Barely a fortnight after returning, Ilja Dragunov thrust himself into a tricky title defence as a four-way headlined wXw’s latest trip to London.
As seems to be the norm on these shows, there were some card changes – Lucky Kid ended up on the company’s show in Kutenholz (a little west of Hamburg) after his British visa came through just too late. Meanwhile, Michael Dante was off the show through illness, so we ended up with a replacement and another match altogether, as you’ll see…
A packed crowd in Tufnell Park’s Dome were on hand for this, and of course they were in fine voice. On commentary this time you’ve got Christian Jakobi and Sebastian Hollmichel in German, while the English feed has Jeremy Graves alongside Callum Leslie, who filled in for Alan Counihan.
wXw Shotgun Championship: Bobby Gunns (c) vs. TK Cooper
A smart choice for an opener, as Bobby Gunns’ appearance got the already-hot and extremely partisan crowd rocking. You know the chant: Gunns! Bobby Gunns!
The champion tried to light up at the bell, but of course… you can’t do that in England! Gunns jumped TK as the crowd shoehorned Gunns’ name into the Muppets “do do, de do do” song… and when we finally got going, Gunns had to answer to a TK dropkick as the Kiwi tried to claim the upper hand.
An attempted leapfrog from Gunns ended when TK just booted him in the chest, but Bobby’s right back in with the hanging armbar in the ropes, before a flying uppercut took TK down as Gunns built up some momentum. Gunns ties TK in knots, using a single-leg Lion Tamer before he effectively tamed the lion by stomping on Cooper’s forearm. The arm work continues as Gunns worked up to the fingers, snapping away at them before tying TK in a key lock, but it’s quickly stood up out of as TK went into the corner.
TK’s right back with a release Northern Lights as the crowd found their voice again, just in time for Gunns to nail a double armbar with a handy Stretch Muffler thrown in. Someone’s trying to go Orienteering with Napalm Death, eh? A rope break saved TK there, but he’s got to fend off more shots to the arm before he kicked away Gunns’ arm as a back body drop put the Kiwi on top.
Bobby falls for the circle game – and the resulting right hand – but he replies with an axe kick as TK reminds him… he’s Samoan! And speaks a little German too! A Thunderbuster (Blue Thunder gutbuster) looked to spike Bobby, but he’s right back with a German suplex as the pair went back and forth, ending with a side slam for a near-fall before Bobby tried again for that armbar. TK rolls him up and lands an axe kick for a two-count of his own before the pair exchanged shots on their way back to their feet.
TK catches a kick, but gets suckered into Gunns’ Swish Armbar – the armbar with a trapped leg – and that’s enough to force the submission. A hot match to get us going, with Gunns having the crowd on side – while having TK’s number to boot. ***½
Millie McKenzie vs. Killer Kelly
This time, it was Millie who had the fans on-side, but it was Kelly who started the feeling-out process as the pair remained largely grounded.
A front headlock was reversed as Millie teased going after Kelly’s arm, but a sporting handshake led to Kelly having to avoid a German suplex attempt and take down Millie for some ground and pound. Millie gave as good as she got as the pair traded rights before McKenzie connected with a monkey flip.
Millie kept up with some dropkicks for a near-fall, but Kelly’s right back with a bicycle kick that picked up a near-fall as the intensity stayed high. Kelly takes Millie down with a cravat, but it’s broken via the ropes only for Millie to get taken into the corner for a big dropkick. Out of nowhere, Millie lands an Ace crusher for a two-count, and then started teasing some German suplexes.
One hits… then Kelly replies with one of her own… but Millie dishes out four more, with the last one busting Kelly open as her own knees smashed her in the eye. It made for a brutal, but strong visual, as Kelly fought on, landing a Northern lights for a near-fall. Millie hits a pumphandle German, but Kelly kicks out and rushed back in with a strait-jacket German for the win. Perhaps a little curtailed with the injury, but this was all kinds of fun – all the way down to Kelly just shrugging off her own blood. Hopefully these two can match up again down the line… Femmes Fatales in October, perhaps? **¾
Oh, how one shrug can make a star!
