Take a hundred fans who’ve arrived early for World Tag Team League, cram them into the wXw Wrestling Academy in Essen, and what do you have? Quite a fun show with a lot of good wrestling!

Originally billed to have a double Iron Man match between David Starr and Dave Crist, Inner Circle ended up going less than 90 minutes total on-demand, as that planned 120-minute match went out the window once the Crists were unable to take this weekend’s bookings. There were further changes on the day of the show, as bad weather and train issues meant that Bad Bones and Ivan Kiev’s tag match against Kim Ray and Jurn Simmons had to be dropped, since the RISE pair couldn’t make it to Essen.

English commentary comes to us from the tandem of Alan Counihan and Jeremy Graves. One of those two is a lot taller in person than you’d ever guess…

Julian Pace vs. Alexander James
Pace is the wXw’s current Academy Cup champion, having beaten Timo Theiss for it in June in a best-of-three-falls affair. For a trainee, Pace has got a character down already, and the gear to match. Think “Dirtbike Kid”, but much more colourful!

Alexander James obliterates Pace in the corner before the bell, but the wXw trainer took too long to measure up Pace for a chop… and ended up losing that race as Julian escaped. A monkey flip from Pace takes James into the corner as Alan ruminates about possible gear developments for Julian – could a few big wins earn him a motocross helmet? I hope so!

James keeps Pace grounded, working away on his left arm with a variety of armbar attempts as commentary surmises that James was using this as a way to build his case for 16 Carat next year. Pace fights back with right hands, but again James keeps up on that arm, looking for an overhead wristlock/armbar combo – better known as Nigel McGuinness’ London Dungeon or Zack Gibson’s Shankly Gates.

A nice move saw Pace slingshot himself over James and come back with a neckbreaker. He throws in with a Yakuza into the corner, then a corner enziguiri as he had to duck an overhead heater to get in a missile dropkick! James retailiates and catches Pace on the top rope, before crashing him down to the mat with a Tower of London for a near-fall.

Pace surprises James with a reverse ‘rana for a near-fall, but the end was pretty quick after that, when Pace looked to build up a head of steam off the ropes, only for James to surprise him with an O’Connor roll, taking him into that armbar for the submission. A pretty good opener, and knowing later some of James’ philosophies in training, a lot of this made sense too. A good showing from Pace, who is very impressive for his limited time in the ring. ***

Kim Ray vs. RAFA
RAFA comes to us from Portugal – with commentary telling us he’s moved to Germany along with Killer Kelly (who stole the show at Femmes Fatales) – and is a late fill-in given the train issues that affected some of the talent earlier. Kim starts with a headlock takedown as RAFA’s forced to pick his spots, utilising some roll-ups as he avoided some of Ray’s kicks.

This looked like being a battle of the kickers though as RAFA peppered Ray with a spinning heel kick, before aborting a leap off the top rope… and running into an Exploder as Kim Ray was forced to change tack. Kim goes back to those kicks though, following up with a running knee as commentary talked about whether RAFA’s lack of knee pads was a smart move or not. The prevailing opinion… was not! Another kick exchange led to a leg sweep and a PK-ish kick from Ray, who edged further ahead with a snapping suplex.

RAFA escapes a suplex and instead trips Kim into a double stomp, giving Alan plenty of room to throw in some other famous Rafas. A double stomp to the back of Kim gets a two-count, but Ray rebounded with a pump kick, then the spinning roundhouse for the win. Pretty fun stuff, although it did seem to be very kick heavy… but in a five minute dose, this was really enjoyable. **¾

AMBITION Rules: Timothy Thatcher vs. WALTER
This is going to be a good one – an exceedingly-rare case where wXw broke out the shoot-fighting format outside of the AMBITION tournament. Speaking of rare, Thatcher played comedian, telling Tassilo Jung he didn’t understand German as he was running through the rules. So Tass switched to English… which WALTER couldn’t understand.


The key rules, for the uninitiated – no fish-hooking, no choking, no joint manipulation, low blows, or grabbing trunks. Tass took this all in his stride, like this was an everyday thing.

Lots of grappling early on saw WALTER try for an armbar before just sinking into a side headlock, which ended up with WALTER shoving Thatcher away as the pair went back and forth. Another headlock keeps Thatcher down, but we get a rope break the second WALTER went towards a wristlock, before Thatcher grabbed an ankle to block an attempted leglock from the Austrian.

WALTER switches tactics and starts throwing strikes, dropping Thatcher with an uppercut… and Timmy was more than eager to reply in kind. A gutwrench suplex from WALTER put his tag partner down for a standing eight count, before WALTER started to unload on Thatcher en route to a Gojira clutch that got an instant rope break.

From the restart, Thatcher shot for the leg and grabbed a heel hook, but WALTER was able to work free with another hold before throwing some more bombs. Back to their feet, a slap angers Timmy, who hoists up WALTER in a Saito suplex, before he started to target the arm… only for WALTER to escape and dump him with a powerbomb instead. Thatcher gets back up though, and traps WALTER with a Fujiwara armbar… forcing an instant submission as Timmy gets the W! Entertaining stuff if you like the AMBITION rule set – and the two embraced afterwards as they tended to each others’ injuries. ***½

Jay FK (Francis Kaspin & Jay Skillet) vs. EYFBO (Mike Draztik & Angel Ortiz)
It’s a fairly even start as EYFBO looked to be on the back foot against a team who were apparently overlooked for the World Tag Team League tournament. Considering this was only their 7th match as a team, it probably was going to have been “too much, too soon” were Jay FK in it.

