wXw wrapped up their We Love Wrestling tour with their annual Shortcut to the Top – with a shocking result.

Shortcut to the Top is wXw’s version of a Royal Rumble – 30 men, 1 ring, 1 winner… and we knew going in from Shotgun that Bad Bones would start out the match, whilst Ivan Kiev’d round off that field. The show starts with everyone saying that they’d win the match, before we get the usual footage of Cologne and the Live Music Hall to set the scene. It’s the funky venue from Shotguns past, with the colour-changing LED boards!

They replay the promo to build up David Starr, Angelico and Emil Sitoci… so we’re opening with the Shotgun title match! I guess that means that we’re not going to see Francis Kaspin vs. Alexander James… despite them giving away the result on Shotgun this week?

wXw Shotgun Championship: David Starr vs. Emil Sitoci vs. Angelico (c)
Sitoci tried to force the issue early on, kicking away at Starr and Angelico rather than try any of “that grappling nonsense”… of course, it just made him a target as the other two went for him, knocking the Dutchman to the floor with a pair of punches.

With no Sitoci, Starr tried to get a couple of pin attempts in, before they caught a Sitoci crossbody… and flung him back outside with a fallaway slam. Starr then took Angelico to the outside, but Sitoci ran in with a boot to prevent a dive, and get a near-fall of his own as he started to rain down elbows on the American… then pull his chest hair for the sake of it. A double armbar forces Starr to scoot towards the ropes for a break, but Sitoci actually managed to maintain some control, keeping Angelico on the outside before hitting a split-legged moonsault for a near-fall on Starr.

Almost immediately after that, Starr unloaded on Sitoci with a Violence Party of forearms and chops in the corner, but then Angelico returns to kick away at Sitoci, then deliver a Capoeira kick to take Sitoci to the outside… where he’s met with a tope con hilo! Starr avoids one so he can just wipe out Sitoci with a couple of topes as the tempo raises, culminating with a DDT onto the apron then a Blackheart Buster to Angelico for a near-fall.

Sitoci broke that up as he went after Starr… and almost cheated his way to a win with a roll-up using the ropes. Emil keeps up with a gutbuster and an elbow drop for another near-fall, only for Starr to come back with the inverted slam and a thrust kick that could have won the match… but Angelico dived in for the save.

Sitoci boots away an attempted Fall of the Angels to Starr as all three laid into each other, but Starr edges ahead by ducking some kicks and catching Angelico with the Product Placement… and that’s enough to regain the Shotgun title! A fun opener, without too much of the irritating triple threat cliches that have ruined plenty of three-ways. The Hot Potato, sorry, Shotgun title’s back with David Starr – at least for now! ***½

Matt Riddle vs. Marius al-Ani
al-Ani was a late substitute for Ilja Dragunov, who missed this and the PROGRESS show in the afternoon due to a family emergency.

Riddle started off by going for al-Ani’s arm, and at least on paper, these two share similar styles, so this should be quite a ground-based match-up. Riddle’s attempt to go for the back after a waistlock takedown just sees Marius stand up and get a takedown himself, before Riddle managed to get in a rear naked choke… with al-Ani too close to the ropes.

After a wristlock, Riddle snaps down al-Ani with a German suplex, but Marius comes back with an overhead belly-to-belly as the pair quickly switched into a striking game for a brief while, as Riddle connected with a bicycle knee to the former tag champion. Some forearms in the corner follow, as does an Exploder out of the corner for a near-fall, before al-Ani found himself thrown around the ring with some gutwrench suplexes.

Eventually al-Ani countered a gutwrench with a ‘rana as he took over with a couple of dropkicks, only for Riddle to hit back with a German suplex that almost ended the match. Marius pulls off a tornado DDT off the bottom turnbuckle for a near-fall, but the pair continued to go back and forth until Marius found out the hard way… you can’t give Riddle a German suplex!

