wXw begins a new run of shows as the We Love Wrestling series belatedly kicks off 2021, with Marius al-Ani looking to stretch his unbeaten run to 17-0.

Quick Results
Senza Volto pinned Aigle Blanc in 6:46 (**½)
Robert Dreissker pinned Ender Kara in 6:57 (***¼)
Levaniel pinned Dennis Dullnig in 9:29 (**¼)
Hektor Invictus pinned Fast Time Moodo in 10:57 (***¼)
Catch Grand Prix Rules: Marius al-Ani pinned Leon van Gasteren at 0:52 of Round 5 (***½)

We’re going back to the Steffy in Oberhausen for these shows – it’s a return to the empty arena format as current Coronavirus restrictions in North Rhine-Westphalia aren’t allowing for a closed set with fans. We’ve also got sponsors for these shows, with SL-Wrestling.de having their name tied to this particular episode – for full disclosure, we’ve sponsored a portion of these tapings, as you’ll see in the coming weeks.

So… on the night where 16 Carat Gold 2021 was meant to get going, let’s dive in! Dave Bradshaw – a very familiar voice around these parts – is doing the English commentary, but we’ve got Christian Bischof and Dään Jokisch on camera for the German feed. It’s great to see Christian back… but first, Fast Time Moodo and Stephanie Maze talk about their 2020, a year that started with them in the academy… then fighting each other… but ended with them winning the wXw World Tag Team Championships. Except there’s something else to be told: Stephanie Maze injured her knee, and it’s not healed up, so… since they can’t be fighting champions, they’re vacating the titles. They promise to be back and to regain the tag team championships though…

Backstage, Andy Jackson announces that in two weeks’ time, there’ll be a tournament for the vacant titles. Fast Time Moodo won’t be part of it, as he’s waiting for Maze to recover so they can challenge. Talk then turns to Moodo’s opponent today: Hektor Invictus. They fought during the Catch Grand Prix and Moodo knows exactly what to expect.

Senza Volto vs. Aigle Blanc
It’s a proper wXw debut for Aigle Blanc, who appeared in last year’s co-promoted shows with APCC in France, eventually losing in the finals of the Fight for Paris tournament.

We start with a lock-up as the pair trade standing switches before Volto took down Blanc for an armbar. Aigle’s back with a side headlock, but gets pushed off as Senza returned with a takedown, only to get caught with an up-kick. The pace stays high as Volto knocks Blanc onto the apron, then to the floor, before he stung his compatriot with a series of chops. A side headlock keeps Blanc down, as does a rear spin kick as Volto was controlling proceedings. Blanc springs out of the corner and hits a springboard crossbody, then an enziguiri before a twisting neckbreaker gets a near-fall for the debutant. Volto lands some elbows, but Blanc keeps him at bay, blocking a pop-up knee before getting caught with a gamengiri in the corner. A 619 takes Blanc down ahead of a Code Red attempt, but he pushes away and comes back with a half-and-half suplex instead.

Volto steps back from a flying Blanc, then lands a Code Red for a near-fall, before Blanc avoided the Eiffel Tower… Blanc’s taken to the outside, and this time lands the gamengiri before a Meteora to the back of Volto lands for a near-fall. Aigle rolls through a 450 splash, then runs into a standing Spanish Fly… before Senza puts him away with the Eiffel Tower for the win. A fun opener with Blanc looking good on his debut, but Senza had just enough about him to edge out the win. **½

Post-match, Andy Jackson’s reunited with Senza Volto… Senza puts over Aigle Blanc and says it’s “his time” to make waves. He invited Aigle to join him in the upcoming tag team title tournament, and we’ve got our first entrants confirmed.

They replay Ender Kara’s debut win over Prince Ahura in the Catch Grand Prix… and then we’re with Robert Dreissker, who talked about Kara’s promise… but also his disappointment at Kara’s performances. Dreissker tells us he recommended him as a replacement for the Catch Grand Prix, but he’ll help show Kara “his place” in the company.

Ender Kara vs. Robert Dreissker
Avalanche no more – it’s “Coach” Robert Dreissker now, as he fully takes on his role at the academy.