EYFBO hit back quick with a legdrop/quebrada combo to Skillet, only for the newer team to rebound as Kaspin threw in a flying forearm for a near-fall. Kaspin crashed and burned as Ortiz tripped him up in the corner, forcing the “Pop Culture Wrestler” to plant his head as he looked to roll out of the corner.

Still dazed, Kaspin ate a Demolition Decapitation legdrop, before he tried to shrug it off… and run into a cross-chop from Ortiz. EYFBO pass the parcel with Kaspin in a stalling suplex, finishing with a stuff suplex as Kaspin looked to be really struggling at this point, with even his brief comebacks quickly getting stuffed.

Finally Kaspin gets free and dives in to tag Skillet, who cleared house with dropkicks and clotheslines into the corners, before an “accidental DDT” on EYFBO led to a near-fall. Kaspin’s back remarkably quickly for a double-stomp neckbreaker, but he’s still sore from the earlier beating. This time he participated in the head dropping as a spike Michinoku Driver nearly finished Draztik…

But Draztik kicked out and found a way to Victory Roll out of a Doomsday Device, as EYFBO dumped Kaspin with a pump-kick Tower of London, then ended Skillet with a powerbomb/Blockbuster for the win. This was pretty good stuff – I wasn’t crazy with the whole “Kaspin sells for ages, tags out, then returns somewhat fresher a minute later”, but at least that poor call led to the finish. Jay FK will be heading places, mark my words! ***½

Jaxon Stone vs. Jurn Simmons
Another late addition to the show, Stone marked his return to Germany with… a match against the former champ Jurn Simmons. Call me crazy, but I don’t rate his chances here, especially when the crowd don’t even let him speak to announce his jacket shtick.

Poor Jaxon.

There’s a lot of posing in this as Stone decides to screw off the wrestling and instead challenge Jurn to some arm wrestling Jurn accepts, and now Tassilo Jung’s gone from refereeing wrestling, to AMBITION, and now arm wrestling! Of course, Jurn easily beats Stone, and resumes the wrestling with a series of shoulder barges.

Stone steals a two-count after shoving Simmons into the ropes, following up with a clothesline to the back as the American started to string some offence together… ending wildly when his springboard out of the corner was met with a dropkick to the gut. Some mounted punches in the corner left Stone punch drunk, but he was able to shake it off and get in a ripcord knee strike for a near-fall.

A series of clotheslines in the corner led to Simmons being on wobbly legs, but he fakes it, rolling through into a comeback, giving Stone a big back body drop! Stone can only delay the Oklahoma Stampede, but he kicked out just in time, and somehow found enough to get in a death valley driver for a near-fall.

That looked to be all Jaxon had, but he manages to land an implant DDT as Jurn was seeing perhaps more of a fight that he expected. Despite taking some slaps, Jurn roared up and quickly put away Stone with a Massive Kick before the piledriver finished him off. Fun stuff, with Stone getting a lot more than I expected. Jaxon’s really settling into his groove in wXw, and hopefully that’ll lead to some measure of success during this tour. ***½

David Starr vs. Homicide
If you added this match time to Starr’s famous 104-minutes, you’d just about get the double iron man match that they originally planned.

They kept it technical early, with Homicide looking for headlocks, whilst Starr was just content to keep stuffing those attempts and go for the arms instead. After a quick break, Homicide charged Starr into the corner as a simple tie-up was held onto by both parties. Eventually, they ended up outside as Starr joined Homicide on the floor, where a simple eye poke was a response to a back rake.

Homicide hits a tope con hilo to the outside – a dive that almost ended badly – as the pair battled between the ring and the wall of the rather cramped Academy building. Back inside, an overhead belly-to-belly suplex dropped Starr, who found himself struggling as the veteran Homicide kept him at bay… albeit with cheapness like eye rakes.

An old-school backbreaker just prompted a Violence Party in return from Starr, but Homicide hits back quickly with the Three Amigos, Starr rolled outside, and it seemed to sucker Homicide into going for a dive as he’s caught with a Cherry Mint DDT onto the apron, then a Blackheart Buster for a near-fall.

Starr keeps going for the Product Placement, but Homicide escaped and tripped him into a STF – eventually prompting a rope break as Starr fought on. He teases a Gringo Killer/Kudo Driver, but Starr escaped and just kicks the back of Homicide’s knee as Starr rushes in with a diving knee that almost won things. Another attempt at Product Placement’s fought out of, and nearly led to the win via a cheeky roll up, but Starr kicked out at two.

Reversals-a-plenty led to a Homicide Ace crusher for a near-fall, then a lariat, but Starr keeps kicking out, and then managed to slip in a Product Placement after escaping the Kudo Driver… which proved to be enough for Starr to get the win! A fun main event that got the early arrivers more than ready for the three days of insanity that would follow down the road in Oberhausen! ***¼

After the show, Starr put over Homicide big time, then geed up the crowd for the the World Tag Team League… which I heard was quite special!

The fourth Inner Circle show was a suitably special kick-off to the weekend, with a steady stream of good wrestling, featuring names you wouldn’t usually expect. Julian Pace impressed massively at the start of the show, whilst Jay FK’s fledgling partnership continued to blossom. Don’t write this off as a “warm up” – make sure you watch this, if only to see WALTER/Thatcher!

wXw Inner Circle is available now on wXwnow.de with English and German commentary; the remainder of the World Tag Team League weekender will appear there in the coming days!