Heute ist Carat! The biggest wrestling festival in Europe kicked off in Oberhausen – here’s our live takes from the show!

We’re inside the Turbinenhalle 1 for this – literally next door from the usual home of wXw events, and we’re looking at well over 1,000 people at each night of the shows.

Alternate Four-Way: Julian Pace vs. Veit Müller vs. Kyle Fletcher vs. Leon van Gasteren
Müller came in as the crowd favourite for this, at least going by the crowd reactions… and we start out hot as Julian Pace launched in with a shotgun dropkick… only for his initial exhuberance to end courtesy of a Kyle Fletcher superkick.

Van Gasteren tries to chop his way in, but he’s met with a big boot before Julian pace returned and confounded Müller and Fletcher with his speed ahead of a double dropkick. An F5 facebuster from van Gasteren left Pace down, as did a running neckbreaker, before Leon took a Quebrada from Fletcher. Kyle blocks a Boston crab, dragging Müller to the mat as Pace once again came back in, rolling through from the apron into a double neckbreaker on Müller and van Gasteren.

Leon’s back to save Kyle from a suplex… or so we thought, as he instead joined Pace, only to take a double suplex from the Aussie. Müller comes in with a cravat suplex as the big ol’ Parade of Moves continued, leading to a Tower of Doom that Müller of course pulled the trigger on.

Müller gets whipped into the corner, but he takes a Flair bump onto the apron before getting dropkicked to the floor as Fletcher almost won with an Aussie Arrow lawndart on Pace. van Gasteren’s back with a lariat for a two-count on Fletcher, with Müller breaking it up so he could toss Leon across the ring in a gutwrench suplex… and then turn around into a huge missile dropkick from Pace. Who then got wiped out by Fletcher.

Van Gasteren keeps the chain going with a stunner to Kyle, then a superkick to Müller for a near-fall. Fletcher sends Leon onto the runway, but can’t avoid a satellite Code Red from Pace, who then went up… then crashed and burned on a double-jump springboard moonsault. Müller picks up the pieces, clotheslining Fletcher to the outside before spiking Pace with a DDT for the win – despite Leon van Gasteren’s despairing dives. A fun opener with a couple of rough edges, but a fine way to get Carat underway. **¾

Anyone else getting goosebumps at that music?

The show opens with wXw Hall of Famer Karsten Beck bringing out the 16 Carat Gold trophy, as the sporting director (and his fantastic golden cummerbund) led the way for the parade of wrestlers. Timothy Thatcher didn’t take his eyes off of the trophy from the moment he came out.

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Axel Dieter Jr. vs. Marius al-Ani
“Welcome home” chants greeted Axel as he looked to win his first 16 Carat Gold. It’s fair to say he was treated like a God here… and that made Marius al-Ani all the bigger villain going in.

ADJ’s in his European Union gear here, and he’s working over al-Ani from the off, taking him down in an armbar, before the Shotgun champion tried to escape. It didn’t work, as Marius just got caught on the mat in a hammerlock, which of course led to Junior’s nice bridging hammerlock. Bringing back the hits!

Junior clung onto the hammerlock as al-Ani tried to roll free. When he did, he went for a monkey flip, only for Junior to land on his feet, before following up with a double underhook suplex, sending Marius back into the corner. An enziguiri followed before Axel placed Marius in the ropes and dropkicked him to the floor as Marius took his time to make it back inside.

Junior heads up top again, but a leaping shoulder charge sent him crashing to the floor in a rather ugly manner, with Axel catching his feet in the ropes on the way down. Back in the ring, Junior takes a snapmare and a low dropkick as Marius began to find a foothold in the match, taking Junior down with a snap suplex before throwing him onto the apron.

