The final Inner Circle in Essen provided the traditional curtain raiser to 16 Carat Gold weekend, with an elimination main event to change things up a little.

Quick Results
Shigehiro Irie pinned Gulyas Junior in 9:04 (***¼)
Norman Harras & Sebastian Suave pinned Vaughn Vertigo & Goldenboy Santos in 12:42 (**¾)
Ava Everett pinned Orsi in 5:31 (**½)
Fuminori Abe submitted Ender Kara in 8:17 (***½)
Ace Romero pinned Dennis Dullnig in 8:56 (***)
Dover & Icarus were the last two men standing in an elimination match in 22:26 (***¼)

It’s been a hell of a weekend. The first 16 Carat Gold festival since 2020 – and perhaps the first big statement weekender in European wrestling since the pandemic started. Having been there live for all of it, it’s now time to sit down and watch the shows back on-demand – if you’re reading this in early March, wXwNOW still has the “as live” edits of the main Carat shows, which were posted within minutes of each half of the show wrapping up. A massive step forward in terms of VOD availability – and a new benchmark in the European scene.

Anyway, everything has to start somewhere… and for the last time, the wXw Wrestling Academy in Essen was the host of the curtain-raising Inner Circle event. I say “the last time,” because the Academy’s moving later this summer, so it was a bit of a fond farewell to one of my favourite venues for watching wrestling in. Commentary for this one – and for the entire weekend – comes courtesy of Dave Bradshaw, who really put the work in this weekend doing multiple near-live shows. No wonder he’s hoarse!

Shigehiro Irie vs. Gulyas Junior
A welcome return to Germany for Irie, and he’s got the country boy from Hungary up here… with Kid Lykos’ music?!

The pair opened with a tie-up that was quickly broken, before shoulder tackles saw the pair clatter into each other before Irie was finally charged down. Gulyas misses a back senton, but got back up quickly as Irie flew in with a back elbow ahead of a slam and that rebound splash. A second slam’s blocked as Gulyas’ flying forearm and back senton pulled him ahead for a two-count. Chops follow, which Irie walks through… so Gulyas gives Irie a Pit Stop instead. Gulyas continues on the offence, at least until Irie found a way back in a strike exchange, with a snap Samoan drop forcing the issue.

Irie squashes Gulyas with a seated splash out of the corner, but a cannonball’s stopped with a pop-up knee as Gulyas hit his cannonball first. A wrist-clutch suplex has Irie back in as he followed back with the cannonball… but an attempted Beast Bomber’s swiped away as a back suplex nearly nicks it for Gulyas. The pair trade walloping clotheslines, before a cannonball to Gulyas in the ropes, then the Beast Bomber got the win as Irie nearly knocked the Hungarian out of his boots. A solid opener with Gulyas more than holding his own here. ***¼

Goldenboy Santos & Vaughn Vertigo vs. Norman Harras & Sebastian Suave
A wXw x SMASH match here with the mixed teams.

Harras plays keepaway from Santos to start, then tagged out to a rather amped-up Suave. An amped-up Suave who couldn’t get Santos off his feet for a slam. Santos had no such issues, following up with an uppercut and some slaps as Suave ended up on his back. Vaughn Vertigo comes in next as he and Santos batter Suave with uppercuts, as an armdrag quickly has Sebastian on the deck again. Norman Harras tags in but meets a similar fate, before he sidesteps a knee… Vertigo’s crossbody is caught as the Canadian’s thrown into the ropes, then choked in them as Vaughn would end up eating the first of many slams this weekend. An elbow drop gets a two-count for Harras, before Suave came in for a hanging armbar in the ropes, then a big ol’ spinebuster.

Some “special submissions” from Suave saw him go for Vertigo’s nipples ahead of a claw on the ribs. Vertigo manages to get free as tags bring in Harras, who slammed his own man on Vertigo in a rather different double-team… Suave tries to return the favour, but slams weren’t his forte tonight as Vertigo nearly nicked the win with a roll-up. Headscissors from Vertigo lead to tags in from both men as we go to Santos and a begging-for-mercy Harras… Santos blasts Norman with uppercuts ahead of a cannonball into the corner. Suave saves Harras from a fireman’s carry, but a German suplex from Santos nearly wins it. Vertigo runs in with a Shining Wizard to Suave, before he added a crossbody to Santos’ suplex for another near-fall.

