For the first time in almost three months, wXw returned to the sweatbox that was the Turbinenhalle as the landscape changed massively at Shortcut to the Top.

Thanks to the stifling heatwave that’s been gripping large parts of Europe, the wXw crew were beset by technical issues that forced some slight changes to production – hat’s off to everyone involved for actually getting the show going (and still turned around within their usual 72-hour window) in spite of this all!

Rico Bushido’s flying solo on the English commentary…

wXw Shotgun Championship: Marius al-Ani vs. Bobby Gunns (c)
So… you know when they say “it’s a hot crowd”? Well, here, the smoke alarm genuinely went off, prompting Bobby to put out his cigarette. Well, it kinda worked!

From the off, the pair lock-up and head to the mat as the siren continues to wail in the background. A ‘rana and some armdrags from al-Ani get him on top though, before Bobby responds with some uppercuts… only to get caught with a backslide as the pair showed they were incredibly even matched. A nice roll-up, a kip-up and an overhead kick from al-Ani keeps Gunns down… but Bobby counters the step-up elbow drop into an armbar, only for Marius to escape with an ankle lock as they showed their evenness in the submission game too. Where Bobby wasn’t even though, was in the aerial game, as he’s caught with an over-the-turnbuckles dive from al-Ani, before he recovered to start chipping away at the former tag team champion.

Kicks keep Marius on the mat, and in perfect place for Gunns to stomp on the forearm, but Marius is able to get back into it, clocking Gunns with a lariat for a near-fall. Gunns tries to fight back, chopping at the ribs of al-Ani before resuming on the arm as the match remained finely poised. Another lariat’s good for a near-fall before Gunns goes back to the arm, with that armbar yet again ending in the ropes. The pro-Gunns crowd liked what they saw when the champion went for a guillotine, but Marius charges into the corner to break it up, before following in with a suplex.

Gunns again tries for an armbar out of nowhere, but Marius escapes into an ankle lock as they remained insanely even… until Marius clocks Gunns with a superkick and falls on top of him for the win! Wait… Marius won the title the same way he was betrayed ten months earlier?! That’s a clever callback and a good way to end a match that neither man really dominated… but will Bobby want to have a rematch? ***½

Dirty Dragan – and his new entrance video – came out next for his latest trials series match. The opponent was a mystery… and a huge shock.

Dirty Dragan vs. WALTER
Yup. Sorry, Dragan.

WALTER wasn’t going to go easy here, easily shoving Dragan aside as commentary reminded us of the Dragan story. Dragan teases walking out, but the crowd roar behind him as WALTER seemed to get a little cocksure… almost laughing off some forearm shots to the chest before… CHOP! Dragan’s only offense is hitting and hoping, and while it worked for a split second, he’s quickly booted in the head and met with a Gojira, before almost snatching a win with a roll-up! He clubs away on WALTER out of hope, but a huge slap derails him before another boot and a Gojira clutch forced the submission. He was totally out of his depth, but perhaps a humbling loss that’ll keep Dragan’s longer-term on track?

Elimination Tables Match for wXw World Tag Team Championship: RISE (Ivan Kiev & Pete Bouncer) vs. Jay-FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin) vs. Monster Consulting (Avalanche & Julian Nero) (c)
The rules are simple: if you go through a table, your team’s out… last team standing gets the wXw tag team titles, ending a summer-long feud.

RISE brought their own table, while Jay-FK brought the swagger. We started in the crowd though, as Jay-FK tried to scurry… and that didn’t exactly go to plan! They brawled by the bar, they brawled by the front row, and then finally into the ring as Jay-FK were bounced from pillars to post. Auf die Fresse! After getting knocked down, Jay-FK powder to the outside as RISE and Monster Consulting went after each other instead… Avalanche looked to reign supreme, dumping Bouncer with a lariat and a suplex, before he set up a table and looked to slam Bouncer through it… but both men put on the brakes as Bouncer had to make do with a reverse DDT.

