With a new year comes a return to where it all began – and wXw’s firmly on the path to go Back to the Roots!

In terms of timelines, this is a weird one. This was originally slated as a Road to 18th Anniversary show, but was rebadged and aired after the 18th Anniversary show took place. Hence some repeat matches. We start with a replay from the 18th Anniversary show, of Lucky Kid “winning” the wXw Unified World Wrestling championship only for Nick Hein to “right a wrong”. They kept the crowd cheering when Andy beat up Hein after the match as they segued into the Ilja Dragunov challenge for a cage match at Back to the Roots.

Cue the old Shotgun music and titles, and we’re in Bielefeld as Alan Counihan’s on the English call. But first, we’re backstage as Absolute Andy’s grinning like an idiot as he’s celebrating his title defence, having proven everyone wrong again. Like hell he’s 27 though! Andy recalls getting a phone call on Christmas Day from some Greek Gods… and I think he’s starting to lose it. It’s the stress.

Thommy Giesen asks Andy about Nick Hein… Andy says he has no right being in a wrestling ring, and that Hein should stay in the UFC. Talk turns to the cage match Andy’s got with Ilja, and the stress returns as Andy claims he doesn’t deserve it. Yes, we’re getting Ilja vs. Andy in a cage match at Back to the Roots, with Nick Hein as the referee.

Speaking of, we’ve got an interview with Nick Hein… he acknowledged the negative reaction he got at 18th Anniversary, but said that if he wanted to be liked, he’d have sold ice cream. Sebastian Hollmichel asks him about his role as referee in the upcoming cage match, and whether he can be impartial after Andy attacked him. Nick sings a song saying that his word will be law.

Backstage, Avalanche speaks to a morose Emil Sitoci. He’s unhappy because Monster Consulting didn’t win the tag titles. It seems that’s the last straw as Sitoci’s fed up of losing – whether it’s friends, matches, or colleagues to “contracts”. Emil tells Avalanche he’ll be on his own against Jurn Simmons later, as he’s done with Monster Consulting.

Avalanche vs. Jurn Simmons
So that’s how they got around the rebadging issue – they just didn’t have any branding for this show live! Simmons cuts a promo and claims he’s still sick, so he’s got a different opponent for him: Alan Payne. Whom he knights with the microphone. The crowd chant “please don’t die” at a coughing Jurn, as Avalanche loses his temper at the Crown… which drew out Alexander James, so we get a handicap match instead:

Avalanche vs. Alan Payne & Alexander James
Payne and James put the boots to Avalanche early, prompting the Austrian to fight back, only for James to gouge away at him.

Some choking followed in the ropes before a fight back from Avalanche ended when Payne grabbed his foot from the floor. Extra points for Alan throwing me back to early 90s WWF with “main squeeze” as Payne tags in… and tags straight back out, but not before he and James hti a wishbone leg splitter. Avalanche is struggling against the numbers game, with Payne distracting the ref so James can bite and club away at him from the floor, before a suplex gets the Aussie a near-fall. The constant tags and shortcuts became a feature of the handicap match… as did the big back body drop (thanks!) as Avalanche found a way back in.

Payne’s back to eat some clotheslines, before he kicked away a second back body drop… only to eat a belly-to-belly instead. James tries to interfere, but he just ripcords into a Samoan drop before Payne’s Beel’d into him. From there, Payne’s put in place for a Dreissker Bomb, and that’s all folks! This was almost Keystone Cops in terms of how bumbling Payne and James were at the end… find a better partner guys! **¾

Post-match, Jurn Simmons – in his gear – runs in and drops Avalanche with a Massive Boot. The Crown put the boots to Avalanche before a double-team chokeslam gives Alan a chance to sneak in a Kronik reference for good measure. Jurn takes the mic and reveals his miraculous recovery, and now he wants his scheduled match with Avalanche!

Avalanche vs. Jurn Simmons
The bell sounds as Jurn goes for a piledriver… but Avalanche scores a back body drop before charging into him in the corner. A Samoan drop’s next, before Avalanche went to go after Alexander James on the outside. Jurn kicks the ropes into the Austrian, before pulling him in for a piledriver. “A joke of a match,” says commentary, as Jurn the vulture picked up the easy win.

Backstage, Melanie Gray walks up and at the bleach blonde Julian Pace so loud you could hear her even on mute. She’s mad that she wasn’t booked… and she quickly finds Toni Storm, whom she beats down on so hard she nearly breaks Toni’s phone. Melanie’s got to be dragged away as Toni was helped to her feet.

