So, after the seismic surprise of Championship Saturday, it was back to business as this year’s 16 Carat Gold drew to a close.

A packed Turbinenhalle arrived to see Timothy Thatcher, Keith Lee, David Starr and Absolute Andy as the final four – but only one of them will win this year’s trophy and face Ilja Dragunov for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship down the road. The show-opening video had Timothy Thatcher as a runaway crowd favourite, while Absolute Andy took the opposite end of the spectrum.

16 Carat Gold 2018 – Semi-Final – David Starr vs. Keith Lee
Well, this was one of the potential finals that folks had been coming up with in their minds… and it made for a rather mixed crowd as we had duelling chants long before the bell.

Starr tried for an early takedown, but that wasn’t happening as the early going saw Lee barge through the Product. Lee got low bridged by Starr eventually, but there was no rush for a dive, as Lee returns to throw Starr around like a ragdoll, getting a two-count out of a standing overhead belly-to-belly before choking him with his boot.

Starr avoids the overhand double chop in the corner and begins a fight back, only to get Beel’d across the ring with ease. The beatdown continues from there, with Starr throwing in some hopeful shots, only to get clubbered by Lee’s forearms. For some reason, Starr keeps trying for a bodyslam, which he struggles with… only for Lee to hit one with no trouble at all! We finally get the Hogan slamming Andre moment though, as Starr worked his way up into a Product Recall following another flurry of offence.

Lee fights out of a product placement and nails a German suplex without leaving his feet as he took over again, nailing Starr with a vicious forearm. A pop-up forearm sees Starr rebound into the ropes for a Han Stansen, only for Lee to surprise him even more with a ‘rana! Overhanded chops follow, before Starr countered a Spirit Bomb into a Code Red for a near-fall!

Starr tries to fly with a ‘rana, but he’s caught and met with a bouncy Spirit Bomb… but it’s not enough to put away the Product! An attempted Ground Zero is flipped out of, and Starr manages to get his way to the finals after flipping around into a Destroyer! A fun slaying of Goliath by David, and it seems that his dream is still on! ***¾

Keith Lee got a big response in defeat… and I have a feeling this isn’t the only time he’ll be in wXw as the crowd sang his name for minutes after the match.

16 Carat Gold 2018 – Semi-Final – Absolute Andy vs. Timothy Thatcher
No prizes for guessing who the crowd favourite was here, as the Turbinenhalle sang “there’s only one Timmy Thatcher”. A far evolution from some of the responses he used to get stateside!

The negative reactions to Andy made for a really hot crowd, but Andy’s attempts at the F5 and a superkick were thwarted as Thatcher sent him to the outside. A quick spot of brawling as they go back inside to continue where they left off, with Thatcher slowly decimating Andy with knees to the back. Thatcher keeps up with a stalling side Salto suplex, getting a near-fall and a round of applause for it, before Andy swiftly hits back with a big spinebuster.

A kick to a downed Thatcher gets Andy a near-fall, as he throws in a poke to the eye for good measure after Thatcher started to go to the chopping game. Andy goes to the figure four, but Thatcher quickly spins it over as Andy gets into the ropes for a break, keeping that particular thread going from the first round!

Andy turned a legdrop into some grounded headscissors as he tries to force a submission, but somehow Thatcher’s able to escape into a bow-and-arrow hold, again forcing Andy to go to the ropes. Thatcher started to use the ropes in his favour, bounding off them for the belly-to-belly, but Andy responds with a running shoulder tackle as the crowd began to voice their displeasure at him.

Andy climbs the ropes… but Thatcher gets back to his feet and just slaps him before bringing him down to earth with a superplex. Despite comimg back with a superkick, Andy’s quickly caught in an armbar, which he escaped with a F5… almost booking his spot in the final as he grabbed a two-count.

