We kick off our retrospective coverage of this year’s 16 Carat Gold tournament where we should… with night one!

Friday night’s show in Oberhausen was all tournament matches, and the show started with a video package of prior winners, including Zack Sabre Jr, El Generico and Chris Hero. Karsten Beck then brought out the trophy as all of the tournament entrants were paraded – and it looks like wXw has borrowed the Impact set for this weekend!

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Cody Rhodes vs. Da Mack
I guess the shine of travelling to new promotions has worn off here, as Cody didn’t have custom-made boots here. Going in, this was perhaps one of the matches I was on the fence over – it’d either turn out great or be a Cody Rhodes special. At least the Oberhausen crowd were white hot for Bullet Club Cody.

Da Mack won the Road to 16 Carat Gold League mini-tournament to get here, and rather than have a fist bump to start off, they too sweeted each other. Of course they did. Cody backdropped Mack onto the catwalk early on for a Disaster kick, then a springboard body press onto that catwalk, which didn’t leave a whole lot of margin for error!

In the back and forth, Cody landed the Goldust basement uppercut early, before crotching Da Mack on the top rope. It was all Cody from there, as he went for a Rainmaker, then a butterfly lock and finally a Gory stretch. A delayed, deadlift superplex gets Cody a two-count, before a missed baseball slide got Mack a brief respite, as he took down Cody with a cannonball off the top for another near-fall.

Rhodes came back with a Disaster kick for a near-fall, before the pair collided into each other with simultaneous crossbodies. Another Disaster Kick is blocked, but Cody too prevents a pair of Mack Magic cutters before turning one out of the corner into a Cross Rhodes for the win. A perfect tournament opener – hot enough to get the crowd going, but not so much that the rest of the show would have trouble following it. ***½

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Marius al-Ani vs. JT Dunn
al-Ani won a qualifier over tag team partner Absolute Andy at Back to the Roots to get here, whereas Dunn… did not, and he nearly won it immediately with an elbow out of the gate, as he surprised Marius for a near-fall.

Dunn cartwheeled away from Marius, who clearly got fed up of his bullshit as “Mr No Bullshit” hit a dropkick before JT took him outside for a moonsault off the apron. A roll-up into a cutter gets Dunn a near-fall, but that sparks a comeback from Marius… which ended when he slipped off the middle turnbuckle as he went for a back elbow.

al-Ani recovered with a belly-to-belly into the corner for a two-count, before turning another rolling cutter into a German suplex, with a death valley driver almost taking the win. Dunn catches Marius with a superplex, before catching a small package, a German suplex then a lariat for another near-fall, as the pair traded strikes.

A backslide’s blocked by al-Ani, who then catches a leaping leg lariat and an X-plex onto Dunn for a two-count. From there, it’s just the matter of a frog splash as Marius booked his place in the quarter finals. A fun match – fast-paced and hard hitting, just what you needed here. ***½

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Timothy Thatcher vs. Koji Kanemoto
A handy change of pace, as we followed up frenetic and hard-hitting matches with a more sedate, technical affair.

Thatcher scowled as he was taken to the ropes, then kicked in the shin by the veteran Kanemoto, who relied heavily on his feet in the early going. Kanemoto used a variation of a drop toe hold to take down Thatcher, then work in a toe hold, before Thatcher worked free and landed some strikes en route to a gutwrench suplex.

A Kimura saw Thatcher take down Kanemoto in search of a pinfall, but instead he just went to work with strikes on the arm before demonstrating one of his faces to the crowd. Another wristlock follows, but Kanemoto got free and took Thatcher to the corner with some more strikes. Koji washes Thatcher’s face and followed up with some running boots in the corner, which seemed to bloody Timmy’s face up.

A caught kick leads to Kanemoto rolling up Thatcher for an ankle lock, but Timmy managed to make the bottom rope just in time. More strikes from Koji led to a heel hook, but Thatcher rolled out into an armbar, before rolling him up for a shock pin. Shock as in “it was over so quick”, as opposed to being against the run of play.

Thatcher in wXw (and indeed, almost everywhere else) is a revelation compared to his EVOLVE matches. Having seen him live for Rev Pro and PROGRESS last week, Thatcher shows some charisma that seems to be missing in the States – and that shone through too here in his short outing. ***¾

After the match, Kanemoto was stopped by Bobby Gunns on his way to the back. Gunns, who’d won an alternate four-way prior to this show, just sat on the stage smoking – a brief interaction that led to something later in the weekend.

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Robert Dreissker vs. Ilja Dragunov
Adam Polak was back – and he was firmly in Dreissker’s corner here for the battle of former Cerberus members. This match had the biggest backstory going in, and was Ilja’s coming out party of sorts after he missed the Käfigschlacht in January… he certainly had the crowd firmly on his side!