Skillet tries to land a cheapshot with a belt shot… but instead he has to make do with a low blow as Kaspin lands a belt shot instead. Avalanche blocks a second belt shot and instead tosses Kaspin across the ring, but can’t avoid a low dropkick to the knee as Jay-FK laid him out. An attempt to put Avalanche through a table just ended with Avalanche shoving Jay-FK into each other… but Ivan Kiev takes advantage with a hotshot and a flying leg lariat as the big Austrian’s left down… and prone for an elimination? No! Avalanche stop sit and goes for a pumphandle slam, before an overhead kick from Kiev takes him out… and brings Nero in, with a diving knee putting paid to Ivan. Five mounted punches find their mark, as does an Angle Slam (?!), before Nero looked to go for the table… only for RISE to make a save as the revolving door effect kicked in.

Francis Kaspin heads up onto the stage as Ivan Kiev gets dragged there by a maniacal Skillet… and there’s another table there. What, the one in the ring wasn’t good enough? They take too long to play to the crowd, and the tables turn as low blows from Ivan allow RISE back into it, with Skillet taking a belt to the face on the stage as Jay-FK end up with that familiar 4-on-2 disadvantage… as Kiev climbs onto the stage and looks to drop an elbow onto Kaspin… but the table doesn’t give!

Cue the expected chants as we see that the table legs buckled… but the table itself was unscathed! Bouncer carries the battered table to the ring as Ivan Kiev writhed on the stage… and I guess they’re going to try again, as Julian Nero charges Skillet into the table… but instead he bounces off it. They try again, with a double powerbomb… and this time Jay Skillet breaks the table as Nero and Bouncer finally struck gold!

So we’re down to RISE and Monster Consulting, with Bouncer seemingly still on his own as Avalanche threw bombs at him… but Bouncer’s able to score with a lariat before he goes back to bent-legged table. Oh God, this is either going to break or pierce the canvas… instead, it’s Nero who’s draped over the table before Avalanche got up and crotched Bouncer. From there, Avalanche teases a superplex through the table, but Ivan Kiev’s finally back to make the save as he cleared the ring.

So they take the table outside as RISE focused on Avalanche, propping the table against the ring as Kiev looked for a double stomp… but Nero cuts it off, press slamming Kiev into the ring as they tried to splash Bouncer through the table. Except the table decided to be a little Ilja and not give. Back in the ring, Avalanche finally makes the table break as he charges Pete Bouncer through it… and that’s the win! Sadly the story of this match will be the tables (cue Metallica riff), but the brawling and the set-up to the eliminations were fun. Just a shame the tables didn’t co-operate. **¾

They clear the ring… but before our Unified World Championship match, Tarkan Aslan’s got an announcement.

Aslan came out with his boots, alongside Lucky Kid, with the pair looking as miserable and sad as each other. Tarkan hadn’t been in a wXw ring since Back to the Roots at the start of the year, where he picked up a head injury. They subtitle Tarkan’s speech, as he looked to give what seemed like a retirement speech… complete with “Danke Tarkan” chants. Aslan throws down his boots, saying that’s he’s no longer able to wrestle for wXw… before picking them up as “the journey is not over”. Lucky Kid freaks out with joy at that U-turn… but joy turns to sadness pretty quickly after the pair hugged.

…because Tarkan had a video for him, from during Shotgun a few weeks ago. It’s the talk between Pete Bouncer and Tarkan Aslan, where Bouncer tried to confront him over that mysterious envelope. It turns out it’s from the hospital, and Tarkan was lying all along. To cover his tracks, Aslan slaps something onto Bouncer’s neck, rendering him suddenly unconscious… which is where he was found later in that show.

The crowd boos Aslan, who walks away, leaving Lucky Kid behind… who then has a breakdown in the middle of the ring.

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Absolute Andy vs. Ilja Dragunov (c)
After winning 16 Carat Gold in March, Absolute Andy picked his date to cash in… after Ilja completed his conquests of WALTER, but at what cost? We’ll find out…

Holy crap… Ilja subconsciously timed his entrance to the over-dub! He’s a winner right there for that… even if he’s coming into the match with heavily taped-up ribs following the attack Andy gave him on Shotgun last week.