The cheating starts when Andy grabs the bell hammer, but he’s quickly disarmed by Tass.. who he hits after an attempt to use the wrench is stopped. Thatcher nails a butterfly suplex for a long visual pin, but Andys up and uses the wrench… right as the crowd call for Marius al-Ani…

But Tass gets back to his feet as Andy catches Thatcher in a rear naked choke, but Timothy doesn’t do the arm drop gimmick as he fights back to his feet and walks to the ropes! A payback rear naked choke follows, but we get a low blow from Andy… only for Thatcher to re-apply it… but Andy rolls back and gets the pin! Another really solid match, with Andy continuing his streak of corner cutting to stay ahead of the game – even if the result was unpopular! ***¾

WALTER hits the ring to console Thatcher… but they’re interrupted by Ivan Kiev and Pete Bouncer from RISE. This leads to a challenge from RISE for the tag title shot they won, which I think WALTER accepts for later on! Interestingly, despite Kiev and Da Mack winning the tag title shot yesterday, Mack was nowhere to be seen here…

Alexander James vs. Mark Haskins vs. Lucky Kid vs. Emil Sitoci
We start the run-up to the final with some matches featuring folks already eliminated – and there’s some clear dissension as Ivan Kiev and Pete Bouncer were told to stay behind by Tarkan Aslan for this. Clearly, Tarkan wanted to be a part of what the crowd took as the “acceptable face of RISE”!

This was absolute insanity early on, as we started with a flurry of action that was almost too quick to call, before we found out that the acceptable face of RISE liked to stick out his tongue and make funny noises. A lot.

Once we settled down into the revolving door style of things, Sitoci nearly wins with a ‘rana to Alexander James, before Mark Haskins became a house on fire, throwing James into an unwanted dive before going flying himself. A sweet over-the-top tope from Sitoci keeps the dives going, before Kid completes the set with an Arabian press to the pile beneath him.

We return to a Parade of Moves, ending with a Samoan driver from Haskins, leaving all four men in the corners for respite. That ends when James eats a trio of big boots as we slowly move into the final straight, with James getting a Tower of London on Kid before going for duelling Coat of Arms on Haskins and Sitoci… instead combining that with a Boston crab on Kid for a nice trifecta of submission attempts!

In the end though, it was the Untameable one who flew with a moonsault press into Kid and James, before finishing Haskins off with a spinning tombstone for the pin. A nice, entertaining four-way to keep the crowd warm… but Lucky Kid is already hot and ready to break out of RISE if the need arises. ***½

wXw Women’s Championship: Martina vs. Killer Kelly vs. Wesna vs. Toni Storm (c)
So, I found out here that my shiny bald head is in Martina’s entrance video from an EVE show… a pleasant surprise. Like the one Thommi Giesen had! Wesna’s appearance was a grand surprise for those who were at Femmes Fatales last year, and gave us a rare all-babyface four-way.

Wesna monstered up early, leading to her exchanging blows with Toni – right where they left off in October – but just as Toni fought back, Killer Kelly’s in to break it up. A big boot from Kelly is just shrugged off by Wesna, before Martina comes in and kicks Kelly right on the chin!

A suplex from Martina keeps Kelly down for a two-count as Wesna returned… sending the Session Moth scurrying as we’re back to Wesna and Toni. Martina tried to escape again, but she’s caught in a Samoan drop by Wesna before Kelly had a go with some knees to the head… only to get shoved into the corner. Still, Martina tries, but she’s squashed in the corner before Wesna crashes into her after a shotgun dropkick.

The Shibata-ish dropkick follows from Kelly, but Toni’s back with hip attacks for almost all, before a German suplex and a Strong Zero to Wesna almost gets the win… were it not for Kelly and Martina breaking up the pin. Kelly loses the pin on a strait-jacket German as Storm hit the ring to land a neckbreaker slam for a two-count.

A head kick barely fazes the monster Wesna, as Kelly gets squashed for another near-fall, before a double Samoan drop leaves Storm and Kelly down. Martina tries to nick it with a Seshbreaker, but Toni’s right back up with a Strong Zero to the Session Moth as the Aussie retains again! Really enjoyable three-way as Toni’s title reign continued in earnest – despite the threat of the veteran Wesna! ***

Matt Riddle heads out next and wants to fight anyone. Open challenge time… answered by Ilja Dragunov! Ilja cuts a promo (and looks real good with the wXw title belt)… and Jakobi gives the thumbs up to the title match!

