wXw completed it’s early shout for “best tournament of the year” with a thrilling conclusion to its 16 Carat Gold weekender.

Yep, we’re back at Oberhausen for the third, and final, day of the tournament. The show opens with promos from Ilja Dragunov, “Bad Bones” John Klinger, Matt Riddle and WALTER, all of which saying that they’re going to win the tournament. You can guess which the only one was that was in English…

16 Carat Gold 2017 – Semi-Final: “Bad Bones” John Klinger vs. Ilja Dragunov
With the expected hot crowd, Klinger and Dragunov roll around the ropes as they strike each other, quickly giving way to chops before a dropkick from Bones took down Ilja in the early going.

A Saito suplex from Ilja takes down Bones, who quickly took a few forearms as the chopping battle resumed, only for the pair to end up suplexing each other from the ring to the floor. Dear Lord!

Dragunov kicks Bones as he re-entered the ring, before a back senton forced Klinger back to the outside… but he returned with a slingshot spear as Ilja went for a tope. They returned to the ring as Bones took over with some chops, before sending Ilja hard into the turnbuckles. From there, Ilja launches into Klinger with some clotheslines, then connects with a back senton to get a two-count, but he goes for the Torpedo Moscau too early and gets caught with a Codebreaker instead.

That sent Ilja to the outside, as Klinger rushed to the outside with a tope, then threw the Russian back inside for a near-fall – prompting a loud barrage of “unbesiegbar” chants. They work a series of rebounding forearms, but Bones winds out with a half-and-half suplex that Ilja popped up from like a damned zombie!

Dragunov comes back with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall, before a massive clothesline knocked down Bones for another two-count as the crowd piped up with their John Cena chant for Klinger. Who then levelled Ilja with a superkick for a more polite round of applause from a two-count. Klinger tried to capitalise, but he just ran into a clothesline before Dragunov followed up with the Torpedo Moscau… and once again Oberhausen became unglued as Ilja booked his place in the finals! A fine opener, but comparing it to their Street Fight at the 16th Anniversary show, this was firmly in the bracket of “not quite what it could have been” since the winner had another match to go later on tonight. ***½

16 Carat Gold 2017 – Semi-Final: WALTER vs. Matt Riddle
This was Riddle’s SEVENTH match in four days, and my word, it’s quite the intriguing semi-final pitting two of the best in the world.

The Ambition winner rolled WALTER around the ropes and into the corner from the off, before the Austrian scored with a headlock takedown as he looked to keep Riddle at bay. A chop in the corner helped to do that, before Riddle went for an O’Connor roll… only to get met with a big boot instead.

This went back to a striking battle as WALTER egged on Riddle, getting himself a Pele kick to the arm before he took a back senton for only a one-count. A leg trip from WALTER saw him follow up with a knee drop to Riddle’s foot as he started to target the boot-less Bro, switching between toe holds and kneedrops.

Riddle rolls away from a seated splash, before instinctively kicking WALTER with the bad leg – which just gives the Austrian a way to get back on top as he pulled Riddle onto the apron to work over the ankle some more, including with a massive stamp to the foot as it was laid on the ring steps.

The proverbial one-footed man in the arse kicking contest fought back with some right hands, but quickly fell into a sleeperhold that WALTER turned into a German suplex after slapping away a rope break. Riddle powered immediately back up though, before flipping out of another German and ran in with a knee.

The Fisherman’s buster only gets a two-count though as Riddle rushed in with a diving knee before going up top for a senton bomb. What the hell did I just see?! Matt Riddle going all Jeff Hardy (and the many more since then). That gets him a near-fall, and in the aftermath of that he’s rolled to the mat by WALTER who grabs an ankle lock, before turning it into a German suplex.