Next, we’ve an interview with Yuu. She’s so happy about beating Killer Kelly and Alpha Female she gives Thommy Giesen a high five… as Kelly walks in to say that Yuu had a little bit of luck. Those two have a match later tonight, and Yuu vows to beat her too.

The Crown’s sitting backstage, basking in how they took care of Avalanche. Well, Jurn’s taking credit for it, as he notes Alexander James kept losing. This has echoes of the Massive Product split from a year ago, as James said he’d go back to America and “cool down” as the Crown… was over before they got going. It’s curious that the segments that built towards the implosion of Massive Product were also shot in Bielefeld…

Yuu vs. Killer Kelly
Killer Kelly can’t even buy a win lately, but she started out all sportsman-like with a handshake with Yuu, who took the Portuguese star down to the mat early on.

Kelly gets back to her feet and looks for a waistlock, but Yuu takes her down with a waistlock takedown of her own as the pair looked to find a body part and hold onto it. A cravat from Kelly grounds Yuu… and she’s able to cling on dispute Yuu’s attempt to throw and slam her way free. In the end, Yuu slips out and dragged Kelly into an armbar, which ends in the ropes, as a sidewalk slam and a back senton followed for just a one-count. Kelly reapplies the cravat, throwing in some knees and a pump kick to knock down the current holder of TJP’s Princess Cup. The promotion, not the 205 Live guy. Yuu hits back with chops and a monkey flip, segueing that into a cross armbreaker that Kelly countered into a roll-up for a near-fall, before another Judo-style throw took Kelly down.

Yuu misses a back senton that was aiming for the arm as Kelly kicks back, then took Yuu into the corner with a suplex. She misses a charge, but catches Yuu for some Al Snow-style headbutts and a butterfly overhead suplex back into the corner. A Shibata-ish dropkick is next, before Yuu fought out of a Fisherman’s suplex, taking Kelly back down with a Judo throw ahead of a katahajime, then a cross armbreaker for the quick tap. An enjoyable match, with actually had a little bit of time given to it – wXw’s clearly putting some focus behind Yuu, and if she’s around long-ish term, I wouldn’t be shocked to see her getting a title shot. ***

Toni Storm’s backstage with Thommy Giesen, addressing the attack from Melanie Gray earlier… which led to a challenge for a Loser Leaves Town match at Back to the Roots. Hmm.

They then run an interview with RINGKAMPF from after the 18th Anniversary show. Sebastian Hollmichel asks the questions, with Axel Dieter Jr. saying he got goosebumps wrestling in wXw once again. They bring up Veit Müller (who was right there) as they look to be sneaking into the RINGKAMPF set-up as the two “Hamburgerjunges” shook hands. Junior then talks about his entry into 16 Carat Gold, which he’s looking to win at the third time of asking…

Arrows of Hungary (Icarus & Dover) vs. RINGKAMPF (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher)
It’s a first-time meeting between these teams, and a big test for the Arrows.

Icarus and Thatcher open the match, but it’s Thatcher who grabs an early front headlock and takes Icarus to the mat in search of a leg to grab hold of. After getting to the ropes, Icarus tries to catch Thatcher in headscissors, only for Timothy to counter out into a bow and arrow hold before he grabbed Icarus and swatted him away. In comes WALTER, then Dover, as the two big lads of the match tagged in. Dover ducks a chop in the corner and dares to throw some forearms, as WALTER kept swinging for a retaliatory chop… and doesn’t quite get it as he resists some shoulder barges from Dover, before scoring with a leapfrog and a big boot to the “Hardcore Hungarian”.

After some chops, Thatcher’s back in… but he’s quickly caught and charged into a corner enziguiri from Icarus, as the Arrows took some control. A fallaway slam takes Thatcher into the corner, but WALTER pulls him away from an Icarus cannonball, allowing Thatcher to hit back with a RINGKAMPF belly-to-belly for a near-fall. WALTER’s back to put some boots to Icarus, who responds with some leg kicks before a chop fells him with ease. Another tag brings Thatcher in as he drove the knees into Icarus’ back en route to a cross armbreaker. That ends in the ropes, but WALTER tagged back in to pick apart the pieces, throwing some more chops before Icarus began a fight back, getting his boot up to stop WALTER, only for Thatcher to catch him with a kick to the stomach. A butterfly suplex gets blocked though, as Icarus back body drops free… only for WALTER to pull Dover off the apron to stop a tag out.

