We got two Käfigschlacht for the price of one as wXw kicked off their 2019 by settling the future of RISE – and the Unified World Wrestling Championship!

The show opens with a video package of the Käfigschlacht, its history, and what’ll be inside it tonight. We’re told it’ll be the last time we’ll have Absolute Andy vs. Ilja Dragunov, while the loser leaves town match between Melanie Gray and Toni Storm also gets profiled. We’re inside the Turbinenhalle, with Christian Bischof and Sebastian Hollmichel on German commentary for this three-hour epic!

Bobby Gunns vs. Shigehiro Irie
These two have had two prior matches, with Irie winning both of them… prompting Bobby Gunns to perhaps doubt himself a little after Road to Back to the Roots. He’s accompanied by his brother Vinny Vortex here, which immediately set off the spidey senses.

Irie’s right knee is heavily taped up to start the match, but it doesn’t seem to cause him any issues as he shoves away Gunns from the opening tie-up. Gunns targets the other leg with kicks in the opening exchanges, only which sort of worked as Irie couldn’t keep Bobby up for a slam. He was able to lift him onto the apron, but Gunns quickly capitalises with a hanging armbar before catching Irie with an armbreaker in the ropes…and then Irie does something bonkers like spear Gunns off the apron and into his brother, a la Big E. Jesus Shiggy, this is just the opener!

Irie tries to stop Gunns from coming back in, kicking him through the ropes as Bobby keeps spilling to the floor… but Bobby eventually catches a kick and grabs a leglock through the ropes instead. Back inside, Irie just decks Gunns with forearms while shrugging off Bobby’s uppercuts, before a back elbow off the ropes keeps the former Shotgun champion down. Next up: the slingshot splash off the ropes, which gets Irie a two-count before his attempt at a Pounce is caught as Bobby grabs a guillotine to finally counter the hold! Irie manages to suplex his way free before squashing Bobby with an Earthquake-like sit-down splash for another two-count. Irie keeps whacking Gunns with forearms as he seemed to truly have Bobby’s number, especially as things like clotheslines from Gunns were having no effect.

Irie just walks through a series of lariats, before one big clothesline off the ropes finally took the former DDT star down. Uppercuts from Bobby seemed to finally have an effect, before he blocks a hiptoss and catches Irie with a backslide for a near-fall… which he quickly followed up on with a double stomp! A German suplex is good for a near-fall as Bobby’s frustrations appeared, prompting him to seek some coaching from Vinny… and that seemed to take him to some small joint manipulation on Irie. We’ve a snap bodyslam as Irie looked to get back into it, but a front suplex has him back on the mat before Bobby looked for an armbar, forcing Irie to BITE the ropes to get the break. Gunns stays on top as Irie kept his teeth clenched… and we’re back to forearms and uppercuts! A big boot from Bobby led to another German suplex, before Irie finally gets in his POUNCE! Irie keeps up with a cannonball, before a Beast Bomber’s kicked away… only for Gunns to run into a death valley driver as Irie went for a second cannonball, crushing Gunns in the corner! A second crack at the Beast Bomber misses as Gunns ducks… but third time was the charm as Bobby’s flipped to the mat for a near-fall!

Irie tries again, but Gunns again ducks the Beast Bomber and throws some kicks, before another armbar attempt’s finally locked in… and when Irie can’t quite get him up for a powerbomb, he’s left with no choice but to tap. This was absolutely wonderful stuff – especially in the context of their prior two encounters, this was everything I expected and then some. Some may have been unhappy there was no turn, but that was incidental anyway. Any chance of a fourth, perhaps with a bit of ambition behind it… ****¼

Jurn Simmons vs. Avalanche
Both of these men were on their own after their partners left them at the end of last year (and got injured, in the case of Julian Nero)… but there’s some history here too, as Jurn missed some scheduled tag matches against Avalanche with illness. An illness that became a storyline in Bielefeld in the run up to this.