Dreissker starts with a side headlock as Kara tried to be a slippery so-and-so, before Kara got shoved into the corner. He floats over the Austrian, but a guillotine’s broken up as he just tosses Kara over his head. Forearms knock Kara into the corner as Dreissker was Beeling Kara for fun, following up with stomps and another Irish whip that damn near threw Kara through the turnbuckle. A back suplex is escaped as Kara came back with a handspring… bouncing off of Dreissker, who exclaimed his disgust before a slam and a big splash gets a near-fall. I burst out laughing there. Dreissker drills Kara with a forearm… then with a clothesline as the newcomer was perhaps getting a little too big for his britches.

Kara tries to fight back from the mat, finding a way back with a springboard dropkick to take Dreissker outside, with a tope con giro following. Dreissker pops up straight away and decks him, mad at how Kara’s showboating and “wasting his chance” before throwing him back into the ring. From there, a fallaway slam tosses Kara into the corner, with a Samoan drop next… and finally a Dreissker Bomb for the win. I loved the story on show here, with Dreissker from the off not agreeing with Kara’s methods, and then making him pay. Think of it as a “my way’s better than yours” Twitter argument, but as a match. Ignore the stars, this RULED. ***¼

Post-match, Andy Jackson catches Dreissker, who’s still pissed at Kara’s attitude, as they replayed him almost slipping because of the early showboating. I dig this grizzled veteran Dreissker. Ender Kara walks by in the middle of the interview, and doesn’t acknowledge anyone… so Dreissker chews him out again and tells him to tell wXw management for a chance to show he belongs.

We’ve a recap of Marius al-Ani’s winning streak, which stretched to 16-0 after the Catch Grand Prix – with a chart of the fallen. He’s with Andy Jackson as well, and his trophy. Given how much Marius loved having a personal interviewer, he’s a little miffed at having to be here, since he’s already proven he’s the best… but apparently he’s not the top contender for the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship. Tonight, Marius takes on Leon van Gasteren under Catch Grand Prix rules – Leon missed the tournament due to injury, and I guess he’s the next guy to join the list?

We then get Andy with Dennis “Cash” Dullnig… he’s painting himself as the new face on wXw NOW. Dullnig grew up wrestling, but he’s here to shut up Levaniel… and get paid.

Levaniel vs. Dennis Dullnig
Fans of the wider European wrestling scene may recognise Dullnig as “Cash Crash” – he was on some of the later-day Shotguns if you’ve got good memories! Levaniel’s back after injury, but he’s claiming a long-term winning streak because of it. I mean, he’s not wrong. Dullnig’s entrance makes me want to play Super Mario World… can’t think why.

Dullnig starts with a lock-up, but Levaniel’s waistlock takedown… just puts him in trouble as Dullnig grabs a hammerlock. A full nelson’s broken, but Levaniel can’t apply his own… so he rolls down Dullnig and poses. Levaniel’s back with a side headlock, but he’s pushed off and returns with a shoulder block, then a PK before Dullnig… got caught in the throat. A hiptoss takes Dullnig into the ropes as Levaniel slammed him next… Dullnig caught Levaniel with a cross chop in the throat as they head outside, before Levaniel got posted. Back inside, stomps from Dullnig keep Levaniel down, but Levaniel fought back with chops only to get nary a one-count from a quick cover.

Levaniel gets pulled into the turnbuckle, as Dullnig continues to use the corner to wear down the “Prinz der Sterne”. Levaniel gets his own back, and picks up a two-count on Dullnig, before a charge into the corner misses… Dullnig’s arm whip takes Levaniel down again, and creates a new focal point… but can’t use it as a backbreaker from Levaniel countered a clothesline.