— Dan (@GolazoDan) March 27, 2018
Chris Brookes vs. Marius al-Ani
I think this makes Marius one of a few guys who’ve done all three wXw shows in London (the rest being Brookes, WALTER and Travis Banks)… quite an impressive feat, and one that shows the depth of the wXw roster. The continued building of Marius since the A4 split has been a little stop-start – but with him clearly focusing on Absolute Andy after 16 Carat, the slowly-slowly approach makes a little sense.
We’ve got a 50-50 crowd here as the fans backed both guys, and we started with Marius getting frustrated at how easily the lanky Brookes was able to force a rope break. Al-Ani scores with a shoulder block and a hiptoss, only to get taken down for a back senton as Brookes looked to stay level here.
Brookes quickly goes up for the drippy wet willie, and that properly angered Marius. As it should. Hard Irish whips into the corners moved the ring as Marius grounds Brookes with an armbar, but Brookes returns the favour, throwing in a chop for good measure as he targeted the arm of the man affectionately known as “Mr. No Bullshit”.
A high dropkick stuns Brookes, as does a low one, as Marius mounted a comeback with a step-up elbow drop to Brookes. We swap submissions as an Octopus from Brookes is escaped as al-Ani tried an ankle lock… but has to kick out of Death By Roll-Up before nailing a huge brainbuster for a near-fall.
Marius’ trademark sunset flip combo ends brutally with a kick to the head, as a corkscrew rope-hung neckbreaker gets Brookes a solid two-count, as does a slingshot cutter. The sunset flip kip up into an Exploder follows as Marius fought back, landing a springboard back kick before going up top for a frog splash… but he lands on Brookes’ knees as a wacky lucha roll nearly steals the win.
The Praying Mantis Bomb’s escaped as a roundhouse from al-Ani put him back on path for the frog splash, with the death valley driver and a successful frog splash eventually getting the win. Exciting stuff helped by the usual hot crowd, and Marius is back on track after a Carat weekend of disappointment! ***¼
Before the next match, Thommy Giesen plugged 16 Carat Gold… then turned talk to World Tag Team League. Why was that on the agenda? Why, our next match was a qualifier for it – thanks to Michael Dante’s injury, we had a surprise match instead.
World Tag Team League Qualifier: Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter) vs. Aussie Open (Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher)
Seven days earlier, I’d seen three of these guys in the back room of a pub for GOOD Wrestling… now, they were all in the mix for a spot at October’s World Tag Team League!
Jim and Kyle start us off, with the Hunters trying to isolate the smaller part of Aussie Open… it worked for a spell, as Lee Hunter got took down with a low dropkick as Mark Davis was tagged in… and shrugged off a chop or two before high fiving both of the Hunters. Doh! Jim’s back in, as is Kyle, who scores a near-fall following a cheeky back senton from Dunkzilla.
The Aussies continue to double-team and isolate Jim, with some Davis chops helping along the way as the crowd increased their support for the Aussies… until Lee nailed a moonsault out of the corner to get back into things. Quick tags between the Hunters set up for a neckbreaker onto the knees for Fletcher, who gets isolated again as the veterans started to wear away on him.
That period of offence ended when Lee misses an elbow drop, as Fletcher manages to break free and tag in the house on fire that was Dunkzilla, who took on both Hunters with a double body slam! That was awesome! The one-handed powerbomb follows to Jim, with Lee taking a punch for his troubles, before Davis went diving!
Jim tries to fight off both Aussies back in the ring, and succeeds with the help of Lee for duelling superkicks, but they get receipts before the Hunters again took over, nailing a version of a back cracker to put Fletcher back down. Mark Davis is back to catch a crossbody as Lee takes a pop-up crusher for a near-fall – broken up by a flying Jim Hunter – as the momentum continued to shift back-and-forth.
