It’s a new season of Shotgun – and we’ve a new look as well as we found out who Bobby Gunns’ next challenger would be!

We’re waving goodbye to the classic black and red logo, as a new look and opening videos (including a new wXw NOW bumper) greets the Shotgun tapings that come to us from Cologne. Alan Counihan is on the call this week, and after running through the show, we’re taken backstage as RISE are having a meeting…

They talk about their summer break, with Lucky Kid having spent a long weekend in the British Isles, all excited over how many Twitter followers he’s gotten while working Rev Pro, Riptide and OTT. I can confirm by the way, he wasn’t lying or exaggerating about how RISE has spread to the UK and Ireland! On the other side of things… during his summer, Ivan Kiev just decorated the spare room. Oh how diverse RISE’s summer holidays were! They look to focus on the really busy autumn tour, with Shortcut to the Top, the PROGRESS tour and World Tag Team League all piling up on each other.

Much like speeding tickets piled up on Lucky Kid, who may not have a driving license to speak of by the end of the tour…

We recap what happened on Shotgun before the summer break, and the whole situation with the wXw tag team championships. Of course, Monster Consulting regained the physical belts going into the break… and now they’re meeting up with Christian Jakobi, belts and all. Jakobi’s proud of the champions, who are perhaps looking a little far ahead as they plan to me in World Tag Team League. But first, they demand a title defence: a triple threat elimination tables match against Jay FK and RISE. Jakobi doesn’t seem to mind, so we have ourselves wood for Oberhausen next weekend!

Promos follow ahead of the first of the Shotgun tournament semi-finals, where Lucky Kid is extremely happy at the prospect of becoming Shotgun champion.

wXw Shotgun Title Number One Contender’s Tournament – Semi-Final: TKO vs. Lucky Kid
Hey, we’ve new entrance graphics too!

Lucky Kid starts by taking down TKO before stopping to give him a thumbs up… TKO returns the favour, giving Lucky a fist bump. He replies to that with a pair of low dropkicks as TKO was taken outside, but there’s no dive because in Cologne we BLAHHH! TKO returns with a lucha armdrag as he flies around really well for someone with his build… and Lucky Kid puts a stop to it by clinging onto TKO’s leg. Nice segue there Alan! The leg hug gives way to a led spreader and a trip as Lucky’s still playing games, only to get caught in a Finlay roll and a springboard moonsault. There’s no escape, eh?

TKO keeps up by working on Lucky’s arm, but a rather apt shotgun dropkick takes TKO into the corner as the momentum swung all over the place. A handspring back elbow drops TKO for a near-fall, before TKO elbowed his way out of a suplex, almost sending Lucky into referee Tassilo Jung… there’s no ref bump, but Tarkan Aslan does manage to trip TKO as Tass was unsighted… and Lucky quickly follows up with a Dragon suplex to book his spot in the final. This was a nice slice of wrestling – a little shorter than I’d have liked, but that’s one-night tournament action for you. I wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch down the line between these two, as they showed that they meshed fairly well. ***¼

We’re backstage with Emil Sitoci and Thommy Giesen on the phone to Sebastian Hollmichel. Apparently he’s with Dirty Dragan’s therapist, and Emil tells us that Dragan has another trial series match at Shortcut against an unknown opponent.

There’s no rest for Thommy, as he’s got Absolute Andy backstage, complete with his Gareth Southgate-esque waistcoat. Andy really is strong, because he “launched into the sun” and survived. Well, given the current heatwave in Europe, we’ve all been launched into the sun in some way! Andy’s challenging Ilja Dragunov at Shortcut to the Top, and he reckons he’s already a step ahead of us all as he’s “the evolution of man”. Andy compares himself to the Champions League, while calling Ilja “eighth division”… who apparently isn’t here because he’s “afraid”. Andy then demands the camera’s cut, so we crash to the next match…

wXw Shotgun Title Number One Contender’s Tournament – Semi-Final: Veit Müller vs. Marius al-Ani
Müller had a good showing towards the end of last season, albeit in defeat to WALTER.

Veit started by working on Marius’ arm, but it’s quickly nullified as the pair worked into a test of strength, forcing al-Ani to kick out and impressively bridge up, before taking down Die Keiler with some nice headscissors and armdrags. Yep, Marius is still explosive!

Al-Ani quickly goes to an ankle lock after rolling through from the ropes, but Müller turns the tables with a shoulder charge and an overhead gutwrench that sent Marius flying through the air. NICE! Some uppercuts from Müller get countered into a backslide by Marius, who’s right back in it with an elbow drop before Veit hits back by hauling him into an old school shoulder breaker. Regardless of the result here, I want to see a LOT more of Veit based on his performance so far…

Veit keeps Marius in the corner with shoulder charges, before whipping him hard corner-to-corner. Another explosive comeback sees Marius kip-up into a kick, but he’s taken down with another armdrag as Veit almost took home the win. A belly-to-belly’s next as Müller was unloading on Marius, only to get caught with a spinning heel kick as Marius was finding ways to sneak back into contention.