Dragunov leapt into Dreissker with the Torpedo Moscau at the bell, but the Avalanche rolled to the outside where the pair brawled around the crowd for a bit. Ilja leapt off the ring steps, but was caught and drilled into the apron, before he was rolled into the ring… where he returned quickly with a tope. The furious start continued with Dragunov hitting a back senton into a seated Avalanche, who replied with an avalanche splash against a stricken Ilja.

Dragunov played possum though once back inside, and hit a back senton of his own before a back suplex was countered for a near-fall. Dreissker took over by biel’ing Ilja across the ring for a Dreissker (Vader) bomb, but he was caught on the middle rope as Dragunov managed to hit a backdrop superplex for a near-fall instead.

After squashing Ilja with an avalanche and a back body drop, the Avalanche hit a pumphandle slam for a near-fall, before Dragunov got his knees up for another Dreissker bomb. He ran into a lariat though, but recovered to blast Robert with a discus lariat, before ultimately being consumed by a body attack. A big boot then another backdrop suplex sees Ilja regain the advantage pretty quickly, but Adam Polak got involved to distract Ilja on the top rope, leaving him open for a superplex.

Ilja kicked out at two following a cannonball in the corner, before flipping out of a back suplex to land another lariat, then another Torpedo Moscau for the win! THIS. This is how you start a blood feud. Not with tie-ups or pacing around the ring, but with a hot start. Yeah, the match barely went eight minutes, but this was perfect to keep the story going amid the backdrop of the tournament. ****¼ – and I fear that may even be on the low side!

After the match, Dreissker was made at Adam Polak for his intervention not helping… Polak calmed down Dreissker, who then exploded with a clothesline and then a Dreissker Bomb as the implosion of Cerberus, I guess, completed? It certainly made the crowd happy…

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Donovan Dijak vs. Matt Riddle
I think this might be one of the first times I’ve seen Dijak wrestle, so this should be an experience. Of course, Riddle had his PROGRESS Atlas title with him, but that wasn’t on the line here.

Dijak started by laying into Riddle with forearms and stomps, and actually won out in the early going before a suplex throw took Riddle across the ring. Riddle came back with a bicycle knee that sent Dijak into the corner, then a diving knee as the “King of Bros” followed up with a back senton for a near-fall.

A rear naked choke forced Dijak to reach for the ropes, but he came back with a chokeslam backbreaker that looked absolutely brutal! Some double knees in the corner were good for a two-count, but that just ired Riddle to come back with some strikes, a high kick, then an upkick. Dijak eats the Bro to Sleep, before he flips out of a German suplex. Riddle does the same, as he rushes in with a knee strike and a Fisherman buster for a near-fall.

Ice cold, stating-the-bloody-obvious take: Matt Riddle’s pretty good, isn’t he?

Dijak comes back with the Feast Your Eyes (torture rack into a Go To Sleep), but Riddle lands on his feet and tries for a Bro To Sleep. That too is blocked as Dijak hits the Feast Your Eyes, only for Riddle to get his foot on the rope just in time, before he walked into a triangle choke from Riddle.

Dijak impressively picked up Matt and powerbombed his way out of the triangle, before crashing and burning with a top rope moonsault as Riddle locked in the Bromission for the tap-out. Well, we’re on quite the run of fantastic matches – another short sprint, but this was fantastic for the time they had. ****¼

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: “Bad Bones” John Klinger vs. Paul London
The “intrepid traveller” London was wrestling in his onesie again, and he was forced to use his quickness to try and outdo the power of Bad Bones, who found himself taking a double stomp to the back of the head early on.

A dropkick from Bones sends London flying, but he retaliated with one of his own after trapping Bones between the middle and bottom ropes. They headed outside where London chopped Bones in the front row, but Bones retaliates with a slingshot spear and a massive back body drop to collect another near-fall.

Bones kept up with an Irish whip into the corner, which sounded like a gunshot had gone off when London connected with the turnbuckles. A big lariat takes down London for a two-count, but he was able to escape a crucifix bomb, only to get backdropped to the floor like the lunatic that he is. Speaking of loons, Bad Bones threw himself back to the outside with a tope, before London returned with a superkick as Klinger was on the top rope.

A death valley driver gets a near-fall after London had taken Bones off the top, but from the kick-out London runs into a big boot, then a Codebreaker off the top rope for another near-fall. At the second attempt, Bones lands the crucifix buckle bomb, but he’s met with a big boot as London followed up with a pair of shooting star presses for a near-fall.

Bones comes back with a half-and-half suplex, before taking off London’s head with a bicycle kick, and finally sending him into the corner with the Wrecking Ball Knees for the win. On paper, this was one that you could have skipped, but this was a hell of a match. I’m really liking these opening round sprints! ***½

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: Mike Bailey vs. ACH
We started out with a music-less dance-off, whilst the crowd trolled Bailey’s karate-inspired dance moves with a rendition of “Hey Bailey… will you be my girl”.