Andy stays in the corner as he looked to neutralise Ilja’s early aggression, and stoke it a little with some chops, as Ilja played into Andy’s game plan – charging into the veteran, who picked his shots then gave himself plenty of distance as Ilja was forced to cool his jets. He’s caught on the outside though, as Ilja throws the chops before putting Andy in the front row for a back senton onto the chairs. Probably not a good thing to do with a bad back…

Dragunov quickly returns to keep brawling with Andy around ringside, throwing plenty of chops as everyone on the floor ended up getting a front row seat, with Andy getting charged into the ring apron for good measure. Andy begins to fight back though, only to get whipped into the ring post, before he threw in some unlucky crew member to take a clothesline from Dragunov. Andy turns it around, dumping Ilja onto the front row with a back suplex, before finally bringing it back to the ring as he focuses on Dragunov’s midsection. There’s a knowing smile on the challenger’s face as he shoulder-charges into Ilja in the corner… only to get caught with a desperation Andre slam by Ilja! Nevermind, Andy stretches Dragunov around the ring post, then keeps up the assault with a backbreaker that sent Ilja sailing down to the floor once more.

Except Ilja’s just laughing in Andy’s face, even as he’s whipped hard into the turnbuckles, as it increasingly looked like Andy’s long-term game plan from Shotgun was starting to pay off. A spear from Ilja manages to give him a shot though, as he rolled Andy into a Sharpshooter… except he was way too close to the ropes and it’s relatively simple as Andy reached out and grabbed the ropes. Ilja tries for it again, but Andy shoves off, sending Ilja into the referee before the champion got hung up in the ropes.

As referee Tassilo Jung checked on Ilja, Andy’s on the outside… and grabs a chair! Ilja fights back, throwing a chop before dumping him into the front row… giving Ilja a chance to grab hold of the referee. He sees sense, only to turn around as Andy throws beer in Ilja’s face, before his attempt at a superkick’s stopped as Ilja instead has to fight out of a F5. Knees and elbows keep Dragunov out of Andy’s clutches, before he… dished out his own F5?! What the hell?! Ilja returns to the ring and has Andy cowering away as Dragunov throws some more strikes, leaving Andy on jelly legs ahead of a DDT! A Shining Wizard keeps Andy there, but Ilja doesn’t go for the cover, instead looking for some Greetings from Moscow lariats.

Eventually Andy’s floored by the lariats, then a Chernobyl Bomb… but he’s able to get a shoulder up at two. Ilja tries to set up for a Torpedo Moscau, but just rebounding off the buckles hurts him… although he’s able to dig deep and hit another F5, with Andy this time getting a foot on the rope! Oh, the callbacks!

Andy again powders to the outside as Dragunov’s attempt to dive is curtailed by the referee… but Tass moves as Ilja goes full steam ahead into the challenger with a tope. Back inside again, a Coast to Coast knocks Andy to the outside as the referee was being tended to on the outside… which means he can’t see Andy swatting away Ilja’s next tope with a chair, before returning the match to the ring as the A-Klasse leads to a new champion! This was damn near a dominant victory for Andy, as he capitalised on Ilja’s foolhardy offence – knowing he’d take risks, and it was just a case of when, not if he’d slip up. You’ve got to think it’s just a matter of time before Ilja’s back in the hunt… and I’m very keen to see just how different this one’ll be when Ilja’s chasing the belt. That being said, our next match may put someone ahead of him in the queue. ***½

Shortcut to the Top
It’s the wXw equivalent of the Royal Rumble – with the winner getting a title shot! The intro video shows that even referees have tried to get a shot, even if Tassilo Jung used it as a chance to punch out Markus Weiss!

