ADVENTURES IN OBERHAUSEN PART III: Mike Kilby’s Wild Ride
Thursday 8th March
I’m in Birmingham Airport and so hyped for 16 Carat Gold weekend that I can’t even bring myself to sit down while waiting for fellow Voices of Wrestling podcaster Oli Court. It’s in this hyper-state that I run into both Chris Brookes and Travis Banks. You know a weekend is going to be good when, before you’ve even got to the city the shows are in you’re already rubbing shoulders with the boys. The journey to the airport had been an interesting one too, duelling with artics on the motorway, driven through the rain by my lovely wife, who only passed her driving test last year. Like Brookes & Banks I got dropped off at the airport’s ‘drop-off point’ which is half a mile from the building. We’ll all be on the same flight to Dusseldorf this morning. Brookes is fairly chirpy, despite a shortage of jeans, but Travis was at the gym till late. He’s had 1.5 hours sleep.
We head through security together with Travis bemoaning the lack of an injured pal to push through the express lane in a wheelchair. “Where the wolf when you need him?” asks Brookes before realising a shoulder injury probably wouldn’t necessitate a wheelchair. Sitting down at the gate Travis immediately falls asleep and we’re left chatting about flights and such. Brookes is much taller in person than he appears in the ring and he’s extremely tall in the ring. As we’re boarding the plane he can barely get in.
Ah, the Simpsons, a moment for every occasion. Oli gets excited at the prospect of finally doing the F1-cast this weekend, talked about since Tag League. This leads to me referring to Lewis Hamilton as a heel. “A heel?” questions Travis incredulously. We’re not even in Germany and I’m already having a blast. We get the chance to eyeball the card for tonight’s Inner Circle show and that just gets us all the more fired up. It’s going to be a good weekend.
As Oli and myself stroll over to the Tryp I’ve already been recognised once; by Cian one of the Irish contingent, at Dusseldorf airport’s train station. He’s over here for the first time and has booked an air bnb. On arriving in Oberhausen he has to locate it. I can’t say we’re much help, it’s in the opposite direction of the Turbinenhalle.
We make the usual pilgrimage to the Oberhausen snail statue. There are two ways to do Oberhausen. One is going to the snail statue and the other is wrong. Don’t be the guy who went all the way to Germany without taking a picture with the snail.
After checking in to the Tryp we head over to CentrO where we’re meeting some lads for lunch at Three Sixty. It’s lunchtime on Thursday and there are already 13 British/Irish fans here. We sit down with friends both old and new to debate wrestling and the weekend ahead. Alan 4L is our leader. When he first came to Oberhausen for 16 Carat he was sat with one person after the tournament ended. He’s already gotten that beat before the shows even start. I learn a lot about the politics of Irish wrestling and hear some Sean Guinness drinking stories. This in turn leads to a lot of Zero1 chatter. Masato Tanaka is a clone. The range of topics would be completely overwhelming to a non-wrestling fan. To those in attendance it’s perfect. Striking up a conversation with someone is remarkably easy. “Have you seen Tetsujin stage 2?” sets up a series of takes from around the table and it goes on.
“Penguins would be really good at chops” – Dan from RBR.
It’s pissing it down as we leave the restaurant and make our way over to the station to make our way to Essen for Inner Circle. STRIGGA blames the English for bringing the weather with them. He’s allowed to insult us as he’s driving us back to Oberhausen after the show. If you’re making the trip to Inner Circle you’ll need to hop on a train to Essen Zollverein station.
On our way we’re joined by some of the Irish lads, including Gary, which means we get to hear about the ‘dinner’ thread he’s done on Twitter.
Right, theres a facebook friend I have and he posts a dinner picture once a week. I wouldnt usually mind this content but what he posts is..
— Gary 🔫 (@garseys) August 10, 2017
Pure 16 Carat Gold. Has this man never heard of sauces? The journey is a short one but has me reaching for my notebook regularly due to the hilarity of the conversation. There’s talk of doing a EuroGraps cookbook, we’re joined by Manka (a friend of CMJ’s who helpfully tells us where to get off as we’re not paying attention) and Dan pops me again with his criticism of Moose.
“Moose is a wankbag. He’s actually shit”.
I find myself leading the rest to the venue from memory. For anyone that knows how bad my memory is I feel this is a massively overlooked achievement. I didn’t even take any wrong turns. The Mike Kilby Cerberus Forsyth t-shirts make a huge impact in the line outside the building. Dan Mormon, in typically continental fashion says “that’s fucking jumping” of them. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 8, 2018
It’s at this point that Kilbymania begins in earnest. You can make claims for any number of the wrestlers owning Carat weekend (Bobby Gunns, Lucky Kid, Absolute Andy etc) but for me the MVP is Mike Kilby. He is the purest of boys. It was a pleasure to spend most of my weekend in his company. His line in the queue about how “16 Carat is a time for forgiveness” became the mantra for the weekend.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 8, 2018
The thing I love about the Academy is the acoustics. It’s a tiny building but it has a nice high ceiling so no moves are off the cards. Any time chanting starts in there it echoes around beautifully for just a moment before coming right back at you. It’s not my favourite venue of the weekend, or my favourite show, but a small intimate venue with 160 hardcore fans is an absolutely ideal way to kick off the weekend. It is easily the hardest venue to get to but it always feels worth it as a taster for the weekend as a whole.
It’s pretty cold in Essen, and pissing it down, but inside the building it rapidly becomes a sweat box. Tommy isn’t available to commentate on this show so Christian Jakobi himself is on ring announcing duties and the way he stops the “one-fall” stuff is beautiful, re-ordering the announcements so the ‘one fall’ bit is buried in the middle. I actually shook his hand for that. Not only is he an excellent promoter but he thinks about the subtleties of everything in wrestling. Right down to stuff that might annoy some people.
Inner Circle usually sets the tone for the weekend. If the guys are working hard at Inner Circle we’re in for a treat. The first four matches on this show were great. Travis Banks vs. Alexander James was very technically strong. AJ working the arm and Trav responding with strikes that sound that much louder in such an enclosed space. AJ has gotten smoother since we last saw him and his technique is a joy to behold up close. It feels lost on the bigger shows where he has to work for a 1000 people, rather than 100. On these smaller shows he’s perfect. This is followed by Tim Thatcher, busting out world-class facials, against Julian Pace. If you’re not there live you don’t get to hear Pace’s entrance, which includes lines from Cars. Plus little subtleties again from CMJ. Thatcher hails from “next door” (the wrestlers staying in Essen sleep in the building adjacent to the ‘venue’ part). Tim bullies Pace throughout and gets the win. I love that Thatcher never even considers slapping his thigh or any of that bullshit. He just thumps people and it still sounds great.
Chris Brookes vs. David Starr is another very good match. They do so much crazy stuff, after a comedy opening, that STRIGGA asks if they know it’s only Thursday. Nope. They just kill each other and the match has to end early when Brookes knees his chin on a dive, breaking his back teeth at the same time. Thankfully the injury doesn’t prevent him from competing but it’s not an ideal start to the weekend for the Calamari Catch King. After they’re done Jonah Rock wrestles WALTER. When they announced this match I was very hyped because Jonah has a large chest. It’s a great target for WALTER and that’s how it played out. The strong, confident Jonah was soon bullied into a quivering mess by the Ring General. Jonah’s chest would heal a few weeks later.
