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wXw 18th Anniversary results: Ringkampf vs. British Strong Style

A few words on wXw's history and current situation with WWE --

On December 24, 2000, wXw Extreme Wrestling Party, a minor independent wrestling show took place at the Roxy in Essen, Germany, a dingy club in the middle of nowhere in the industrial Ruhr area.

While most of the participants on that show have long since drifted into obscurity, two names still stand out today: a young Swiss wrestler -- calling himself "Double C" -- made his pro wrestling debut in that show's opening match just three days shy of his 20th birthday and would go on to become known as Cesaro in WWE.

The referee that night, Tassilo Jung, would -- along with a few other people -- go on to buy the promotion from its founder, HATE (Peter Wichers), become its acting managing director, and help transform it from an ECW ripoff featuring a number of backyard wrestlers into the leading independent promotion in mainland Europe.

As the promotion celebrates its coming of age 18 years later, it is at a crossroads: it is home to WALTER (Walter Hahn), arguably the best wrestler to come out of mainland Europe in the past 30+ years, if not ever, and the only wrestler currently a full-time employee for a promotion in Germany. Walter is the head trainer at their own wXw Academy and an international darling of the independent wrestling scene.

wXw employs a small number of people who give it their all on a regular basis to run a full-time touring promotion, a streaming service, a wrestling school, and a full merchandising department, along with doing press work, sending out tickets, and editing a number of live events and other shows for said network. It promotes some of the best shows in mainland Europe and runs 16 Carat Gold, one of the top tournaments with some of the best talent in the world.

And, a few months ago, wXw started a partnership with WWE. As WWE goes on to focus more on Europe, starting with the UK where they have similar deals with PROGRESS and ICW, their embrace might well turn into a stranglehold.

WALTER has since signed a deal with WWE, albeit only for their NXT UK (and probably NXT Europe, if it ever comes to that) brand, following in the footsteps of fellow wXw alumni Axel Tischer (Alexander Wolfe), Tommy End (Aleister Black), and Axel Dieter Jr. (Marcel Barthel). As WWE recently ran a multi-day tryout camp in Cologne, Germany, a number of others, such as hard-hitting Ilja Dragunov or big-man Jurn Simmons may follow.

wXw also toned down some of their other engagements, such as direct ticket sales and running a merchandising department and online shop, relying more on outside partners for such tasks and stating a medical burnout of managing director Christian Jakobi as the main reason for these steps, as manpower gets stretched even thinner with the boss out of commission for the time being.

wXw has also spun out their video library into another company, giving longtime supporters and employees the chance to buy into this new company. While this was mostly explained as a strategic business decision, it also means that there might be a nice cash-out opportunity for those proprietors if the library ever got sold (presumably to WWE).

And people are starting to ask how big events such as 16 Carat Gold or the annual World Tag Team League may transform in 2019 and beyond, as WWE starts implementing policies such as wrestlers under contract to NXT UK no longer being allowed to be shown on streaming or DVD releases and also not being permitted to wrestle people under contract with other promotions, such as Ring of Honor, Impact, or New Japan.

This might mean that while wXw could book some of the big NXT UK names, they might not be able to properly use them in tournaments to partially draw off the fact that it can produce unique matches not to be seen anywhere else in the world, much as is the charm of promotions such as PWG.

For the time being though, things still look rosy for fans of the promotion, as WWE lent Germany's own Marcel Barthel back to wXw so he could reunite with his Ringkampf brethren, WALTER and Timothy Thatcher, to face British Strong Style at yesterday's 18th Anniversary show (Barthel also was at last year's Anniversary event, together with fellow Ringkampf member Axel Tischer/Alexander Wolfe for a brief run-in, but that segment only was visible for the live audience).

That match, with five of the six participants under WWE deals, will be shown on wXw's streaming service, along with matches involving other WWE-contracted wrestlers such as Toni Storm and Killer Kelly. The intrigue of the six-man match, along with an overall strong card, proved to be a big draw, as wXw sold 1,100 tickets to the show at the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen, Germany. They initially were sold out with a capacity for 900, but managed to squeeze in 200 additional fans after some changes with the production setup and moving the merchandise area to another part of the building.

In fact, things look so rosy that Axel Dieter Jr., as he was announced instead of his (real) WWE name of Marcel Barthel, went on to confirm himself for next year's 16 Carat Gold Tournament, stating that this was the only major accomplishment he ever failed to achieve during his run with wXw over the years.

Live report -- 

The show unfortunately was plagued by similar injuries to two key participants in title matches, with both David Starr and wXw Shotgun Champion Marius Al-Ani suffering shoulder injuries wrestling for other promotions shortly before the event.

Absolute Andy was scheduled to defend against Starr, then it was announced he would be wrestling a mystery opponent. When Al-Ani's injury was announced, the match was changed to Andy defending against Al-Ani's original Shotgun title challenger, Lucky Kid.