First out is… David Starr! One guy in particular was thrilled at that… I wonder how he felt when WALTER came out second? Starr has recent Rumble form against WALTER, eliminating him in Defiant’s recent outing, but he’s quickly on the defensive as the Austrian tried to lift him over the top… then had to avoid being low bridged as the pair sprinted against each other.

We’re already into the countdown, as #3 was revealed as Michael Dante. Another big lad for David Starr to tussle with… and he’s instantly clotheslined before Dante dropped WALTER with a Saito suplex! WALTER and Dante look to work together as the clock ticks away again, revealing the arrival of #4, Timo Theiss. Good luck! Theiss has a dodgy mic on his way to the ring, but rather than back away he relishes the challenge of Dante and WALTER. He’s quickly double-teamed as the crowd count along with just how long he’ll last… but it’s not a quick exit as we count down for #5 Julian Nero (of course!), who cleared house, taking Theiss into the corner for some mounted punches. #6 is Koray, who instantly tries to make a name for himself… biting away at Julian Nero, then Starr, who just wallops him with Han Stansen! Plenty of clubbering follows as Dante focused on WALTER again, as #7 emerged as the returning Timothy Thatcher! YES TIMOTHY!

Thatcher clears house with RINGKAMPF belly-to-belly suplexes, before he turfed Koray out of the match! My heart warms as Michael Dante’s thrown through the ropes… Timo Theiss tries to jump RINGKAMPF, but he’s just powerbombed into an uppercut before Timo Theiss said tschüß! Dante’s thrown out next as Mike Schwarz comes out at number 8, offering beers to WALTER (who takes it) and Thatcher (who doesn’t)… and that booze nearly costs WALTER as Starr tried to eliminate him on the sly!

Schwarz, angered by Thatcher’s snub, lays into him in the corner, before chokeslamming David Starr. There’s another one for Timmy, before WALTER got in Schwarz’s face… and earned himself a chokeslam too! Julian Nero looks to avoid a similar fate, but he can’t eliminate Schwarz as #9 entered… Francis Kaspin! Complete with sore neck… so he dives out through the middle rope to save himself, opting to watch from the front row instead. Oliver Carter comes out at #10, having appeared in the pre-show match, and he instantly has to fight off all comers, suckerpunching everyone in the head until Timothy Thatcher kicks him low. WALTER shook his hand for showing that ingenuity… before Thatcher tried to eliminate Schwarz with a simple cravat. RISE is represented at #11 via Ivan Kiev, who’s straight into Thatcher with an overhead kick, before Oliver Carter took a neckbreaker. Kiev wasn’t showing many signs of the bum knee he looked to get during the tables match… but he nearly gets eliminated quickly by WALTER, before knocking the big man down with a leg lariat off the top rope.

Next out, at #12, is Julian Pace, who sped down to the ring… and flew into Nero, Schwarz and Starr with a crossbody! Carter sucker punches him instantly though, only for Pace to hit back with a tornado DDT… then get tripped as Francis Kaspin tried to get involved. A back body drop from Pace eliminates Carter, before WALTER just powerbombs Julian for the hell of it! Entering at #13 is Jay Skillet, but still Francis Kaspin’s waiting on the outside to low bridge Julian Nero as Jay-FK combine for an elimination. They have to break out of a double-team chokeslam as they eliminate Mike Schwarz, before #14 appears as Prince Ahura… sans music. He instantly walks into Death By Chop by WALTER, who again nearly gets eliminated by an opportunistic David Starr, but Timothy Thatcher makes a save before RINGKAMPF combine to eliminate Francis Kaspin with a chop.

Jay-FK again combine as Timothy Thatcher’s eliminated by foul means, just in time for us to hit the halfway point as The Rotation enters at #15! Rotation looks like he barely ages, but his offence barely fazes WALTER, who catches him in a Boston crab… despite Julian Pace and Prince Ahura’s attempts to break it up. They do connect with triple dropkicks though, before Ahura nearly beheads Rotation with knees in the corner.