An axe kick from al-Ani catches Axel in the ropes, leading to another near-fall, as he then laid next to him on the mat with a side headlock. Axel hits back with a palm strike to the side of the head, then a diving European uppercut before he went up top and scored with another European for a near-fall.

al-Ani elbows out of a Landungsbrücke attempt, as the match started to get more even with back-and-forth pinning attempts. Axel avoids a step-up elbow drop and pulls Marius into an Axel Dieter Special (hey, I actually get to see that live!), but Marius again rolls out and just squashes Axel with a flat back bump. Then gets caught in the hold again as he stopped to pose to the crowd.

Marius manages to roll into the ropes as the crowd shouted down the lone al-Ani fan, but Marius gave him something to cheer when he caught a crossbody and turned it into a suplex for a two-count. There’s a nasty landing as Marius’ frog splash got him nothing but Axel Dieter Jr’s knees, with Axel getting a two-count out of it, as he then took Marius to the top rope. A superplex is fought out of, so Axel responds with an enziguiri before finally landing the top rope suplex for another eventual two-count.

Another crack at the Landungsbrücke sees Marius throw Axel to the outside, but third time was the charm as the Landungsbrücke drew a near-fall for the returning Junior. Marius tries to rush in with a forearm, and ends up succeeding with a short lariat as both men crashed to the mat.

We’re back in with back-and-forth boo/yay punches, which Marius looked to have won out with with a palm strike, before a release Landungsbrücke flipped al-Ani to the mat for the win. A more even match than you perhaps expected, but Axel Dieter Jr. makes it past a potential banana skin to get into the quarter-finals! ***¼

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Rey Horus vs. Rey Fenix
Hope you like your stuff flippy!

Fenix, who recently came back from a neck injury at an AAW show last month, got off to a shaky start as Horus worked a hammerlock and a wristlock on him, forcing Fenix into the ropes as he springboarded his way free.

Horus rebounds with a springboard bulldog for a near-fall, before evading the charge of Fenix, and coming back at him with a tornillo/armdrag off the top rope. Fenix’s turn saw him rebound back first off the top rope (I saw it with my own eyes and still have no idea how…) before they went outside for dives, with Horus landing a sweet tope con giro over the turnbuckles, sending both men into the crowd.

Back inside, a discus clothesline traps Fenix in the corner, as Horus again went to work on the arm, as a chop battle briefly broke out in the middle of the ring. A back elbow flips Fenix to the mat for just a one-count, before he called for a brainbuster. You know what that means – it doesn’t get hit, and Fenix comes right back with a head kick. Horus misses a leap, and ends up sat in the middle rope as Fenix came back with a leaping kick to the back of the head for a near-fall, with Horus heading outside to take an apron superkick and, eventually, a double-jump Orihara moonsault on the floor. Oof.

Inside again, Fenix looked to maintain momentum, but got spiked with a satellite DDT before a Spanish Fly from Horus led to a near-fall as the crowd were beginning to eat this up. A fan gets caught as Fenix swivelled in the ropes en route to Horus, catching him up top with a springboard rear leg kick, before a sit-out Muscle Buster gets Fenix the win. Nice flippy stuff, with Fenix just about edging it out. Lovely stuff to keep the crowd hot. ***¼

Yes, some Euros were thrown into the ring after that performance! I wonder what the Euro to Peso exchange rate is…

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Shigehiro Irie vs. Chris Brookes
Two personal favourites here, and we get going with Brookes stopping himself short of a cheapshot… to adjust Irie’s knee pads. I have very vivid memories of Chris being POUNCE’d into the crowd not too long ago by Irie…

Irie catches a kick and trips Brookes down, having stood on his foot… so he can adjust his kneepads. Mind games! The offer of a handshake isn’t taken, as Brookes chooses to slap Irie on the back of the head as he was bowing… and then we get a POUNCE that damn near sends Brookes through the ropes.

Irie keeps up the momentum, taking Brookes to the ropes for a rebound splash for a near-fall, following that up with a slam ahead of the sit-down splash… but Brookes rolled away in the nick of time. Brookes keeps in with a back senton to a doubled-over Irie for a near-fall, before we switched into a chopping/forearm battle. A bicycle knee catches Irie as Brookes then went for a brainbuster… and I think we know how this goes.