Vertigo goes for a Stinger splash into Harras in the corner, but ends up getting booted down as a Finlay roll from Harras and a knee to the ribs nearly got the win for Suave… who was just thrown onto his compatriot. Harras drags Suave to the corner to tag in, but gets dragged outside by Santos as Vertigo stayed on Suave with a Shadows over Hell senton to the back… only for the legal Harras to run in and roll up Vertigo with a handful of tights for the win. **¾

Orsi vs. Ava Everett
It’s a wXw debut for the Hungarian Orsi, who’s pretty early in her career if Cagematch is anything to go by…

Everett mocked the crowd and Orsi to start, but the opening tie-up has Orsi take Ava into the corner… but Ava cheapshots on the break. Orsi hiptosses Everett in return, before she slammed Everett out of a crossbody attempt. Orsi’s caught through the ropes with a stunner as Ava followed up with a legdrop onto the apron, as the top contender to the wXw women’s title pushed on.

Orsi’s clubbed on out of the corner as Everett complained to the referee… then took Orsi down in a chinlock. Trash talking from Everett fires up Orsi, who replies with chops and forearms into the corner, following up with a sunset flip for a near-fall, then a spear. Everett clings to the ropes to prevent an O’Connor roll, then came right back with the Tunnel Vision (swinging Fisherman’s neckbreaker) for the win. Decent for the time they had, with Ava building up steam ahead of her title match – but keep an eye out for Orsi. On this form, there’s real potential there… **½

Post-match, Everett takes shots at the one American in the crowd (what’s the odds, huh?) then vowed to win the title and “actually defend it.” That drew out Iva Kolasky, who chased Everett to the back…

We get a backstage promo with Dan Mallmann and the wXw academy team. Anil Marik’s ruled out with a shoulder injury, as Robert Dreissker refused to let him compete in that state – citing his own previous shoulder injuries. It’s the start of some tougher talk from Dreissker – something that’d rapidly develop over the weekend. Dreissker wanted the Academy team to go out as a unit and prove their superiority over their Hungarian counterparts…

Dan tries to stir the pot over Oskar being drafted in, and that’s a line of questioning that Dreissker took exception to, saying that everyone had better listen to the head coach tonight.

Ender Kara vs. Fuminori Abe
This’ll likely be a trivia question in future, as this was Abe’s first match outside of Japan…

Abe looked to take control early, rolling down Kara for some headscissors on the mat before a snapmare and a kick to the back stung Kara. Ender returns the favour, but Abe wanted more as the pair traded kicks to the back as Abe tried to get the early win. Targeting the arm, Abe stretches Kara on the mat, then began to bop him with hammer fists to the head. A submission ends in the ropes, so Abe bops Ender again as the pair trade elbows… a high speed low dropkick and an enziguiri gave Ender an opening, and he pushes on from there with a hesitation dropkick into the corner for a near-fall. Abe returns with a Dragon screw, then a spinning kick into the corner before a dropkick knocked Kara down for a two-count.

Kara catches a PK as he looked to fight back, but an exchange of strikes ended with a straight punch to the top of the head. Another exchange ends with Abe catching a handspring enziguiri, turning it into an ankle lock that morphed into a leg-trapped German suplex after a rope break. A dropsault from Abe has Kara on the back foot once more, but Ender hits a springboard dropkick of his own as he built anew, leading to a double stomp for a near-fall. Kara’s trip up top sees him miss a frog splash, as Abe snapped back with a Big Unit punch and an Octopus stretch for the tap-out. A really good showing in defeat from Kara, as Abe won over the crowd with this outing. ***½

Ace Romero vs. Dennis Dullnig
Some say that Dennis is still nervously playing around on the ring apron, as we had a mini dance-off before the bell even rang.

When we finally get underway, after Acey’d put on Dullnig’s jersey, Dullnig charges at the big man to get going, cracking Ace with an elbow before Romero returned with a dropkick. Chops keep Dullnig in the corner, before Romero Biel’d him across the ring. Romero’s taken outside for a dive, but Ace shrugs it off and took things back inside. Dullnig beats him to the punch, kicking him through the ropes as he looked to strike while the iron was hot, stomping mudholes through Romero. Ace absorbs a tonne more of those, then some clotheslines into the corner before Dullnig looked to pick Acey’s nose. Ew.