Jurn prompts a fist fight before the bell, and they start this one out hot… at least until Jurn slapped Avalanche in the back of the head, earning himself a flying shoulder tackle for his troubles. There’s a back body drop (cheers!) as Avalanche sent Jurn flying, before a Cactus clothesline took both men to the floor, where they trade shots before a double clothesline left them laying. They beat the count and continue their elbow exchange, before Jurn powdered to the apron… which was just a ruse for him to poke Avalanche in the eyes ahead of a very un-Jurn-like slingshot crossbody! He quickly kicks Avalanche back to the floor, but again the count’s broken, so he pounds Avalanche from above.

Boots follow in the corner until Avalanche gets up and charges Jurn into another corner… where he ends up missing a shoulder charge, going all the way through to the ring post. Jurn follows that with a pumphandle slam for a near-fall, before he puts the boots to Avalanche… while the only thing I can hear is the shrill booing in the background. A slap to the face just serves to anger Avalanche, who gets up and absorbs some clotheslines, before sending Jurn flying with a Samoan drop! A Beele throw sent Jurn flying once more, but he blocks another avalanche splash in the corner before he’s caught with a belly-to-belly. Avalanche signals for the finish, but Jurn elbows out of the Boulder Dash before he runs into a Black Hole Slam… rolling out of the ring to avoid being pinned. He’s joined on the outside as the pair brawl again, but they pull each other off the apron as the referee keeps counting, and we end up with an unpopular double count-out. A bit of a dodgy finish, which the crowd hated, but the match up until that point was a pretty good big lads’ match. ***

Post-match, Jurn took the mic and called Avalanche a joke, saying he was “down on your knees like a common dog.” He reckoned that Avalanche was no longer a “Monster of a Man”… which drew Avalanche back into the ring as he sent Simmons packing with a clothesline, before declaring that he’s entering himself in 16 Carat Gold! Well, I’m all for these two to be on a convenient collision course at Carat! The two brawl again as ring crew are needed to separate them, and of course, Jurn can’t help but take some digs on his way to the back…

Jay-FK (Francis Kaspin & Jay Skillet) vs. Veit Müller & WALTER
While not yet officially a part of RINGKAMPF, Veit was out in RINGKAMPF gear… while something seemed to be missing from Jay-FK…

Still, Jay-FK hadn’t lost their swagger since the 18th Anniversary show. They started with Veit against Skillet, who of course got the Schurlle chants as he was taken down with an early sleeperhold from Müller as commentary brought up how WALTER made his NXT UK debut the prior weekend. Second time wasn’t the charm for Jay, who ran into an armbar and a single leg crab as he needed Francis Kaspin to make a save, before WALTER had to be restrained as he and Müller tried to chase the former tag champions.

Things settle down as tags get made, with WALTER and Kaspin coming into play, and yes, WALTER easily throws Kaspin across the ring as Tassilo Jung again has to restrain the Ring General. From there, WALTER goes to a Jim Breaks-like arm lift suplex before Kaspin’s attempt at a chop… just gets his partner chopped as revenge. Undeterred, Francis throws another one, but he’s just obliterated by a GODDAMN BIG BOOT FROM WALTER! WALTER issues some receipts to Kaspin, who didn’t quite make the same sound WALTER did, so he’s just rolled over into a Boston crab as Jay Skillet tries to come in for a save. Yeah, it’s ineffective, as WALTER stands up and kills him with a chop. Müller tags back in as Kaspin runs scared… and there’s a big back body drop (cheers!) from Veit, before he’s caught out by the numbers game briefly. A drop toe-hold took Müller into the ropes for a cheapshot from Kaspin as Skillet pounds away on his back. Kaspin literally stands on Müller in the corner before Skillet just grinds a knee into Müller as those shrill boos appear again. Cheers Shauna…

Eventually Müller hits back with some back elbows, before he tossed Skillet over the top rope… which backfired as Jay pulls WALTER off the apron just before a tag was made. Back in the ring, a superkick-assisted death valley driver nearly puts Müller away… but Veit fought on and got his tag, as the man mountain WALTER came in and tried to be the one-man wrecking crew. He’s overcome by Jay-FK, at least until he got free and hit a clothesline to Skillet, as Kaspin’s bid to run away saw him hurled back into the ring before he took a Thatcher-like slap to the face.

