With two weeks to go to wXw’s 18th Anniversary show, we’ve got a warm-up from Cologne!

There’s a second Road to 18th Anniversary show taking place next weekend in Bielefeld, but that’s not dropping on wXw NOW – so this is all the build-up you’re getting for the anniversary show that’ll be packing out the Turbinenhalle just before Christmas. For the final time, we’re coming from Cologne’s Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld (with the blame for that reportedly being laid squarely at the feet of the decision makers in Cologne). It’s a shame, since the CBE was slated to be the regular home of Shotgun tapings at the start of the year, and now they’re no longer on the wXw docket. Alan Counihan is on commentary as we’re back to the Shotgun music and general feel of the show…

We open with a promo from David Starr though, charting his time through wXw, winning the Shotgun title, defending it both in the US and in Germany… and his failures too. Yes, he means WALTER, mostly. Starr also reckons that his wins over Jurn Simmons and PCO means he can make a request… for a title shot against Absolute Andy at the 18th Anniversary show. It’s been granted too!

After a replay of the finish of the tag title match in Hamburg, we see Jay FK sauntering around with their titles. They want to be in the wXw Hall of Fame… but they’re quickly stopped by the Arrows of Hungary, who are livid over what happened. Jay FK mock their Hungarian rant, then leave. A replay of Avalanche murdering Alan Payne in Hamburg follows… and then we go to ringside!

Alexander James vs. Avalanche
Avalanche is all over James early, forcing him to cower into the corner at the start. Jumping away’s not going to do anything Alexander!

James gets Beel’d across the ring by Avalanche, who followed up with a body splash and a back body drop (thanks!)… but the American comes back as he flips away from Avalanche and kicks out his leg – focusing on the injury he’d gotten in Hamburg. The work continues over Avalanche’s leg as James leaps on it in the ropes, but a simple clothesline from Avalanche sends James outside… where AJ grabs the leg and throws it into the apron for good measure. Back in the ring, James legdrops Avalanche’s leg, and goes for an Indian deathlock, before a low dropkick put the big man down as he’d gotten back to his feet. James drags Avalanche to the corner and uses the ring post for extra leverage, but there’s some fight left in Avalanche, as he absorbs forearms from James before scoring with a lariat!

More forearms from Avalanche takes James into the corner… where the American tries to ram him into the post again, but this time Avalanche pulls him into the post. Back in the ring, there’s a belly-to-belly but Avalanche can’t charge into the corner… he can land a Bossman slam though for a near-fall, as he made the most of having a bad wheel. James trips Avalanche again and kicks the leg, before he’s shoved to the outside… but this time he slingshots back in with a neckbreaker for a near-fall. A clothesline followed for a two-count, before Avalanche again powered out, taking James into the corner for a superplex… only for it to turn into a back body drop off the top rope!

Avalanche followed that up with a DRSKR bomb out of the corner, and that’s enough for the win! A solid game plan from James, but in the end his leg work was perhaps too methodical as Avalanche powered through for the win. **¾

We’re told that at the 18th Anniversary show, Jay-FK’ll be defending their tag titles in a gauntlet match, with Kaspin and Skillet involved alongside Emil Sitoci and Avalanche, Jurn Simmons and Alexander James, plus two teams calling themselves RISE: one’s Da Mack and Tarkan Aslan; the other being Ivan Kiev and Pete Bouncer.

Backstage, Jay-FK are annoyed at that news… but more at how they’re still not in the Hall of Fame. They’re interrupting Doug Williams’ induction aren’t they? They’re interrupted by “new RISE” of Tarkan Aslan, Da Mack and Marius al-Ani who brag about their title match. Next up, Avalanche and Emil Sitoci talk about their tag title shot, while Avalanche is much more enthused about how Monster Consulting’s numbers are up. Happy face!

