wXw got their year off to a blazing start with a wild Back To The Roots show, headlined by wXw’s War Games, called “die Käfigschlacht”.

We open with a video package recapping the feuds on show, including the Alpha Female/Melanie Gray cage match, and the “rematch” for Jurn Simmons, as he takes on Axel Dieter Jr. for the wXw. There’s also “die Käfigschlacht” – a version of War Games – as Bad Bones continues his war against Cerberus.

16 Carat Gold Qualifier: Marius Al-Ani vs. Absolute Andy
Sports director Karsten Beck pitted A4 against each other for a spot in this year’s 16 Carat Gold tournament – after taking that spot away from WALTER at the end of last year.

The veteran Andy is forced to the outside by Al-Ani early on, before Marius clings onto a headlock as if his life depended on it, eventually taking down Andy. Al-Ani holds onto it despite taking a back suplex, but finally Andy gets some separation after a shoulder tackle knocks down his partner. A missed dropkick helps Andy take over, before he ducked a spinning heel kick, before a Sharpshooter attempt was turned into a small package by Al-Ani.

Andy’s forced to get out of another headlock, but Al-Ani fires in with forearms before Andy takes him into the corner for some chops. A flying shoulder tackle and an F5 gets Andy a near-fall – and it’s from here where Andy tries to use his size and power to try and keep Marius on the back foot. Andy’s dropkick keeps Al-Ani on the top rope, but a top rope rana is blocked as Marius flies in with a tornado DDT!

A death valley driver out of nowhere gets Marius a two-count, but a lariat from Andy cuts off any progress as repeated chops seem to excite Rico Bushido on commentary. Andy drills Marius with a spinebuster, before Al-Ani counters a superkick with one of his own, as the pair get entangled before a roll-up gets another near-fall. The battle of the As continue as Marius gets a spinning heel kick for a two-count, then a release overhead suplex, before Marius goes flying with a body press across the turnbuckles to the floor.

An attempted frog splash from Marius is blocked by the knees of Andy, who springs back with a Sharpshooter, but Al-Ani’s able to reach for the ropes. Andy chops away on Al-Ani on the apron, but Marius hits back with a huge DDT to take both men back to the floor… before a tope is caught and turned into an F5 against the ringpost!

Al-Ani’s left on the outside licking his wounds, but he comes back in as Andy just lands another F5 – but that only gets a near-fall! So Andy looks to go to the top rope and hit an F5 from up there, but Al-Ani lands on his feet… and gets drilled with a big boot for another near-fall! After a ducked leg lariat, Al-Ani gets a small package for a near-fall… Andy reverses it for another two-count, but then it’s reversed back as Marius snatches the win! A good match, with way too many A’s, but something just didn’t click – perhaps it was the atmosphere of current tag partners fighting “just” for a tournament spot? ***¼

After the match, Andy gets the microphone and cuts a promo in German. Yep, no subtitles here, sadly… but that’s not the matter, since the post-match handshake is rudely interrupted by Travis Banks and Chris Brookes! CCK are in wXw! Brookes instantly takes down Andy for a wet willie, but it’s blocked… until Banks makes the “save” as the reigning wXw tag champs were beaten down, before finally making a comeback to send CCK (no hashtag) packing.

Emil Sitoci vs. Francis Kaspin
If you believe Cagematch’s records, this was Kaspin’s 50th match – and the guys at wXw must see something in him to be giving him “main show” exposure this early.

Sitoci kinda reminds me of Andy Simmonz back in the day, just a little taller… he started by charging into the rookie with a gutwrench suplex as he just laid into Kaspin with elbows and shoulder charges in the corner. Yep, this is straight-forward “vet trying to bully a kid” stuff… but Kaspin fires back with leaping forearms and armdrags, before trying for a Muta lock – only for Sitoci to squirm to the ropes.

Kaspin lands on his feet from a hiptoss, before he’s just turfed to the floor with a second hiptoss. A plancha misses from Sitoci as Kaspin makes a comeback, only to be cut off with a Snake Eyes in the corner. Sitoci stays on top of Kaspin with a back suplex and an elbow for a near-fall, before he wears him down with a rear chinlock, then he just bites away on Kaspin’s nose!