16 Carat’s media centre was better organised than ever for this show and as we came in Patrick Struebbe had already gotten us passes to everything that was happening that weekend. This removed the need for being handed the passes ahead of each show, which simply wouldn’t have worked on crowded Saturday card. I stayed at the back to chat with Patrick for the last two matches. As always he’s personable and is pleased to see us all. I wish I had a promotion in the UK so I could invite him over to check it out. When we first arrived in Germany the same time last year I found the whole process slightly intimidating because Germans say what’s on their mind and are outright blunt. The same is true when they are pleased to see you. Over the weekend I felt a lot of love from the locals. The same being true for the likes of Mike Kilby. Greeted by Patrick with “Mike, you crazy SOB”. This being in reference to that Friends/RISE mock-up he’d done.
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) February 12, 2018
Inner Circle concluded with Mike Bailey vs. Mark Haskins in another excellent match. I think I had WALTER-Rock as MOTN but both of these bouts were pushing **** and were very enjoyable. All in all it was a solid show with a very high standard among all the men’s matches. As a taster for Carat weekend it delivered, as it did one year ago.
So it’s goodbye to Essen for another year. If you’re thinking of going here’s the 411 from the local taxi driver to the Irish boys:
“Essen. Lots of gangsters. Lots of murderers”
Honestly though, there’s been like one murder in Essen this year. I think he was being a bit dramatic.
We take a ride on the STRIGGAMobile to get back to Oberhausen. He really doesn’t have to do this but he’s driven a car full of English people back to Oberhausen after every Inner Circle show I’ve been to. This is part and parcel of the German hospitality I keep experiencing. We’re dropped off at the Tryp and have a few beers in the bar. If you’re looking at accommodation here’s something to take into account; Tryp’s bar is 24 hours. The NH bar closes at 1am. If that’s an important factor for you that’s my advice.
March 9th 2018
I’m awake, the sun is shining and I’m on Twitter looking at a stream of tweets from British and Irish fans making their way over to Germany. It is a glorious sight to behold. Almost my entire timeline is either on planes, in airports or meeting up with like-minded punters. Oli and myself are both awake and so is Mike Kilby so he pops over to our room to record an Inner Circle podcast. Again a lot of laughs are had as Kilby regales us with his experiences with Pro Wrestling EVE. If Dann Reed offered you a biscuit would you eat it? We get into a debate over room layout, as our rooms are identical, and we discover Dan has pushed his bed to the other side of the room whereas Oli and myself haven’t bothered. “I’m sad you don’t have that kind of relationship” I say to Dan. “I would split him like firewood” responds Dan.
“There are a lot of Irish people around here. Is there a Daniel O’Donnell concert on?”
We head over to CentrO for press lunch with CMJ. Before getting there we run into JP who’s had a nightmare of a time getting over here. He left his bag downstairs while being let into his accommodation and someone stole it. His passport was in there so he’s spent some time in Oberhausen’s police department. Never something you want to aim for on a trip. Now he faces a trek to the consulate on Monday morning to get a replacement. A reminder that you should probably keep your passport on you and not leave your baggage unaccompanied. Although the area of Oberhausen he’s staying in is somewhat seedy. The local bar, which he popped into, was called the Golden Bar and, to quote him, was “full of hookers and pimps”. He’d found himself near to Flasshofstrasse, which is Oberhausen’s Red Light District. Prostitution is legal in Germany. So are brothels.
The press lunch kicked off with words from Patrick with CMJ happy to take a backseat and be immediately horrified that Dan guessed the big surprise of the weekend immediately. He completely no sold it. The Louisiana is one of the many restaurants in the CentrO complex and does decent food. It’s at the end nearest the tram station so it resides in the shadow of the mighty Konig-Pilsener Arena.
I get into a minor debate about how wXw could end up running the venue one day. It’s somewhat poo-pooed but Progress are doing Wembley Arena this year. The Konig-Pilsener Arena seats over 12,000 people. The move from Turbinenhalle 2 to Turbinenhalle 1 next year sees an increase of 1000 to 1500 fans. That 12k is a dream but not so out of reach it seems.
The rest of our conversations are far less business intense. What fruit can WALTER crush? CMJ says he’s already seen WALTER crush an apple with his bare hand. The burgers on offer (“I don’t rate burgers apart from Gerhard” – Kilby). Correct vaping etiquette. Shark fishing in Corpus Christi. WALTER wrestling Eugene at a stock car race. Everyone doing their best Andy Quildan impressions. Bonding with Dan over our time in Texas and trying to figure out if we had both been there at the same time, a few miles apart a decade ago. It’s a small world. It’s a nicely laid back time and after two hours of gentle chat, and less interaction with CMJ than usual we head back to the Tryp.
After last year’s tag league I envisaged it being a good spot to chill between media engagements. There are less people here this time, from the UK’s media throngs, but it’s nice to welcome Ian Hamilton, Jen H, Jenna (Miss Zelda Zonk) and Sarah of the Two Sarah’s. Tryp’s bar has changed dramatically since October, when it featured grubby tables with plastic covers and benches. It now has stylish, comfortable black chairs and square tables. We push two together for a chat. Hot takes are fired around and the atmosphere is more aggressive than over lunch. If you want a laugh search for @MikeKilby on Twitter and “Adam Cole”. His takes on Cole over the past two years have been superb.
If Miz eliminates Adam Cole I'll spend the whole week with Marine 4: Moving Target taped to my chest
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) January 29, 2018
merry christmas to everyone except adam cole
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) December 25, 2017
Meanwhile Dan’s approach to tweeting had become a “Scorched Earth” tactic, which I couldn’t help but be impressed with. I’ll point you in the direction of his Twitter via this incendiary tweet.
It’s wonderful to see a promotion getting the little ones ready to fight off nonces when they break into the biz. pic.twitter.com/HMvO3UqySO
— Luca Freightmunts (@DanielFromRBR) March 11, 2018
The chat here was mainly focused around British promotions and their issues. Plenty of these promotions got raked over the coals but this was a tremendous exchange when we were talking about EVE’s York Hall show.
“You know what they should have done?”
“Not done it at all?”
We also talk about how good the German guys are. “He’s not Lucky Kid, he’s lovely kid”. Oli’s ‘Mania dream match of George Clooney & Stacy Kiebler vs. Brock Lesnar & Sable. Finally Lucha Forever’s non-existent Mr & Mrs Tournament gets absolutely slaughtered.
We’re in the Turbinenhalle for our first media event of the weekend. A packed 2.5 hours of panels with talent. With Saturday being so crowded with shows the panels have been scaled back. We’re relieved, frankly, but it’s a good session and once again wXw have thought about stuff and made improvements. There are now power supplies on the tables, the Wi-Fi is better than ever before and they’ve finally got a second microphone so poor Patrick doesn’t have to keep running back and forth with one between talent and media.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
Mike Bailey is the first guest. He’s edgy and rambles a bit. You can tell he’s not used to being put in these positions but trust me, this is good experience. His answers are often on the fence as he’s a lovely Canadian man who doesn’t want to upset anyone. He’s more into the questions when they involve AMBITION, which he clearly wants to do well in. The Jonah Rock match intrigues him as there are weight classes in MMA. “This is completely illegal since 1991” – if an MMA fight happened between someone as big as Jonah and as small as Bailey. “Wherever you put me I’ll do the best I can”. He’s so nice. While staying in Germany he’s had 24/7 access to a ring to train in, which has been hugely beneficial. Anyone who comes to Essen says the same thing. It’s an ideal training facility. wXw in general is an ideal place to learn pro-wrestling from the ground up.