Kellyanne vs. Kris Wolf
It’s a rematch from the pre-show in Hamburg, but Alan Payne’s still here and providing a nuisance for Kris Wolf, who’s shoved at the bell.

She bites Kellyanne’s backside before taking down the Aussie with kicks. Payne trips Wolf in the ropes, and Kris gets back up into the path of a clothesline, sending her to the outside for an apron PK from Kellyanne. Chops by the ring follow, before Wolf is choked back in the ring ahead of a simple poke to the eye. That gets Kellyanne just a one-count, before she picks up Wolf for a bear hug, but she lets go for some reason and stomps on Payne’s hand. Not sure why. Wolf snatches a roll-up after that faux pas, but Kellyanne’s back on top, throwing Wolf into the corner where there’s finally a comeback… except Kris is quickly wiped out with a shotgun dropkick before she’s slapped in the face.

Cue the anger. Wolf stands up and launches a comeback, scoring with a wheelbarrow bulldog for a near-fall, before Payne gets involved again, pulling Wolf down by the tail as she went to the top rope. Kellyanne catches Wolf up top and drops her across the turnbuckles before following into the corner for a cannonball for the win. This was alright, but that finish didn’t look good on tape – a spirited match, but I’d liked to have seen more, without the (nameless on commentary) Payne’s involvement. **½

We see the finish to the Veit Muller/Timothy Thatcher match from Hamburg, before replaying the announcement of the British Strong Style vs. RINGKAMPF match. From there, we’re with Veit backstage as Thatcher approaches him after their match. Timothy puts him over, and asks him to be in RINGKAMPF’s corner for the 18th Anniversary show. Veit’s getting excited, as am I!

The replay of Da Mack’s return to wXw is shown, and the formation of what I’m calling “new RISE”. Thommy Giesen’s backstage with Lucky Kid talking about his match today with Timothy Thatcher, but Lucky’s distracted because he thought he’d left Tarkan Aslan behind… but that’s clearly not the case. We transition to a promo with “new RISE”, as Tarkan Aslan mocks Kiev, Kid and Bouncer. He says that Chris Colen, Bad Bones or Pete Bouncer were never the leader of the pack – it was him all along. Aslan doing the talking for Mack and al-Ani is perhaps the best move here, especially since Mack was spending more time polishing the spikes on his mask.

Lucky Kid vs. Timothy Thatcher
This was the main event live, and was touted as the match that closed out wrestling in Cologne.

It’s a rematch from 16 Carat Gold, the match that propelled Lucky Kid to the next level… and he started this one by circling Thatcher, only to get tripped to the mat as Thatcher tried to force a submission from a single leg crab. That one ends in the ropes, but Thatcher’s right on with a wristlock as Lucky had to scramble to roll him up to get free.

Lucky tries to match Thatcher with some grappling, but he’s taken down with an arm lift as Thatcher went right back to the arm. Slaps follow as Thatcher brought the strikes, hammering in with European uppercuts before Lucky Kid hit back with a pair of low dropkicks to take Thatcher outside. The feinted dive follows as Lucky Kid switched up things and lands a plancha instead. Back inside, Lucky Kid leaps into an uppercut which earns Thatcher a delayed two count, before he took Lucky into the corner for some chops. A suplex followed, snapping Lucky Kid to the mat for a two-count, before a chinlock and some assorted mauling keeps Thatcher ahead. Lucky fights back to his feet, but he’s knocked back down with another European uppercut, as Thatcher took him outside and slammed him onto the apron.

Returning to the ring, Lucky tries to fight back again, but some knees from Thatcher and a bodyslam restores the order ahead of an elbow drop as Lucky Kid just couldn’t get out of the blocks. Lucky tries to slap back a la WALTER, but Thatcher traps an arm and waffles him with forearms in the gut before a knee to the back kept the one-sided match going. Lucky Kid clearly got annoyed at how things were going, and he tries to slap back, catching Thatcher with chops to the chest before another knee to the gut cut him off. An Octopus hold pulls Thatcher to the mat though, but Thatcher easily escapes and turned around into a single leg crab on Lucky. There’s a rope break, so Lucky’s taken into the corner as he tried to fight back some more, only to get caught in a Gojira clutch.