A butterfly suplex followed next as Thatcher gets a near-fall, before Icarus outsmarted WALTER and Thatcher to make a tag out. Dover goes wild with clotheslines, before throwing Thatcher with a pumphandle fallaway slam… there’s a huge bodyslam for WALTER as Thatcher’s thrown into a bicycle knee from Icarus as the Arrows almost scored the monster upset. Icarus lands a tope con giro into WALTER, but that took himself out of the match as Thatcher grabs a rear naked choke on Dover… Icarus recovers and tries to break up the hold with a senton bomb… but he crashes and burns as Thatcher keeps the hold on Dover, pulling him down to the mat again as WALTER restrained Icarus, leading to the inevitable submission. This was a hell of a war, and a really good showing from the Arrows, who have proven their worth (I feel) in multiple promotions. Hopefully 2019 is the year they break out… ***½

Backstage, Jurn’s still on the sofa when his phone call is interrupted by Avalanche, who’s had his fill of Jurn’s games. There’s a challenge issued for Back to the Roots… and we segue to Timothy Thatcher teaching Veit Müller a hold or two. I burst out laughing as Thatcher tried to tell Veit how to focus on a shoulder, “you know, like David Starr’s got his shoulder hurt right now”. Of course, Starr was in the room. Starr took exception to that, and that leads to a challenge, also for Back to the Roots.

Bobby Gunns vs. Shigehiro Irie
This was portrayed as Gunns trying to get his win back over Irie after the 18th Anniversary show… and Gunns starts with a headlock, only to get bulldozed over as Irie sent him into the ropes.

Wash, rinse, repeat. A knuckle lock tie-up sees Gunns try and force Irie down, but instead the former KO-D champion forced Gunns to bridge back, and try out his own neck strength before a nice bulldog in the corner left Gunns prone for the slingshot body splash! That’s enough for a near-fall, as was an Earthquake-style sit-out splash, with Irie damn-near squashing Gunns with the impact.

Gunns dares Irie into a striking battle, but his uppercuts were no match for Irie’s offence… so Gunns traps Irie in the ropes with a hanging armbar. A diving uppercut’s next out of the corner for a near-fall, as Gunns started to target the arm, stomping on the elbow as he tried to keep Irie on the mat. There’s a stomp to the ankle too, as Gunns switches up into a single leg crab, figuring that Irie can’t throw a Beast Bomber if he’s on the ground. More uppercuts follow, but Gunns hits the ropes and gets POUNCED! Irie tries to follow up with a superplex, and lands it with ease before he missed a cannonball as Gunns tries to throw some lariats of his own. Oh dear. A lariat from Irie clobbers Gunns, who then ducks a second to reply with a German suplex, before he followed up with a deadlift bridging German for a near-fall.

Staying on top of Irie, Gunns switches into a cross armbreaker, but Irie rolls into a pinning attempt, then catches Gunns with a death valley driver… then a cannonball into the corner for a two-count. One monstrous BEAST BOMBER later, and Irie’s picked up an even more dominant win over Bobby Gunns than before. A step above the 18th Anniversary match, and one I’d dare you you’d ought to make time for… it was that damn good. ****

Backstage, Kellyanne’s with Alan Payne, who blows out my speakers as he tries to tell Kellyanne she’ll win the wXw women’s title. They turn around into Kris Wolf, whose hygiene is better than Alan’s… as is her banter, which took me aback.

Bobby Gunns is outside with his brother Vinny, and he’s mad at having lost again to Shigehiro Irie. I swear that’s not Bielefeld… anyway, Gunns is annoyed that he’s been outwitted in the Japanese style. Vinny reckons he’s not focused, and Bobby storms off in a mood.

Another switch, and we’re with WALTER and Veit Müller backstage. WALTER puts over Veit, saying that he was impressed with what he saw of him in Hamburg. There’s an offer for Veit to team with WALTER against Jay-FK – and Veit’s a step closer to earning his stripes in RINGKAMPF.

Bobby’s calmed down now, as he’s on the sofa with Vinny, who’s still trying to be positive about Bobby’s 2018 – how he won Shortcut to the Top and all. Except that just makes Bobby sad as he felt he should have made something more of that… even if the fans were chanting for him for quarter of an hour. There’s a line in there, where Bobby called himself a “24-carat Idiot”, and something’s tingling in my head… We end with Vinny Vortex vowing to help his brother out of his funk. Die Schilde reunite?!

Kellyanne vs. Kris Wolf
It’s a rematch of a rematch (Hamburg, then Cologne) as I guess this is the last of Kris Wolf’s wXw matches to air. Sad face.