That match also featured an in-ring appearance by German UFC fighter Nick Hein (14-4, 1 NC) who is somewhat of a controversial figure and was basically booed out of the building whenever he said or did anything, and Absolute Andy, the company's biggest heel was frenetically cheered when the angle got physical. This was a strange -- and many thought unnecessary -- twist to an otherwise very good match.

Pre-show match: Julian Pace defeated Timo Theiss after a Code Red

Fun match with a good dynamic. Pace was accompanied by Norman Harras, a fellow wXw Academy student. Theiss and Harras had teamed up a few weeks back, but Theiss attacked Harras after the match. The story was Pace using his speed and quickness against the larger opponent. Pace won with his Code Red finisher.

Theiss shook his hand afterwards, but then wanted to attack Pace from behind and Harras sent him packing.

- They did an angle where a big present was sent out, courtesy of the wXw office. Pre-show hosts Sebastian Hollmichel and Daniel Mallmann were in the ring to open it up when The Crown (Jurn Simmons and Alexander James) came out to berate them, resulting in Mallmann getting slammed into the package.

Avalanche and Emil Sitoci came out to make the save and threw the shirts from the present into the crowd.

Gauntlet match: RISE (Tarkan Aslan & Da Mack) won the wXw Tag Team titles by last eliminating the former champions Jay FK (Jay Skillet & Francis Kaspin) when Aslan hit Skillet with a chain

The Crown (Simmons & James) started with Avalanche & Sitoci. The faces ran wild early, but were eventually cut off and pinned after an assisted curb stomp, which is The Crown's finish.

Next out were the babyface portion of RISE (Pete Bouncer & Ivan Kiev), who managed to beat The Crown.

The actual champs, Jay FK, were out next. Shotgun Champion and member of the heel RISE faction, Marius Al-Ani, interfered and tried to attack RISE with brass knuckles. But when he got caught, he knocked out Jay Skillet instead, so RISE got disqualified.

Finally, the heel RISE faction, Da Mack & Tarkan Aslan, were out. The crowd was mostly behind Jay FK in that heel vs. heel match. Eventually, Aslan hit Skillet once more with brass knuckles for the victory.

Post-match, the face faction of RISE came back out, attacked the heels, and challenged them to a "Käfigschlacht" (one-ring War Games style cage match with an open roof) for Back to the Roots XIX in January. The match -- Pete Bouncer, Ivan Kiev & Lucky Kid vs. Da Mack, Tarkan Aslan & Marius Al-Ani -- was later confirmed.

Three-way dance: Yuu defeated Killer Kelly and Alpha Female (Jazzy Gabert) when she submitted Alpha Female

Both faces went after Alpha Female right away but were fought off. Alpha Female gave both opponents consecutive choke bombs for near falls. Yuu then went toe-to-toe with both other wrestlers. At one point, Alpha Female picked up Kelly from a bridge after she German suplexed Yuu and hit a move, which was a cool spot.

Yuu threw Kelly from the ring and locked in a kata hajime on Alpha Female for the submission win. Looks like she is being groomed for a Women's title match.

Doug Williams' Hall of Fame induction

Karsten Beck (who is a former World Champion but retired due to a brain tumor and now heads the ring crew) and Felix Kohlenberg (co-owner of wXw) inducted Williams. They told some nice stories, including Beck saying he always picked up Williams from the airport, except the last time Williams was over, which he immediately pointed out to him. He said the early generation of wXw wrestlers learned a lot from Williams and he was a big influence early on.

Kohlenberg said that without Williams, there would be no 16 Carat, as he was one of the foundations they built the early tournaments around. He said Williams always liked them and was seeing their spirit and wanted to help, so he portrayed wXw better than they had any right to at the time and brought over a bunch of UK wrestlers, such as Martin Stone (Danny Burch in NXT) or Sha Samuels. He also made it possible to book Misawa and Kobashi back in 2005.

Kohlenberg said Williams was one of the best in the world, which was what they claimed about the early tournaments, but whenever Williams was in, it was true.

Williams came out and hugged both men. He said that he recognized the promotion's spirit early and loved the fans and loved coming back and seeing the promotion grow. He gave a rather brief speech, but what he said sounded genuine and from the heart.

wXw World Unified Wrestling Champion Absolute Andy defeated Lucky Kid to retain his title after hitting A-Klasse (a dominator)

This was the match where Nick Hein got involved. It was great as a match -- but weird as an angle in many peoples' opinion.

Hein, a former police officer in Germany for 11 years, quit the job in 2014 to focus on MMA. Since then, he has been very vocal and critical about the way the police are being trained and prepared for the job in Germany, which he views as being inefficient and inadequate (he states that many criminals now train in martial arts and pose a physical challenge to police officers).