A rope break there leads to a RINGKAMPF German suplex… but Lucky’s back to his feet as he replies with a handspring back elbow! An Asai DDT followed for a near-fall, as Lucky continued to string some momentum together, kicking Thatcher in the chest before throwing some slaps. This won’t end well, as Thatcher grabs him by the chin and returns those palm strikes! From there, Lucky fights out of a Saito suplex and tries to roll up Thatcher for a near-fall, before an enziguiri finds its mark. Out of desperation, Lucky lands an enziguiri, then a German suplex before he lands La Mistica into a crossface! Thatcher holds on and gets a foot to the rope, but Lucky Kid keeps up the strikes before he goes up top, only to get caught with a forearm or two from Thatcher.

Thatcher followed that up with a butterfly superplex attempt, but Lucky slipped out and lands a Liger bomb instead for a two-count. Another crack at a single crab followed, but Lucky escaped and goes for a handspring back elbow… which this time is caught and turned into a Fujiwara armbar, which Thatcher then rolled through into a cradle for the win. This one’ll probably go under a lot of people’s radars, but this was a hell of a technical match. Not quite the blowaway performance we saw at Carat, but with the storyline distractions for Lucky, this was a valiant effort nonetheless. ***¾

Coast 2 Coast (Shaheem Ali & Leon St. Giovanni) vs. Timo Theiss & Norman Harras
This was Coast 2 Coast’s last match in Germany, and so they asked for two of the wXw academy’s top prospects. It’s a main roster debut for Norman Harras then, who started out by being taken into the ropes by LSG from the opening tie-up.

Timo Theiss quickly tags himself in, then flips off Harras as the crowd serenaded Timo with the word that his name sounds like. At least Timo lands a shoulder tackle as he charged through LSG, before kicking away a back body drop, only to run into a LSG dropkick. Harrras tags back in and gets a more positive reception as he ate a drop toe hold, before Shaheem Ali tagged into the match.

Harras catches a kick, but he’s sent into the ropes for a bodyslam from Ali, who lands a twisting splash for a near-fall as the Academy prospects were struggling here. LSG returns with a neckbreaker for a two-count, then quickly brings Ali back in as Harras tries to fight back, only to run into a double-team hiptoss facebuster for a near-fall as Theiss breaks up the count. Another blind tag from Theiss brings him into the match, as he puts the boots to Ali while arguing over how to say his own surname. Harras gets a tag back in to help double-team Ali, but the pair of the trainees can’t agree on how to get along it seems. Nevermind, the Cologne crowd is firmly behind Harras, who corners Ali before Theiss comes back in with some shots in the corner.

A sliding lariat lands a near-fall for Theiss, who dragged Ali back into the corner as Harras comes in with a simple bodyslam for a near-fall. Theiss returns as the trainees use a tonne of quick tags, with Theiss using an abdominal stretch… but Harras isn’t willing to help him cheat as he shuns the offer of a hand for extra leverage, and so Ali hiptosses free! LSG gets the kinda-hot tag in, charging down Theiss with running back elbows before being lifted onto the apron… but LSG just charges back in with a clothesline after leaping back in.