Matt hits back with a knee strike and a Fisherman’s buster for a two-count, before nonchalantly kicking away at Marius… who then dove to the apron so he could land a sunset flip and kip up into an overhead Exploder that sent Riddle to the outside. You know what’s next… dive! A missile dropkick keeps Riddle at bay, as did a spinebuster as Marius almost took the win, but Riddle comes straight back with a Pele kick before running into a spinning heel kick.

The two stand up to trade off forearms and dropkicks some more, before al-Ani rolled Riddle into the middle with a version of an Octopus stretch, but Riddle gets to the ropes with some ease. More forearms led to some kicks, which Riddle caught and turned into a powerbomb before dishing out the Bro To Sleep and a tombstone slam for a near-fall as Marius narrowly rolled up a shoulder in time.

Riddle responds by throwing in some elbows as he went for the Bromission… and at the second attempt, Marius had no choice but to submit. A really good outing here, and one that should open quite a few eyes towards the prospects of Marius al-Ani as a singles guy too. ***¾

A video package summing up the Kim Ray & Karsten Beck vs. WALTER & Christian Michael Jakobi feud followed – along with Beck’s latest retirement that forced a slight tweak to this next match…

WALTER & Christian Michael Jakobi vs. Kim Ray
They showed WALTER with his head in his hands when Jakobi came out in a gi… it almost looked like the big Austrian was laughing, but that was not the intention!

The wrestlers started, with Ray ducking a chop early on and… yes, goes to work with kicks on WALTER. Jakobi blind-tags himself in as WALTER went for the sit-out splash, which was a ballsy move… especially when CMJ quickly headed to the ropes for cover. Like a more powerful Toru Yano. Or screaming “break!” in German…

Ray backs Jakobi into a corner several times, which makes you wonder why Christian tagged himself in if all he was going to do was rile up Kim by backpedalling? He actually gets in a cheapshot, but Ray quickly retaliates, before Jakobi slapped him as he teased tagging out.

Rolling to the outside, Jakobi demanded a microphone, and after he’d pushed through the crowd to find Thomas Giesen, he declared that he wanted silence, otherwise he’d walk away. Which he did. Of course, Jakobi returned, with a Kendo stick in hand, and after reminding us that he has the final say in wXw… he changed this into a no-DQ match!

WALTER tried to disarm Jakobi, which just earned him a dropkick as Kim Ray came back into it, only for WALTER to trap Ray in a sleeperhold for a brief moment. Kim rebounds with a huge Exploder, before avoiding a Kendo stick shot from Jakobi, who got yelled at by WALTER for his efforts.

The Austrian kept disarming Jakobi, since weapons wasn’t the RINGKAMPF way – and that did look to turn WALTER babyface in some way… but Jakobi finally got off a shot to take down Ray. He then tried to coerce WALTER into some more shots, but the former Big Daddy refused, and hit the bricks!

That left Jakobi on his lonesome, against a Kim Ray who managed to grab the loose Kendo stick, which they both fought over. At least until Jakobi pleaded for mercy, which turned into a chance to hit a low blow (or “deep impact”, as the literal translation of what commentary called it!) before he reeled off on Kim with Kendo stick shots.

Ray actually kicks the Kendo stick as he tried to mount a comeback, which was then jabbed into his midsection. Kim gets hold of the stick though, which prompts Jakobi to offer him a massive pay rise to not hit him. Nevermind, Ray doesn’t care about money, as he just lights in Jakobi with shots to the back and chest, before lifting up Jakobi by the stick – a la Aleister Black – for a shot to the head… “for Karsten”.

Jakobi went down like a sack of bricks from that head shot, but the crowd chanted “one more time”. I bet Christian LOVED that. Instead, Kim finds a table under the ring, but Jakobi hits a low blow with the Kendo stick to free himself, as Kim gets put on the table for some more stick shots. For some reason, Jakobi removes the gi and threatens to go airborne… can it be?!