Dullnig hangs up Levaniel in the ropes, but Levaniel recovers with a leg lariat before kicks wore down Dullnig for a two-count. A charge from Dullnig takes Levaniel into the corner, but Levaniel kicks Dullnig away, then tried to pull him in… only for Dullnig to nibble away on Levaniel. From there, Dullnig pulls down Levaniel for a flapjack that almost wins it… but after going for a Galactic Facecrusher (the Sister Abigail), Levaniel surprises Dullnig with a roll-up for the win. I think this might be the longest Levaniel’s had on a main show, and while this wasn’t flashy, it gave him the ring time he absolutely needs after that enforced time off. **¼

Post-match, Levaniel’s thrown at actually being interviewed, rather than being the interviewer. He’s asked about his 2-0 “streak”, as he goes into full on football manager mode. Andy Jackson summed me up right there. Levaniel’s so getting squashed by Marius, isn’t he? But first, Levaniel wants in on the tag title tournament, and he wants to team with Marius? Oh my God…

“Previously,” we see how Norman Harras won the Shotgun title from Metehan… complete with the Absolute Andy memo that saw him fine the loser (Metehan) so much money that he needed to take that second job in NXT UK to make it back. I kid, I kid…

We then have promo time with Norman Harras, who’s quizzed about his salary. He’s a little upset at finding out that he only gets paid more per title defence. And that his defences are being drawn at random, as the Championship Board of Directors apparently never clued up Norman on this. He’s got to defend it weekly in 15-minute time limit matches, or he doesn’t get paid! Abdul and Aytac from Ezel are there as well, without Metehan… and they look far from happy at the whole thing.

Dave Bradshaw recaps the new Shotgun title rules, with a new rule that the title can now be vacated if there’s no defences in a sufficient period of time. I think there may be two lads looking to make Norman poor…

Hektor Invictus vs. Fast Time Moodo
A rematch from the Catch Grand Prix then, and we start with Moodo testing out Hektor with kicks early on.

Hektor takes down Moodo, but has to escape a front chancery as he worked in with a bridging hammerlock. Some body scissors from Moodo sees him try for a pin, but Hektor’s shoulders weren’t down… and we resume with an armdrag that misses, as Moodo just gets kicked in the face. Moodo’s miffed, and a little off his game too, as Hektor comes in on the arm, throwing Moodo down, before Moodo responded with a kick and a hiptoss. More kicks take Hektor into the ropes, then down to the mat, before as pinning heel kick almost gets the win. A triangle armbar’s broken up with a powerbomb by Hektor, who pushes on with elbows in the corner for a two-count, before knees and a chop to the back stung Moodo for a one-count.

A chinlock from Hektor gives Moodo something to think about, but Moodo fought back, blocking a knee strike… but missing his own as a powerslam from Hektor got a near-fall. That’s followed up with a superplex attempt, but Moodo fought out… then got crotched on the ropes. Moodo recovers to knee Hektor in the gut, but he telegraphs a back body drop and almost loses to a sunset flip, before an Anaconda Vise from Hektor almost led to the stoppage. Another spinning heel kick from Moodo misses, but he sweeps out Hektor’s leg, then punts him in the back before tripping Hektor for… not a face-washing boot.

Instead, Moodo heads up top and planned to go Coast to Coast… but he slipped off the top. He resorts to a sliding punch instead as he was still out of sorts, before missing a leap off the top. A pumphandle driver from Moodo looks to cause more frustration as Hektor still kicks out… and after missing a Black Belt Kick, Hektor tries his luck with a German suplex and almost nicks it. Hektor does the throat slit as he stomps Moodo in for a powerbomb… but Moodo ‘rana’s free, only to whiff on a Black Belt Kick, jarring his knee in the process. It’s shrugged off, but he misses a crossbody out of the corner before Hektor pushes him down and flipped him for a powerbomb for the win. A decent story this, with Moodo out of sorts having had to drop the tag titles… and with him back in the singles ranks for the time being, Moodo needs to get in gear sharpish! ***¼

Post-match, Hektor’s interviewed by Andy and says that he’ll “reap the whirlwind” in 2021.

After some ads, we’ve a live Smoking Break as Andy Jackson is thrilled to be hosting this. Bobby Gunns is thrilled at how Norman Harras outfoxed Metehan last year, then turned his ire towards the Pretty Bastards for being the only ones without titles in the group. Instead, the Bastards have a gift for Norman: some new gear with his logo in all the glitter. Maggot’s upset at the cost of it all, while Andy asks Bobby Gunns about potential next challengers… only to get dismissed.