It’s all Sitoci from here, as he gets a near-fall from a Fisherman’s suplex, but Kaspin keeps trying to fire back, shoving off a superplex attempt before a crossbody takes down the Dutchman. An O’Connor rolls gets Kaspin a near-fall, as he shoots back from the kick out with a low dropkick, before suplexing Sitoci onto the apron for an eventual DDT on the apron. Not sure about that being in back-to-back matches…

A springboard bulldog helps Kaspin get another near-fall, but Sitoci turns things back around with a side Russian legsweep and a split-legged moonsault. A fireman’s carry gutbuster gets Sitoci another two-count, but he takes too long going up top as Kaspin sends him flying with a release German superplex! Another Muta lock is actually successful this time for Kaspin, but again Sitoci makes the ropes, but the headlock driver out of nowhere gets Sitoci the win. A fun match, maybe a little rough around the edges, but good for Kaspin’s relative inexperience. **¾

After the match, Sitoci tells the crowd that he only comes to Germany for the competition – since there’s no competition in his native Holland. Not so fast – out comes a returning Michael Dante to question that claim of Sitoci being “the best Dutch wrestler in the world”, by way of a spear. Yep, this is our next feud then. Perhaps Michael can get his own merch too after this?

Next up is a promo with Rico Bushido, who brings out Karsten Beck to the ring. They address the incident where Beck withdrew WALTER from the 16 Carat Gold tournament… but Beck replies in German. No subtitles! From my rudimentary German, Beck calls WALTER a great athlete, but Beck wants to do what’s best for the wrestlers and for wXw. Apparently it’s only fair for wrestlers to qualify for the tournament, rather than just be given places. Rico reverts to English as he brings out Christian Michael Jakobi for a retort, but instead we get WALTER, who calls Beck unprofessional. Some of the crowd actually agree with WALTER, as Beck doesn’t seem to dispute WALTER’s claim that the company was built around him.

The increasingly-angry WALTER is mad that the Sports Director (Beck) has pulled the head coach of the company’s dojo from the tournament, and I’ll admit, all I’m getting out of this now is a passionate but angry German. Beck replies that he’s the first to arrive and the last to leave to every show, and as he goes to leave, WALTER goes to hit him, but Beck gets the first shot in. So, they’re teasing WALTER vs. Beck… is Karsten cleared after having a brain tumour removed? As someone who could only understand Rico’s parts, this was a hell of a segment. One that proved that passion trumps writing!

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Jurn Simmons vs. Axel Dieter Jr. (c)
Rico Bushido is still in the ring as he presents the wXw title belt, before he hot-tails it to the commentary desk to resume duties.

Simmons takes Dieter into the corner from the off with a series of shoulder charges, before whipping Axel hard back into the corner and taking him down with a standing suplex. Jurn looks to end things early, but Dieter lands an enziguiri in the ring, then on the apron, before he’s clotheslined into the crowd!

Dieter gets thrown into some columns in the building before he decides (unwisely) to trade blows with “Massive” Simmons, who eventually takes him into the apron with a spinebuster. Another one follows, but they end go deeper into the crowd, as Simmons threatens to piledriver Axel on the runway… but instead Dieter DDT’s Jurn on the ramp. Axel teases a suplex off of the ramp, but this time it’s Jurn’s turn to block it, before he dishes out a huge back body drop to send Axel back into the ring. A stomp from Simmons keeps Dieter down, before a massive suplex gets Jurn another near-fall as this remains pretty much a one-sided arse kicking from the former champion.

Simmons blocks a belly-to-belly and gives one back to Axel for another two-count, but Dieter hits back out of nowhere with a draping DDT as the champion mounted a comeback with some slower, deliberate offence. An Oklahoma stampede gets Jurn back into it though, as the pair trade clubbing blows in the corner, before Dieter lands an European uppercut out of the corner. From there, Dieter pulls Jurn to the mat into a grounded Octopus hold… and then, he’s distracted by a video from Marty Scurll.

Marty tells Axel that he’s not forgotten about him – and that reminder of their title match in London later in January is seemingly enough for Dieter to release the hold. Aah, dumb wrestlers…

From there, Simmons charges at Dieter with a dropkick, but the champion sidesteps it as referee Tassilo Jung gets bumped. A piledriver gets Simmons a long visual pin, but of course, there’s no ref. Another big boot is aborted, as Jurn gets pulled into the corner as Dieter dropkicks him, before a Regalplex is blocked. Simmons catches a dive from Dieter and turned it into a snap death valley driver, and now we’ve got Axel in a torture rack… just as the referee gets to his feet. The referee pulls himself up, asks Dieter something, then calls for the bell!

