A new year, a new Shotgun as wXw began the build for their third annual Käfigschlacht cage warfare!

Shotgun’s moving to Wednesdays going forward, which’ll make those event-week reviews a lot easier to handle! Hot on the heels of the 17th Anniversary show, it was announced that RISE (John Klinger, Ivan Kiev and the Young Lions) would face the pairings of RINGKAMPF and Monster Consulting inside the steel cage.

We open with Bad Bones bragging about getting rid of Ilja Dragunov once and for all – saying that invincible is now insignificant. That’s scarily catchy. Talk turns to the Käfigschlacht, with Ivan Kiev apparently postponing his Shotgun title rematch to take part in the cage match… a match that bad Bones bragged about big-time. Kiev was NOT happy about that… nor was Pete Bouncer, who spoke up when Bones again tried to brainwash the rest. Kiev steps in again, and you can clearly tell who the favourites are to splinter away from RISE.

Jurn Simmons vs. Michael Dante
We’re in Fulda for this, and what I believe is Michael Dante’s first outing on Shotgun since episode 302.

The two Dutch heavyweights start off with headlocks and shoulder tackles, with the see-saw tackles eventually giving way as Jurn changes tack and nails a dropkick to take Dante down. Dante returns the favour with a leapfrog and dropkick of his own as the former tag champion edged ahead, at least until Jurn started to repeatedly whip him into the turnbuckles. Simmons starts to rain down forearms on Dante as he systematically worked through “Hell’s Spartan”, stretching him with a STF while Alan on commentary reminded me that Google+ was still a thing. The pair struggle over a suplex as Simmons eventually gets taken down, but the Massive one’s quickly back on top with some clotheslines, before he dumps Dante with a slam.

Dante manages a quick burst back into life, hitting a Blackheart buster and a back senton, but Jurn’s able to kick out after that taste of David Starr’s arsenal, only for Dante to charge at him some more with lariats. A big back body drop almost gets the job done for Dante, but Jurn kicks out and swiftly hits a piledriver to get the win. A rather sudden end, but it did what it needed to do – put some steam behind Jurn after his loss to David Starr at the anniversary show. ***

We get a recap of that Simmons/Starr match, and Jurn’s post-match turn where he cracked Starr in the back with a Singapore cane. Rico Bushido’s next up with Jurn, asking for answers… Jurn reckons that there’s no grudges and that this was just him showing that he’ll do whatever it takes to get a head. The interview’s rudely interrupted by Dirty Dragan, who gets choked out as Jurn underscores his point.

Yes, it’s the end of me. There’ll be no White Comic for the We Love Wrestling tour promos in 2018.

Another recap follows of Melanie Gray thinking she’d get the wXw women’s title by default at the 17th Anniversary show. Of course, that’s not how it went down, as we see how Killer Kelly left Oberhausen with the belt… and naturally segues to Kelly returning backstage to her boyfriend RAFA.

Bobby Gunns is next for another Smoking Break… the first Raucherpause with the Shotgun title in his possession. The most polarising figure in wXw (his words, not mine) has a year in review to show us, featuring wins over Koji Kanemoto, Drago and Matt Riddle (“the UFC hippie… who thought he could be Super Mario and use mushrooms to surpass himself”). Yeah, it’s been a hell of a year, and a hell of a promo as Gunns seeks to top it all in 2018.

16 Carat Gold hype time! There’s been some enforced changes to the line-up already, but your field so far is: Travis Banks, Avalanche, Chris Brookes, Jeff Cobb, Jonah Rock, Jurn Simmons, Mark Haskins, Matt Riddle and Matt Sydal (in for Penta and Fenix).

Up next… Dirty Dragan’s being all weird in his flower-y shirt. He’s bragging about a new fighting style that makes him unbeatable – his new rat demon-style karate!

Dirty Dragan vs. Timothy Thatcher
Oh God. Dragan, this IS a test… and to be fair, Dragan came out all guns a-blazing, and even hits a flying Khali chop for a surprise one-count. That control from Dragan quickly ends when Thatcher scoops him up for some gutwrench suplexes, but Dragan’s got some heart as he kicked out at two… only for a butterfly suplex to quickly finish the squash. SPLAT. Still, at least he tried.

Dragan’s in shock afterwards, and he refuses to accept the loss, claiming that Thatcher pulled trunks and hair. So he issues a challenge for a submissions match, and we’re on!

Submissions Match: Dirty Dragan vs. Timothy Thatcher
Thommy Giesen can barely stop himself from laughing as Thatcher accepted the challenge. Dragan pokes the eyes and jumps onto Thatcher from the off, but all hope is gone as Timmy makes the ropes and blocks another Khali chop before putting in a rear naked choke for the quick tap. Thanks for coming Dragan!