A Gojira clutch and a RINGKAMPF German from WALTER has Skillet down, ahead of the sit-down splash… Jay tries a back elbow out of the corner, but he’s caught before Kaspin comes in and fish-hooked away on WALTER, who at least landed another pair of clotheslines to leave them down. Müller tags back in and goes to work on Kaspin, only for Francis to charge back in and boot WALTER off the apron. The Austrian’s quickly back to chop the hell out of Francis as he mocked the RINGKAMPF pose AS HE WAS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO WALTER. I howled. Müller comes back in to help with a gutbuster before a powerbomb on Kaspin drew a near-fall, before Jay Skillet returned into a shoulder block.

The cravat suplex sent Skillet hurtling across the ring for a near-fall, before Müller locks in a single leg crab. WALTER neutralises Kaspin as a submission looked to be on the cards, but Jay Skillet got free and rolled up Müller with a small package as WALTER was left unawares, and therefore unable to make the save as Jay-FK squeaked out the pin. This was another wonderful match, if only for those moments of WALTER brutalising the former tag champs. Veit Müller isn’t there yet as a member of RINGKAMPF, so it makes sense for him to be the proverbial Young Boy taking the losses too. ***½

After the match, Veit wanted a handshake, but WALTER wasn’t going to give him one because they lost. WALTER doesn’t think Veit’s worthy of the RINGKAMPF tag and therefore he’s clearly a work in progress…

They replay the segment from two weeks ago of Timothy Thatcher badmouthed David Starr in front of him while training Veit Müller…

David Starr vs. Timothy Thatcher
Starr’s got his title match in London this weekend, no matter what, so this is more of a tune-up match for last year’s 16 Carat Gold finalist.

Thatcher looked to go for Starr’s shoulders early, reaching for an armbar as Starr tried his best to block it, somehow rolling Thatcher to the mat for a pinning attempt… only to end up in the ropes as Thatcher was forced to break cleanly. Starr returns the favour as he seemed to go for a belly-to-belly, but again he’s in the ropes as Thatcher tries to rough him up. Starr has more luck with a side headlock, at least until Thatcher wrestled him to the mat as he just whales into Starr with kicks ahead of a short-lived single-leg crab. After getting to the ropes, Starr unloads with some body blows before taking Thatcher down with a thrust kick, but Thatcher counters back with an arm whip as he proceeded to kick the former Shotgun champion to the outside… where Thatcher just slaps him back into the ring. Simple.

Elbows on the apron follow, before Thatcher deadlifted Starr into a gutwrench suplex for just a one-count… so it’s back to Starr’s injured arm and shoulder… almost teasing Starr into throwing a Han Stansen with his bad arm. That just opened him up more as Thatcher went to the injured shoulder with an elbow, as he stretched Starr and focused his strikes on the body part. Starr tries to hit back, but his chops seemed to exhaust him as Thatcher easily retaliates, taking Starr into the ropes for a kick to the stomach. Another armbar in the ropes followed as Starr’s injured arm was again targeted, before a back suplex led to another bad landing for Starr, even if he tried to counter out. A RINGKAMPF belly-to-belly’s avoided, but Starr’s attempt to cartwheel backfires thanks to his bad arm, leading to that belly-to-belly as Thatcher gets a near-fall.

Thatcher goes back to a key lock on the bad wing, but somehow Starr powers out with a Blackheart Buster before a Han Stansen finds its mark. Starr winds up for a second one, using the bad arm, but Thatcher catches it and tries to roll up Starr for his lucha-roll… only for Starr to block it and hit a crucifix of his own for the win. An intentionally scrappy finish to a really good match; one that made a whole heap of sense as Thatcher targeted the injury but just couldn’t get the win… annoying himself as he stormed away from ringside almost instantly. ***¾

Loser Leaves Town for wXw Women’s Championship: Melanie Gray vs. Toni Storm (c)
This was set-up during the Road to Back to the Roots, as another attack from Melanie Gray led to the challenge of a Loser Leaves Town match… one that many thought would go one way given all of the farewells we’ve had lately.