The crowd chanted for a shooting star, but Ray gets up and hits him with the stick in the back before powerbombing Jakobi through the table for the win! Not much of a match, but decent enough end to the storyline, and given how Jakobi and WALTER parted ways, you’d have to wonder if the big guy is joining “the home team” in the fight against RISE? **

Melanie Gray comes out for the next segment, where she reveals the creation of the wXw women’s championship. She said that for many years, “ladies’ wrestling” has been dead in wXw, but recently those barriers have come down – with an intergender streetfight and a women’s cagematch. Last year’s Femmes Fatales show has also led to this moment… the wXw Women’s Championship tournament!

It’ll be a round-robin format, running on shows between August 25 and December 23 – and curiously, not even touching the second annual Femmes Fatales tournament that’ll be running over World Tag League weekend. The four women involved will be Melanie Gray, Jinny, Martina and Pauline (from France – and no, I’ve not heard much of her either). Jinny came out to confront Melanie, who pretty much predicted what Jinny was going to say (albeit in German). Instead, Jinny took shots at Melanie, then flat-out called her “nothing” and “not that good”. Harsh… Oh my, the Disney Princess and the Primark Princess traded blows until Gray took down Jinny with a bodyslam, sending her packing. These were good promos delivered with some vigour by Melanie and Jinny – and I don’t speak that much German either!

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Avalanche vs. Jurn Simmons (c)
After a tense start, both men rolled around the ropes from the opening tie-up, before we moved into the staples of a typical “mean guy match”. Shoulder blocks, stare downs, the works.

Jurn hits a dropkick, but it doesn’t keep Avalanche down for long, and he eventually retaliated by bouncing the champion off the turnbuckles from an Irish whip. They jockeyed for position over a suplex, with Avalanche winning out for a near-fall, before following up with a big splash off the ropes as he collected another two-count.

Simmons rebounds with a bodyslam as he too left his feet… but he was pulled down by Avalanche, and thrown down with a Samoan drop for a near-fall. A clothesline gets Jurn a glimmer of hope, but Avalanche kept looming over Simmons… who was smart to another Samoan drop as he slipped out and hoisted his challenger in a Torture Rack before crashing to the mat.

A cannonball from Avalanche misses as he’d gotten to his feet first, but Jurn comes back with a Vader Bomb before crashing into Avalanche with a top rope moonsault. Avalanche looked to reply with a Dreissker Bomb (Vader Bomb) of his own, but Jurn gets free and teased a sunset bomb of the top, only for it to be countered into a massive superplex! A Biel throw sees Jurn thrown across the ring for a cannonball that connected this time, but Jurn shrugged it off and went for a piledriver… which was countered out of as he had to roll away from a sit-down splash.

A Massive Boot follows though, and Jurn manages to hoist up Avalanche for a piledriver, and that’s enough for the win. I really enjoyed this for a “big guy” match… both men could really go, although I was fully expecting a title change here, so it’ll be interesting to see where they go next, with Ilja Dragunov getting the next title shot. ***¼

They replay the “I’m going to win the Shortcut to the Top” promo from the start of the show… we’ll only cover the main happenings as this match went almost an hour long!

Shortcut to the Top Match
We knew that Bad Bones was going to start out first, and he was joined at the start by the new Shotgun champion, David Starr. Once they’d rattled through his nicknames, the match started, with Starr being the favourite out of these two… Starr almost eliminates Bones as the time ticked down to the third entrant: Dirty Dragan, whose entrance video is quite the thing!

Dragan refused to enter the ring, and instead took the microphone on the stage to declare that he’ll wait for his friends to come out so they can join in together. Fair enough… that prompts number four to be revealed as Rob Lynch, who threw Dragan onto the stage as he started his fighting early! A spear from Lynch took down Starr as Dragan clung on for his life, before number five came out as a hyperactive Young Money Chong. Who just acts as a crash test dummy for Bad Bones…

Sixth out is Michael Dante, who’s kinda been forgotten about since his injury… and he makes a beeline for everyone else, clearing the ring with clotheslines before dropping Lynch with an over-the-knee brainbuster. Lynch then gets tossed, and things then calm down as Starr almost got thrown out by Dragan and Chong… just in time for the seventh man out: Marius van Beethoven. Wait a minute!