Mike’s first wrestling as a kid was watching Kane try to set the Brood on fire and he was soon jumping off stuff in his backyard. He ends by saying that tagging with Veda Scott has been the most fun he’s had in years. Our impressions of Bailey is that he’s a lovely person, who deserves every success in the business but he is so over the top nice that it might hurt him in this dog eat dog world of pro-wrestling.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
The second guest on the panels is Bobby Gunns. My impression of Bobby a year ago was that he had potential but hadn’t yet fulfilled it. Fast forward one year and I’m thrilled he’s here to talk to us. Gunns has become a stand-out in wXw. He’s in a good mood and it’s because he lives in the now. He’s always wanted to be a singles star. Gunns looks up to Billy Robinson and Bryan Danielson. He’s always wanted to be that type of wrestler. He’s been wrestling amateur style since he was 10 years old and thought WWE was actually amateur wrestling as a kid.
Bobby is concentrating on making his character consistent. He’s not a heel or a face. “The cartoonish era is over” he points out, reflecting the views of many that WWE has become too child-friendly. He likes the freedom to use what language he chooses. To behave however he chooses. wXw give him that freedom. He’s asked about the Werder Bremen flag he carries out in Hamburg and tells us how violent that sporting rivalry is. “Hamburg is special” he says, it’s the most fun he has in wrestling. If him being excited about his role in the company to this point is rewarding, imagine how much fun he’ll have when he hits the next level.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
The third panel is “Bad Bones” John Klinger and he has a sweet tracksuit on. It’s the RISE official tracksuit. This interview is somewhat different to the others. Bones manages to remain in character for some of it. Retaining storyline beats about how he can always rely on Da Mack and how he doesn’t think about Pete Bouncer. He also offers a prognostic take on WALTER vs. Bones on Night 2. “WALTER won’t leave as champion”. Regarding the title he considers it reward for years of hard work. wXw was in a difficult spot after Axel Dieter Jr left and Bones steadied the ship. I understand why Klinger was so closed off during the questions. CMJ was almost asking his guys to return to an age of kayfabe at the top end. It didn’t make for the most riveting of conversations but Bones is a pro. The best part was when he was asked if WWE had shown interest. “Maybe” he replied. Even then sat on the fence but clearly keen to stir up rumours with his non-committal nature.
I was going to do a bit here about Bad Bones and some of the things I’ve heard but the more questions I asked the more insane the replies I got were. Long story short; DM me to find out. I am not sharing them in public.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
Next up is Avalanche. As with the previous two times he’s been on panels he’s asked about his shoulder and it remains a sore subject. He’s made mistakes in the past, focusing on rehabbing his shoulder at the expense of the rest of his body but he feels like he’s in a better place now. Avalanche is an easy, laid back conversation. He’s happy to talk about video games (Super Mario Odyssey). And when asked how he’s suddenly so relaxed in the ring he responds with “I just know how it works now”. You can sense an air of disappointment that the success of wXw has not led to an increase in demand from the UK. Many wXw guys have been looking for UK bookings but Avalanche has been almost bizarrely overlooked.
Avalanche is almost Canadian nice. He dedicated all his merch sales to a leukaemia sufferer at tag league. Noting, with a glint of sadness, that while they can’t be saved the money will ease their suffering. This is all a little heavy for Friday afternoon. When talking about Avalanche’s potential dream opponents we realise there are so many. His worth is almost untapped due to other promotions not using him. This could play into his strengths in the coming months, as it did with Ilja Dragunov.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
Jonah is a cheerful guy, something that’s often lost by his somewhat dour demeanour. When he starts talking he’s a different person. Not only is he a pleasant conversationalist but he’s also keen to throw back the covers on his career. He talks about NOAH and how it was to work in their dojo with Naomichi Marufuji and Maybach Taniguchi and bunking with Zack Sabre Jr. He also gives us a heavy scoop; WALTER hits harder than Minoru Suzuki. He has the scars to prove it after Inner Circle. He’s keen to talk about the Australian scene and how it was big in the 60s and 70s but is just barely starting to come back now. He’s happy to put over the internet for increasing his exposure and helpfully points us toward Damien Slater and Elliot Sexton as faces to watch out for from down under. He promises to be back in the UK in August.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 9, 2018
Matt Riddle is a surprise final panellist. Anyone who’s met Riddle knows he’s a very tranquil person. As a regular International traveller he thinks nothing of wrestling in America and flying out to Germany for three days and then going straight back to the USA, sleeping on planes and in airports. He’s excited about Matt Riddle Bloodsport over ‘Mania weekend and talks about the input he’s had on that. He’s happy to be in a super fight on the AMBITION card but persists if he’d been in the tournament he would have been the first man to defend it successfully.
The way he switches from kayfabe to shoot and back again is so effortless, depending on what kind of question he’s given. He spends a lot of time discussing the Indies vs. WWE and suggesting that he belongs on the Indies where he can be himself. He’s worried, for anyone, that going to WWE means having a character thrust upon you and how sometimes that’s a good thing but not always. Riddle really understands the business in ways many long-time veterans don’t. He’s really smart. He touches on MMA fighters going over to wrestling and points out the successful ones all have the same thing in common; they were wrestling fans growing up. Riddle thought he was too small for wrestling, which is why he went into MMA where they had weight classes. He’s always wanted to be a wrestler.
Here’s a key point from Riddle; he thinks wrestling is harder than MMA. In MMA you don’t have to sell, you just have to look tough. In wrestling you need to sell, structure matches, play into the opponents strengths. “Wrestling is the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. He has an interesting take on moves too, suggesting a lot of moves don’t make sense. He wants realism. Especially on strikes. “When I hit people, I want you to think I killed them”. He finishes up by talking about the future and by saying “I will be in Japan, sooner rather than later”. You can watch the whole thing here:
Out of the media centre and out into the Oberhausen air. The queue was Absolute Andying itself across the car park. It’s clear the visiting fans have swelled the normally quieter Friday evening show. Last year’s 16 Carat Gold was less busy on the Friday. Not so this year.
16 Carat Gold Night 1
The normally excellent wXw production takes a post-show pasting with microphone issues. The blasted will not work when Sebastian Hollmichael has it. So Dan Mormon and Dirty Dragan beat the microphone up to stall for time. The warm up included the standard fan competitions but they had a special English language trivia showdown, during which Botchamania’s Matthew Gregg was defeated by STRIGGA in an epic bout. The key part being Maffew completely blanking on WALTER’s nickname and failing to move. Meta. It had to happen sooner or later.