Heading to the apron, Marius slingshots back into the ring for the kip-up Exploder, before heading up top for a frog splash… and just like that, he’s in the final! A good win for Marius, but I’d have to say that Veit Müller looked the more impressive of the two here. Hopefully this’ll be far from the last time we’ll see him on this tour! ***

We’re backstage again with Marius al-Ani and Pete Bouncer. Weirdly, Pete has a jacket on for a change… Pete’s going through the bag of gear that Lucky Kid left in the RISE tour car, and shares some insider tips as Marius prepares for his title final by mixing a protein shake. Bouncer looks at what he thought was Lucky Kid’s speeding ticket, but it’s something else… and after he wishes Marius the best for his final, we head off.

Next week on Shotgun: Pete Dunne vs. WALTER!

More Pete Bouncer, as he’s approached Tarkan Aslan… they need to talk, and they leave the room. What was in that envelope?!

They run through what’s been announced for Shortcut to the Top on August 4:

wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: Absolute Andy vs. Ilja Dragunov (c)
wXw Shotgun Championship: Tournament Winner vs. Bobby Gunns (c)
Elimination Tables Match for wXw Tag Team Championship: Jay FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin) vs. RISE (Ivan Kiev & Pete Bouncer) vs. Monster Consulting (Avalanche & Julian Nero) (c)
Dirty Dragan vs. Mystery Opponent
Shortcut to the Top: we’ve a new graphic, featuring Veit Müller, Ivan Kiev, Pete Bouncer, Lucky Kid, WALTER, Julian Pace, Dirty Dragan, Marius al-Ani, Emil Sitoci, Young Money Chong, Mike Schwarz, Juvenile X, Julian Nero, Avalanche, Francis Kaspin, Jay Skillet, Michael Dante, Timo Theiss, Laurance Roman and… THE ROTATION! Oh, and three faces I can’t identify. Sorry guys.

Lucky Kid’s backstage with Thommy Giesen… but Tarkan Aslan quickly comes in and berates him for distracting his tag team partner. There’s no such issues with Marius al-Ani, who brands Lucky Kid “way too playful” and “not championship material”. Before the match, we see that Ivan Kiev’s looking for Pete Bouncer, but Lucky reckons he’s “busy doing his 100 sit-ups, like usual.” Just the hundred?

wXw Shotgun Title Number One Contender’s Tournament – Final: Lucky Kid vs. Marius al-Ani
Winner gets Bobby Gunns at Shortcut to the Top, and we start with Lucky Kid still playing around, circling Marius al-Ani and playing keep-away with him.

Marius quickly corners Lucky as he proceeds to take Lucky down to the mat with a headlock… but Lucky gets back to his feet and reverses it before avoiding a leapfrog so he could grab onto Marius’ leg! It leads to the leg spreading and tripping, but Marius kips up… only to get sent outside with a low dropkick as Lucky still wanted to BLAHHH!

Marius returns to the ring, as he’s had enough of Lucky’s games, picking him up for a back suplex as the match swung back and forth, with Marius tying him up in knots on the mat. There’s a variation of an Octopus stretch, but Lucky falls into the ropes to save himself before he’s caught in a bridging hammerlock as again the ropes saved the RISE member.

A handspring back elbow from Lucky takes Marius down as he looked to mount a comeback, but a roll-through kick and an Exploder take Lucky back down to the mat. Marius tries to go up top for a frog splash, only for Lucky to roll away before nearly shocking him with a cradle. Another handspring from Lucky is countered into a German suplex… which too is countered as an Asai DDT finally takes Marius down!

Some palm strikes looked to wear al-Ani further, but a spinning heel kick put paid to that… as Lucky Kid just sits up and laughs it off! A lariat stops that, only for Lucky to kick out at one and fires back with some overhand chops… but Marius again gets back into it as he nearly booked his title shot with a brainbuster. Lucky’s up at two, and almost gets the win with a jack-knife cover… before a Ligerbomb saw him come close as well!

We get a split-screen of Ivan Kiev hunting for Pete Bouncer as the match continues, and we find Pete Bouncer laid out backstage! He’s back to his feet and drags himself out as he tells Ivan they have to find Lucky Kid… and then we’re back to the ring as a ref bump allowed Tarkan Aslan to come in, only for his interference to backfire! The referee doesn’t call for a DQ though as Aslan slinks away in shame, leaving Lucky Kid alone as an ankle lock forced him to tap! A really solid tournament final – and now Marius al-Ani faces Bobby Gunns at Shortcut to the Top! ***½

Pete Bouncer staggers out to the ring afterwards with Ivan Kiev, but Lucky Kid leaves on his own as we’ve got to wait for next week to see what on earth that was all about.

The new look to Shotgun certainly refreshes the show, and in their first episode back there’s a lot to take in – without ever getting the feeling like you’ve just been bombarded with stuff. The split-screen used in the main event really worked – adding an extra sense of urgency to the finishing spell of the tournament final, even if we have to wait to see what’s really going on within RISE. So, what was really in that envelope? Is Tarkan Aslan a rogue agent, or are there external forces affecting RISE? And just how good will WALTER vs. Pete Dunne be? Tune in next week as Shotgun has quickly gotten back to its best!