leg lock, before wrapping it in the ropes as the crowd started to turn on Lethal. A small package nearly shocks Lethal, but he’s straight back to the kicks as Starr’s becoming the one legged man in an arse kicking content.

Finally Starr gets some offence in, with a knee strike to send Lethal outside, but a tope wasn’t the best move as he landed awkwardly on the bad leg. Still, David shrugged it off and took Lethal into the corner for a sliding cross body that earned a two-count, before a violence party trapped Lethal in the corner for forearms and chops.

More chops follow as this descended into a war, but Lethal went back to the leg before running into a discus forearm as Starr’s attempt at a Product Placement earned him a ‘cutter instead. Lethal continues by threatening to counter a superplex with a Dragon screw off the top, eventually knocking down Starr for the Macho Man elbow drop that almost ended things.

Starr somehow snaps back with a Product Placement, before DDTing Lethal on the apron as the Blackheart Driver nearly got the win, but Lethal survived, as Starr tried again for a Product Placement… except this time Lethal escaped and sprung in with a Lethal Injection for a near-fall. Straight after the kick-out, the moves into a Figure Four that almost pinned Starr, but in the end a series of clubbing blows to the knee forced Starr to give up as the Figure Four claimed its first victim in what feels like forever! A solid, logical wrestling match – one that almost threatened to drag out in the opening stages when it was just Lethal working on the leg, but this was pretty good. ***½

Jay Lethal will be facing Zack Sabre Jr. in the first round of the World Cup finals next month…

Pro Wrestling World Cup – USA Qualifier – Second Round: Keith Lee vs. Ricochet
These two met at EVOLVE over WrestleMania weekend earlier this year, in what was a surprise loss for Lee at the time. When we got going here, Ricochet tried in vain to out-muscle Lee, as he was easily flung around as Lee openly questioned his tactics.

It’s all too easy for Lee in the early going, as he negated everything Ricochet tried, at least until he started to use his speed… at which point Keith just dropkicked him away as he started to make his size difference show.

Eventually Ricochet burst into life, but his brief comeback’s thwarted with a stiff clothesline, before nonchalantly standing on Ricochet’s chest as speed was being outdone by size and strength. Ricochet tries to whip Lee into the ropes, but he resists and ends up splatting RIcochet with a crossbody instead, then again with a huge biel throw into the corner as the crowd seemed to be waiting for those double-handed chops.

Ricochet collapses to the mat as Lee was going for an avalanche, before somehow getting back to his feet and catching Lee for a fallaway slam. What the hell did I just see?!

That sparks a comeback from Ricochet, who nails a springboard uppercut and a shooting star press that Lee instantly powered away from before the ref could even make a count. Ricochet tries to lift up Lee for a Benadryller, but can’t get him up as he ends up running into a pop-up chokeslam for a near-fall… but again Ricochet comes back with a springboard missile dropkick to take Lee back down.

Ricochet heads up top for a springboard 450 splash, but Lee gets out at two as Ricochet again tried for the Benadryller, before a roundhouse kick was swatted away. He then goes to the chopping game, as Ricochet then ran into a bearhug which was quickly turned into an overhead belly-to-belly, then a powerslam as Ricochet barely stayed alive.

That kick-out left Ricochet down on the mat though, as Lee spotted the middle rope and climbed up for a moonsault… but Ricochet rolled away and came back with some kicks and knees as Ricochet finally got the big guy up for the Benadryller! Lee barely moved though, as a kick to the shin and a heel kick does the job, before the shooting star press connects… but Ricochet couldn’t go straight for the pin.

Instead, Lee grabbed him by the throat and hoisted up Ricochet into a Spirit Bomb that almost won it! He goes straight to the Ground Zero from there, but Ricochet countered into a small package, and that’s enough to book his place in the finals! A heck of a main event here, with Ricochet eventually showing that speed beats size in what was easily the best match on offer tonight. ****

Given that WCPW’s bringing back Loaded, it makes sense that they would double-up the World Cup tapings and incorporate Loaded content into those shows… but after the earlier qualifiers saw non-tournament action, it’s quite the thing to see “just” the tournament matches. Still, it means that we had a show that flew by in just over two hours, and given the currently-crowded wrestling character, it’s a welcome thing!