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Matt Riddle vs. Ilja Dragunov (c)
So, an impromptu defence for Ilja, and there’s no flash finish here as we start with Riddle ragdolling Dragunov into the corner for a quick rope break.

Riddle goes for the arm, before being forced to duck a chop as Ilja threatened to turn up the intensity real quick. Instead, Riddle slows the pace, and levels him with a ripcord bicycle knee before going in for leaping forearms into the corner. Dragunov retaliates with a full nelson into a backbreaker for a quick two-count, then a nice dropkick to keep his challenger down.

A tope sees Riddle get knocked down on the floor, and my word, the Turbinenhalle is massively behind Ilja here, still buzzing from his surprise return not even 24 hours earlier. Ilja escapes a Bro to Sleep attempt and dumps Riddle with a German suplex… but they trade firey no-sells, before upgrading to forearm smashes and eventually… head kicks!

Riddle’s Pele kick left Dragunov down for a two-count, as do some rolling gutwrenches, as Ilja did the Shibata thing of inviting PK-style kicks. Yup, he got them! He catches one too, and fires back with an endless slap battle, eventually switching up into an enziguiri as Riddle was knocked down once again!

Some discus lariats keep Riddle on the mat for a two-count, but now we move into the chops, as Riddle targets Ilja’s already marked chest. That ends with a powerbomb and a PK for Riddle as we almost saw a second title change within a day. A back senton from Riddle gets nothing but Dragunov’s knees, but Riddle takes Ilja up top for a superplex… only to be headbutted down as Ilja’s top rope back senton lands him in a rear naked choke!

Ilja powers up and splats Riddle on his back, before some strikes from above are met with upkicks from Riddle, as the pair start to tee off on each other again, leading to a Dragunov DDT! A Blue Thunder Bomb gets a near-fall, but Riddle hits back with a Bro to Sleep before he’s charged down with a Torpedo Moscau… and Ilja retains! Really solid stuff as Ilja notches up his first title defence in a hard-fought win over the King of Bros. ***¾

CCK (Chris Brookes & Travis Banks) & Jonah Rock vs. Matt Sydal, Marius al-Ani & Mike Bailey
Why does Matt Sydal’s logo look like a beer mat? Especially when it’s spinning… CCK were the marked favourites here, especially from the travelling crowd, and we started with Sydal sending Brookes flying with some armdrags and ranas early on.

A legdrop/reverse DDT gets a near-fall out of Brookes, before tags brought in Jonah Rock to try his luck against Marius al-Ani… and despite Marius scoring with a leaping kick in the corner, Rock’s size easily allowed him to bull past Marius. Then it’s onto kicks as Banks and Bailey came in, and it’s Bailey who wins out, keeping up even when Brookes gets the tag in.

The new-look CCK trio looked to be struggling, especially when duelling standing shooting stars from Bailey and Sydal kept Brookes down, but after some back drops out of the ring, Brookes is right back in with the spinning rope-hung neckbreaker to Bailey. Finally, Banks gets the tag in and started to cut through Bailey, who then got squashed by a rolling Rock (pun very much intended for certain beer fans!).

Sydal dove into the ring to break up a cover, but largely landed on referee Rainer Ringer, before the moonsault double knees onto Brookes helped to stem the tide. Of course, Sydal gets the hot tag and wipes out Brookes with a cannonball-style dropkick in the corner for a two-count, but Brookes hangs him up in the ropes before bringing in the large Aussie for back-up.

A headbutt from Rock had Sydal sink like a stone, but Matt’s back with a Meteora doub;e knees off the top before al-Ani returns to try for his usual sequence… only to end up rolling away from a sit-down splash from Rock. Marius tries for his ‘rana but instead eats a German suplex from Jonah, before getting the tag back out to Speedball as we’re back to Bailey and Banks’ kicks.