Riddle kicked out at two from a lariat as WALTER was running roughshod over him, but Riddle countered a powerbomb into a guillotine choke, only to get charged into the corner. A missed roundhouse leads to another sleeperhold from WALTER, but that’s fought out of before Riddle gets that guillotine in again, turning it into a triangle choke with some elbow strikes thrown in. Yet again, WALTER powerbombs free, then delivers a second powerbomb as he made the final. Holy crap. How on earth do you follow that? Engrossing and hard-hitting throughout, although I would quibble Matt Riddle’s amazingly quick healing foot… you know what I’m going to say about WALTER, so I’ll leave the gushing until the end! ****¼

Bobby Gunns vs. Koji Kanemoto
Some non-tournament matches now, as we have Koji Kanemoto up against Bobby Gunns after the latter’s interactions with him over the weekend. I like how they’ve used Kanemoto since his elimination, putting him up against local guys to give them some rub – it definitely worked for Francis Kaspin on night two…

Koji unloads on Gunns at the bell, as they head to the outside where Kanemoto kicks Gunns to the floor. Back in the ring, it’s more kicks for Gunns to absorb, as he’s left laying in the corner for some face-washing and some running boots from the veteran. They exchange right hands for a spell, before Kanemoto throws some forearms to the back of the head, but Gunns comes back and thrusts his groin into Koji’s head.

A rope-hung armbar follows for Gunns, as he then took down Koji with a diving European uppercut for a near-fall. More back-and-forth strikes take Gunns back into the corner, but he rebounds out with an armbar, only for Kanemoto to roll through into a scissored ankle lock. Gunns grabs the bottom rope to break free, but he’s quickly tripped again as Kanemoto goes back to the ankle, again ending with a rope break. More kicks from Koji rock Gunns, who just calls for more of the same as he again gets rolled to the mat in an ankle lock… and yes he grabbed that bottom rope once more. A Falcon arrow gets a near-fall, as does another kick, but Gunns mounted a comeback with an Exploder suplex, before he bridged back from an O’Connor roll for an out-of-nowhere win. This was fine, but I get the impression from the crowd reaction that they didn’t quite buy this win, as it was largely Gunns having his rear end kicked until he caught out Kanemoto. **¾

wXw World Tag Team Championship Gauntlet: Francis Kaspin & Chris Colen vs. Paul London & Da Mack vs. A4 (Marius al-Ani & Absolute Andy) (c) vs. Avalanche & Julian Nero vs. RINGKAMPF (Timothy Thatcher & Axel Dieter Jr)
Another unannounced match followed, as we had a gauntlet for A4’s tag team titles, but we started with a pair of challengers as Paul London and Da Mack faced off against Francis Kaspin and Chris Colen.

Kaspin was isolated early on as London and Mack went at him with dropkicks, before Kaspin literally smashed London’s arm off the top rope to send him off the apron and to the floor. Da Mack was clumsily taken to the mat with a drop toe hold before Colen sprung him off the ropes and into a slam for the first near-fall of the match. They did a nice spot where Mack leapt over his own partner as London took down Kaspin, before he went up top… and was caught by the Austrian Colen, but that ended well for Paul as he ended up knocking Colen down before landing a shooting star press on Kaspin to go to the next round.

Next up was the pairing of Avalanche and Julian Nero – Cerberus back together, sort of! Nero targeted Mack early, but he managed to overturn thing as London came in with a double stomp to take over. At least until he angered Avalanche by kicking him on the apron, which led to him getting dragged out and beaten on. A snap suplex from Nero gets a near-fall as London tried to fight back, but he was in the wrong corner and trapped by a much bigger Avalanche. London’s crossbody is caught by Avalanche, but Mack springboards in with a dropkick to take him down, before the Mack Magic cutter and a shooting star press off the middle rope gets London a near-fall. Avalanche kills London with a splash in the corner, then hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for the next elimination after Mack’d been clotheslined out of the ring by Nero.

The next entrants were the champions A4 – Marius al-Ani and Absolute Andy – and it was Andy who took the fight to Nero in the early going, but al-Ani found himself restrained early on as his bloodied-ear from the prior night was causing him problems from the start. A spinebuster from Andy leads to the Absolute kneedrop, before he low-bridges the Avalanche to the floor. Nero blocks a superkick then dives in with a knee that sent Andy into al-Ani, who then got wiped out by the Avalanche on the floor. The referee holds up the dreaded X as medics come to check on Marius’ ear – and that’s apparently enough of a signal for the ex-Cerberus pair to go after Andy, putting the boots to him in the ring. Some crossface punches get Nero a near-fall, but Andy’s left on his own and has to resist a big splash and a legdrop from the Avalanche.