The ring announcer declares Simmons a new champion, but the referee corrects him – it’s actually a disqualification from that dropkick – Axel wins and retains! That’s a horrible finish, especially since we saw the referee ask Axel if he gave up, but it keeps the heat on Dieter for stealing the title and sneaking out with it. ***½

Cage Match: Alpha Female vs. Melanie Gray
The pre-match stipulations mean that Alpha Kevin will get five minutes alone in the cage with Marius von Beethoven if Melanie Gray wins. That may be a long shot!

The cage door is chained and locked shut, and we’re underway! Gray launches into some punches, but Alpha hits back with a knee before she throws Gray into the cage like a ragdoll. Gray gets whipped into the cage hard, and this feels like it’s going to be mightily one-sided.

Of course, just as I type that, Gray whips Alpha into the cage before landing a trio of back sentons for a near-fall… and then the video craps out on my Roku. Good job! After it picks up, Gray’s pulled head-first into the cage, almost breaking open the mesh. That’s the cue for Alpha Female to start pounding away on Gray to help bust her open, using shots that Vader would be proud of.

Gray’s choked between the ropes and the cage again, and now Alpha Kevin makes his way to the ring to try and save his fiancee. Melzi is bleeding hard, and then she almost gets decapitated by a lariat… but Gray still kicks out! So Alpha Female just uses the cage as a cheese grater on Gray’s face to try and tear her apart some more.

A spinning backfist knocks down Gray again, and the one-way traffic continues as Gray’s choked against the bottom turnbuckle. Some more shots see Alpha Female try and get a TKO from the referee, but that just fired Gray up once more, as a spear takes Alpha down for a two-count! Gray kicks Alpha in the head, but she’s quickly taken down with a double-leg as Female goes into an Anaconda Vice, which seems to be the cue for Alpha Kevin to climb the cage… but Marius von Beethoven runs in with a chair to knock him down!

Marius breaks the seat of the chair over the head of Kevin, but in the cage Gray manages to knock down Alpha Female en route to a senton bomb! Alpha kicks out at two as Marius starts selling how close he came to having to go in the cage, before he was left celebrating as a spinebuster nearly wins it for Alpha. Gray gets lawn-darted into the cage, and then a Dominator seals the win. Brutal, almost one-sided, but mightily fun… ***¾

The camera shows Marius von Beethoven with a pair of handcuffs, one end he wraps around part of the cage, and the other around Alpha Kevin’s wrist! With Kevin restrained, Marius locks him and Alpha in the cage, but Gray comes back with a spear to Marius, before a guillotine chokes out Melzi, which allows Marius to slap Gray to the mat. He undoes his belt to choke her in front of Kevin, whilst throwing in some more punches, and this quickly becomes mightily unsettling. Somehow, Kevin busts his way free of the handcuffs and fights his way in, but he’s quickly overcome a van Beethoven superkick as Alpha and Marius leave the Alpha Lovers laying… but not before Marius uses a knee-bar on Gray to underscore a point that had long since been made.

Käfigschlacht: Cerberus (Robert Dreissker, Julian Nero & Dirty Dragan) vs. “Bad Bones” John Klinger & Chris Colen
This is wXw’s version of War Games, but the late withdrawal of Ilja Dragunov means this ended up as a handicap match.

We start with Robert Dreissker from Cerberus against Bad Bones, and it’s as hard hitting as you expect. This is the first time I’ve seen Dreissker wrestle, and he reminds me of Brodus Clay in terms of build and ring gear… The returning Dreissker’s dropkicked into the corner, before he fires back with a clothesline before whipping Bones into the other corner.

Dreissker pulls the mesh of the cage into Bones’ forehead – a spot that had better draw blood eventually given that Melanie Gray bled from something similar – before the “Avalanche” gets thrown into the cage. Bones returns the favour by pushing Dreissker’s head into the cage, before Bones takes another big slam and an elbow drop.

Again Dreissker’s thrown into the cage as Bones follows up with leaping forearms to the trapped Avalanche. Bones tries to issue a receipt for those body slams, but Dreissker just falls on top of him, and that leads to a spell where the Avalanche unloads on Bones with right hands. Bones looked better, and seemed to have more effect, but his spell of pressure came just in time as Julian Nero was added… and Bones dives into Nero before he can even get into the ring!

Unluckily, Bones was caught by a push-up spinebuster from Dreissker (at least, that’s what it looked like) after returning to the ring, before Bones was pushed into the cage door for a spot where Nero slammed the door on his head. With Bones bleeding, the countdown started for the next entrant, which meant that Chris Colen rushed down to the ring to even up the numbers, dumping Nero with a spinning back suplex, then again with a powerslam as Dreissker was left in the corner.