— 16 CARATCOL (@TheKingofBoom) March 9, 2018
Also on the pre-show was Emil Sitoci winning what’s normally the ‘alternate’ four-way if an injured wrestler needs to be replaced. This year it would actually get someone into the first round due to Jurn Simmons’ untimely leg injury last week in Hoyerswerda. Sitoci, as a babyface, has been an eye-opener in wXw. He comes across like a star and was head and shoulders above Julian Nero, Julian Pace and Ivan Kiev. He’ll go on to face David Starr later tonight. Keeping in mind he took Starr’s Shotgun title last year at Carat weekend.
We open the show proper with Avalanche vs. Keith Lee. This was Big Lads Wrestling. Two huge guys throwing each other around in impressive power spots. This was followed by Chris Brookes overcoming Alexander James. I keep saying that AJ is better suited to smaller arenas where you can see his mat work. Here he’s reduced to throwing in thigh slaps for the sake of actually garnering a reaction. Up next is Lucky Kid vs. Matt Sydal. This had one of the best reactions all weekend with the charismatic Lucky Kid winning over the locals and travelling fans in their droves. He quickly became a figure to represent the tournament. New blood, home grown. Kid, showing off a new look with Muta-inspired face paint and RISE written on his arms, hung with Sydal every step of the way, didn’t look out of place and won with a sly roll up.
During this match something very weird happened. A very tall beefy German man stood behind me asked to see my notes. When he saw I’d written “cool makeup on Lucky Kid” he pointed out Kid had trained with Muta and it was a tribute. One of many times someone was helpful for no reason other to ensure the full story was told.
David Starr advanced next at the expense of the qualifying Emil Sitoci. Emil’s pre-show reactions were huge but he paled in comparison to Starr here. David earned this respect from the wXw crowds by continually coming back and plugging away. He beat Sitoci with a massive lariat, a move that would be important over the course of the weekend. In a break from tournament action Mike Bailey & WALTER faced Bobby Gunns & Bad Bones to preview tomorrow’s title matches. I love WALTER nodding his approval at the sea of Ringkampf scarves. Also his dismissive roar at Bobby, showing his card positioning disparity. Bailey gets the pin on Gunns to put heat on their Shotgun match tomorrow.
At the interval I slightly shifted positions, moving from behind Barry and Bohs Johnny, where I’d been chatting to Mort and Marvin, to in front of the little Irish standing section next to Mike Kilby and Gary and in front of Sarah (she was on a stand, it’s fine). Oli is up amongst them. “I’m literally surrounded by Twitter” he says. Some fascinating things during the intermission. Some ringside fan has a Chris Benoit t-shirt on. Why would you even consider wearing that? Here, let me show my support for murder and suicides via a wrestling t-shirt. The Turbinenhalle is now selling food, after multiple complaints that you can’t eat in the venue from past events. The food left a little to be deserved. Callum Leslie was left wondering what to do with the two slices of bread his hot dog came served with. They ended up folded in a napkin and inserted into one of the many discarded plastic beer glasses. I also saw a punter eating a burger out of a hot dog bun and some kind of chicken stuffed into a tiny piece of bread that couldn’t hold it. Some serious snacking issues all around.
“My arsehole is verified, doesn’t mean the shit that comes out of it is true” – Gary.
After intermission we rejoined the tournament with Matt Riddle vs. Da Mack and this was a swift one. Over in five seconds. I saw some criticism of this from people comparing it to the Progress SSS16 booking of Riddle vs. Seven. But this actually made more sense because Mack wasn’t paying attention, was too busy taunting the crowd and just turned around right into the knee. Next up was Travis Banks vs. Mark Haskins. When it came to tournament booking Haskins is virtually an afterthought. I would have rather seen both men go up against local talent so create some fresh match ups. This was fine. Trav wins with a Kiwi Krusher off the top.
Ahead of the next match wXw stopped everything and changed pace with an awesome Tim Thatcher pre-recorded promo. He talks about his history in wXw and coming in 6 years ago. He was told he would never be the “please come back” wrestler but he built a name for himself over time. “Ringkampf is about the sport of pro wrestling”. By the time he was done talking everyone was warmed to the cockles and ready to cheer Timmy to the win. He did so by shrugging off Jonah Rock (worn down by WALTER yesterday, in the name of Ringkampf). Tim has even started paying tribute to WALTER by using his spots. The primal roar he lets out; right at the hard cam, after winning shows how much this means to Thatcher.
Night one concluded with Marius Al-Ani vs. Absolute Andy. A match wXw have been building toward since Andy turned on Al-Ani during tag league. Marius suffered an injury after that, which pushed the eventual battle back to Carat itself. Being among the Irish for this was beautiful. The chants of “take his skin” and “I’d rather be a ninja than a snake” were wonderful. Andy’s levels of scumbaggery here were off the charts. He cheated time and time again to ensure Al-Ani didn’t progress and even got the win with Al-Ani’s foot under the ropes. As the count went down I turned to Sarah and we both said “fucking snake” at the same time.
The first night was a good establishing night. Moves and characters to look out for in the days ahead. If you’d not seen wXw before you’d be familiar with the top characters and their motivations. You’d be familiar with Andy’s shit-heel tactics, Riddle’s devastating KO power, Lucky Kid’s personality, divisions in RISE, Starr and Thatcher’s desire to step up to the top and so much more.
I’m going to find it hard to mention all the people I spoke to over the weekend but if I did speak to you and you didn’t make it into the notes here it’s nothing personal. You’re all lovely people. I had a blast chatting to you all. As I left the Turbinenhalle after night one I felt a sense of excitement, knowing tomorrow was the Saturday from Heaven dubbed “Mike Kilby’s Wild Ride”. Four shows in one day.
— Luca Freightmunts (@DanielFromRBR) March 9, 2018
With Friday done we headed back to the Tryp. Brother Mort found his way into the notebook for yelling “woo Twitter” after not understanding any German all night. We sat down in the Tryp lobby to record the BWR podcast. If you can hear people chinking beers on that podcast, that’s why. It was recorded at midnight. Mort and Joao (@theKingofBoom) were both there but had to go back to their hotel during the recording.
“Wrestlemania is shit because it doesn’t have an after party” – Mike Kilby
“Tories sit down because they have more seats” – Oli gets political.
Saturday March 10th 2018
A mere 6 hours after we’d finished podcasting on Friday night I was up, showered and ready for the madness of four-show Saturday. Sleep is for the weak. We had to crossover Oberhausen to get to the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ and KULT Goes Carat! KULT had smartly brought the show forward 30 minutes to ensure everyone could make AMBITION. Unfortunately they also had to move venues from the Kult Tempel, which is literally a road over from the Turbinenhalle to Zentrum Altenberg, over by the train station. It ended up being a pleasant walk across town although on arrival the sight of 150, or so, fans queueing made me slightly nervous that I hadn’t purchased a ticket beforehand. However these fears were short-lived. We bought tickets on the door. On hand for the non-German Eurograps team were Mike, Dan, Oli, Matt (@bluegodzilla) and Joao. Aside from the more dedicated German lads, we were the only ones who did all four shows on Saturday.