Nero hits Andy with the Desolation (Wasteland), before another back senton from Avalanche adds insult to injury… but Andy sidesteps a charge from Avalanche, then follows up with a superkick, and A4 win! But wait, there’s one more team… RINGKAMPF. The pair of former EVOLVE and wXw champs respectively in Timothy Thatcher and Axel Dieter Jr. represent the team here, and they go after a still solo Absolute Andy, clubbing him down before drilling him with knees and uppercuts.

Thatcher gurned, then showed his smug face as he ground in a chinlock on Andy, but he managed to catch Thatcher in a figure four… then at the same time, roll up Dieter for a near-fall as they tried to break free. After the kick-out though, Dieter successfully stomped his partner free, as Thatcher came back with some gigantic gutwrenches. Dieter came in and dropped Andy with a butterfly suplex, then a diving uppercut for a near-fall as it was surely a case of when, not if RINGKAMPF took the belts.

Dieter ties up Andy in a figure four headscissors until Thatcher came into mock Andy’s “Absolute” theatrics. Somehow, Andy reversed a suplex and dumped Thatcher to the mat, but it was still a two-on-one affair as the RINGKAMPF pair tagged frequently to keep the fresher man in. All of a sudden, Marius al-Ani and his taped up head reappeared on the apron, and he was immediately tagged in to clear house on RINGKAMPF with spinning kicks… then brought in Andy for the leap-over seated splash… but Axel got rid of him before Andy was rolled out for a near-fall. Straight after, Andy reversed the small package, and that was enough to retain the titles!

Gauntlet matches are pretty hit and miss, but I loved the swerve at the end with the arrival of RINGKAMPF making you think that the fix was in – only for the late emergence of Marius al-Ani to save the day for A4. Pretty meh until the final section, but it was a fun final stretch! ***¼

After the match, Christian Michael Jakobi held the tag title belts hostage, seemingly to distract A4, but it didn’t work… at least until Jakobi knocked al-Ani off the top. He came in to slap Andy, and almost earned himself an F5, before WALTER made the save and led a three-way beatdown on the tag champ. There was a little hint here of WALTER being mad at his partners being unable to get the job done, which could well play into something down the road… but for now, we had to watch as RINGKAMPF laid waste to crew members before Chris Colen and Francis Kaspin made the eventual save, only for WALTER to just kill them at the end.

Does WALTER have to do everything himself?!

Out comes Karsten Beck to read WALTER the riot act, but somehow Timothy Thatcher had gotten behind him to knock him down. RINGKAMPF hold up Beck for a now-recovered Jakobi, who punches him in the face, before Colen, Kaspin and Andy returned to clear the ring. For some reason Jakobi has a chair, and brings it into the ring as he looks to deal one more blow to Beck, but before he could do anything, Kim Ray comes out to make the save, eventually dispatching of Thatcher and Dieter.

A good return segment, even if the post-match beatdowns were starting to drag before Kim Ray made his return.

After a promo from Kim Ray, our next match starts with David Starr coming out for another promo. He’s here to defend his Shotgun title again, but by declaring his belt the most important title in wXw, he incurs the wrath of Jurn Simmons, who obviously disputes his claim. Jurn’s throwing his hat in the four-way invitational, as do Emil Sitoci and Cody Rhodes.

wXw Shotgun Championship: David Starr (c) vs. Jurn Simmons vs. Emil Sitoci vs. Cody Rhodes
Cody and Emil seem to form a partnership to try and fend off Jurn and David, but Cody immediately turns as Sitoci is beaten on and clotheslined to the outside.

The crowd pops for a three-way “too sweet”ing, which angers Sitoci, who just gets kicked to the outside as Starr tried to snatch a roll-up for an early win. Starr and Simmons go after Cody as the “Massive Product” look to take someone else out of the equation, as Jurn hits a release side slam to knock the wind out of Cody. Starr trips Jurn, then rolled him up for a two-count, which earned him an Oklahoma Stampede as Jurn took just a one-count from that.

Sitoci drags Jurn to the outside, then posts him as he takes over in the ring – whilst the commentary team bring up that Emil has recently beaten former WWE star John Morrison. Sitoci takes down Starr with a side Russian legsweep, but his split-legged moonsault is blocked by Starr’s knees as the champion mounted a comeback, landing a knee strike before Cody came in with a dropkick.