I'm pretty sure Hein is not a xenophobe (he actually is married to a Japanese woman who he has a child with), but he certainly comes across as partially racist and fairly right-wing on social media, where he is very active and vocal about crimes committed by refugees and especially bashes politicians on the left of the spectrum.

The way he portrays himself and the language and arguments he uses certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way. There was controversy about the whole thing on social media ever since he was announced by wXw, and people went as far as to try and stage a walkout when he would come out.

wXw has in the past always been a very open and welcoming company, always stating there is no place for racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudicial behavior in wrestling and especially their promotion. In fact, one of the slogans they use on merchandise is "Love Wrestling -- Hate Racism."

Hein was announced before the match and came out, even wearing one of the shirts mentioned above. He was booed the most loudly of anyone on the card from the moment he came out and when he started speaking. He didn't say much, except he liked wrestling, strangely enough citing Lex Luger and Yokozuna as his favorites. He also had his own cameraman with him and then stayed ringside and watched the match. He looked impressed at times and also had a few staredowns with Andy.

The match itself was very good, as Andy is a true European wrestling veteran and great in big match situations as the powerfully built but agile enough heel. Kid is probably one of the best workers in wXw right now and is very athletic and smooth, plus has great charisma.

The match was built around Kid's fire and drive to win and Andy hitting big moves trying to stop him. At one point, Andy plucked him from the air and locked in a Sharpshooter, but Kid always would come back for more. He also hit a number of F-5s, including one from the second turnbuckle.

Eventually, Al-Ani, who is feuding with Kid, came back in and tried to hit him with the Shotgun belt. The World title belt also ended up in the ring -- and Kid actually used it to hit Andy. After some more action, Kid pinned Andy and was announced as the new champion and the place exploded.

Hein came into the ring and handed the belt to Kid (to more boos) -- but then on leaving the ring, whispered something into referee Tassilo Jung's ear. Jung looked puzzled and talked some more with Hein and the ring announcer. They announced that Hein had told Jung that Andy's foot had been under the ropes during the pin.

They restarted the match and Andy immediately hit the A-Klasse for the win. If I watch this in a vacuum without the angle that followed, I thought this was a ****1/4 match.

Hein then got back into the ring to hand the belt to Andy, but held onto it and wouldn't give it up. Andy and Hein had words, and there were big "Andy, Andy" chants (after Andy had been hated just seconds before).

Andy then grabbed one of the ringside crew for an F-5, who Hein pulled down and gave Andy a double leg/spinebuster type of slam and Andy begged off (this was booed loudly), at which point Ilja Dragunov appeared on the screen and challenged Andy to a cage match for January.

Andy then got back up, kicked Hein low, and gave him an F-5 to a major pop.

To me, this was just weird. Due to the crowd reaction, whatever they thought they wanted to do didn't work. And whatever happened, Hein was booed and whoever opposed him was cheered. Why he first helped Andy retain, then got into it with him and then was made to look like the loser seconds after scaring off the World Champion all didn't really make any logical sense.

I don't know yet who proposed working together, but I asked Jung, the acting managing director of wXw for a statement on using Hein after the match and also got the opinions of Andy, Lucky Kid, and David Starr (who originally was supposed to face Andy and probably would have been part of the angle had he been in the match and is generally known as a very liberal guy with sympathies for leftist ideas).

Jung sent me this as a personal message on Twitter when I asked him for a statement and said that I found it problematic to have Hein appear in that T-shirt especially (statement translated from German by me):

"We are booking Nick Hein not as a participant in a political talk show but as a performer. Therefore, we looked into his political messages and checked if they were compatible with our understanding of democracy. Personally I think, being able to accept differing opinions that do not match one's personal beliefs is a part of a democracy. If we had found social media posts that included denying the holocaust, calling for the murder of people, signing off using 'Heil Hitler', etc. then certainly boundaries would have been overstepped, there would be no discussion in that. But if somebody 'just' echos thought material of the popular right and uses emotionality and visualizes his thoughts in a way unfortunately all too-common in today's political debates, then this is nonetheless not enough to discredit someone on a professional level, nevertheless my own differing political opinion."

Lucky Kid, when I asked him personally during intermission, said that for him (his family background is Turkish and I believe he still has a Turkish passport, even though I believe he was born in Germany), it is difficult and he had mixed feelings about it, but at the end of the day he is a performer and will do what the company asks him to in the ring.

Andy said that he doesn't know a whole lot about what Hein posted, he just met him backstage for the first time that day and he seemed like a nice guy.

Starr also said that he hasn't read anything from Hein on social media so he really has no opinion on him either way, but he of course noticed how the fans reacted and if Hein was a conservative, Starr is pretty sure his opinion would differ from his own in a big way.

