As a curtain raiser for this year’s 16 Carat Gold, wXw held an “Inner Circle” event – a card full of good wrestling and a fantastic main event!

Held at their training academy in Essen, the five-match show featured some of the stars of the weekend’s tournament, in a rather more intimate setting – which was the entire selling point of the show. With wXw’s training academy being around ten miles away from Oberhausen, where the 16 Carat Gold weekender was being held, quite a lot of the crowd were doing all of the shows – with a few familiar faces from the UK scene dotted in the crowd here!

Absolute Andy vs. Paul London
A bit of a mis-match here in terms of size, and of course it was Andy who started by using his size difference to take London into the corner, before grabbing an armbar as London had to use his speed to get anywhere.

A side headlock was easily pushed off of by Andy, so London took Andy down to a knee for his next shot, which had similar results. London tried a shoulder tackle, which moved him but not Andy, before a dropkick finally came up trumps. A back body drop took Andy to the outside, as London hit a dropkick through the ropes to send him towards the back of the dojo, but they quickly returned to the ring where London was planted with an F5.

Andy headed out after London with some chops, then took him back inside for a backbreaker and more strikes to wear down his smaller foe. An avalanche rocks London, who then manages to wriggle out of an F5 and take down Andy with a spinning heel kick out of nowhere. They exchange chops in the corner, before a big spinebuster left London laying, only for London to beat Andy to the punch with a superkick for a near-fall.

London tried for a monkey flip, but was caught as Andy put him up top for a ’rana… which he crashed and burned with as London followed with a shooting star press for a near-fall. Andy rolled away from a second shooting star press, then caught London with a superkick finally for another two-count. Andy went for another F5, but this time Paul was smart to it, countering it into a roll-up for the win! A perfectly fine, and fun, David vs. Goliath battle, with a good finish to it. ***

WALTER vs. ACH
…and you thought the first match of the night was David vs. Goliath, eh? WALTER’s out with Timothy Thatcher, and yep, he does his speech again. This time, the crowd are playing along though!

ACH again tries for a headlock, like Paul London in the earlier match, but he too gets felled by a shoulder tackle, before replying to a cartwheeling WALTER (!!) with a dropkick. WALTER took over from there, wearing down ACH with a grounded wristlock, then knocked him down with a big boot send the anime-loving ACH into the corner.

ACH thought he’d countered a butterfly suplex, but only spun around into a clothesline as he finally connected with an up-kick from the mat. That seemed to spark a chop battle that was more effective for WALTER than ACH, at least until ACH tricked the referee so he could chop WALTER low. Enraged, WALTER hit back with a German, then a butterfly suplex for a two-count, before he was low bridged to the outside… and kept getting knocked off the apron as he tried to re-join the fray.

A running PK off the apron kept ACH on top, as did a slingshot cutter back into the ring, but things went awry when ACH tried to powerbomb WALTER, as he couldn’t get the big guy up (of course). He did succeed with a Dragon suplex, but again went for a Fireman’s carry that saw him crumble under WALTER’s weight, as a sleeperhold forced a flash submission. WALTER is always fun to watch, and whilst this wasn’t an obliteration, it went pretty much how you’d expect. ***

Jeff Cobb vs. Marius al-Ani
Marius al-Ani has the tools to be something of a break-out star, but he’s not quite at the point where being a part of A4 is more of a hindrance than a help to his career. He started by being taken to the mat by Cobb, who was more than happy to throw the tag team champion around.

Cobb clings onto a headlock on al-Ani, but “Mr No Bullshit” managed to hit back with a dropkick as he went to work by grounding Cobb in an abdominal stretch – which was quite the task given Cobb’s girth. Cobb broke free and took al-Ani into the corners, then lifted him up for a suplex, only for al-Ani to roll back down into a small package for a near-fall.

Cobb levelled him with a clothesline, then launched Marius across the ring with a pumphandle fallway slam with such ease. A side suplex, then a standing moonsault and a standing shooting star press forced a near-fall – and shocked the hell out of the German commentators – before al-Ani finally came back with a T-bone suplex and a bunch of dropkicks.

A tornado DDT keeps Cobb down, but he elbowed out of a fireman’s carry and threw down Marius with the Tour of the Islands! That was only good for a near-fall, so they traded shots for a spell before al-Ani surprised Cobb with a death valley driver. Jeff cut off al-Ani as he went for a frog splash, but Cobb was shoved down as he went for a superplex, as Marius hit his frog splash for the win. Really good stuff from these guys – and I’d not be averse to seeing a rematch on a much bigger stage with more time devoted to it! ***½

Francis Kaspin vs. Timothy Thatcher
On paper, this was a mis-match, given their relative experience and styles. Thatcher immediately starts by taking down Kaspin with an ankle lock, before shoving the youngster to the mat after Kaspin had taken him to the corner.