Kris slaps Alan Payne before the match, so Kellyanne snatches not-Tito off Kris as the bell rings. A waistlock from Wolf’s escaped as she’s ragdolled to the mat, where Payne gets in her face from the outside… Kellyanne rolls her over for a near-fall, before Wolf gets on Kellyanne’s back and… bites her!

We get a Victory roll for a near-fall, before Kris goes for a rope-walk, and now she’s just showing off with a lucha armdrag! She tries to follow up with an apron PK, but Alan Payne blocks it… and gets bitten too! The PK followed for Kellyanne afterall, as Kris returned to the ring, but ran into Kellyanne, who goes for an O’Connor roll. Wolf grabs onto the ropes, but gets held onto by Payne as the distraction got the Aussie an opening. Kellyanne stomps on Kris’ hand as she’s taunted with her own merch wolf (it’ll make sense if you’ve bought a shirt from Kris!), before Wolf’s taken into the corner for some chops. Eventually she ducks and hits back in kind, before a double-leg takedown has Kellyanne back on top.

A neck crank keeps Wolf on the mat, before Kellyanne rubs Merch Wolf on her backside as she antagonised Kris some more. Finally Kris gets Merch Wolf and lays out Kellyanne, before dropkicking into Payne on the outside, who then eats a body press off the top! Kris tries to follow up with a moonsault, but Payne crotches her behind the ref’s back, allowing Kellyanne to hit a pair of cannonballs for the win. This was short, but it was entertaining for what it was as I get a TK Cooper/Dahlia Black vibe out of Kellyanne and Payne… **¾

Backstage, Absolute Andy’s trying to convince himself he’s the champion. It’s just an MP3 of him saying it on his headphones, as David Starr interrupts him. Andy reckons David copied him from tag league with the shoulder injury, but Starr’s got news: he’s facing the wXw champion in London, and it’ll be for the belt! Andy whinges about the cage as he almost has a breakdown… leaving his Bose behind.

VINNY AND BOBBY ARE STILL ON THE SOFA. Vinny tells his brother to “kick his butt” as Shigehiro Irie walks in with a challenge: they’re having a third match at Back to the Roots.

Alan runs down the card for Back to the Roots. It’s a loaded one…

Käfigschlacht for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Ilja Dragunov vs. Absolute Andy (c) (with Nick Hein as referee)
Käfigschlacht: RISE (Tarkan Aslan, Da Mack & Marius al-Ani) vs. RISE (Lucky Kid, Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev)
Loser Leaves Town for wXw Women’s Championship: Melanie Gray vs. Toni Storm (c)
Avalanche vs. Jurn Simmons
Bobby Gunns vs. Shigehiro Irie
Timothy Thatcher vs. David Starr
WALTER & Veit Müller vs. Jay-FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin)

Backstage again, Absolute Andy’s in a happier mood as he busts out the A4 joke on Marius al-Ani. Marius has no interest in that because he’s RISE now, and it’s not long before the pair are disagreeing again…

Marius al-Ani & Absolute Andy vs. Ilja Dragunov & David Starr
They’re calling the Starr/Dragunov team “Unbesieg-Starr”. Hmm.

The former A4 try to form a game plan on the outside before the match, but it doesn’t work as Andy charges the ring and quickly gets double-teamed by potentially his next two title challengers. Marius isn’t impressed at that, so he talks Andy into hitting the ring again, albeit this time under the false pretences of offering him help, as the world champion takes some more double-teaming. This time Marius gets in the ring, as he tries his luck… and he’s quickly caught with a double-team clothesline as the former A4 were getting their arses handed to them. Marius tries to roll outside, but Andy throws him back inside, as this time the Shotgun champion enjoyed some offence, before he’s given a double-team suplex.

Finally the bell rings as Ilja chops Marius into the corner, before Starr tagged in and runs into Marius with a headbutt. There’s a quick turnaround as al-Ani trips Starr, then catches him with a dropkick right in the mush as Andy tagged into the match. He’s quickly back out, as Marius puts the boots to Starr, allowing Andy to choke the Product from the outside as the bad guys used all the shortcuts to keep Starr in there by himself. Ilja comes in to save Starr from a suplex as the tide turned a little, with a chop sending Andy outside as Marius took another double suplex. A snap suplex gets Dragunov a two-count, before a backfist and a back senton left al-Ani down… but Andy gets involved, pulling Ilja through the ropes as he posted his next challenger. Starr tries to cut him off with a tope, but Marius cuts him off and hurls him into the ropes instead.