Theiss tries to fight back, but he’s met with a swinging facebuster as Harras breaks up a cover… only to get clocked with a headbutt from Ali. An X-Plex from Theiss dumps Ali, but LSG’s legal, and he lands a springboard forearm to take Theiss down as a Parade of Moves broke out. Harras gets off some sweet German suplexes, but Theiss blind tags himself back in to kill that momentum. Theiss orders Harras around, demanding he hold LSG in place… the newer of the two newcomers doesn’t and instead gets clocked by Theiss, before a swinging uranage from Ali and a 450 splash from LSG got the win. A really entertaining tag from Coast 2 Coast – and the trainee team looked pretty good, the finishing series aside. Norman Harras in particular looks like a good prospect in his first match on the main roster, while Theiss is developing as an arrogant bad guy. ***

Post-match, LSG and Ali thanked wXw for the tour, then put over Harras and Theiss. Harras kept getting a good reaction as the Cologne crowd chanted his name as Coast 2 Coast called them the future of wXw. Theiss got the last laugh in though, jumping Harras as he took the crowd’s applause. A basic angle, but it worked.

Backstage, Jay-FK are still moaning about the gauntlet match. They run down the Crown, then RISE, and the new-look Monster Consulting. They seemed to be overlooking everyone, which may be their downfall in Oberhausen…

Next up backstage, Norman Harras is with Julian Pace, who asks him about his debut match. Harras seemed to be pretty happy with it… until “Theiss happened”. I laugh at the alternative of that. Pace told him that Theiss was jealous, and that he had confidence in Harras’ future… and it seems that Julian Pace has a chance to get some revenge for him, as we’ve got Julian Pace vs. Timo Theiss at the 18th Anniversary show.

Ivan Kiev vs. Marius al-Ani
It’s a non-title match, and we start with Kiev being taken into the corner before he returned the favour.

The crowd’s pro Kiev early on, cheering as he rolled up al-Ani from the ropes for a near-fall, before getting a similar result from a springboard crossbody. Marius counters some satellite headscissors into a facebuster, but Kiev’s right back in… but only until he gets sucker punched in the corner by Marius. A Dragon screw takes Kiev into the corner as Marius mocks the RISE pose.

al-Ani gets a two-count from a simple whip into the corner, then keeps Kiev grounded with a front facelock. From there, Kiev keeps the beating on, throwing Kiev back into the corner before he countered a leap over with an ankle lock. Somehow, Kiev rolls through, taking Marius into the corner… only for Marius to kick his leg out of his leg as Ivan flipped back down to the mat with a bump. Yeah, I’m always gonna make that Owen Hart reference when I can.

Marius keeps up on Ivan’s leg, jumping on it in the ropes before grabbing a leglock on the mat. This is almost like the Avalanche/James match, but Kiev pushes al-Ani to the outside before scoring with a springboard dropkick as al-Ani was sent back to the floor… where he’s met with a plancha. Back inside, Kiev lands a leg lariat off the top for a near-fall, but all that flying’s tweaked Ivan’s leg it seemed.

Kiev looks for a death valley bomb, but Marius slips out and stomps on the knee some more. An attempt to pull Ivan up by the hair earns Marius a Pele kick and a small package as Kiev tried to snatch the victory, following up with a Codebreaker, only for Kiev to hit a spinning heel kick and an Exploder for a near-fall. From there, Tarkan Aslan hands Marius his Shotgun title belt, and it’s used as Marius clocks Pete Bouncer with the belt, then Ivan Kiev for the cheap DQ. A storyline finish to a match that never really got into a higher gear as they continue to establish “new RISE”. ***

Post-match, Tarkan Aslan has three words: “wir sind RISE”, then continues to call himself the originator of RISE. He blamed Kiev, Bouncer and Lucky Kid for “ruining RISE”, before taunting Bouncer with what happened last time they were in Cologne. That led to a challenge for a match… which luckily enough was already made.

Pete Bouncer vs. Tarkan Aslan
The bell rings on the Gabe Sapolsky special, which started with Marius slyly trying to throw his title belt to Tarkan…but Bouncer kicks it away as a slam and a leaping elbow drop left Aslan in the ropes.

Tarkan swings it around, taking Bouncer into the ropes ahead of a clothesline, as the RISE pose seemed to fire up Bouncer some. There’s a low dropkick from Tarkan as he goes for a cocky, early-days Chris Jericho cover that gets just a one count, as Bouncer seemed to be feeling the effects of the belt shot he took in the last match.