Thatcher moved to ground Kaspin with a side headlock, working around the youngster, then forcing him into the ropes with an armbar. Out of nowhere, Kaspin escaped a test of strength then spun Thatcher to the mat in a hammerlock as he went for a grounded armbar of his own, only for Thatcher to power free and land some European uppercuts for good measure. Kaspin tried his luck with a Muta lock, but Thatcher was too close to the ropes. That didn’t deter Kaspin though, as he kept up the pressure, only to get taken down with a knee to the ribs as Thatcher pulled off a deadlift gutwrench suplex for a near-fall. An O’Connor roll almost got Kaspin the win as he enjoyed some offence, before a single uppercut from Timmy took him to the mat.

A Fisherman’s suplex gave Kaspin a near-fall, before he fought off of Thatcher on the top rope and scored the Black Star Rising (crossbody) for a near-fall. Thatcher responded by sinking Kaspin to the mat with a sleeperhold, before hauling him up and sending him back down with a floatover butterfly suplex for the win. If you’re not a fan of Thatcher, you’ll have hated this, but he gave Kaspin a lot – to the point where I was half expecting an upset. ***¼

David Starr vs. Matt Riddle
Neither Starr’s Shotgun title, nor Riddle’s Atlas title were on the line here – and surprisingly, Riddle didn’t bring his PROGRESS belt out to play!

They start with some mat work, with Starr tried for a waistlock as they go back and forth before Riddle was rolled up with a chicken-wing pin that was too close to the ropes. After getting back to his feet, Riddle went for a knee bar, but Starr was smart to it and he dived into the ropes for a break as both men tested each other.

After rolling all the way through a cradle, Riddle tried for an armbar, but both guys rolled into the ropes before eventually breaking. Starr catches Riddle with a tiltawhirl gutwrench slam, but is only able to get a couple of two-counts as the pair looked to exchange strikes, until Riddle landed his upkick that is! A leaping forearm in the corner, then an Exploder catches Starr out cold, before the back senton gets Riddle a two-count.

Some kicks to the back of Starr lead to a Thatcher-esque deadlift gutwrench suplex – with Riddle chaining them together for extra fun – as the “King of Bros” was starting to edge ahead of the Shotgun champion. Starr tried his luck with punches to the midsection, before running into a knee and a Bro to Sleep, as a German suplex capped off that sequence to earn Riddle a near-fall.

Starr ducks some kicks from Riddle before landing with a straight right hand to start his comeback, firing away with chops and forearms in the corner, before shrugging off a diving knee from Riddle and landing a clothesline instead. A Fisherman’s buster almost won it for Riddle, but Starr reversed the small package and nearly snatched a three-count for himself.

Starr keeps up the pressure with a chop block to Riddle’s knee, but a sharpshooter’s turned into a small package for a near-fall as they continued to trade the advantage… until Starr’s Edgucator was rolled into a STF, then back into a pinning predicament as the Shotgun champ picked up a near-fall. RIddle turns a headscissors attempt into the tombstone slam, but Starr rolled through and took Matt to the outside for a tope!

Riddle was rolled back in, but he recovered to hit a springboard dropkick, before a Jackhammer-esque slam to bring Starr back in from the apron for another near-fall. More kicks to a downed Starr followed, but he replied with a slap and some trash talking that earned him a kick to the head… knocking the man of a million nicknames out of the ring.

Riddle tried to hit a tope, but he was caught with a DDT through the ropes onto the apron, as Starr rushed back in for a Destroyer, then a rolling elbow and the Product Placement (strait-jacket German suplex) for another near-fall. From the kick-out, Starr hit a second Product Placement, and that was enough for the win! Truly masterful stuff here – and a match I’m glad made tape, because this deserved to be seen by more than just the lucky few inside the wXw dojo! ****¼

It’s easy to dismiss this five-match show as a “nothing happening” event, but whilst this show will hardly register in wXw’s timeline, it was at least a show full of good wrestling, and with a main event worth seeing. Yes, I know Starr and Riddle have recently wrestled over their wXw and PROGRESS titles, but a good match is a good match, no matter how often they have it!

If you’re a member of wXw’s subscription service, this is a 70 minute card that is worth going out of your way to see, especially for the main event.