KULT Goes Carat
The KULT show was a fascinating beast. It took place in an old zinc factory. A converted building that oozes sleaze and yet had a certain charm to it. Why does Germany have so many brilliant venues for wrestling? This was their second choice! If it wasn’t for Gary Numan we’d never have seen it (Gary was playing the Kult Tempel the same day). It was dark, grimy and lit almost entirely with disco style lighting. I stood under a blue spotlight to take notes better.
Bask in Arn's glory pic.twitter.com/b4AT93R6y9
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) March 10, 2018
The only downside to being a building with 160 wrestling fans at 10am is that most of them had been a lash and there were few beer farts that singed my nostril hairs. People were actually drinking beer in the line to get in at 10am. That is insanity, frankly. No wonder so many of them were battered by the after party.
This is a show that will get less press so I might go into a little more depth than the other shows. We kicked off with Italian Dream vs. Toby Blunt vs. Julian Pace. The latter being everyone’s jumping on point. The wXw youngster emerged to White Comic’s “This Ain’t The End of Me”, making him immediately over. Blunt was masked and working as “Manticore” and Italian Dream was a diminutive (billed on Cagematch at 5’9” but likely shorter) luchadore. Pace spent a lot of the match lying on the floor allowing the other two to work and then he was taken out by a run-in from Muskelkater allowing Italian Dream to win without taking any bumps. At one point Italian Dream had to stop doing a dive because the hungover fans hadn’t moved out of the way. Breakfast graps!
KULT was definitely a more German promotion than wXw, which mines all of Europe for its fanbase. The chants were all in German. It was a completely different atmosphere. Next up were Soldiers of Fortune (Andrei Ivanov and Sean Lucas) defending their KULT tag belts against Keel Holding (Aaron Insane & Sasa Keel). The wXw links were clearly in evidence by this point (White Comic etc) with Tas being the referee. This one ran to formula with extensive heat and Keel Holding won the straps after a belt shot. Soldiers of Fortune have a coo look. They both came out in gas masks for example.
Next up was Kris Jokic vs. Mark Benjamin vs. The Rotation. As with the opening three-way the winner heads to Wrestling Deutschland to face KULT Cup champ Josh Bodom. Rotation is a lovely guy. Always has time to chat with people and should, by all rights, have been a big star in wXw. Unfortunately he’s had a career beset with injury problems. Especially his hip. Both his opponents here are good. Benjamin is very young but Jokic is ready now. He also wrestles as Chris Wilson. He’s Croatian and is into MMA and parkour. GWF are currently using him but he’s surely on wXw’s radar. Although they don’t have a lot of smaller flippy guys.
Next the KULT tag contender’s spot was up for grabs. Johnny Evers and his bizarre partner Mot van Kunder vs. Muskelkater (Michael Schenkenberg and Toni Harting). Muskelkater are a solid team. I enjoyed their work. Matching tag gear, matching designer stubble. Mot was the most over guy in the match. He’s got a strange gimmick. I’m fairly certain he’s supposed to be ‘out’ based on the kissing spots and whatnot. Mot isn’t a great worker but he’s popular in KULT. He’s a 20 year pro so he knows what works. Pace gets a revenge flip in here and costs Harting the match by sitting on him at ringside.
The semi-main pitted Melanie Gray against Killer Kelly, Shanna and Amale Winchester. The thin nature of women’s wrestling was again apparent here as they had to use two girls from the wXw roster. It was nice to see Shanna. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing her live before. Amale had a good showing but it was Gray who won and Kelly who stood out. This was the one time we decided to chant something, upsetting the odd German in the process, and it was “Portuguese Wrestling” at Shanna and Kelly but hey, they appreciated it.
At this point it was clear the show was going to overrun so we were expecting a swift resolution to the main event. Instead we got Dominic “Carnage” Brackner stalling for babyface reactions, the fucking egomaniac. Tristan Archer came off a lot better as the heel. He reminds me of Fabian Aichner. Anyway a few minutes too many of Carnage stalling meant we left him to get on with it and left for AMBITION. All in all the KULT show was a lot of fun. It was well organised and well presented. It was something very different and I enjoyed myself. Carnage can get in the bin though.
Two guys missed out on AMBITION. RAFA suffered a knee injury and the day before saw Heddi Karaoui pull out because of a foot injury. It’s a shame for Heddi as he’d been working all over Japan and this might have opened another door. RAFA must be sick of how he’s gotten stuck in Killer Kelly’s shadow. This would have been a chance to prove himself. This AMBITION was much busier than last year. I was aware I needed to get a good spot with all the mat work ahead and joined the mass of Irish fans by the ramp, which would the gauntlet every worker would pass through on their way to the ring. It became clear quickly that my view would not be great from back there and I moved to the other side where Matthew Gregg and Callum Leslie were standing.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 10, 2018
Bobby Gunns is someone I want to talk about here. Last year I was borderline irate that he got past David Starr in AMBITION and loved him being decimated by Matt Riddle in Round 2. Here I wanted him to win the whole thing. That’s the difference a year makes.
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) March 13, 2018
GUNNS, BOBBY GUNNS
Listen to that ovation! It was like that at every show and that music is pumped in loud. The chants were drowning out the music. Tim Thatcher was also golden during this. His facials being key in getting over mat technique contests. Mike Bailey’s battle against Jonah Rock was the stand-out match in round one. The tiny martial artist using his kicks to set up Jonah for the Princess Bride sleeper. The super fight between Matt Riddle and WALTER was another thrill on their journey. WALTER using power against Riddle’s raw athleticism. The two colliding until the referee stopped it with Riddle on top. My favourite contest on the show was Tim Thatcher vs. Bobby Gunns in the semi.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 10, 2018
Tim Thatcher won, overcoming Gunns and Bailey in the final. This was the most successful AMBITION to date with the largest crowd and a good standard of shoot-style throughout. The attendance was up and the content was good. Tim’s post tournament promo is the second killer one he’s done this weekend. Pure emotion tinged every moment. “My first show was AMBITION 3…this is how I got here”. Seeing a happy Tim Thatcher makes me happy. He’s one of those guys that deserves every success he gets because he’s chosen a route that means he’ll never be a show reel but he’ll always be a feeling.
On the way to Steffy for #WD we run into Chris Brookes who has stitches under his chin. He’d been to hospital to get seen to after Inner Circle. “They shaved my beard. No warning, just *bzzt*. Until I borrowed some clippers I had a Wolverine beard”.
This was a concept that CMJ sprang on the world at tag league. A festival show with matches from companies from across Germany to showcase German wrestling. The location for this venture was Steffy, the nightclub next to the Turbinenhalle, part of the same complex. It’s a cool venue and wXw have run there before. It has twirling spiral columns. As Patrick pointed out “you’ll have seen shows here before on wXwNOW”. It’s not the same as being in the building though. Getting the layout in person is so much different. The huge staircase at the one end, with wrestlers lining the rail and WALTER sitting at the top of them, is quite the sight. As was the wrestlers basically pushing through the crowds to get to the ring.
