On 5th October 2017, Westside Xtreme Wrestling held Inner Circle 4 at the wXw Wrestling Academy in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia. The show featured Homicide taking on David Starr as well as Timothy Thatcher, WALTER, Kim Ray, Jurn Simmons and JAY-FK in action. But was my first wXw show any good? Let's take a look!
Alexander James def. Julian Pace (9:05)
A strong opener here, with both men impressing as I caught their work for the first time. The bout was well paced, using it's time well with the roles being strongly defined, helped a long by a crowd that was eager to start it's graps weekender. After some hard chops, the bout quickly moved towards it's main narrative thread with James hitting an arm wringer across the top rope and beginning to work the arm viciously, managing to get a decent amount of heat in the intimate Academy venue. The arm attacks were varied and kept the match interesting when the paced dipped, whilst an early attempt for a grounded top wrist lock (think Zack Gibson's Shankly Gates) introduced the move that would eventually gain the victory for James. Pace is someone who would seem to have an extremely bright future based on this outing, with his selling being particularly impressive, alongside the speed and smoothness of his comeback, as he swung in and out of the ring before hitting a sweet jumping neckbreaker. There was perhaps more work that could have been done on the arm to lift the bout further, with their being potential to work it into near falls and add a little bit more drama, but within the context of an opening match it was pretty much spot on content and time wise.
Kim Ray def. Rafa (5:20)
A decent bout that once again was between two wrestlers that I was unfamiliar with. This was probably the weakest match of the show, but that says more about how strong the show was than the quality of the match. Whilst it was brief and featured mostly low-key action, everything was done crisply and never wandered into sloppy territory. The strongest section of the contest for me was a sequence that saw Rafa initially escape a suplex attempt, before eventually nailing a double stomp following a double leg takedown after some high tempo back and forth. Overall, the match was fine, but within the context of the show it struggled to stand out or produce anything particularly memorable.
Timothy Thatcher def. WALTER in an Ambition Rules Match (9:15)
What an absolute treat of a match as the Ringkampf boys went one on one in a hard-hitting, grapple fest under Ambition rules. If you're unfamiliar with Ambition Rules, it's essentially shoot style, with immediate ropebreaks and victory only decided by submission, KO or TKO. This produces a very different style of professional wrestling match, that perhaps is perfectly suited for a smaller venue like the Academy with the fans close to the ring. The match was all big powerful strikes, technical hold exchanges and crisp, substantial power moves. The power moves were in some ways enhanced by the rules, contrasting with the technicality and submission holds, with a great fast-paced sequence that concluded with a immense powerbomb from WALTER being the standout moment of the bout. The conclusion felt very much of this style with WALTER laying in some thunderous and quick slaps, only for Thatcher to catch one and swiftly transition into a Fujiwara armbar, locking the move in and getting the submission victory almost straight away. I would've liked to have seen this go a little bit longer as I was really getting into he style of the bout, but with the two having the World Tag Team League shows coming up it made perfect sense to keep thing relatively short and the immediate tap out adds to that idea within kayfabe as well.
EYFBO (Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik) def. JAY-FK (Francis Kaspin & Jay Skillet) (12:11)
The first half main event gave us a look at one of the entrants in WTTL, EYFBO's Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik (who you may know for being Ortiz & Santana in LAX on Impact Wrestling) in their first European match with the two proving instant hits with the Academy. Whilst the plentiful EYFBO chants created a buoyant atmosphere, it was the wrestling that satisfied the most as Ortiz & Draztik looked like a polished unit, with a variety of exciting double team moves and just generally looked like a team that had been tagging since 2012. The bout flowed well with both of Jay-FK working short periods as the face in peril, with elements of rookie vs. veteran narrative as the inexperienced team of Francis Kaspin and Jay Skillett looked to match the tag team savvy of the former Impact Tag Team Champions. The contest built well to it's finishing stretch with a slew of double team offence following a Skillet hot tag with a neckbreaker double stomp and springboard spike piledriver getting near falls, before a ridiculous sequence involving a mad rope hung cutter situation from EYFBO that I couldn't do justice to if I tried to explain it here. EYFBO would then pick up the victory with their Street Sweeper finish (Powerbomb and Diving somersault neckbreaker) to conclude the first half with a very good tag team contest.
Jaxon Stone went to cut a promo before the next bout, but no one was ready for this and each word of his speech was cut off by loud boos. I have no idea what he said, but it was glorious.
Jurn Simmons def. Jaxon Stone (10:24)
Jurn Simmons is over as fuck, pals and rightly so as he showcased his palpable charisma and in-ring prowess in this fun second half opener. The match verged into comedy territory at points, bringing a nice little bit of variety to the show and producing a few chuckles as the two kicked things off with arm wrestling contest and also pulled out a cheeky bit of comedy selling. The two went mostly back and forth throughout the contest, trading big moves and near falls as the audience sang loudly for Simmons and hurled boos at Stone who lapped up the reaction. Whilst there was nothing that was overly noteworthy about the action, it was once again all performed skillfully with the nearfalls being done particularly well as Stone came close with a Death Valley Driver and a lifting DDT. Simmons picked up the win with a Massive Piledriver, building some momentum heading into World Tag Team League, where he'll tag with David Starr as Massive Product.
David Starr def. Homicide (14:06)
A stellar main event, as Homicide returned to wXw thirteen years after his only other appearance. The two began with one of the longest collar and elbow tie-ups I've ever seen, which could have been a little dull, but both bought a lovely intensity that kept it interesting with the compact venue complimenting this type of grappling. After some wild brawling on the outside and tasty suicide senton from Homicide, the contest settled into a nice rhythm with Homocide acting as the aggressor using dirty tactics, whilst the crowd got behind Starr, creating a brilliant atmosphere inside the Academy. The contest featured a number of big spots like Starr hitting a DDT onto the apron, as well a verticle suplex neckbreaker (Adam Cole's Last Shot) from Homicide, but the story of the bout came in the moves that didn't get hit. Starr repeatedly went for Product Placement (Bridging Package German Suplex) with Homicide able to escape, whilst Homicide looked for his legendary Gringo Killer (Vertebreaker) manoeuvre, creating a feeling that whoever hit their move first would take the victory. The finishing stretch saw Homocide seemingly building momentum, getting two really strong near falls, firstly with roll-up out of a physical strikes sequence before a brilliant back and forth stretch resulted an Ace Crusher getting a long two count for the Notorious 187. It was clear that only a Gringo Killer would give Homicide the victory, but his second attempt at the move was escaped by Starr, leaving the Jewish Cannon in the perfect position to hit Product Placement at the third time of asking and pick up the win in a satisfying finish that wrapped the match up in a lovely stand-alone package.
David Starr would bring the show to a close with a lovely promo, putting over Homicide as a performer and person, mentioning he'd wanted to wrestle him for a very long time.
For a first wXw show this was a great taster for what the promotion is all about and a good introduction a number of different talents. The Ambition rules match, EYFBO v Jay-FK and the main event battle it out for my match of the night, where I'd probably go for the tag bout if pushed. I was also impressed with Julian Pace in the opening bout, with the current wXw Academy Trophy Champion looking like he's got much more experience than he actually has and generally being a superb advert for the wXw Academy. The loud crowd and packed venue gave the show a really nice atmosphere, reminiscent of Fight Club: PRO's time at Fixxion Warehouse. This show worked as a wonderful start to the World Tag Team League weekend, that has whetted my appetite for the graps fest that is to come over the next three days.
Review by James Marston