It’s countered as Irie takes him up, only for Brookes to slip out… and then get caught in the chest with a headbutt. That sit-down splash is next for a near-fall, before Irie headed to the top rope, only for Brookes to catch him up there with another knee, as he sought an avalanche brainbuster. Yeah.

Another headbutt brings Brookes down as Irie then scored with a big splash off the top, squashing Brookes for a delayed two-count. Off comes the elbow pad as Irie looked for a Beast Bomber, only to get rolled up for a near-fall as Brookes followed that up with a slingshot cutter and a Praying Mantis Bomb for another close-call! Brookes tries to end it with a submission as an Octopus hold trapped Irie in the middle of the ring, but Irie just stands up out of it and counters with a death valley driver… taking Brookes into the corner for a cannonball for another two-count.

One Beast Bomber later, and Brookes is sent flipping to the mat… and out of 16 Carat Gold as Shigehiro Irie booked his spot in the quarters. A solid, yet muted match between what you may have had as the outsiders in this tournament. ***¼

A video plays ahead of the first half main event – it’s the Timothy Thatcher promo that gave us chills a little while back. Yuki Ishikawa was beaming when his name came up in the promo, and you have the feeling that this could well be Thatcher’s year.

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Lucky Kid vs. Timothy Thatcher
A rematch from the outing that saw Lucky Kid break through last year, and Thatcher’s dropped all RINGKAMPF mentions here as he came out to the Dropkick Murphys’ Lonely Boatsman.

Not to worry, the crowd’s all behind him anyway and his very sing-able song, as Lucky tried to hug him by the leg early on… and got slapped for it as a gutwrench suplex dumped the RISE member to the mat for a near-fall. Thatcher maintained his determined mood from earlier, clubbing Lucky on the apron with a series of forearms as those duelling Lets Go Lucky/Lets Go Thatcher chants persisted.

A simple bodyslam throws Lucky to the mat as Thatcher maintained the upper hand, despite Lucky Kid’s rather desperate-looking chops, grounding Lucky with a chicken wing. Lucky manages to get out by tweaking Thatcher’s fingers, but he’s quickly back in the corner as a butterfly suplex has Thatcher back on top, following in with a cross armbreaker attempt to boot.

Lucky manages to counter out, but he’s again caught in the ropes with a knee to the gut before a back elbow off the ropes put him down for a near-fall. A low dropkick finally gives Lucky the opening, but he can barely get a two-count off of it and it’s not long before Thatcher goozles him into the corner. Lucky boots that away, but a missile dropkick doesn’t connect as Thatcher just turns him into a single leg crab as this was looking all too easy for the (former?) RINGKAMPF member.

Another attempt on the top rope succeeds as Lucky catches Thatcher in the back with a missile dropkick… only for Tim to bounce right back with a Fujiwara armbar. Lucky rolled out for a near-fall, but he’s right back in Thatcher’s sights with an uppercut, before a back elbow once again left Lucky on the mat. Thatcher begins to put the boots to Lucky, before another knee to the midsection drew another two-count, which seemed to quell the pro-Lucky chants.

It wasn’t helped when Lucky ate a RINGKAMPF belly-to-belly off the ropes for another two-count, as Thatcher goes back to the cross armbreaker… but Lucky’s instantly in the ropes to force a break, and this time he’s back with some offence. Forearms sting Thatcher, but he’s got plenty left in him with uppercuts before a counter to the Asai DDT’s countered out of as Lucky finally comes back with a slap.

Uh oh.

More slaps have Thatcher covering up, as Lucky’s all about the palm strikes as he finally took Thatcher to his knees! Then Thatcher just goozles and slaps the taste out of Lucky’s mouth. Ah well. An enziguiri has Lucky on the jelly legs before a series of palm strikes to the face left Lucky down for a two-count.