In Steffy for Wrestling Deutschland. #wXw16Carat
Third show today! pic.twitter.com/yo0OZsyWeB
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 10, 2018
The attendance here was around 350 making it pretty highly attended compared to the more niche shows of Inner Circle and WrestlingKULT. As with night one of Carat there are microphone problems! It’s contagious. Five promotions and the wXw Academy put on matches for Wrestling Deutschland. Icarus, the bastard son of Marius Al-Ani and Travis Banks, faced Tristan Archer, who is the “same dickhead as earlier” according to my notes. It’s a pretty vicious match although Archer does too much generic heel shtick. Also he has a cock on his pants. Why would you do that to yourself? He wrestled in the Cruiserweight Classic as Clement Petiot.
The next match was exceptionally weird. You had the Rock N’Roll Radicalz (Fynn Freyhart and Tim Karstens) claiming to be the “greatest rock n’ roll band of all time”. This lead to Dirty Dragan, standing near to me, to rib them mercilessly. “Hey, Def Leppard sucks”. “Play Freebird”. And when the other team entered to 500 Miles by the Proclaimers “that’s so much cooler than rock”. Lukas Robinson has an Australian gimmick and actually carried a map to the ring with a circle on it and “wXw” written next to it in red ink. Only half a dozen people will have seen that but that kind of dedication to gimmick is incredible to me. It’s the little things. The nature of the Proclaimers allowed a very persistent chant from our corner and ensured that Robinson would be the most over man on the card. The Germans gave us a variety of funny looks over the course of the weekend but here there were a lot of smiles. Also on his team was Matthias Bernstein, a germaphobe was scared of people.
“Germaphobe meets German phobic” – Shauna’s gimmick idea.
Next up was Schwinger Club and that’s a gimmick which is tough to explain. Basically they’re all weird perverts. The “Kings of Porn Style”. It’s very German. Rick Baxxter is the main guy and he’s worked for wXw a lot. Their valet, Kimbaaali, has a very Martina gimmick. They’re sung to the ring by the guy who DJ’s the after party in a sparkly suit. The other team I’ve noted to be “Leatherface, Catface and Fuckface”. Which is Zeritus, Laurence Roman with makeup and Chris Rocke. There was a lot of comedy German weirdness here. Rocke died on the finish and the perverts cheat to win.
The match from WrestlingKULT had been hyped all morning so we were excited to see the qualifiers; Kris Jokic and Italian Dream against Senza Volto and incumbent champion All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Josh Bodom. But then it was announced as a three-way and apparently the reigning champ simply hadn’t bothered flying out to Germany that morning. And people wonder why a man as talented as Josh Bodom isn’t booked everywhere. Anyway, in his absence these three lads killed each other, having MOTN (well, show but you get the idea) in the process. Jokic came out on top and Italian Dream even took a bump. This rocked. Jokic’s spiral tap is a beauty.
At this point I figured I should probably eat something, as it was intermission, and ended up missing the wXw Academy match. Apologies to those involved. It was my only chance all weekend to see Marius van Beethoven too. Unless him sitting in the KULT show counts. Anyway I got back in time to see Ivan Kiev vs. Michael Knight for Knight’s European Cruiserweight belt. Knight is not David Hasselhoff cosplaying his character from the 80s. He doesn’t drive KITT to the ring. It’s a disappointment all round. Joao chips in with “He’s got tickets to see the Hoff”, referencing the giant billboard advertising Hoff’s upcoming German tour. Kiev spends most of the match working the ribs with Pete Bouncer, wearing an open satin shirt and looking like a complete dreamboat, interferes. As I’m writing that down Alan (4L) asks if I’m noting a camel clutch. I tell him I’m not. “You write down a camel clutch when you see one”.
Anyway the Wrestling Deutschland show was probably my least favourite of the weekend because it was so routinely odd but even so it was fun. There was enough stuff to enjoy that it was an easy watch. I’m still a little miffed that certain promotions (coughGWFcough) decided not to get involved and benefit from the added exposure of hundreds of international fans but hey. When this was first announced Maffew implied it would never work in the UK. I’m glad it came off.
16 Carat Gold Night 2
So we head back over to the Turbinenhalle for the second night of Carat. There was a little down-time between the two so I indulged in a ‘I need to wake up’ coffee at McDonalds. We were gathered outside there for a while and it was nice to shoot the shit with wrestling fans. On getting into the Turbinenhalle I decided I was going to watch this show from up top, a decision richly and immediately rewarded by the presence of Dirty Dragan. Within moments I became aware of why someone so very talented at talking was not allowed on commentary more often. After a few remarks I told him I wanted to run anything by him that he’d said would be ok to print. “Don’t worry” he said “I’m already blackballed from most places”. Because I like Dragan I’m going to not print some of the things he said. Suffice to say they were fairly inflammatory.
The show kicked off with some pre-show antics. Such as the live band warming up for Bad Bones’ entrance later on and Mike Kilby’s Friends/RISE mash-up playing on the big screen.
— Mike 👒 (@MikeKilby) February 12, 2018
Also on the pre-show was a match taped for Shotgun, which I doubt will ever make the air. Martina vs. Veda Scott in a shambolic bout, littered with sloppy work and culminating in a botched finish. [REDACTED] “She’s like a walking Botchamania episode” says Oli. With Maffew in attendance we could ask him if there was going to be a Veda special at any point.
When the show itself got underway the standard of wrestling rapidly went up. The opener saw four teams competing for the tag title contendership. The match was won by the RISE combination of Ivan Kiev and Da Mack, although when they challenge any of RISE can take the shot. This was another weak showing from Matt Sydal and from rumblings I heard the office were non too thrilled with him. Neither he nor Haskins got much of a reaction but all the local boys were cheered. wXw have done a good job of building up talent from within. Just look at JayFK or Monster Consulting. It’s clear Kaspin and Avalanche are the horses to bet on there but they’re having fun as teams.
Back to tournament action and we had Chris Brookes vs. Keith Lee. This was an easy size difference story even if Brookes was playing the part of ‘small guy’ at his ridiculous height. This was followed by Tim Thatcher vs. Lucky Kid in what was a shock MOTN (until later). Legitimately at ****1/4. Tim tried to bully Lucky, as he’s done so many smaller opponents, only for that to not work because Kid is nuts. It was bullying vs. madness. This was followed by David Starr vs Travis Banks in a spot heavy sprint. The big news came from Travis after the match where he announced Progress would be touring Germany in September. Three shows in three cities with wXw. Tickets on sale from April 1 for shows in Hamburg (31/8), Oberhausen (1/9) and Frankfurt (2/9). It felt a bit weird that Travis eat the pin and then popped up to announce a Progress tour but hey, it popped the crowd.
The tournament progressed with Absolute Andy overcoming Matt Riddle in another fantastic bout. Riddle had it won after a few seconds only for Andy to snake under the bottom rope after the pinfall and claim he’d been there all the time. The tease, combined with a ‘big bombs’ style of match really won the crowd over. Andy has been having a fantastic weekend already. That led into intermission and we (myself, Dan and Callum Leslie) took the time to debate the tournament booking of Keith Lee, Tim Thatcher. David Starr and Absolute Andy. I stuck with my pre-tournament prediction of Starr but literally the only man not being considered as a winner was Keith and even that was possible.