Gray slapped Toni to start the match, and of course that didn’t go unanswered as we almost broke out into a hockey fight with Storm getting beaten into the corner early. She returns the favour with forearms as Gray’s sent cowering into the corner, before she tried to surprise Toni with the Mella-dram cloverleaf.

Toni gets to the ropes and comes in with a dropkick as she took the upper hand, roughing up Gray with some boots and chops. A low dropkick outfoxes Gray, who’s sent rolling to the outside, and into the path of a tope that Toni didn’t seem to get all of. Picking herself up, Storm goes for Gray again with some more chops, only for Gray to return to the ring and hit our second through-the-ropes spear of the night. Both women, it seemed were leaving it all out there tonight, but things backfire for Gray as her cannonball into Storm in the front row saw her wipe out a few chairs n the process. Storm tries her luck, but her hip attack also misses as we got the sight of a bloodied-up Mella, who this time connected with a crossbody before rolling Toni back inside for a near-fall.

Annoyed, she starts to slap away on Toni again, before she’s caught on the top rope with a chop. Storm heads up too and goes for a superplex, made all the more epic by Tass sizing up the move before Storm sent Gray sailing. From there, Toni goes hog wild with rolling German suplexes, before a kick from Gray is caught and turned into an ankle lock! Gray gets an arm into the ropes, only for Toni to come right back with a German suplex… Gray tries to head up top, but gets pulled down as she returned fire from a hip attack with a spear for a near-fall! We’re back to the hockey fight strikes before Toni stops it with a kick to the gut… but she can’t quite get off a Strong Zero, as Gray back body drops free, then lands an Alabama Slam for another two-count. A small package from Storm nearly does it, before she ate a Finlay roll as gray heads up again, this time landing a senton bomb for a two-count!

Gray follows up with the Mella-dram as she looked to make Toni give up, but Storm gets to the ropes as Gray perhaps sensed it just wasn’t going to go her way today… Gray stands on Toni’s head for extra insult, before a swinging side slam’s countered out of nothing into a DDT, as a Strong Zero piledriver got Toni the win… and that’s all for Melanie Gray in wXw. Sad face, but a hell of a match to end on as the women actually got some time and told a fantastic story with it. Hopefully this isn’t a goodbye, but more a “see you later”. ***½

After the match, Toni looked down on Gray and walked away without any kind of show of respect, as Gray was left in the ring, all alone, to the sounds of the goodbye song… which gave way to applause as Killer Kelly entered the ring to try and calm her down with the offer of a tissue for her bloodied nose. Am I crazy for thinking they’re teasing something with Kelly and Toni from all of this?

Käfigschlacht – All Titles On The Line: RISE (Lucky Kid, Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) vs. RISE (Tarkan Aslan, Da Mack & Marius al-Ani)
After “new RISE” was formed in Hamburg back in November, we accelerate into this match as we get a video package that summed up the group’s history in wXw, from their formation, to Bad Bones being revealed as the leader, to Chris Colen being expelled… to Lucky Kid “injuring” Tarkan Aslan a year ago… and what happened last year with Bad Bones’ departure, all the way through to Tarkan Aslan’s own defection.

Of course, both sides tried to claim ownership of the RISE name, but only one would leave with it… and the gold too, as Marius al-Ani talked his way into adding the titles to the line. Crucially though, it’d only be the belts of those who are pinned that’d change hands. The rules of the Käfigschlacht are like war games – two men start, then after five minutes we have alternating additions every two minutes until all six men are in the match. At that point, only submissions end the match. Lucky Kid and Tarkan Aslan start us off… and Aslan’s brought a chair with him. He swings and misses early on as Lucky Kid took his brother into the cage, bouncing him off of the cage wall as he took a more measured approach to the match. Quality over quantity, and all that, as this one would be going LONG. Aslan avoids a suplex, but ends up taking a forearm as Lucky tied him up in the ropes for some body blows, before he grabbed the chair… and that suddenly has Aslan begging off. Funny that.