Out at #16 is Dirty Dragan! Except he’s not alone… he’s made a deal and he’s got some back-up! Marius van Beethoven and Young Money Chong are joining him at 16, and my God, the crowd popped so much for that one, the cameras all shook! Chong and Marius are quickly confounded by Julian Pace… but Dragan’s in too and low bridges Pace to the outside as his own speed was his worst enemy! God, I missed the Dragan/Beethoven/Chong trio.

Number 17 is Juvenile X, fresh off of his run as Absolute Andy’s goon… and he’s quickly dropped by WALTER. Marius and Chong try to take shots at WALTER, but it’s laughable… unlike the double clothesline they take as they’re both quickly eliminated. Dragan’s still in, but my God David Starr gets wrecked with a shotgun dropkick from WALTER as Prince Ahura got thrown out. Dirty Dragan tries to pick another shot on WALTER, but to no avail, as we count down again for #18… JURN SIMMONS! Massive pop.

It’s clotheslines for all as Juvenile X is eliminated… followed quickly by Jay Skillet after a Massive Boot, before WALTER too is turfed as Jurn back body drops away from a powerbomb! Jurn and Dragan stare down… and while Jurn offers a hug, it’s very tentative as #19 appears: Aaron Insane. wXw are really bringing out the blasts from the past here! Insane POUNCES Rotation, then hits a leg lariat before Jurn just decks him with a clothesline. Dragan’s got the same treatment too as Jurn looks under the ring… and oh God, there’s the Kendo stick! Jurn stops as the clock ticks away, saving Dragan in the process, as #20 appears… it’s Emil Sitoci to save the day! Jurn swings and misses, taking a superkick in the process as Sitoci dumped Jurn with a Fireman’s carry gutbuster! A split-legged moonsault keeps Jurn down, but the former champion’s grabbed his Kendo stick again, using it on the back of Sitoci before David Starr disarms him and uses the stick on his former tag team partner… who then gets eliminated! Dragan and Sitoci combine to eliminate Jurn and Starr, just as we count down again as #21 is revealed as Darksoul. More wXw veterans, eh?

Darksoul clears the house, before Aaron Insane looked to eliminate him… only for the tables to turn as Insane takes a dropkick, but that’s just a background scene as Starr and Simmons brawl through the crowd to the back. I guess we’re going to get the match we lost at Carat after all! Out at #22 is… ALPHA FEMALE! It’s her first (televised) match back since she wrestles Millie McKenzie on Shotgun this week… and Alpha clears house with forearms for all! She dumps Darksoul, before resisting the Rotation’s efforts… instead flipping him with a lariat, before a Dominator dumped Rotation out of the match. Alpha tries to eliminate Sitoci, as the clock again ticks away, with #23 revealed as Laurance Roman (oh oh here he comes). A diving leg lariat from Roman wipes out Kiev as the Raccoon goes to work… only to turn around into the path of Alpha Female, who was a massive crowd favourite here.

Next up, at #24 was Avalanche… and here comes the big guy! Angry Avalanche comes to work with clotheslines before Laurance Roman bounced off him… and holy crap, the staredown here! Alpha Female doesn’t hold back, throwing elbows and lariats at Avalanche, who’s staggered… until he rebounds with a lariat to take her off her feet. Briefly, because she’s right back up with the Andre slam, and Oberhausen pops! Only to get caught out seconds later as a back body drop eliminates Alpha… and I think we all want more of THAT little exchange! Number 25 emerged as Veit Müller, who’s been incredibly impressive on Shotgun in recent weeks, and he continues that, with a spin-out gutwrench suplex on Roman, before eliminating Dirty Dragan.