Kicks to Romero’s head are shrugged off as the big man got slapped… then struck back as he POUNCE’d Dullnig into the corner. Dullnig escapes a package piledriver as he ends up taking Romero down with kicks in the corner, before a trip up top ended with a saluting splash for a two-count. From the kick-out, Dullnig was sent into the ref… then went for a chair from the drinks table. One sick chair shot later, which wiped out Ace and the seat of the pad, and Dullnig went on to feign being hit… he “comes to” and rolled onto Romero for a near-fall. Romero manages to snap back with a package piledriver though, and that’s enough to get the win as Dullnig’s match-long mind games (and the big chair shot) didn’t get the job done. ***

Elimination: HCW Dojo (Dover, Icarus, Maverick & Peter Tihanyi) vs. wXw Academy (James Runyan, Oskar, Robert Dreissker & The Rotation)
The final Inner Circle main event in “Tim’s House,” is an elimination match, breaking the tradition that usually sees these matches held in November!

Dreissker and Tihanyi start us off amid chants of “masks on, for the Avalanche,” as Dreissker threw the Hungarian aside. Oskar gets tagged in as he mouthed off to the head coach, with that bad blood from Bielefeld still brewing. Tihanyi’s mauled into the corner and chopped by Oskar, before a front chancery looked to squeeze out a stoppage.

Tihanyi gets free, and with Oskar distracted by Dreissker, hits a dropkick as Maverick tagged in as the Hungarian lads looked to take control. Oskar gets free and tagged Rotation in, with Rotation and Maverick trading leg sweeps and armdrags before a double dropkick stand-off was reached. Oskar’s mad that Rotation didn’t follow up instantly… Rotation does eventually go back in with headscissors, then with a dropkick for a near-fall. A springboard crossbody from Maverick got him back in briefly, before Rotation tagged in James Runyan… whose waistlock takedowns just highlighted that he wanted to take on Icarus.

Icarus gets the tag, as we get some mat wrestling between those two, as Runyan looked to grab an armbar… but Icarus avoids it, only to get taken down. Eventually the pace picks up as Dover came in to hit a uranage on Runyan onto Icarus’ knees, while Maverick’s back cracker nearly forced the elimination. Dreissker tags himself in as he roughs up Maverick, charging through him with a shoulder block for a two-count. Maverick’s elbows offered a response, as did an attempted Samoan drop, but Dreissker escaped and hit a crossbody out of the corner… then a spear to eliminate Maverick.

Dreissker brings Tihanyi into the ring the hard way to continue the momentum, following up with a whip into the corner too. A fallaway slam is next for a two-count, before Dreissker misses a splash and tagged Rotation back in. Tihanyi tries to land an Asai DDT, but got chopped instead before a big satellite DDT took Tihanyi to the outside. The crowd scatters as Dover stops a Rotation dive… Dreissker clears him away as Rotation hits a somersault into the Hungarians. Back inside, Icarus drills Rotation with a forearm, then tapped him out to the Heart of Europe crossface – with Rotation having been contorted into a nasty position in the hold.

Runyan’s in to pick up the pieces, grounding Icarus with a front chancery, then a Samoan drop for a two-count. Oskar comes in to help, but he’s knocked by Runyan into Dreissker, and with those two arguing, Dover hits a back body drop to Runyan, then a standing fallaway slam before Runyan tried to stop Dover with a heel hook. The Arrows combine in the corner to Runyan, before an Air Raid Crash from Dover eliminated Runyan. Oskar and Dreissker argue over who should go in… Dreissker does the honours, trading shots with Dover ahead of a clothesline. Dreissker distracts himself with Oskar, who tagged himself in as a Dreissker splash could have led to an elimination. A forcible tag from Dreissker keeps tempers flaring, as Oskar shoved Dreissker into a knee and an Asai DDT from Tihanyi, who scored the big elimination!

It’s Oskar on his own now, and it looks bad when a knee strike from Tihanyi looked to soften him up… but a big boot and a Michinoku driver gets a pin for Oskar. But he still has the Arrows of Hungry to deal with. He tries a Michinoku driver on Dover, but to no avail… unlike a double clothesline which cleared the way. Corner-to-corner clotheslines followed, but a springboard enziguiri from Icarus turns things back around, as the Arrows quickly get the win with the Crossfire as they ended up being the last two standing. It’s a win for the HCW Dojo – as the wXw academy self-imploded on themselves on the last Inner Circle in Essen. ***¼

Inner Circle was a good show to get the Carat weekend going – throwing in some tidbits that would develop later in the weekend, while also providing an easy series of matches for the live crowd (and those on-demand) to watch.