Rhodes traps Sitoci in a figure four in the middle of the ring, but Emil rakes the eyes to free himself and put Cody firmly on the back foot. An inverted atomic drop and a clothesline takes down Cody for a two-count, before Jurn came in and looked to set up for a Doomsday Device, only for Emil to slip free and earn himself a piledriver instead. In search of becoming a double champion, Simmons took a gutwrench facebuster as Starr then landed a belly to belly superplex on Rhodes, before Jurn shook off some forearms and chops in the corner, only to get dropped with a clothesline to the outside. From there, Cody and Starr trade right hands back and forth, before Starr beat Cody to a Bionic elbow!

The pace quickens as Cody gets rid of Sitoci again, just in time for Starr to land a crossbody out of the corner onto him, then a tope onto Simmons. Cody hits a flying body press as Starr returned to the ring for another suicide dive, before Cody takes a DDT. It’s a Cody match we we get a ref bump as Cody’s baseball slide took out the ref, which allowed Emil Sitoci to come in with the belt and smash it into Rhodes’ face. Starr lands a superkick to block another belt shot, then teases one of his own, only for the referee to take the belt off him, as Sitoci followed up with a Snapmare Driver to win the belt! Pretty decent for what it was – I liked how Sitoci was beaten down so often that he just waited outside and picked his spot, but I wasn’t so thrilled on how a four-way – which are often no-DQ by their nature – needed a ref bump for a belt shot. Eh, it was what it was. ***¾

After the match, David Starr sat inconsolable in the ring, before Jurn and Cody were given an ovation from the Oberhausen crowd.

They show the same video package recapping the Alpha Kevin/Marius van Beethoven feud that was shown on Shotgun… which means it’s time for their No Ropes match!

No Ropes Match: Marius van Beethoven vs. Alpha Kevin
As the match name suggested, all of the ropes had been removed for this match, which is a unique visual. Van Beethoven had a shower of fake money rain upon the crowd during his entrance, and we start with swinging chairshots that send Marius fleeing to the back.

Melanie Gray stops him though… and after Marius punches her, he gets a Japanese chairshot to the head. Bye bye seating pad!

Kevin drags Marius back into the ring, where he starts with a big clothesline as he follows with grounded punches among the fake 100 Scheinchen notes. A Kendo stick comes into play, as Kevin grabs one from under the ring, and poor Marius forced to duck a shot, before the next few connect with authority! A swift shot to the head/shoulder knock down Marius, as Kevin orders some fans in the front row to scatter, which leads to a tease of both men whipping the other out of the ring and into the seats.

That doesn’t quite come to pass, as Kevin ends up throwing Marius back into the ring with some apron back suplexes, before a tope from Kevin misses as he crashes and burns in the chairs. Marius throws in some punches as he looked to take advantage of the falls count anywhere rule with a near-fall, before he grabbed another chair from under the ring, which he uses on Kevin’s head… except the seat pad didn’t pop.

Kevin pushes free of a figure four before giving Marius a back body drop… but his follow-up spear is thwarted when Marius side-steps it, as Kevin charges into the ring post and to the floor. A suplex on the floor gets Kevin back into things, as he grabbed a table from under the ring, and we all know how much fun Marius has had going through tables lately! They teased going through the table, as a piledriver from Marius is blocked, as is Kevin’s package piledriver, before Marius deliver Eat Defeat. Van Beethoven again sidesteps a charge as he grabs the Kendo stick and batters Kevin with it, before kicking the Kendo stick into the face of someone in the crowd. Yeah, we have ropes for a reason, I feel!

A knee-bar follows from Marius, and of course, there’s no ropes, so… no rope breaks! He releases the hold anyway, but misses a legdrop on the apron, and gets dragged back off the apron with an Exploder from Kevin. Another chairshot misses as Kevin just punches Marius through it, then drops him with a slam onto the remnants of the chair. They slug it out from their knees, with Kevin edging ahead, before Melanie Gray headed out onto the stage with Marius’ old crutches.

Gray gives Kevin the crutch, and we come full circle as Kevin smashes the crutch into his former tag team partner. Melanie demands he beat Marius some more, so we get a shot to the knees – just like when they broke up! Ah, karma is such a sweet thing. Marius replies with a Kendo stick to the head, sending Kevin closer to the edge of the ring where the table was, but Kevin turned into a Zombie, and grabbed Marius with a package piledriver in the middle of the ring… but he pulled him up at the count of two!