Underneath his RISE shirt, Tarkan’s got an old Young Lions tee, and that stalls Lucky for long enough for Tarkan to catch him in the throat as the tables turned… with Lucky having his head ground against the cage walls. We finally get the countdown, which stuck at ten for a while before we find out who’s out second… Pete Bouncer, and he’s got a baseball bat!

Ooh, Purge Club Pete!

Bouncer gets into the ring as they start the two-minute timer, with Bouncer swatting away Tarkan’s chair before he knocked the “Lion King” down with the bat. Aslan’s thrown into the cage wall again before Lucky Kid has Aslan down in a crossface… Tarkan taps, but it’s not valid as everyone hasn’t entered. Luckily, we get a little closer as Da Mack’s out next with a Kendo stick, which he instantly puts to use as Lucky and Pete were still fixated on Tarkan Aslan for some reason.

Da Mack goes nuts with Kendo stick shots, before he passes it over to Tarkan Aslan, who gleefully cracks Lucky Kid across the back with it. Pete Bouncer gets some too, as we wind down the clock for the final member of “classic RISE” – Ivan Kiev. Who didn’t bring a weapon, and instead look to climb into the cage, which bought enough time for Lucky Kid and Pete Bouncer to hold Mack and Aslan for a big crossbody off the top from Ivan. That’s a way to make an entrance!

Bouncer and Kiev work some nice double-teams, taking down Aslan with an axe kick/sidewalk slam combo, before Lucky Kid chokes Tarkan Aslan with his own RISE shirt. The clock ticks again as Marius al-Ani completes the match, just as Da Mack impressively threw the Kendo stick into the cage door! Marius is out with a chair, but his first move is to hit the sunset flip/kip up/Exploder on Lucky Kid as “new RISE” looked to take control. A springboard crossbody out of the corner keeps Marius ahead, as the bad guys looked to force a submission, with al-Ani’s single leg crab and a grounded Octopus from Da Mack giving them two chances… but neither work, and instead we end up with Lucky Kid oh so briefly catching Marius in a crossface before it’s broken up.

A satellite throw into a Mack Attack cutter leaves Lucky Kid down as Tarkan Aslan retrieves the Kendo stick from the cage wall… but he doesn’t immediately use it as he instead directs traffic, with Kiev being thrown into the cage wall once more. An attempt to do the same for Lucky Kid ends with him changing it into a handspring double back elbow, before he shoved away Da Mack, who takes a superkick/full nelson slam from Kiev and Bouncer… and just like that, the match is turned on hits head once more! The good guys surround Marius, who tries to escape the cage… sadly, we don’t have the forfeit rules here, as instead everyone stops him from escaping, with Kiev bringing him down with a top rope bulldog instead! We get a stand-off as good faced evil, teeing off on each other with punches as the “classic” RISE looked to have their foes on their knees… only for a trio of low blows to stop all that.

We then get a callback to last year – except this time Lucky Kid meant to crack Tarkan Aslan over the head with a chair! From there, Bouncer picks up Aslan as Da Mack tried to smash him with a baseball bat… and with triple crossfaces on the “new” RISE, we finally get a submission as Tarkan Aslan taps! Ivan Kiev, Pete Bouncer and Lucky Kid ARE RISE… while Pete had to make a call on who left the Käfigschacht with him as the new wXw tag team champions! Of course, Ivan Kiev got the nod, as Lucky Kid still has his sights on the Shotgun title. While I was a little against them rushing to this match, particularly since the RISE vs. RISE feud really only kicked off two months ago, but this was a solid War Games match in spite of the “good guys” having the advantage. It felt like a blow-off rather than a continuation, which is exactly what cage matches are meant for. ***½

After the match, Da Mack and Marius al-Ani shoved away Tarkan Aslan – who now looks to be all on his own.