Aslan stomps on Bouncer in the corner, before a running knee dropped him for a near-fall. Eventually, after Aslan fiddled with a turnbuckle pad, Bouncer begins to fight back with some back elbows, before a sidewalk slam left Aslan rolling to the outside. Naturally, Marius goes over to support him, but he’s also slipped Tarkan some brass knuckles… and when Marius distracts the referee, he goes to use them only for Kiev to come out and try and disarm him.

Bouncer manages to get off a full nelson slam, but he’s distracted by a video of Da Mack before he turned around into a brass knuckle shot as Aslan got the win. Again, a storyline-heavy match – and one that was largely one-sided for it. **½

We go backstage as Lucky Kid tried to calm things down. We find here that Lucky gets another Shotgun title match at the 18th anniversary show, while Bouncer freaks out over just what RISE is these days. After the 18th anniversary show, RISE may well be holding all the gold.

Backstage again, Sebastian Hollmichel congratulates Absolute Andy for regaining his title. It’s the usual bombastic Andy promo, which has Sebastian rolling his eyes, especially as Andy’s rattling through some nicknames… which is the cue for Andy’s opponent at the 18th Anniversary show to turn up: David Starr. Andy threatens to hit Starr with his shoe, but he just throws it away as David promises to win the title at the anniversary show.

Starr says he’ll be the first American since Daniel Bryan to win the title… which makes Andy threaten to repeat the Bryan story with Starr. Meanwhile, Starr promises to win the belt and take it worldwide, much like he did with the Shotgun title. It’s a hell of a promo – and one that will make you sit up and take notice.

Alan runs through the card for the 18th anniversary show…

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: David Starr vs. Absolute Andy (c)
wXw Women’s Championship: Kellyanne vs. Toni Storm (c)
wXw Shotgun Championship: Lucky Kid vs. Marius al-Ani (c)
Gauntlet for wXw World Tag Team Championship: Jay-FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin) (c) vs. The Crown (Alexander James & Jurn Simmons) vs. Avalanche & Emil Sitoci vs. RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev) vs. RISE (Da Mack & Tarkan Aslan)
Bobby Gunns vs. Shigehiro Irie
Killer Kelly vs. Alpha Female vs. Yuu
RINGKAMPF (Axel Dieter Jr., WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Warm-Up: Timo Theiss vs. Julian Pace

Jay-FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin) & Absolute Andy vs. Arrows of Hungary (Icarus & Dover) & Ilja Dragunov
We wrap up the in-ring action with a trios main event, and we start with Andy and Jay-FK getting off a jump start.

They corner Ilja early, with Andy chopping the man he’d beaten the prior day to unify the titles, as he had the numerical advantage over Dragunov. A superkick assisted death valley driver from Jay-FK has Ilja down… but the Arrows of Hungary hit the ring and lay out Andy with forearms before they go after Jay-FK with more of the same.

Andy goes all Togi Makabe as he charges through a double clothesline and takes down the Arrows with a clothesline of his own, before he went to town with suplexes. Ilja’s back, flipping over the top rope before taking out Jay-FK with a clothesline… and now the bell rings!

Ilja charges Skillet into the corner as Icarus comes in to tie up Skillet for chops. Dover comes in to keep up the momentum, which he does so as he charges Skillet into the corner for a gamengiri before he dumped him into the corner with an Exploder ahead of an Icarus cannonball for a near-fall. There’s a switcharound as Kaspin catches Dover in the ropes, allowing Andy to phantom tag himself in and out amid a beatdown for a near-fall on Dover. Kaspin uses forearms to keep up the momentum, following up with a suplex for a near-fall, before they rile up Ilja so he can distract the referee and stop the referee from catching some of their underhandedness.