On an unrelated note, Starr injured his right shoulder taking an F-5 badly a few days ago, but is positive he will be back in the ring in January.

Shigehiro Irie defeated Bobby Gunns after hitting a lariat

This was a great, stiff, strong style match and the fans ate it up. It could have gone another 5-7 minutes in my opinion, but being where it was on the card, it was good as it was.

Gunns, who does a smoking gimmick, now comes out with a "Marlboro" ring jacket. He is a big fan of the catch era of the 1960s and 1970s, and I have to ask him if this is related to the singlet Otto Wanz used to wear well into the 90s, where he was sponsored by "Milde Sorte," an Austrian cigarette brand.

Irie is a regular with DDT, a powerfully built, stocky guy. Gunns used submissions and ground work and Irie hit some suplexes. At one point, they traded Saito suplexes. Irie hit two running cannonballs into the corner, including a flying one while Gunns still was upright. There was a also a lot of stiff striking going on.

The finish was Irie basically taking Gunn's head off with a lariat that Gunns took screaming.

wXw Women's Champion Toni Storm defeated Kellyanne​​​​ to retain her title after hitting Strong Zero

These two have known each other for years and wrestled a few times in Australia. Kellyanne rolled her up at the start and Storm tried for the Strong Zero piledriver right away. They traded strikes and kicks and laid into each other hard.

Kellyanne's manager was sent to the back when he tried to interfere. Kellyanne actually kicked out of one Strong Zero, but fell victim to the second. A really good match, probably **** and the third or fourth best on the show.

Ringkampf (WALTER, Timothy Thatcher & Marcel Barthel/Axel Dieter Jr.) defeated British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) when Thatcher submitted Seven

This was a gem of a match that had everything you could ask for, from strong style and stiff hits to great mat work to high flying to comedy and great charisma in the ring at all times. I don't know which six people could put on a better match in Europe right now.

British Strong Style were the clear heels here, and Axel Dieter Jr. (using that name) received a hero's welcome on his homecoming. He had visible goosebumps and looked very emotional at times. WALTER did the old Axel Dieter Sr. "There are three categories of wrestlers" speech and also promised "absolute toughness and the best sportive performance of the night" like he used to do when he and Dieter teamed as heels.

Thatcher started out with Bate and they worked towards the first tag to Dieter. Thatcher was the face in peril for quite some time and once again was portrayed as the guy who could take unthinkable punishment, as he took all of British Strong Styles finishers and still kicked out a the last moment.

WALTER killed Seven with chops, and Dunne at one point did the finger breaking spot with him. WALTER had Seven in a rear naked choke and Dieter had Bate in the Axel Dieter Special, but Bate rolled through, deadlifted Dieter, and German suplexed him onto WALTER in one of numerous amazing spots.

At another point, all of Ringkampf had all of British Strong Style in different submissions. Dieter's "Nein" was very over here, and he used it once with great timing during a flying European uppercut. Bate did the airplane spin with WALTER for a long time. Seven hit a plancha on everyone, followed by a moonsault to the outside by Dunne and by a spinning senton by Bate on everyone.

There was too much good stuff to all remember it here, but it was one of the best matches I saw live all year. I had it at five stars and it was very close to the WALTER/Dragunov/Bad Bones match at 16 Carat this year. Thatcher eventually got the win for his team in around 30 minutes

After some bantering and mistrust following the match, they all shook hands and Seven wanted to swap his British Strong Style towel with Thatcher's Ringkampf scarf, in the way football clubs swap jerseys.

They also did a fun spot that showcased the greatness of Bate. Dunne mockingly did the Ringkampf pose and WALTER jokingly grabbed him by the hair, removed his mouthpiece, and kicked it across the ring. Bate nonchalantly caught it mid-flight and then put it back in Dunne's mouth.

Afterwards, Dieter did a very emotional speech, thanking everyone for coming to see him and hoping they all had as many good memories about him as he had with them. He briefly mentioned teaming with Da Mack and had the fans sing their old theme.

Dieter said he had accomplished everything he ever wanted to in wXw, winning the Tag Team and World titles, which started a "16 Carat" chant. He hung his head thoughtfully, as he twice made the finals and lost (once against Tommy End/Aleister Black, where he got the spot of Ricochet who was snowed in and couldn't make his flight and where the company put big trust in him being able to pull it off, and once against Zack Sabre Jr.).

Dieter then asked if the fans wanted him to be in next year's 16 Carat and try and win the one thing that eluded him. This got a major pop.

It will be interesting how they handle this, as there are guys like Pentagon in. It looks like no Impact or ROH guys though, so they'd have to stack their international roster with guys from Big Japan, DDT, Dragon Gate or NOAH and the U.S. indie guys from EVOLVE or people not signed with anyone.