Once they got going, this was quick-fire with takedowns, cover attempts and feinted kicks – moving so quick I pitied everyone on commentary for trying to keep up with Speedball’s rapid-fire kicks and the like. ACH backflipped away from a Bailey kick, then delivered one of his own for an early near-fall, before he told the referee to look the other way… just so he could chop Bailey in the Speedballs.

Comedy!

The ACH momentum continued with a trip and a stomp to a bent-over Bailey, but Speedball came back with chops of his own, before whaling on ACH with a big boot to the head. A roundhouse sent ACH to the floor, where Bailey followed up with an Ibushi-esque Golden Triangle moonsault, before returning to the ring with almost a Destino for a near-fall. More kicks from Bailey end up getting him in trouble as he missed in the corner and turned into a big lariat from ACH, sending Speedball onto the apron for a springboard dropkick.

A running PK off the apron sends Bailey flying, as did a slingshot into a cutter back in the ring, with the latter getting ACH a near-fall. More kicks and chops lead to Bailey missing a shooting star kneedrop as the tempo was ratcheted up some more. ACH gets a near-fall out of a brainbuster, before nearly losing to a crucifix as Bailey ran in with a spinning enziguiri. More shooting star knees miss, as Bailey takes a snap German suplex into the referee, before recovering to hit the shooting star knees for the win. A fun outing, but Bailey’s rather limited offence gets tiring quickly for me. As some would say, he’s just not my graps… ***¼

16 Carat Gold 2017 – First Round: WALTER vs. David Starr
Going in, the story here was that Starr could not beat WALTER in singles action – perhaps in night one’s main event, Starr could change that around? Perhaps his lucky trunks, with tape covering over something on the side, could help?

Starr unloaded on WALTER from the opening bell, tripping the big guy up before sending him outside… but “der Ringgeneral” caught a tope and squashed Starr against the ringpost as WALTER took over. A single, gunshot-like chop decks Starr, who rolled away from a sit-down splash as he tried to use WALTER’s size against him, landing a superkick to the shin to take WALTER into the corner.

WALTER catches Starr in a sleeperhold, before flipping it into a German suplex… but Starr landed on his feet and sent WALTER charging onto the catwalk, only to leap into another sleeper that he had to break free of. Second time was the charm for WALTER’s sit-down splash, as he collected a two-count from it, before sinking down on Starr with an armbar.

A side suplex makes Starr pop up – then fall back down to the mat – before a brief comeback ended with a shotgun dropkick from WALTER. Starr countered a powerbomb into a DDT, then shocked the big guy with an over-the-knee brainbuster as they started trading forearms. With mixed success. Needless to say, Starr’s chops and forearms weren’t quite as effective…

Starr hits WALTER with an apron DDT after coaxing the Austrian into a dive, before a clothesline sent WALTER to the outside where he took a series of topes as he looked to force a win via count-out. WALTER popped up at nine to roll inside for some more stomps, before catching Starr in an ankle lock as the man of a million nicknames was trying for something else.

WALTER turned the ankle lock into a German suplex, then followed up with a butterfly suplex for a two-count, before he was caught up top as Starr went for a superplex. Despite being pushed down, Starr popped back up for a belly to belly superplex instead, then rolled upside WALTER for a sunset flip for another near-fall, leading to the crowd starting a chant for the Product Placement.

WALTER easily powered out of the strait-jacket German suplex, but was helpless as Starr ran in with some rolling elbows to the back of the head, only to recover with a German suplex and a lariat to force another near-fall out of Starr. The crowd continued to will Starr onto victory, especially as he invited WALTER to kick him some more. That turned into a flurry of strikes, ending with WALTER grabbing a sleeperhold which turned into a sleeper suplex, then back to a sleeperhold as referee Tassilo Jung was forced to wave off the match as for the first time in memory, the “arm drops three times spot” led to the arm dropping three times.

This was bloody fantastic. Starr’s still looking for his first singles win over WALTER, whilst the Austrian continues to cement his place as one of the best that the world isn’t seeing enough of yet. ****¼

The rest of RINGKAMPF head to the ring afterwards to “celebrate”, before the show ended with a promo from Christian Michael Jakobi. This was a bit of bragging from CMJ that eventually set up for night two’s main event between Axel Dieter Jr. and Jurn Simmons – for Dieter’s wXw title.

Well, this was a hell of a show. Had it been in, say, Japan, it’d automatically be in the top five of people’s show of the year… but despite it being on FloSlam later this week (in English), I fear that this is going to be one of those cult shows that isn’t going to get the plaudits it deserves. In edited form, this is well under two hours, and it deserves every single second of your time.

When the “worst” match on show is getting just three and a half of your snowflakes, you’ve got a cracker of a show – and from what we’ve heard from those lucky enough to be there live in Oberhausen, the rest of the weekend keeps up with this standard!