A moonsault press finally takes down the Avalanche as Bones pulled himself up, eventually dumping Nero with an Exploder as Nero took a lot of punishment from the faces. Klinger and Colen go after Dreissker with a back body drop, and that just about ends the spell on top as Dirty Dragan comes in to complete the Cerberus trio. For some reason, Dragan takes his time coming down, and the apparent drug dealer comes down with… a dildo?

Yeah, this review may not be safe-for-work now.

Dragan’s sent into the cage with a crucifix bomb as Rico Bushido tries to avoid calling a spade a spade, but Bones turns around into a shot as Dragan threw some powder in Bones’ face. Cerberus take over as they count down to Ilja Dragunov’s entrance… but there’s no Ilja! In lieu of Ilja, we’re shown some grainy footage backstage where Ilja’s been beaten down, and instead Adam Polak comes out – so this is now a handicap match it seems. Cerberus leave the ring and go underneath it for some plunder, in the form of tables and chairs. Tables that Dragan tries to hump…

They set the table up on the entrance ramp, before they target Bones who gets propelled into the cage door by Dreissker. Klinger finds a Kendo stick and unleashes fury on Dreissker and Nero, before he bullies Dragan back into the ring so he can take some shots from Colen. A straight shot to the kidneys drops Dragan as the plunder portion of the match really kicks off.

Dragan runs away from a con-stick-chair-to (chair shot/Kendo stick shot), and climbs the cage… but he’s caught and shoved down through that table that was left on the ramp. Back in the ring, Nero and Dreissker take a pair of Coast to Coast dropkicks, before their attempted comeback ended by way of a chairshot from Bad Bones.

A Van Daminator from Colen knocks down Avalanche, who’s then caught in a single leg crab as the faces look to get the match-ending submission – with Bad Bones holding Nero in a crossface for another attempt. Avalanche pushes free of the hold, then throws a chair at Bones, before he finds a bag underneath a chair.

Uh oh. You know what that means in wrestling… but a Codebreaker from Bad Bones stops us from finding out. Bad Bones then gets that bag, and empties out its contents to reveal… multi-coloured smiley-face thumbtacks!

Bones lifts up Dreissker, but he works free, before elbowing out of a German suplex, only for Klinger to hit back by suplexing the big guy into the corner. Nero hits back with a big boot, before launching Colen into the cage. The Austrian Colen hits back with a powerslam off the top rope to Nero, before a Tiger Driver attempt is blocked with a low blow, as a Fireman’s carry slam sends Colen into the thumbtacks!

That sort-of leaves Bad Bones by himself, so he piles up a couple of chairs on top of each other. Nero takes a Wasteland-style drop into the chairs, before Dreissker cuts off Bones in the corner with a chair shot, as he then powerbombed Bad Bones into those chairs. A chairshot to the back follows, as Dreissker wrenches back on Bones in a camel clutch, forcing Klinger to tap out – marking the second year in a row that Dreissker wins the Käfigschlacht with that hold.

There’s no doubting that this match was hurt badly by the loss of Ilja Dragunov (who’s missing wXw’s January shows for personal reasons); but with the restrictions and the smoke and mirrors on hand, they managed to tell a compelling story, as Cerberus put aside the challenge of Bad Bones and his Austrian compadre. ***½

Cerberus (minus Dragan) celebrate in the ring after the match, before Adam Polak sends them away so he can pop some pills in the ring. Polak gets the microphone and declares that “he wins again”. The crowd chant for Ilja, but out comes Francis Kaspin instead, who lays out Polak with a chair – presumably as a receipt for being left bound-and-gagged in the build-up to this match. Kaspin then helps Bad Bones to his feet as the faces stand over Adam Polak, who’s still left laying in the ring after a jump cut, as the show ends with the cameras following paramedics carting Polak away on a stretcher. He wakes up when he gets backstage, as he we get our only subtitles of the show: Polak asking Dirty Dragan to “take care of them”.

What Worked: There wasn’t a bad match on the show, but with only five matches on the card, this felt like a lightweight show going in. Thankfully, it didn’t come across as one, thanks in part to that midcard promo between WALTER and Karsten Beck.

As a stop-off in the storyline, the Melanie Gray/Alpha Female cage match was extremely compelling… then we got to the post-match stuff.

What Didn’t: I slated WCPW for this on Monday, so I have to say that the post-match stuff with Melanie Gray and Marius von Beethoven was a little unsettling. Sure, it told the point, but given that Gray had already been Vader’d in the match, some of this stuff was going over the top.

Thumbs: Up!