Instead, Kevin took Marius towards the table… where he got flipped off. So he gave his former partner a package piledriver through the table, to the floor, where Kevin landed on top for the pin. Well, that isn’t going to win any awards for being a technical masterpiece, but this was a sublime ending to a well-worked storyline. Everything you wanted from a violent, no-DQ match was here, along with many callbacks to the Kevin/Marius storyline, from the way Marius punched out Melanie earlier in the feud, to Kevin getting retribution for the way his partner turned on him. Just a perfect way to wrap up a long-running feud. ***¼

Donovan Dijak & JT Dunn vs. Mike Bailey & ACH
Dijak and Dunn brought out a secret weapon for their team – a manager in the form of Cody Rhodes, whose first order of business was to rush the ring and collect a load of Euro notes as fans pre-emptively threw money in so ACH could start dancing! Of course, it wasn’t real – it was just the fans returning Marius van Beethoven’s Scheinchens…

Cody’s got a match plan for his charges, which seemed to feature them attacking their opponents from behind, but not being backdropped to the outside where Dijak took a PK on the apron from Bailey. Dijak took some more kicks from Bailey when he returned to the ring, before ACH just slapped him in the face, before the tables turned when JT Dunn kicked Speedball low – then incited ACH to enter the ring so Cody could attack him from behind.

That gameplan must have incldued “isolate Bailey” as Dijak and Dunn exchanged frequent tags to keep beating on Bailey, which got the crowd on his side even more. Eventually Bailey started a fightback, blasting Dunn with chops before knocking him to the mat with a head kick after Dunn had cartwheeled out of the corner. More kicks from Bailey kept Dunn and Dijak at bay, before they flipped him up, only to connect with each other with forearms as Bailey ducked.

In comes ACH with the hot tag, as he completed the weekend’s run of distracting the referee for a chop to the dick. A plancha from ACH takes out Dunn and Dijak on the floor, before a clothesline and a deadlift German got a near-fall over Dunn – prompting Cody to scrunch up his game plan and throw it in the ring in disgust. That just distracted ACH though, who ate a rolling elbow from Dunn, before Bailey came back in to kick away at a grounded Dijak.

The tables turned again when Bailey ate a chokeslam backbreaker, but he replied with a crucifix pin and a spinning roundhouse, before a running corkscrew shooting star press earned another two-count. JT Dunn makes the save after a head kick to Dijak, who then popped up Speedball for a 3D variation that almost won Cody’s team the match.

Some back-and-forth with ACH ended up with him being tombstoned onto the catwalk by Dunn, whilst Dijak went for the Feast Your Eyes on Bailey. Dunn threw in a rolling elbow for good measure on impact, but Speedball somehow kicked out! Another rolling elbow was kicked away, before Dijak tagged himself in to finish off a stranded Bailey with a rolling big boot. This time Bailey flipped out of Feast Your Eyes, then took down Cody and Dunn with a Golden Triangle moonsault to the floor, whilst ACH returned to land a slingshot Cutter on Dijak.

A brainbuster from ACH left Dijak rocked for the shooting star kneedrop, and that was enough! A fun distraction before the main event, but in no means was this a “buffer” or “come down” match for the live crowd! ***½

16 Carat Gold 2017 – Final: WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov
This is what the whole three-day tournament comes down to – WALTER gegen Ilja Dragunov – and they started with WALTER being taken into the ropes as the plucky Ilja refused to back down.

Dragunov used his speed to back away from chops from WALTER early on, but he couldn’t avoid a dropkick as WALTER took the upper hand for a brief moment, grabbing a sleeperhold then turning it into a German suplex after a rope break was ignored. He took Ilja up top, but got shoved down as the Russian came crashing onto him with a back senton, only for a springboard dropkick to get swatted away by the massive arm of WALTER.

WALTER kept on top of Ilja with a keylock, before releasing it to chop away some more, only to get sent onto the apron then to the floor as Ilja hit the Torpedo Moscau, then a suicide dive to the outside! The advantage was quickly snuffed out though, as WALTER connected with an apron powerbomb before rolling Ilja in for a near-fall. So he just chopped away at Ilja some more, but the Russian refused to back down, no matter how much WALTER’s shovel-hands were tearing apart his chest!