A top rope ‘rana and a big splash nearly puts away Fletcher, as the Hunters look for a Doomsday Device… but Fletcher rolls up for a near-fall as the device failed, before Davis came back in for the spin-out inverted Angle slam… following up with a Praying Mantis Bomb into a sit-out spinebuster for another near-fall as somehow the Hunters held on!
Davis is back in as the Aussies tease the Fidget Spinner, but Lee Hunter’s interference just earns him a vicious pull-up piledriver as Jim took the sliding forearm into the corner, then the Fidget Spinner for the pin. This started off slow but quickly got into gear – and was the sleeper hit of the entire show. As a rejected commentary line… Aussie Open qualify for not only World Tag Team League, but the after-party to boot! ****¼
As for “which Hunter is which?” – the one who has no gap between his kneepads and his boots is Lee. When they become obstructive brothers though, all bets are off!
Alexander James vs. Jack Sexsmith
The loss of Lucky Kid meant that Alexander James needed a new opponent – which came in the form of Jack Sexsmith. Surprise Jack is always a good thing, and at least today there’s very little chance his match will end the same way his last outing in wXw did – by way of a party cannon shot from der Schwinger Club.
Alexander James didn’t look impressed by Sexsmith’s presence, and instantly took him into the corner to rough him up a little. Jack’s response was somewhat similar, in his own special way as he threw in his own brand of mind games.
After a brief break, James took down Sexsmith as he tried to dominate, starting on Jack’s wrist as he took him down to the mat. The arm-based offence continues, but an eye poke from Jack turns things around as do some atomic drops and a Pearl Neckbreaker. Sexsmith’s Big Double Stompy Move misses as James rushed in with a European uppercut to firmly switch the advantage, as he went back to the arm of Jack, mixing it in with more uppercuts for good measure.
Sexsmith tries a superkick and a LGBDT, but James stuffs it all so he can go back to the arm, scoring a wristlock takedown before trapping him in the Coat of Arms. A rope break saves Jack, but James is still massively on top, despite the crowd’s hatred of AJ. Jack does manage to fire back with kicks, booting James in the face before a superkick and Sliced Bread.
A shotgun dropkick and some double knees took James back into the corner ahead of the LGBDT for a near-fall, before he ducked a ripcord back elbow and lands another running knee as he went back up top for another BDSM… but that Big Double Stompy Move misses again as James nailed the ripcord back elbow before the Kings Landing (front facelock brainbuster) earned him the win. Decent enough, but you got the feeling the crowd weren’t much into James – I’d be interested to know what the original plan was for this before Jurn Simmons’ injury, as it seems that his last few weeks in this wXw tour was derailed by that. ***
wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship: David Starr vs. Travis Banks vs. WALTER vs. Ilja Dragunov (c)
A change from our scheduled main event (since that match is become part of a story somewhere else, ahem), meant that David Starr had another crack at WALTER, albeit in a four-way match. Would he focus on the title… or would he insist on going through der Ringgeneral? Given how hard his focus was on WALTER once he came out, it was perhaps a little obvious…
Let’s talk a little about Ilja Dragunov. At the age of 24, he’s got an immense connection with the crowd from the second his music hits to the second he goes back through the curtain. A talent that you cannot teach, nor buy – and is more than worth his weight in gold to wXw and any promotion he’s in.
There was perhaps no clear favourite for this match, and we started with Travis Banks trying to clear house before we quickly settled down to WALTER and David Starr, whose death stare barely wavered in the opening moments. Starr tripped WALTER, but the Austrian had way too much power left in him… as we saw with the first of many chops that decked Starr. Travis Banks gets one too, before Starr low-bridged WALTER to the outside as the action stayed at a high pace.