All three of the Dragan crew are in the ring now, and they try and get Dante to join them. He just shoves them down, before pouncing on Chong… before the trio finally eliminate him after Marius low-bridged him into the apron. Out at number eight was Rico Bushido?! He’d been doing English commentary so I’m guessing he disappeared… and he’s out as Bad Bones took a bad spill to the outside.

Dragan immediately tries to buddy up with his podcast friend Rico, but he’s having none of it and Rico quickly throws out Dragan! Bushido works over Chong and Marius as the clock ticked down for number nine: Absolute Andy! He absolutely clears the ring (sorry) and dumps Marius with a suplex, but doesn’t try to eliminate anyone, instead clearing the stage for an Absolute Knee Drop as we see Bad Bones being carried away on a makeshift stretcher.

Young Money Chong eliminates Rico as he tried to throw out Marius, and we’re having cut times here as number 10 was revealed as Emil Sitoci. He high-fives Chong and Marius, perhaps giving Dirty Dragan some competition as the Alpha Dutchman… Number 11 came out as Jay Skillet – a former wXw trainee as a surprise entrant! He goes straight for Chong with clotheslines and dropkicks, before throwing out Chong with relative ease.

Starr, Skillet and Andy triple-team Sitoci until the next entrant came out… number 12: Jack Sexsmith! Or “der Mann from PROGRESS!”, who got a monster pop and went straight for David Starr. He only wanted to look at it… especially as this was the day that Germany legalised same-sex marriage.

Jack clung to the bottom rope after that, as number 13 appeared as Hakeem Waqur – a name we’ve not seen on wXw TV since the Road to 16 Carat League, I believe. Waqur goes for everyone, but is quickly quelled by a boot from Andy, who then superkicked Marius van Beethoven out of the match! Out at 14 was Jimmy Havoc! This was Havoc’s first appearance in almost five years, having been a regular here when wXw was a bit more “death-match-y”… Havoc – and his hole-ridden back – went for Waqur, before dropping Andy with an Acid Rainmaker. Sitoci took one too, before David Starr countered one and threw out Havoc. Well, that was quick!

The 15th man out was Rick Baxter, from Posse in Effect. Yeah, I have no idea either. Apparently he’s meant to be a porn star, and his entrance takes so long, they killed the lights on the stage. Jack Sexsmith’s enamoured by Baxter, along with his partner The Grannatic, who came out at 16. In the end though, Baxter drops Sexsmith on the top rope, before a confetti cannon eliminated him. Symbolism, my friends! At least he got a hug from David Starr, who was feeling pretty lovey today.

Hakeen Waqur got rid of both members of the Posse pretty quickly after that, as WALTER came out at number 17, quickly blasting Skillet and Starr with German suplexes… as Skillet didn’t get to see Waqur go by way of his dropkick. WALTER was a freaking machine here, powerbombing Andy before trying to eliminate Sitoci.

Number 18 was Michael Isotov, someone who’s making a return to wrestling after three years out, and he went straight for Absolute Andy, taking him down with a slam, only for WALTER to break it all up. Out at 19 was Da Mack, who can still wrestle here as it’s not Hamburg, and his first order of business was to drop WALTER with a Mack Magic ace crusher. Andy gets one too, before Skillet wipes him out with a clothesline. A gutbuster from Sitoci is enough to weaken him for an elimination, in time for number 20 to appear as Marius al-Ani.

al-Ani goes after WALTER, before dropping Isotov and Sitoci with death valley drivers… Andy almost gets one, as the A4 dad played a bad joke, and nearly eliminated Marius for being too enthusiastic. Da Mack tries to capitalise but gets a death valley driver, and now we’re down to the final few as Alpha Kevin steamed out at number 21. Isotov immediately goes for him, but Kevin sidesteps a charge as Isotov got hung up in the ropes before being knocked to the floor for the latest elimination.