Banks no-sells a Dragon suplex, but ends up cornered for a corkscrew kick, before he moves away from the shooting star knees. Bailey and Sydal combine again to level Banks with kicks to the front and back for a near-fall, but Jonah takes the bullet, absorbing the shooting star knees before squashing Bailey with the Battletoads frog splash for a near-fall… as Marius’ frog splash breaks it up.

Holy crap, this is an awesome trios match!

A leaping rana from Sydal takes Banks off the top rope for a two-count, but the Kiwi Buzzsaw is right back in with a Slice of Heaven and a Kiwi Krusher as this frenetic trios match ended. It’s hard to have a bad one of those… and this was nowhere near bad. Fantastic stuff to kick off the second half of the show! ***¾

wXw World Tag Team Championship: RISE (John Klinger & Da Mack) vs. RINGKAMPF (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) (c)
Before the match, Ivan Kiev tried to swap partners and have Pete Bouncer in with him… but John Klinger over-ruled him and ordered that it’d be him and Da Mack taking the shot. That just got the crowd way more on RINGKAMPF’s side!

I’ve lost count of how many matches it’s been this weekend for Timothy Thatcher, who’s easily been the MVP of 16 Carat Gold weekend…

The match quickly spilled to the outside, but it’s the champions who dominate early, isolating Da Mack, with WALTER doing a solid job of chopping down the Urban German while Klinger kept away from the tag. Thatcher shoves away from an Ace crusher and eventually takes Mack down with a back suplex as RINGKAMPF continue to make light work of their challengers.

Thatcher continues to wear down on Mack, including letting Mack bounce off him, as Bad Bones comes in to try and spark a comeback. WALTER snuffs it out really quickly, only to get taken outside for a tope from Klinger and a PK from Mack off the apron.

An errant shotgun dropkick misses Mack, as WALTER took his own man into the corner, allowing RISE to take over – despite the crowd’s begging for a hot tag from der Ringgeneral. Mack continues to beat down on Thatcher, scoring a two-count with a PK, before Klinger comes in, much to the derision of the crowd.

Klinger leaves the ring… just to pull down WALTER as Thatcher looked to make the tag out, but it’s not to be as WALTER got in and properly WALTER’d RISE with chops, despite not being the legal man. Klinger takes over again with a flying lungblower to Thatcher… for a two-count, despite the bell ringing… but it’s not to be as Mack gets the win moments later with another Unprettier in among the confusion. RISE leave Oberhausen with tag team gold! A good match, but a weird finish that may have detracted… nevermind, as the big story came later… ***½

Pete Bouncer finally snaps after the match, laying out Bad Bones… but a conflicted Ivan Kiev stays firm and leaves with the rest of RISE!

WALTER & Thatcher remain in the ring, with Thatcher seemingly taking the loss hard. WALTER apologises for putting Thatcher in the tough spot, having accepted the title match on his behalf earlier. Thatcher, ever a man of few words, absorbed the adulation, and left with two words for Oberhausen and wXw.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Is this the end of Timothy Thatcher and RINGKAMPF?

16 Carat Gold 2018 – Final – Absolute Andy vs. David Starr
Streamer cannons and pyro greeted the two finalists respectively, with David Starr remaining the crowd favourite here to win the tournament overall.

David Starr looked on with focused eyes as his list o’ nicknames was read out by Thommi Giesen, and believe me, it was not only a curtain sell-out… it’s a balcony sell-out as what felt like the entire locker room were watching on from the balcony above.

Starr was right out at Andy from the bell, wriggling out of a F5 as Andy then powdered to the outside to try and frustrate the motivated Product, wandering over to the timekeeper’s table to take a drink before breaking the count… a count that Tassilo Jung purposely sped up to neuter Andy’s games.