Ilja’s thrown back in as Marius looked to make an impression on the former champion, grounding him with a chinlock, before Ilja got free and landed some chops. Marius lands some chops, then a legdrop before Andy came in to keep up the pressure on the wounded Dragunov, who did throw some desperation chops, only for Andy to take him into the corner to get free. Dragunov swings at thin air as he fell to the mat, allowing Marius to stay on top of him with a leg lock, while Andy comes in and chokes him behind the ref’s back as Andy diverted the ref’s attention. A tag brings Andy in legitimately, but Starr breaks up the cover from a running backbreaker as Ilja remained in peril, prompting Starr to lose his temper… and get fined €50 by referee Tassilo Jung. That’s a few more shirts he’ll need to sell.

Marius plays it cool as he keeps Dragunov down with another chinlock, but Ilja fights back up and throws some chops, only for a drop toe hold to take him back down as the former A4 stretched the rules to breaking point. Tassilo Jung remains Easily Distracted™, so he doesn’t see al-Ani wrenching Ilja’s ankle behind his back, and we continue with the two-on-one beatdown. A slam from Andy looked to set up Marius for a frog splash… but Ilja gets his knees up! He can’t capitalise as al-Ani goes right back to an ankle lock, with Ilja’s roll through hurting him as Marius knocked Starr off the apron, before a back body drop and a chop FINALLY gets Starr in! All that pent up aggression from Starr’s unleashed on Andy, who eats chops and a cartwheel/back elbow, while Marius takes a backbreaker and a superkick for good measure. An O’Connor roll out of the corner gets Starr a near-fall as Dragunov tagged back in, but he hits a back senton off the top for a near-fall as concerns over “you tagged back into early” were quelled. Briefly.

Starr and Dragunov double-team Andy, who responds with a suplex to the pair of them. Double clotheslines drop Marius as Starr and Dragunov found a second wind, with a Chernobyl Bomb getting Starr a near-fall. The momentum began to swing all over the place, with Marius’ spinning heel kick taking down Starr, before Dragunov landed a Saito suplex on Marius. Dragunov goes up top, but gets caught with an avalanche belly-to-belly suplex as A4 chained together some more offence, with a German suplex from al-Ani almost putting away Starr. A superplex followed for Ilja, but he fought free, chopping away Marius before a dropkick from Andy keeps Ilja up top! It gets even wackier as Andy tries a top rope ‘rana, but Ilja blocks it… and flies off the top with a Torpedo Moscau as A4 looked to roll back the years.

Andy hits back with a right hand to Ilja, who responds with a chop as the pair went hell for leather on each other, upgrading chops to clotheslines before Ilja ran into a spinebuster. Starr’s Han Stansen clocks Andy and gives Ilja time to recover with a death valley driver into the corner! Marius comes back with a sunset flip/Exploder combo, before a Han Stansen from Starr knocked him down… only for a F5 from Andy to snuff out the Product’s hopes. Ilja completes the insane series with a 619/lariat as all four men were left flat on the floor. Starr and Andy exchange right hands as they fought back up into a chop battle, upgrading to clotheslines that culminate in Starr landing his Han Stansen… but Andy rolls into the corner as Ilja aimed for Marius. With chops… and took uppercuts in return before Ilja popped up from an overhead belly-to-belly and dumped al-Ani with a Saito suplex. All four men get back to their feet as the strikes continue, but it was the former A4 who found their flow again… at least until Andy accidentally booted Marius, that is!

A Torpedo Moscau takes Andy outside too, and we’re in with dives as Ilja and David land duelling topes! Marius is thrown back inside for a Cherry Mint DDT by Starr, before Ilja goes Coast to Coast, as one last Torpedo Moscau finally ended the marathon. I LOVED Ilja as the babyface in peril here, even if his spell in danger was in danger of feeling long. This was a throwback to the days when wXw used to do the Champions’ Challenge tag matches, albeit without the tag team champions, as we were left with a banger of a main event to close out the show. ****

Except we’ve got one more vignette – and it’s to build up RISE vs. RISE… Tarkan Aslan addresses “new RISE” as his side of the faction holds all the gold. “Classic RISE” storm in and accuse Marius al-Ani of being a fake (well, Lucky does have a point) as we end with all six men arguing… until Marius wrote a cheque that his partners weren’t happy with: he’s put his team’s titles on the line inside the cage!

This was a hell of a show out of wXw – everything delivered in the ring, and the collection of backstage segments served their purpose in setting the proverbial table for Back to the Roots. Time’s creeping up on us all, but that’s in two weeks – and with the loaded card they’ve announced, it’s clear that there’s going to be something big happening in and out of the Käfigschlacht matches. Personally, I’m looking forward to Irie/Gunns 3 – a match that could well steal the show!