Käfigschlacht for wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Ilja Dragunov vs. Absolute Andy (c) – Special Referee: Nick Hein
Controversially, UFC fighter Nick Hein was your referee for this match, which was the fifth time these two had fought in a singles match for the top prize in wXw. Hein actually had a referee’s shirt made, and again he has a cameraman tailing him… along with a bunch of middle fingers too.

Ilja literally jumpstarts the match as he leapt into Andy on the outside before the bell, and I’ve a feeling we’re in for a Hamburg-like brawl here. Chops from Ilja follow, as he beats down on Andy in the front row, as everyone got an up-close-and-personal view of the pair. They brawl towards the entry ramp, which led to Andy whipping Ilja into the side of the cage before making it onto the stage, where they kick and chop before a bodyslam leaves Ilja laying. A suplex follows on the stage as Ilja’s left laying, but he’s back up with more chops before he leaps off of the runway and through the crowd with a body press to Andy on the floor! More brawling around ringside sees Andy introduced to the timekeeper’s table and the cage wall, before Ilja ges back under the ring for a table… which Andy this time opts to slide into the ring, rather than return under it.

Andy’s draped across the front row for a running back senton, which sees Ilja bounce off of him, only for Andy to respond by cracking a chair over his head. Ilja’s then tossed into the seating deck, before a F5 into the side of the cage seemingly led Andy to… go under the ring for more weaponry in the form of another chair. Finally, referee Nick Hein stops him for… reasons, as he demanded they get into the ring. Which they do, but not before Andy throws in some more chairs. A running backbreaker puts Ilja through a chair in the ring as we discover that Nick Hein’s not called for the bell to ring… he eventually signals, and now we learn that this Käfigschlacht can be won by pinfall, submission or escape.

After kicking out of that backbreaker, Ilja tries to fight back only to get caught and lawn darted into the cage wall. An axehandle smash off the top’s next for Andy, as he leaves Ilja in the ropes for more chops… which just fired up Ilja briefly, as he collapsed in the middle of the ring once again. A slingshot sent Dragunov into the side of the cage as they went tit-for-tat with strikes, only for Andy’s to have much more effect than his challenger’s. There’s a backdrop suplex before Ilja caught Andy up top, bringing him down a la Ric Flair with a press slam… and now it’s time for more violence.

Dragunov grabs a chair and back sentons into it, hurting himself in the process, but he’s able to get back up and jab the same chair into Andy’s gut, before trapping him with some clotheslines for a near-fall. A flying forearm from Ilja off the top gets him another two-count, as Andy withstands more clotheslines en route to a double clothesline that left both men laying. Andy’s back up first as he tries to escape the cage… but Ilja’s got similar ideas, so the pair rope-walk to the middle of the cage wall and try to chop the other down to the mat… only for them to send each other sailing to the mat at the same time. Ilja’s back up first with a Saito suplex on Andy, before his bid to escape the cage ended when Andy caught him and sent him flying with an avalanche belly-to-belly… that Ilja popped right back up from before he dumped Andy with a F5!

Ilja shrugs off a back cracker from Andy and retaliates with a clothesline for a near-fall as he tried to keep his momentum going, following up with some chops as he then sent Andy towards the corner. The brakes are put on as Andy avoided a chair that’d been wedged between the turnbuckles, as a spinebuster landed for a near-fall intead.

I turn away for a brief moment and see Andy missing a moonsault, before he got up and directed a charging Ilja into that chair in the corner… and yes, the seat cover popped out again! Ilja’s back with a DDT before a second chair’s superkicked into him, but again Andy can’t get the three-count as the challenger kicks out once more. Ilja tries to retaliate with another F5, but Andy slips free and boots him before another attempt to escape the cage ended with Dragunov catching him with a powerbomb as Nick Hein was woefully out of position for the cover. Ilja is NOT happy with that…

A back senton off the top from Ilja finds its mark as he grabs a wrecked chair to help with a Coast to Coast dropkick, before Andy just wipes him out with another chairshot as Dragunov looked for a Torpedo Moscau. Hein’s in place to count again, but his slow-and-steady cadence gets a two-count in, so Andy wears out more chairs on Ilja’s back, before he superkicked Ilja out of a chair for another two-count.