Starr keeps up with chops as (almost) all of Oberhausen sang his name… before uniting to drown out the small band of Andy fans… who cheered as a tiltawhirl backbreaker sends Starr outside. Andy’s throwing chops like he’s been watching his WALTER tapes, as the crowd continues to rally behind Starr for one of the hotter atmospheres of the weekend… and that’s saying something! Starr makes a comeback with a clothesline in the corner, but a big boot of Andy sends him down again… only for Starr to rebound with a Cherry Mint DDT!

A crossbody off the top nearly gets Starr the win, before Andy ducks the Han Stansen and ends up getting tripped into the ropes for a villainous superkick. The Look At It Shining Wizard keeps Andy down and out again, with Tass this time keeping the usual count, as Starr’s dive to the outside is caught and turned into a F5 to the ringpost!

Starr narrowly beats the count-out as Andy begins to work over him with kicks to the lower back, forcing the Product back outside to try and get a breather, but Andy follows him out in search of plunder? Nope, he’s just chopping Starr deep into the crowd, before grabbing his wrench… which Tass instantly disarms him of.

In the middle of that, Starr returns and nails a trio of topes to take Andy into the front row, only to be met with another vicious chop. There’s a ref bump and Andy’s gotten his wrench now… but Marius al-Ani makes the save as Andy threatened to behead Starr a la Jurn Simmons. Marius leaves with the wrench as Starr capitalises, but can only get a near-fall as he came within a hair’s breadth of victory.

Starr locks in a crossface to try and force a submission, but Andy gets rolled back into the middle of the ring as Starr turned it into the Rings of Saturn… and this time Andy gets to the ropes. Keeping that run going, eh?

Starr sizes up Andy for a Product Placement, but it’s avoided… as is the Destroyer attempt, as Andy counters into a thunderous F5, which Starr narrowly kicked out of, much to the crowd’s delight! Andy replies with some clubbing forearms to the chest, before taking Starr into the ropes and onto the apron, where he decks Starr with a lariat that sent him back to the floor.

Somehow, Starr counters a suplex back into the ring and nails the Blackheart Buster on Andy, almost eking out the win from that. The crowd swells again behind Starr, but he takes too long setting up for a Han Stansen that he runs into a superkick as the pendulum swung Andy’s way again, allowing him to set up for an avalanche F5… and in turn a moonsault… which he misses!

Han Stansen and a Product Placement make the crowd bite again on the near-falls, but there’s a chair still by the side of the ring that came into play earlier… that doesn’t get used just yet as they trade punches on their way back to their feet, and we’re still biting on those near-falls!

One more F5 has the ref looking for the stoppage, but Andy instead picks up Starr for yet another F5… and another, this time heading up the ropes, connecting with an avalanche F5 for a really loud pop as Starr kicks out! The crowd still believes in Starr, as Andy looks all out of ideas, and the fightback… is curtailed by a sit-out Dominator… and Absolute Andy wins 16 Carat! That was NOT the finish I expected, and it forces David Starr into a whole new set of plans as his bid for WALTER (and possibly the wXw title) is derailed once again! A bloody fantastic final, full of dramatic near-falls, but in the end it was the Vetera(a)n of wXw that left victorious, crowing with the trophy in hand. ****¼

The headline from this weekend’s 16 Carat Gold may well have been the triumphant return of Ilja Dragunov, but there’s so much to unpack across all three days. Whether it’s something as long-term as the interplay within RISE, now that Bad Bones has lost the title, or Toni Storm knocking off challengers – while Killer Kelly remained away from the decisive fall. Perhaps it’s the cementing of Absolute Andy’s role as a veteran who needs to cheat and cut corners to win the race… the breaking up of RINGKAMPF. This isn’t a trio of shows that’ll live in a vacuum. Like the rest of wXw, everything leads to something, and that’s why we love this so much.

16 Carat Gold 2018 may have not had a top-rated, ***** classic this year, but did it even need one? The abundance of storytelling and potential roads ahead continue to make this one of the centrepiece events of the world wrestling calendar – and with a larger venue on tap for 2019, long may the growth of Carat continue!