Lucky nearly shocks Thatcher with a small package after flipping out of a German suplex, as he then went all Chris Brookes and shocked Thatcher with a roll-up out of nowhere! Oh my God, “this was Timothy Thatcher’s year” ended up leading to perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament in recent history, as Lucky Kid more than weathered a storm to steal a win! ***½

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round – Falls Count Anywhere: Jurn Simmons vs. Avalanche
After the double count out, the no count-out match that ended in a no contest… these two shot out of the gates as Jurn’s Massive Boot was just shrugged off by Avalanche, who quickly caught him with Boulder Dash for a two-count in the opening minute.

A Dreissker Bomb looked to be next, but Jurn threw him outside as we had Jurn shove Avalanche into the ring apron before an overhead suplex sent the Austrian several rows deep. They brawl into another part of the crowd as a suplex throw onto a raised stand caused a nasty thud as Jurn picked up a two-count. Avalanche responded by throwing Jurn into a wall by another raised area, before they brawled towards the stage and to the back… where we handily have a roving camera crew following them as they brawled through the halls.

A back elbow right by crates of beer doesn’t faze Jurn as he threw Avalanche into a steel support, before our guidaed tour of the Turbinenhalle took us into the bowels of the building… and some cramped corridors. After throwing Jurn into what looked like a pile of wicker donuts (yeah, I don’t know what they were), Avalanche picked up a two-count before the brawl continued into a store room, where Jurn caught Avalanche from behind with a sheet of metal.

Simmons chokes out Avalanche, but Avalanche doesn’t submit… so Simmons throws some sheets of wood on him for another near-fall. Spares for the ring, eh? A wooden frame’s thrown against Avalanche’s back, before he’s dropped onto a workhorse… crotch first. Oof. Avalanche hits back with a slam onto a pile of something, before he finds the ring steps backstage (randomly) and… misses a leap onto that same pile as Jurn snatched a two-count from it.

Guess what else was randomly back there? Jurn’s Kendo stick, as they brawled out of camera shot… and now they come back through the back of the arena, with Jurn cracking Avalanche in the knees with the Kendo stick, then in the back as they made their way back to the ring, where Jurn snapped his Kendo stick in Avalanche’s midsection.

Jurn then gets the mic as he gloated over Avalanche’s situation… demanding praise from the crowd until one last Kendo stick shot was blocked by Avalanche, who began to overpower Jurn and his wobby stick. Avalanche smashes off more of the stick against Jurn’s back, and they’re back brawling in the crowd, with another shot knocking Jurn off of the raised area, before a Dreissker bomb off the stand proved to be enough for Avalanche to get the win. It took a guided tour of the Turbinenhalle, but Avalanche finally has slain the Dutchman! This felt a bit like the maligned House of Horrors match WWE did a few years back, with the sense that not all of the crowd were connected throughout the video screen brawl. It wasn’t wacky or spooky or anything like that, but I can definitely see how some would dislike that. ***

A video plays to announce Ken Shamrock will be appearing at wXw’s Superstars of Wrestling event in June as we go into interval.

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Pentagon Jr. vs. Mark Davis
This is going to be tasty – both men like to hit hard, and I doubt either will hold back!

Penta offered a handshake… but it was really just a way to show cero miedo to Dunkzilla… who I doubt had any miedo here. The ref catches Penta’s glove as Dunkzilla high-fived away another cero miedo, before catching a crossbody… only to miss a back senton as Penta stormed in with a huge kick to the back of the leg. More quad kicks follow as Penta began to uncork some chops, which ended with a sit-down splash as Davis had enough of being Penta’s punch bag.

Mocking the cero miedo saw Davis pay dearly as Pentagon got back in it – albeit with a bit of referee threatening – as the match threatened to turn into one big chop-fest. Davis fired back with forearms as he had Pentagon cowering… only to run into a superkick as he returned fire with a clothesline and a powerbomb for a near-fall.

More chops follow as Davis took Penta up top for a superplex, only for Penta to slip out and kick Davis’ legs into the turnbuckles as he followed back in with a double stomp off the top. That’s only enough to pick up a two-count though, as Penta tried to follow in with a piledriver… only for Davis to punch his way out and come back with a Gold Coast Waterslide for a near-fall of his own.