Banks’ kicks knocked Starr down, just as Ilja joined the fray, and yes, those two threw bombs at each other, ending with a backhanded chop from Ilja – all in front of a gobsmacked Tassilo Jung. Lariats from Ilja kept Banks down, but WALTER’s back in to carve up Ilja’s chest with more chops, before he booted the champion’s face clean off. Holy crap!
We’re back to WALTER and Banks, with the Kiwi throwing some kicks to the chest, before hitting a leg sweep and a diving knee to take WALTER down. Everyone’s on the outside all of a sudden, and now it’s dive time as Banks looked for a PK off the apron… and gets dumped onto the apron with a back suplex from WALTER. Starr tries to fly and gets powerbombed onto Banks instead, after a brief chop, before Ilja finally takes down WALTER with a thunderous tope!
Back inside, Ilja knocked Starr onto the apron, but the counters take Ilja into a full nelson backbreaker on Starr, before Banks breaks things up and tries his luck with chops. You can guess how loud they were… and who won out. There’s some three-way interplay that ended with Starr dumping Banks and Dragunov with duelling Cherry Mint DDTs on the apron, before countering a Kiwi Krusher into a Blackheart Buster for a near-fall on Banks.
The same three trade chops, although it’s Ilja doing most of the dealing before WALTER shows them who’s boss. WALTER riles up Ilja ahead of their match at True Colors, throwing some kicks to Ilja, who tries to throw some chops… and you know how that ends, as we got a taste of last year’s Carat final. Unbesiegbar is the word though as Ilja keeps getting up, just to have more clouds of sweat chopped off of his chest, before a paintbrush-like slap decked Ilja… then Starr… then Banks.
Starr got back up, but WALTER’s in the mood for a killing spree as he boots everyone… only for Ilja to show that being unbesiegbar perhaps isn’t the best thing when you’re against WALTER. FINALLY Starr and Dragunov block a chop as WALTER finally gets triple-teamed in the corner as everyone figures out that’s their only hope… before their quick alliance blew up.
Alliances were the way forward, but WALTER’s able to get past them all with thunderous boots before a butterfly suplex saw the one man Austrian wrecking crew take down Ilja… before Travis Banks knocked him down with a Slice of Heaven. David Starr almost broke his streak by stealing the pin, but WALTER kicks out, and kicks back into things after breaking free of a Product Placement.
The Gojira clutch led to Starr getting dragged to the mat, but Ilja breaks it up with a back senton off the top to keep the match – and his title – alive – before a Torpedo Moscau was caught with another Gojira clutch! WALTER’s thrown away though, and Ilja finally connects with the Torpedo Moscau… only for Travis Banks to break it up! A Kiwi Krusher sees Banks come close, before his Slice of Heaven is rudely broken down by a boot from WALTER.
David Starr nails a pair of Han Stansen lariats – one to WALTER, and another to Ilja – but Dragunov’s back up with one of his own, before the Torpedo Moscau finally ended things… a brutal, fun and frantic match that packed a lot into its fifteen minutes. Gotta love a sprint – and with David Starr perhaps taking too long to focus on WALTER, it led to an emphatic win for Ilja Dragunov who had to beat off some stiff competition to walk away with his title. ****½
wXw’s return to London was an enjoyable show – showing exactly what this company is quickly becoming known for. Great wrestling, absorbing characters and an atmosphere that’s among the best in the world. If you’re of the mindset of “it was all wXw wins”, what were you expecting on a wXw show? Aside from those co-promoted shows in Oberhausen, Frankfurt and Hamburg later this year, there’s no benefit to having any “PROGRESS guys” win since none of them are appearing for the company in the immediate future. I’d suspect if those late summer/early autumn shows are presented as “wXw vs. PROGRESS”, the outcomes will be very much different…
Given that we’re still pretty fresh from 16 Carat Gold, and that there’s not been much set up in terms of storyline for most of the folks on this card, you cannot complain at what was effectively a house show being done in a little under two hours (after editing) – especially considering the action that packed into it.