Eventually Dover gets free as he catches a crossbody and dumps Kaspin with a standing fallaway slam. In comes Icarus, who trips Kaspin and kicks him in the back of the head, before a suplex took Skillet into the corner. There’s another forearm for Kaspin as Icarus looks to go up top… but Andy catches him with a belly-to-belly superplex to cut it off as Kaspin tries to pick the bones.

The crowd begin to get behind Icarus again, right as Andy drops elbows to the lower back, as more referee distractions allowed Jay Skillet to come in and keep up the offence as Icarus was again cornered. A vertical suplex from Andy is next as Icarus is left in a sleeperhold on the mat. Icarus slips out and grabs a schoolboy, but his partners are too busy protesting to the referee – and that earns Ilja Dragunov a €50 fine for being overly aggressive. As Alan tells us his desire to punch Jay Skillet in the face, Jay-FK end up taking an accidental DDT as Icarus set them up for a fall… and finally brings in Ilja with a hot tag! Dragunov clears house, cornering Jay-FK for corner-to-corner clotheslines, before a superkick from Skillet earned him a rebound lariat!

Andy’s involved again as he kicks Ilja in the ropes, but he’s just hiptossed into the ring as chops from Dragunov take the champion into the corner… only for Andy to reply with a big boot. A Saito suplex from Ilja gets a near-fall though, as he followed up with a death valley driver into the turnbuckles, before he set up for a Torpedo Moscau… Jay Skillet tries to stop it, but he just gets chopped on the top rope as Andy charges back in with a clothesline before a stomp-assisted F5 leaves Dragunov down for a near-fall as Dover broke it up. Jay-FK return to dispatch of Dover with a superkick, while Icarus ends up running into a boot to the back of the head as the tag team champions just ran through the Hungarians.

Dragunov’s back as he batters Andy ahead of a DDT, but a double-A Spinebuster and a Sharpshooter puts Ilja on the back foot… and right by the ropes, despite Kaspin’s attempt to stop him grabbing them. Andy just drags Ilja away from a rope break, before Icarus threatened to break it up off the top rope. Andy stops Icarus, but it’s turned around again as Andy misses a top rope ‘rana, only for Jay-FK to hit the ring and attempt a pair of superplexes. Ilja cuts them off with clotheslines as the Arrows go diving, with Dover cannonballing into Jay-FK, before Icarus lands an Orihara moonsault into the pile.

That left Andy and Ilja in the ring, but as Ilja prepped for a dive, Andy went for another F5, only for Ilja to get free and land a Torpedo Moscau for the win! A fun trios match to close out the show, but it was a little odd seeing this combination given that the Arrows nor Ilja are set for title matches at the Anniversary show. ***½

We’ve a video package on Toni Storm, showing photos of her “growing up” in wXw and making it all the way to WWE and NXT UK. The package is interrupted by Kellyanne, who brings up her own history with Toni Storm, before promising to take away Toni’s title. It’s a good package to make you care about a match that otherwise could easily have been “just a match”.

We end with David Starr backstage with Ilja Dragunov. Ilja’s happy that someone else is having a shot at Andy, if only so someone else can get a taste of Andy’s shenanigans. Starr says he’ll give Ilja a title shot when he beats Andy before they both walk away on what sounded like bubble wrap as the show comes to an end.

Much like the first “Road to” show, this warm-up for the wXw 18th Anniversary show felt very much like an extended episode of Shotgun. As the third of three shows the company did in late November, this was perhaps the “softer” of them as far as the in-ring went, but it more than made up for it with the storyline build. I’m very curious as to what’s planned for Ilja Dragunov, since he’s not even on the card for the anniversary show – and the end-of-show segment with David Starr could trick you into thinking that something’ll be happening at the end of the show?

Offering a good sample of pretty much everything wXw has to offer, the Road to 18th Anniversary is a solid show, giving us a glimpse to the immediate and perhaps rather distant futures in the same show.