After intermission we had James vs. Jonah, which is only worth mentioning for how long it took James to actually turn up. AJ won after Jonah missed his moonsault, which I hilariously dubbed the “Rocksault”. Ok, so no one laughed. Up next was the Shotgun title match with Bobby Gunns defending against Mike Bailey. This was a really smart match with Gunns working the fingers, taking advantage of Bailey’s double jointed digits, and at one point bending one of them entirely backwards and taping it there. So Bailey worked extended chunks of the contest with his finger backwards. Sickening. Bobby even maintained that focus to the finish, winning with an armbar. ****
Up next was Toni Storm defending her title against Melanie Gray. This was fine. Mella isn’t on Toni’s level and there’s definitely an issue with quality of depth in European women’s wrestling. They do a good job of shooting for epic but the execution isn’t there for it to happen. Then it was time for the main event. The crowd were raucous despite spending all day watching wrestling. The reaction to WALTER was amazing. Bones came out and was played to the ring by a band. The entrances alone had me hyped and sweating. Then WALTER announced his stipulation, which he’s had in his back pocket for weeks.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) March 10, 2018
Listen to that reaction! What a turn up for the books this was. The match was stunning with both Dragunov-Bones feud and Dragunov-WALTER classic from last year’s Carat referenced heavily. Once again Dragunov was chops to pieces by the big Austrian and once again he looked as if he’d be screwed by Bones. It was all about paying off that Dragunov story. It felt like wXw had missed the boat with failure to put the title on Ilja last year but it was worth the wait. It was worth the pay off. ****3/4 but the moment of Ilja returning to take up WALTER’s offer was moment of the year.
After the match and everything has calmed down a bit I’m given a scoop. The backstage boys had been told to turn around when Ilja came in during the show and if they didn’t they’d be fired. So they snuck him in without anyone noticing and Chris Brookes was booted out of a room backstage so he didn’t see. The emotions were running high. People were genuinely crying. Not just one or two either. It’s been a year long journey for Ilja Dragunov and we were so happy to see him reach the top of the mountain. Not long after the show had finished Christian Michael Jakobi, wXw’s head honcho, was walking past and I called him over. “Christian. Can I get a hug?” “Of course”. Both me and Oli hugged the man and as Oli hugged him he said “Ah, love from the media centre”. The most jaded and surly of wrestling fans would have melted for moments like this. It was like being able to Vince McMahon after a WrestleMania. CMJ’s philosophy made this possible.
Builds matter. Characters matter. Wins matter.
This is the wXw way.
And we still have an after party and another day of in-ring performances.
The After Party
Normally we’d just head straight through into the after party but this year they’d moved the merch out of the main hall into the bar, calling it the “Fanzone”. This necessitated a lot of tidying and moving of merch. This resulted in a lot of tired wrestling fans waiting outside for 45 minutes after the show. Not an ideal situation. I was pretty much dead on my feet at this point. During which time we saw a very depressed looking John Klinger slunk off into the night, without his title belt and an assortment of others making their way back to their hotel rather than stay up all night drinking with the fans. Not everyone in wrestling likes an all-nighter. Ilja Dragunov was celebrating though and if ACH was the life and soul of last year’s party this year belonged to Ilja. Whether it was singing, dancing or generally looking fashionable as fuck it was all Ilja. The Champ is Here.
Well fuck me this is the best day ever! pic.twitter.com/qSWvMMaka3
— Iain (@bme_87) March 11, 2018
We spent most of the time outside the main room due to Jurn Simmons leg injury. He’d requested an audience with the British to discuss certain things. I started making notes and stopped after he asked his first question of the assembled Brits. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. So that conversation, which was hugely entertaining, suffers the embargo. Not willing, or capable, of going off the record was Dirty Dragan. As we talked calmly on the periphery of Jurn’s audience he shot on Germans when they drink. “They’re socially awkward…and have an inability to do sex”. There was a lot, lot more but I don’t want to get Dragan into trouble by printing any of it. Suffice to say he was a tremendously entertaining man to talk to and I wish I got to talk to him more often.
Elsewhere the party covered a variety of weird topics including doppelgangers (there was a dude all weekend that looked just like me). I got to shoot the shit with a huge number of people about a lot of different topics. Had a lovely chat with Avalanche. He and Dragan are the two nicest guys. Mike Kilby did his Dragunov impression again and bruised his knees again. Dan joined Cerberus.
— Rock Bottom Radio (@RockBottomRadio) March 11, 2018
See what I mean about Ilja’s shirt? Magic. We got back to the hotel at 4.45am. Having left that morning to go to the KULT show at 10am.
Sunday March 11th 2018
I’m sat in the bar of the Tryp drinking coffee. We have to go and meet CMJ for the traditional round-up chat that happens on Sunday morning. I have had four hours sleep. Mike Kilby’s Wild Ride was both an emotional rollercoaster and something that left me drained.
Christian Michael Jakobi
The video is the CMJ presser in full. It’s almost an hour long but it’s worth it for listening to him talk. Here’s some highlights:
- Happy with KULT/WD shows. “If you do it right there’s no glass ceiling”.
- Everything in wXw is a team effort. “Kayfabe is not dead”. Doesn’t want to give away creative process too much as it’s ongoing.
- “Never content with booking the best workrate”. The characters, the story must be there.
- “There is no university course for writing a weekly wrestling TV show”.
- Viewers are always part of the process.
- Next year 16 Carat will be in Turbinenhalle 1.With 1500 capacity.
- Only rejected one promotion from WD for not being professional enough.
- Is a “cold hearted business administrator”. Believes in the 16 Carat brand meaning something.
- Their women’s tournament “went to shit”.
- Doesn’t watch whole shows or even whole matches. Gets fed relevant info. He never seen Keith Lee until he was brought into discussions for Carat.
- “There is no one right way to do wrestling”.
- Hails WWE’s production as “mind-blowing” because of how well drilled it is.
- Points out he wants to stimulate all senses. Hence it getting colder in the building when Melanie Gray came out because she’s the “cold hearted queen”.
- Proud of Bobby Gunns for his performances this weekend.
- Compares wXw to Barcelona. Winning with home grown talent.
- Didn’t rate Giftshrank.
- Considered re-launching wXw as an all shoot-style promotion in 2011 to change perception of wrestling in Germany.
- “After CWA closed everyone got into alcohol and bitterness. The German scene lost 10 years”.
After chatting to Christian we nipped into McDonalds for some grub and promptly missed the start of the Shotgun tapings. Instead chatting about Irish wrestling with Barry and Dan talking about Bear Grylls eating leftover kebabs as a survival tactic. They had a different setup for this than usual with chairs on three sides of the ring. It was a little weird seeing so much seating in the Turbinenhalle but apparently that’s the future of Shotgun. Always three-sides of chairs. As the Shotgun taping are [EMBARGOED] I can’t tell you what happened.
I can tell you about the Academy kids getting a training drill in front of a full Turbinenhalle and the Irish fans getting massively into the squats. I can also tell you about bumping into Einar from Belgium who cited my review of last year’s 16 Carat Gold tournament as his inspiration to make the trip this time. My heart was warmed by this. Considering how exhausted I was by this point it helped to pick me up. Dan also asked me to point out that you should have comfortable shoes if you’re going to Carat as there’s a lot of standing. Unless you buy seated tickets (Tories). Back out to McDonalds for another meetup and more coffee. We were talking about football teams and those horrible double scarves. Golazo suggested a half and half Ringkampf/RISE scarf (this was a joke). Please don’t do this. Finally Mike filled me in on a fiery take from Julian Nero about Scotland. “Everything is deep fried. It’s fucked”.