The sliding punch into the corner’s stopped with a superkick, as Penta flew back in with a springboard back cracker out of the corner, before his leaping Destroyer’s blocked. Davis takes him back into the corner for the sliding punch, almost getting the win before Penta rolled out of a pull-up piledriver and threatened to break Dunkzilla’s arm. The threat’s followed through on, before a leaping Destroyer out of the corner connected as Pentagon booked his spot in the second round – a decent effort from the pair, but you got the sense that the crowd perhaps didn’t see Davis as a viable threat up against Pentagon. Still, Davis is now free for the rest of the tournament, and with Kyle Fletcher kicking about… a random tag title match may be in their future? ***¼

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Ilja Dragunov
Add this in the “this is gonna be good” file – for much the same reasons I had high hopes for the last match!

We start with some grappling as Sekimoto looked to take down Dragunov, going for an early cross armbreaker that Ilja instantly countered into a roll-up for a two-count. The duelling “Ilja/Daisuke” chants intensified as Sekimoto looked to keep Dragunov on the mat, using some headscissors, only for Ilja to stand back up out of it.

CHOP! There you go… Dragunov tries to reply with a lariat, but Sekimoto runs through it before he threw Ilja onto the apron, and hit back with a uranage backbreaker as Ilja flipped back into the ring. More chops trap Ilja in the corner, before Sekimoto opted to just hurl Ilja into the opposite corner, then dump him to the mat with a slam for another two-count.

Ilja tries to fight back with elbows out of the corner, but he’s just dropped with another chop as Sekimoto was all over the former wXw Unified World Wrestling Champion, bouncing him off the mat with a vertical suplex for a near-fall. A Boston crab keeps Ilja in trouble, but Dragunov dragged himself to that bottom rope to force the break. Only for Ilja to get taken down with… yep, more chops. It’s almost a methodical dismantling of Dragunov here, but without any threat of a killer blow, Ilja was always going to be in the match… particularly since he’s proven time and again that he can absorb strikes for fun. Luckily for Sekimoto, he has fun throwing them… so the pair exchanged clobbering forearms as Daisuke simply felled Ilja with another chop. And another. And another.

Finally Ilja offered to some resistance ot those chops, but Sekimoto did not budge amid a flurry of palm strikes before a knee finally put him down. Ilja runs into a boot as Sekimoto was in the corner, but manages to come right back with a swivelling clothesline (making a very satisfying clonk) as Dragunov collected another two-count. A swivel in the ropes leads to another clothesline as Dragunov threatened to pull ahead.

Sekimoto gets dumped with a Saito suplex after quite the struggle, before he headed onto the middle rope – not by the turnbuckles – as he crashed and burned on a back senton. Daisuke’s right back with a swinging gutwrench slam before a Sharpshooter rolled Ilja over once more… but he’s too close to the ropes and was able to grab that bottom strand with ease. Another slam dumps Ilja, as Daisuke took his turn to head to the top rope, where he flattened Ilja with a big splash to almost win the contest.

Ilja’s swivelling lariat backfires as he gets caught with a German suplex and a lariat from Sekimoto as the match began to enter it’s final stretch. An enziguiri dropped Ilja to his knees, but he’s got plenty in him to drop Daisuke into the turnbuckles with a death valley driver, before a back senton off the top proved to be enough for another two-count.

All that seemed to be left was one thing, as Ilja dove into Sekimoto with a Torpedo Moscau… and that indeed was it, as Dragunov took home the extra hard-fought win. This was very much my graps – perhaps a little too choppy in the early going, but they settled down and knocked seven bells out of each other as Ilja’s dream of winning Carat for a second time stayed very much alive. ****

After the match, Ilja pointed at the 16 Carat Gold sign that was hanging above the walkway… is this going to be his year again?

wXw 16 Carat Gold – First Round: WALTER vs. David Starr
Can Starr do it? After years of familiar losses to WALTER, this was the match he picked… can he beat the proverbial “final boss” in the first round?