Yeah… don’t let WALTER chop you…

A sleeperhold attempt from WALTER is fought out of, as Ilja comes back with a clothesline and a side suplex that got Ilja and his bloodied chest a two-count. WALTER came back to boot Ilja onto the top rope for a butterfly superplex, before Ilja used a Fireman’s carry on WALTER to escape a powerbomb… then followed up with a powerbomb out of the corner for another near-fall!

Another springboard out of the corner from Ilja’s swatted away by WALTER’s boot, and the giant Austrian goes to the sleeperhold, but this time Ilja reverses the German suplex after making the ropes, only for his O’Connor roll to end up being turned into a grounded rear naked choke. No rope breaks for you this time! Unlike everyone else so far, Ilja didn’t pass out, but that just earned him a big lariat and a folding powerbomb as Ilja just would not quit!

Frustrated, WALTER went back to chopping away on Ilja, bloodying up his chest some more, and it’s fair to say that Ilja’s chops didn’t leave anywhere near as much as a mark as those he received. Just looking at his chest was enough to make referee Tassilo Jung cringe, and the shots just kept coming!

A Yakuza kick from WALTER stunned Dragunov, but he immediately came back with a clothesline before firing out of the corner with the Torpedo Moscau… but WALTER kicked out just before three! After kicking out, WALTER went for the sleeper again, then drilled Dragunov with a sit-out tombstone… but again, Ilja would not die! More swiping shots from WALTER looked to be borne out of frustration than anything else, but that just spurred Ilja into one more Torpedo Moscau… and that was it! Ilja scores the pin, and celebrates winning this year’s 16 Carat Gold tournament!

My word, that was a hell of a final – intense from the start as WALTER expected to win the entire tournament, having had to campaign his way into it to begin with, whilst Ilja just refused to back down, fighting through the pain and obvious wounds inflicted on him by his monstrous opponent. This was a work of art, and one that both men – and everyone else involved – ought to be proud of. [Full disclosure, when we first reviewed this, we gave this ****½… after two separate re-watches, we’re bumping it up to the full *****]

After the match, Dragunov cut a victory speech – sadly, I’ll need to wait for a subtitled version to figure out everything he said, outside of calling wXw the best promotion in Germany. Ilja’s next stop is for the wXw Unified World Wrestling title, as he’s earned a shot at that by winning this… and I must say, Jurn vs. Ilja is quite the prospect.

What Worked: This was a masterpiece from start to finish – building up Ilja Dragunov into a major star, having gone through former Cerberus buddy “Avalanche” Robert Dreissker, Timothy Thatcher, Bad Bones and WALTER. If you’re into stars, we gave seven matches across the weekend over four stars, and across the three tournament shows, our lowest score was for a glorified squash. Three shows chock full of fantastic wrestling, giving you blood feuds (that actually started out properly), comedy, high-flying, technical wrestling, plus an entire show of “shoot style” grappling… what more do you want?!

In terms of storylines, wXw also delivered massively, wrapping up the Alpha Kevin/Marius van Beethoven feud in sublime form, with plenty of callbacks and “receipts” to earlier events, and we’ve also seen what looks to be the detonation of Cerberus for all. Whether that means we just get former Cerberus members teaming up as “not Cerberus” remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure – the wXw booking team have delivered, and now have plenty of material to start a load of “next chapters”.

What Didn’t: How can you nitpick a series of shows like these?!

Thumbs (for the entire tournament): Up, up, up! In a year where tournaments have been the “in thing”, wXw have shown that quality trumps quantity. You owe it to yourself to watch these shows, and if you’re within the same continent as wXw, making a trip to a future 16 Carat Gold weekender ought to be pretty high up on your bucket list of shows to attend as a fan. It is for me!

Within the space of five shows, wXw have planted their flag in the wrestling world – and with these shows being available on FloSlam, will no doubt have been opened up to a wider audience than ever before. The product that wXw have created here is a credit not just to the German wrestling scene, or even the European scene, but to the worldwide scene. Westside Xtreme Wrestling is now firmly in the discussion for being one of the best promotions in the world, and showpiece events such as 16 Carat Gold have helped rocket them into that position.