16 Carat Gold Night 3
We kick things off with a video package where Andy calls the other three potential Carat winners the “three rookies”. It’s another excellent video, which helps me get hyped for the night’s show. We kick off with the two semi-finals. Firstly David Starr vs. Keith Lee. Apparently Starr thought people were chanting “you are David Starr” not “ooh ahh, David Starr”. Americans eh? This was really good and as the shows progress it becomes harder and harder to get a pin. Keith gets a big standing ovation for going out. Absolute Andy vs. Tim Thatcher was Andy’s cool moves and dick personality versus Tim’s technical prowess and love of the ring. Andy ended up winning that particular set-to with cheating and such. Then RISE came out to challenge Ringkampf to a tag title shot later tonight.
Mort made a very salient point here, suggesting the hardcam should feed straight into the big screen at these shows as it’s tough to see the mat from a lot of the standing spots. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if a submission was about to go down or a near pinfall. An assortment of midcard matches made sure various guys got on this show. I’m surprised we weren’t treated to more Bobby Gunns, given his insane popularity. Instead he went over to the Irish section to chat with them during intermission. A contrast to the Irish fans outright turning on Martina by chanting “alle ausser Moth” at her. Apparently her drunken antics at the after party had not gone over well with the fans from back home.
One of the highlights of the final day was Ilja Dragunov accepting Matt Riddle’s open challenge and facing him. That was a tasty hard-hitting bout and no mistake. I spent my time split on this show between the gantry and the floor by the Irish fans. While on the gantry I was standing near Chris Ridgeway. It’s not a surprise that he was a nice chap. I mentioned how we’d put him over the BritWres Roundtable a few years back. “I didn’t even know who I was back then” he said. Nice guy.
The traditional last day of Carat spotfest was CCK & Jonah Rock vs. Matt Sydal, Marius Al-Ani and Speedball Mike Bailey. As always this went over great. Travis pinned Sydal and young Matthew actually put some effort in here. Banks-Bailey is a match I want in a big setting. Before the main event we also had the tag title match with RISE capturing the gold. Some interesting storyline stuff here with Tim Thatcher saying “auf wiedersehn” after losing. We know Tim is back in the states for a while but his storyline here crushed me. How he’d spent all those years building a base in Germany and it felt like because of his failure he couldn’t deal with staying. The secondary angle was RISE. With Kiev naming himself and Pete Bouncer as the challengers he was then overruled by leader Bad Bones. When Bones and Da Mack won the belts Bouncer turned on Bones and left RISE. The moment afterwards where we weren’t sure if Kiev would join him was wonderful stuff.
Finally the tournament came to a close with Absolute Andy defeating David Starr to win his first 16 Carat. It was a great moment for Andy and for his fans, who’d spent most of the match arguing with us. From a distance*. There was a lot to process here with Al-Ani preventing the wrench shot, finally, only for Andy to just crush Starr with big moves. Finishing with his old finish the A-Klasse (thanks to @jeszbort for info). And that was it. Another Carat done, another tournament in the books. I have a lasting image of Starr being led past me eyes glazed as fans looked on disappointed at Andy’s victory. However it does set up a fresh feud of Andy vs. Ilja. It does mean that Starr still hasn’t won the big one and as soon as WALTER title win was off the table that always felt likely.
*The main Andy fan walked out gloating long after we’d been outside chilling in the night air. Still chanting “Andy”. Most of the guys booed him but I couldn’t help but applaud. That’s fucking dedication to the cause lads.
Post show we headed over to Alex for our post tournament meal. Alan’s lack of company back in the day was a distant memory as he was joined by 40 of his nearest and dearest friends for a spot of grub and a few beers. We ended up taking over half the restaurant across three tables. The atmosphere was tremendous too. I got to chat with Joao for a while who talked about Tim Thatcher being on a Portuguese passport because of his Dad coming from there. He doesn’t speak Portuguese but he does sometimes swear in Portuguese according to Killer Kelly. That’s so fucking endearing.
JP orders the Joe’s Honey Mustard burger causing Oli to go off on his best Joe Lanza impression. “Joe Lanza’s Honey Mustard Burger? It stinks Rich, it stinks”. The waitress in Alex remembered Dan from last time so Patrick refers to her as “Dan’s girlfriend” for the rest of the meal. The Ogden boys try to sell me on Tidal wrestling in Leeds. They have a vegan curry, outside toilets and it’s in a warehouse. I’m there. It’s not long before we’re singing Bobby Gunns name to a variety of different tunes. If there’s one guy that’s come out of this weekend as a massive winner it’s Bobby Gunns. His elevation this weekend has been startling. Yes, he’s been Shotgun champion for a while but now he’s getting those big reactions.
— Sarah (@scanElee) March 11, 2018
At this point my face hurts from laughing so much. It’s been one of those weekends. The ones that are good for the soul. When Geoff Ogden chanted “she’s all out of boo’s” at Shauna, who had been silenced by three days of booing I could barely contain myself.
16 Carat was over but the bar was still open because the Tryp is 24/7 baby. So we sat in the bar; myself, Oli, Dan, Mike, Joao, Mort and Maffew to debate the weekend until we were just too tired to stay awake. Midnight apparently is “dinner time in Portugal”.
Maffew: “Come back you fuck, I’ve got to pay you”
Dan: “I’ll take things Ryan Smile has never said for $200”
We had loud German farts in the bar to the point of hilarity. Farts are funny in all languages. We’re reminded of the menu in Alex where “extra beef” is Four Euros. We regale each other with funny stories from the weekend that we might have missed, especially after party bits and pieces and go to sleep happy, tired and fulfilled.
16 Carat Gold is my favourite weekend of the year. When I went last year and got to see Ilja’s win I vowed not to miss another if I could help it and in helping to spread the word I saw the attendance of British and Irish fans (and Belgium fans) I saw the number of familiar faces grow. I saw old friends, I made new ones and I had the best weekend I’ve had in a long, long time. Probably since last March where I witnessed WALTER chop Ilja Dragunov to pieces. It might have taken a year for Ilja to move up to the top spot in the company but it all came off beautifully. wXw tell stories and they tell the kind of stories that aren’t being done anywhere else, at least not to this standard. They’re simple stories. Ones at the core of wrestling and yet nowhere else is doing this successfully bar New Japan. It makes wXw a fascinating promotion to follow. Their TV matters, their characters all matter and everything will eventually pay off and reward you for your time spent. I’d like to thank wXw for inviting me out to cover 16 Carat Gold again. I’d like to thank the German fans for accepting us into their ranks (with the odd exception). As with last year it was an experience I won’t soon forget and one I cannot recommend enough. Even if it’s only once, you need to experience wXw in the Turbinenhalle and what better show to experience than 16 Carat? See you in Oberhausen next year.
And the year after.
And the year after.
And the year after.
You get the picture.
I am extremely tired. On top of the Carat weekend I have a particularly resilient German cold and I’ve been writing these notes up for 10 hours. Please excuse any errors. Love you all.