HE STILL HASN’T HAD ENOUGH! He wants a knock-out only match now…

Knock-Out Match: Dirty Dragan vs. Timothy Thatcher
The bell rings. Dragan tries another chop, and misses as Thatcher connects with an enziguiri on landing… and that’s enough to knock him out as the ref does the arm-drop gimmick. Timmy’s 3-0 today. Quick work… and a heck of an entertaining way to get Dragan some screen time too.

After the Dragan Show calms down, we go backstage as Melanie Gray confronts Killer Kelly. Well, I say confront, I mean “she pulls her by the hair and chokes her against the wall”. Martina makes the save as a bitter Melanie still can’t handle that she’d not won the title. That leads to the announcement of a match for Back To The Roots XVII, as we’ll get Martina vs. Melanie Gray – the scheduled tournament final… just not for any belt.

Also at Back To The Roots, we’ve got the aforementioned Käfigschlacht and Killer Kelly’s first title defence against Toni Storm. Speaking of Toni, she’s up next as she dismisses Kelly as someone who fluked her way to the title, as Storm promises she’ll become the deserving champion. Huh. That sounded very ominous for someone who’s usually happy-go-lucky…

RISE (Da Mack & Ivan Kiev) vs. Jay FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin)
We complete our quintet of matches from Fulda this week with this main event, featuring a lesser-used RISE pairing of Da Mack and Ivan Kiev.

Mack storms into a lead with a big Slingblade to Skillet early on, only for Jay to return with some headscissors as the pair flew around the ring in the opening stages. Jay FK enjoy a brief double-team on Mack, culminating in a Fisherman suplex from Kaspin for a near-fall. After kicking out, Mack’s able to take over as the tables turned, with Kaspin finding himself in the wrong corner for a good old-fashioned rope burn to the eyes from Kiev. Another quick tag out gets Skillet back in play as the momentum swung all over the place… helped with Da Mack booting Kaspin with a PK off the apron as the ref was otherwise distracted.

Whenever RISE looked to be in trouble, they were more than happy to take a shortcut to restore their position on top, be it with an eye rake or a trip in the ropes, with the latter seeing Mack kick Kaspin out of the turnbuckles to keep the “Pop Culture Wrestler” on the mat. Mack chains together a butterfly suplex and a butterfly lock as he tries to force a submission, but instead Mack breaks the hold and just slaps him.

Again, Kaspin’s kept isolated from any chance of a tag out, with things not being helped when Mack throws a running knee to knock Skillet off the apron. Of course, Jay tries to rush the ring, but that just distracts the ref, and delays the Kaspin fightback even longer. Eventually Kaspin escapes a back suplex and hits an enziguiri to Kiev, but he can’t quite make the tag as the RISE wear-down continued even longer.

Another escape finally works though as a rewind enziguiri finally gets Kaspin free to make the hot tag – and Fulda roars into life as Skillet was a proverbial house on fire against RISE! The neckbreaker/stomp combo nearly gets Jay FK the win, but Kiev quickly goes back to an eye rake before hitting the Miz clothesline through the corner. A slingshot DDT to Skillet keeps him down as Kaspin and Mack then fly into the ring… leading to Mack getting spiked with a Michinoku driver as Skillet made sure everyone was left laying.

A tag to Da Mack allows him to fly in with an enziguiri to Skillet for a solid two-count, and it’s all RISE again now… until Kiev accidentally boots Mack off the apron! Ivan’s able to keep control with a running knee as he builds up to a death valley driver… but Jay escapes and hits the assisted Michinoku Driver – the Magic Bullet Theory, according to Kaspin – and that’s enough to upset RISE! A thrilling tag team main event as Jay FK pick up arguably the biggest win of their short tag team career to-date! ***½

Finally, we end with RINGKAMPF talking – with WALTER and Timothy Thatcher reminiscing about how quickly Monster Consulting have gone from foes to friends. Old Timey Timmy reminds us how well Avalanche does in Käfigschlachts, which prompts WALTER to hunt down Avalanche and Nero for a chat…

…which we get next as Avalanche seems almost wistful about being thrown into the cage again. Nero relates since they’re the only two who have been involved in all three cage matches, and they’re interrupted by their new tag partners, only for the show to cut to the end credits before WALTER can discuss things. Ooh, I like cliffhangers!

So, a new year, and Shotgun isn’t relenting. With added comedy in the form of Dragan and Thatcher, wXw’s showing that they’re not afraid to try new things as they continue to evolve beyond their usual mix of solid wrestling and water-tight storylines. It’s hard to believe that we’re barely two weeks away from Back to the Roots… but I cannot wait to see what carnage will unfold in the third Käfigschlacht!