Leon van Gasteren’s interviewed ahead of his main event – he’s back after seven months out with a shoulder injury. An injury that caused him to miss the Catch Grand Prix – but he’s back now to try and upset Marius, whose attitude apparently grates with the veteran.

Catch Grand Prix Rules: Leon van Gasteren vs. Marius al-Ani
al-Ani’s coming into this on the back of a 16-match winning streak, having won the Catch Grand Prix at the end of 2020.

Round 1: al-Ani charges at van Gasteren to start, but to no avail as Leon sidestepped… then came back with a waistlock takedown. Marius keeps him on the mat with a front facelock, but van Gasteren gets up as the pair trade wristlocks. They trade snapmares as they look to stay on the mat, before an armdrag and a dropkick from van Gasteren had al-Ani headed outside for cover. Back inside, a jack-knife pin gets Marius a two-count, before they locked up into the ropes, rolling to the mat as a collar-and-elbow tie-up just couldn’t be broken… at least until van Gasteren was taken to the corner. Leon works over Marius’ leg… but the bell sounds to end the round.

Round 2: They resume with Marius catching van Gasteren with a knee… but it’s returned as they share a knuckle lock, looking to force the other down. Marius edges ahead, and breaks van Gasteren’s bridge before a ‘rana and a German suplex took Marius outside. Van Gasteren follows him with a tope, then rolled Marius back inside, only for al-Ani to take the mount and resume control. A side headlock from Marius is fought out of, but he just clobbers van Gasteren with a spinning heel kick for a two-count as he then lets the clock wind down.

There’s a cheeky kick between rounds by Marius, but there’s no yellow card produced…

Round 3: Marius comes in hot, landing some right hands to van Gasteren in the corner to start, before referee Tassilo Jung had to separate the pair. A leaping knee keeps van Gasteren in the corner, but Tass books Marius for the persistent infringement. Leon tries to capitalise, but his missile dropkick misses as al-Ani counters with an ankle lock, dragging the veteran away from the ropes, but van Gasteren rolls free and into a crossface! He rolls Marius away from the ropes, but the rolling takes us back to the ankle lock before Marius nails a step-up elbow drop for a near-fall. The third round ends with van Gasteren looking for a stunner, but instead lands headscissors before a running flip neckbreaker and a Fisherman suplex attempt took us to the bell.

Round 4: Van Gasteren elbows Marius early, then shrugs off some strikes with a superkick. Leon’s lifted onto the apron, but comes back with a springboard uppercut before a wrist-clutch Fisherman buster almost breaks the streak. Van Gasteren heads up top, but his frog splash lands on al-Ani’s knees… a running knee from Marius misses as Leon tries a roll-up, before Marius’ nip-up up kick found its mark. Leon’s leaping knee puts him back in it, but another flurry from Marius led to a lungblower from van Gasteren, but both men get back to their feet before an al-Ani dropkick took down van Gasteren for a delayed two-count as the round closes out.

Round 5: Marius is ready and waiting as he pounces on van Gasteren with kicks at the bell… before a Diamond Driver attempt was escaped. Van Gasteren responds with a Superman punch, which knocks Marius into the ropes before Marius returned in kind. He nails Leon’s stunner, then a Diamond Driver for the win! That’s 17-0 for al-Ani, who was pushed to the limit here. ***½

Post-match, Andy Jackson interviews al-Ani again, and Marius is still miffed at not being the number one contender for Bobby Gunns’ title. Andy doesn’t have an answer, but he does remember something from earlier. Levaniel’s offer to team with Marius for the tag titles, but Marius is done with that, having won the titles with Absolute Andy in the past… and that’s it!

wXw returns for We Love Wrestling #4 next Friday night, with no matches as yet announced… wXw having had to do the full-on empty arena stuff last year has put them in good stead – fixing things this time around with live reactions in lieu of a crowd (rather than, say, dubbed in golf claps), and it’s little touches like that that help. Despite the roster turnover in the last 12 months, and the lack of any WWE-contracted names, wXw is still pushing ahead and at least is telling stories – the formula that we’ve seen is needed if you’re going to have any chance in an empty arena format. It’s all about the stories, not the matches!