From there, Andy picks up some chairs and piles them up as he looked to dump Ilja into them… but instead Ilja picks up a chair and hits a Torpedo Moscau through it into Andy as he then turned his attention to the table. Uh-oh. Andy slips out of a death valley driver, but he can’t get an A-Klasse off as instead Ilja bounces Andy off the table with a death valley driver. Yes, he is still the table.

Ilja changes his tactics, instead opening up the table for another death valley driver as Andy again bounced off it. He tries again, as I get severe Wembley flash backs, but thankfully the third time was the charm as the table gave way! Ilja tries to escape from there, but he stops in his tracks as Marius al-Ani appears in the aisle… then turns around and misses a back senton off the top rope that saw Ilja land awkwardly among some chairs. As the referee tended to Ilja, Marius handed something to Andy.. but first there’s an F5 for Ilja to escape as he hits a Torpedo Moscau… and annoyingly, the referee’s still trying to eject Marius IN A CAGE MATCH. Ilja gets up and shoves the referee, before turning around into another F5 for a near-fall as again Hein’s weird count stalled things a little. Marius is still at ringside, and this time he’s got bolt cutters as he cuts through the chain and opens the cage door, prompting Nick Hein to leave the ring and again eject al-Ani.

This time, Marius takes notice, but in the meantime Ilja’s found the bag Marius handed to Andy… and it’s full of drawing pins! Ilja picks up Andy for a F5, but the counter’s countered as Ilja back body drops Andy, whose back becomes a living pin cushion!

For some reason, Hein’s still on the floor and tempts Ilja to leave the cage through the door… but he slams the door on Dragunov’s head. Huh?! That’s him winning worst referee of the year by a country mile, as that led to the finish as an A-Klasse was enough for a spent Andy to claim the pinfall. This match was a bit of a weird one for me – while I liked the brawl a la Hamburg to start it off, when the match got going, the addition of Nick Hein as a referee seemed to hurt the match more than help it, with him being out of place for covers and generally slowing the pace of the match down more than it needed to with his cadences. ***¼

My only question is, after failing once again to beat Andy… and with a lot of speculation over his future, what is there left for Ilja to do in wXw? With Hein supposedly unable to wrestle because of his UFC deal, we can’t get a Dragunov/Hein match… but I wonder if the crowd even wanted that?

The show ends with Andy and Hein celebrating together, before Andy left through the crowd with pins still in his back… but we’re still not done. Hein’s got a second table from under the ring. Uh oh. The crowd’s baying for Hein’s blood, especially as he picks up Ilja for what looked like a powerbomb… but Ilja escapes and instead lands a back chop before he cracked the table with a death valley driver. The crowd liked that one as Ilja leaves Hein laying… then left the cage all bruised and battered. Standard, for an Ilja match, it seems…

Back to the Roots was a show that started hot, and maintain the pace throughout, with both cage matches delivering to some degree. The Bobby Gunns/Shigehiro Irie series may well have gone under a lot of people’s radars, but their three matches so far have been hoots to watch – and hopefully it’s not a case of three-and-done in their case. We’re seven weeks away from 16 Carat Gold, and even amid the uncertain landscape, wXw has got plenty going to keep us intrigued. What’s next for RISE? The remnants of “new RISE”? What’s Ilja got next? Who’ll round out the field for 16 Carat Gold? And why the hell is Andy and Marius’ on-off relationship on again? Next up on the road to Carat is a show this weekend in London, before we reach Dead End in the middle of February as we prepare for mainland Europe’s hottest tournament of the year.