Avalanche and Sitoci try to get an instant receipt for their friend, but to no avail as #26 enters: it’s Bobby Gunns! A nice, late draw for the recently unseated Shotgun champion, who the crowd takes as their new favourite. Bobby quickly eliminates Laurance Roman, while Ivan Kiev has to cling on as we’re again counting down… with #27 appearing as Doug Williams! It was his first appearance in wXw since 2015, and he instantly squares off with Veit Müller… and I am here for this! The pair exchange European uppercuts, but it’s Williams who takes down Veit with a back elbow, before he effortlessly tosses Emil Sitoci from the match. Another countdown, another entry as #28 is Tengkwa, making his first marquee event appearance in two years… he goes for Williams with a wheelbarrow armdrag, before a missile dropkick takes out Ivan Kiev. Williams and Gunns combine to stop Tengkwa in his tracks. Our penultimate entry is Pete Bouncer, who just unleashes with clotheslines as Rico Bushido’s lost count of entrants… although to be fair, Dirty Dragan’s mates has taken us well over 30 now!

Tengkwa’s eliminated by Bouncer, while Müller swiftly throws out Williams, which leaves RISE in there as a pair to try and make their way to the final two… just like last year! Our final entrant appears, but it’s Tarkan Aslan?! The Lying King tries to buddy up with Bouncer and Kiev, despite what he did on tape… but as Kiev and Bouncer have their backs turned, Aslan’s put on brass knuckles. Here’s Marius al-Ani too for some reason and… he lays out Pete Bouncer with the belt.

Wait, why’s Marius out here?! The crowd’s stunned as Kiev and Bouncer are eliminated by the pair of them, before Bobby Gunns grabs the Shotgun title belt and lays out Marius with it. One day, Marius will pair with a guy whose name doesn’t start with A! Tarkan thinks he’s thrown out Gunns, but Bobby clings on. Aslan tries to escape, but his (former?) RISE colleagues throw him back in for his comeuppance, which is somewhat delayed as he low-bridges Veit Müller, before Avalanche tried to throw him out.

Amid all that, we’ve lost track of the fact that Tarkan Aslan, Bobby Gunns and Avalanche are our final three. Well, final two, after Bobby low bridged the Lion King, and two fan favourites are the final two: Avalanche and Bobby Gunns… one of them’s getting a title shot! Gunns charges into Avalanche, but it backfires as he’s taken into the ropes, then into the corner as Avalanche hit his eponymous move. Bobby keeps fighting though, flying with a back elbow off the top, before he tried to haul Avalanche out of the ring.

Elbows from Avalanche get him free as Gunns looked to be bleeding… not helped by a big lariat from Avalanche. He manages to catch Avalanche in the ropes with a guillotine choke… but not wanting to be Big Show’d out of it, Avalanche back body drops his way free, before his charge ends up sending himself into the ropes for a German suplex! Gunns looks to keep up, pulling up Avalanche by the leg as he mustered his strength for one final elimination, but he’s got to fight off the big man some more as he caught him in the corner with a hanging armbar in the ropes… which works as he pulled Avalanche out of the ring and to the floor! Bobby Gunns is your winner – and he’s got himself a date with the Unified World Wrestling Championship! ***½

If 2017 was the year Bobby Gunns racked up impressive wins for his CV, 2018 is shaping up to be the year that defines the King of Smoke Style – with the crowd firmly on his side, and now having booked his first crack at the wXw title… it’s a remarkable ascent for him, that’s for sure!

Post-match, we get a translated interview as Gunns rued losing his “baby” (the Shotgun title), but that loss, and entering the Shortcut to the Top match itself late was a good thing. Gunns still wants his Shotgun title rematch… but then he’s going to get what he was made for. I’m just guessing, but there’s a pretty big Saturday in October that that match would play extremely well to…

This was a hell of a show in terms of story-telling for wXw. Marius al-Ani winning the Shotgun title – with a call-back to last year’s Tag League… on the same show that Absolute Andy reached his own pinnacle? Plus the Tarkan Aslan story, and the way that weaved in alongside Marius’ story… intricate, but told so well it didn’t need to be hammered home. Add in all the surprises in the Shortcut to the Top itself, all of the potential matches that sets up in the future, and you’ve got a worthy show to kick-off the autumn tour. An autumn tour that’s going to be incredibly busy in the coming weeks with the pair of FAN shows, and of course, World Tag Team League in October.