Next out at 22 was Francis Kaspin, who also went after WALTER, and managed to counter a spinebuster into a DDT as he and Mack teased working together… and their attempt to eliminate WALTER ended when David Starr made the save. Eh?! At 23 we had the other London Riot member, James Davis… who came out without his cricket bat, but I’m guessing hadn’t lost it yet! Mack immediately takes a St George’s Cross from Davis, who then went after Andy with the same move, as number 24 emerged as Bobby Gunns. How handy, Alpha Kevin is still in there… but Kevin takes a while to realise it as Gunns lays into everyone with uppercuts. An atomic drop from Gunns eliminates Sitoci, which says a lot about whatever plans they have for him, as WALTER ate an F5 from Andy. Number 25 is Matt Riddle, who goes for Da Mack with an overhead kick and the Bro To sleep that sends Mack propelling out of the ring!

That’s followed up with a Destroyer to James Davis as the tempo started to crank up amongst those left in the ring. 26 was Alexander James, just as Alpha Kevin eliminated James Davis with a Stunner. Yeah, James took a pounding as everyone ganged up on him for being too arrogant, and then we get Alpha Kevin caught in a guillotine by Bobby Gunns. Melanie Gray heads out for some reason… and she gets an unwanted kiss from Bobby Gunns, who then sidesteps a charge as Kevin eliminated himself. Whoops! There’s more trouble in paradise!

Marius al-Ani goes by way of a rope-hung armbar from Gunns, in time for Kim Ray to come out at 27, and then Gunns delivers a Destroyer to Matt Riddle. Who no sells it, then gets low bridged as he charged at the King of Smoke Style. With these high profile eliminations, wXw are certainly lighting a fire underneath Bobby’s arse… and then he turned around into a barrage, as everyone left in the match turfed out Gunns. Francis Kaspin’s turfed out by WALTER, and we should probably guess who the final few were… RISE member Pete Bouncer joined at 28, and willingly walked into the lion’s den, going after Kim Ray as everyone else just stood and watched.

WALTER decided to snap in with a German suplex to Bouncer as he then went after David Starr… and poor David, why would you ever chop WALTER? Angelico emerges at number 29, just in time to see David Starr drag WALTER out of the match after dropping him with a DDT on the apron. Back in the ring, Angelico goes after the man who took his Shotgun title, before dropping Kim Ray with a knee. Another atomic drop almost eliminates Alexander James as Ivan Kiev came out at 30… we’re into the final stages now as everyone’s in, with RISE dominating over everyone left standing. Kiev and Bouncer get rid of Kim Ray, before a double suplex to Absolute Andy left only David Starr around… and RISE picked the proverbial bones of him as well.

Andy tries to mount a comeback with chops and clotheslines, before Kiev ate an F5. Bouncer looked to get a suplex, but David Starr bemusingly made the save and took the suplex instead, before Bouncer was F5’d onto Starr. The pressure keeps up as Andy prepared Angelico for an Absolute Knee Drop, but Bouncer low-bridges him for the latest elimination!

Kiev escapes a Fall of the Angels before kicking Angelico low ahead of throwing him out of the ring… and we’re down to David Starr vs. RISE. Just in time to help though, Bad Bones wandered out with a heavily-taped knee, and was allowed back into the match as he hadn’t been eliminated… but as soon as he got in, he threw Starr out, and the crowd rained down their boos (and threw junk into the ring).

They’d get louder moments later as Kiev and Bouncer eliminated themselves… meaning that Bad Bones won the match, before pulling off his t-shirt to reveal himself as the latest member of RISE. Cue shock in the crowd, as a storyline-heavy Shortcut to the Top paid off! ****

As a show, Shortcut to the Top was all about the eponymous match – but that’s where a lot of the heavy lifting for the second half of 2017 was done. Bad Bones ditching the “wXw Home Team” in favour of RISE was a shock, considering he was the first one to rally to wXw’s defence… but it’s a turn that’s much needed as Bones has been becoming rather stale as of late. Elsewhere, David Starr got another string to his bow, lasting the longest in the match (we’ll not count Bad Bones’ time in the back), whilst Bobby Gunns’ string of high-profile eliminations surely signposts big things for him once wXw returns from their summer break.

Another fun show from wXw, and one well worth watching – even if you’re waiting for the English feed to drop!