Starr didn’t bother waiting for any introductions, leaping into WALTER before the bell, but the Austrian quickly caught him in the ropes with a crossface punch… only for Starr to get free and continue with his own clubbering. A cartwheel kick knocked WALTER outside, but the tope’s caught as Starr had to change plans, shoging WALTER into the ring post before Starr came back with a superkick off the apron.

The front row clears again… but Starr crashes and burns in an ungodly manner as WALTER just sidestepped his tope. WALTER doesn’t go back to the ring, instead opting to throw away some of the wreckage so he could get to Starr again, following in with a chop then a powerbomb onto the edge of the ring as the Product looked to be in big trouble.

WALTER rolls him back inside to pick up a two-count, before a Boston crab kept Starr in danger… except they were too close to the ropes as Starr reached out for the break. Elbows and forearms keep Starr on his knees as he already seemed to be working on fumes, before he connected with a chop. Problem was, WALTER had much more left, and hit back harder, booting off Starr’s head before a uranage slam led to a near-fall for the Austrian.

In a rare move, WALTER heads up top, but has to shove away Starr before the Product came back with an belly-to-belly superplex to give himself some breathing room. Another strike battle is started by Starr, who superkicks WALTER to his knees, before a suplex counter saw Starr lock in a sleeperhold as he tried to drag WALTER to his knees. Instead, WALTER gets to the ropes… with Starr slapping away the hands as he delivered his own RINGKAMPF German suplex for a near-fall.

There were signs of Starr getting tetchy with the referee… but that’s nothing a big boot to the head couldn’t manage. Still, Starr comes back with an attempt at a satellite Destroyer, only for WALTER to counter with a Jig ‘n’ Tonic for a near-fall as both men were digging deep into their bags of tricks. Forearms and a knee to the back sent Starr back to the mat, and back into the corner where WALTER resumed roughing him up with chops as referee Tassilo Jung had to separate the two.

Starr spits defiantly at WALTER… and gets slapped for it as a sleeperhold put Starr back on his rear end, with his escape ending with a quick shotgun dropkick. Somehow, Starr ‘ranas out of a powerbomb and followed in with a Han Stansen for a quick two-count on WALTER. We’re back to the strikes as Starr waffled WALTER with lariats, only to get dropped with another chop… and another… before he somehow got back up to dump WALTER with a Blackheart Buster for a near-fall.

A superkick quickly puts WALTER back down as Starr fired up, searching for a Product Placement, with the crowd almost unanimously behind him as he lifted up WALTER and dropped him for a near-fall! Starr stays on top with a barrage of forearms as WALTER was… begging off? Nah, it’s a con as he suckered Starr into a folding powerbomb for a near-fall, then instantly jumped on him with a Gojira clutch as he too looked for the submission.

Starr again escapes and comes back with a sleeper of his own, only for WALTER to scale the ropes and fall back on Starr to break it up… but David is right back in with the sleeperhold, with the Turbinenhalle baying for a tap out. WALTER gets free though, but can’t avoid a lariat to the back of the head, nor a German suplex, as Starr goes back to the sleeper. The crowd roared as they thought WALTER had tapped… and so did Starr, who argued with the referee, leaving himself wide open as WALTER came back in with another rear naked choke, squeezing Starr to sleep… and that was it. He came the closest yet, but still, David Starr cannot put away WALTER. Just what is it going to take?! ****¼

WALTER headed to the back, almost nonchalant as Starr sat in the ring, silently seething as his 16 Carat Gold ends on night one.

So, a strong, if not spectacular start to 16 Carat this year sees quite a few predictions broken… our quarter-finalists as Axel Dieter Jr., Lucky Kid, Rey Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Avalanche, Ilja Dragunov and WALTER. We’re in for a hell of a second night, although Carat could well take a back seat as Bobby Gunns looks to win his first ever wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship in front of a record-breaking crowd for wXw.

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