Saturday, 21 October 2017

World Tag Team League 2017 Night Two Review - John Klinger vs. Ilja Dragunov [Live]

On 7th October 2017, wXw held the second night of the World Tag Team League at the Turbinhalle in Oberhausen, North-Rhine Westphalia. The show featured John Klinger [Bad Bones] defending the Unified World Wrestling Championship against Ilja Dragunov and Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) taking on The Rottweilers (Homicide & Low Ki) in Block B of the league, as well as A4 (Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani), The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe), The Spirit Squad (Kenny & Mikey), World Tag Team Champions The Young Lions (Lucky Kid & Tarkan Aslan) and Massive Product (David Starr & Jurn Simmons) in action. But was it any good live? Lets take a look! 

Photo courtesy of wXw

World Tag Team League 2017 Block B Match: The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) [3 points] def. EYFBO (Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik) (11:55) [3 points]

With EYFBO tasked with opening the show for the second night in a row, this was an exciting fast-paced opener, but one that didn't threaten to a become a breakout contest. The Briscoes got much more fan support than Night One, when they took on the popular Ringkampf and that seemed to give the bout some extra energy. Whilst the two teams could have probably created a better, more complete match with a little more time, this slot allowed them to keep the action coming, as they work relatively short face in peril spots, bu took time to play to the crowd with a strong hot tag from Jay Briscoe. EYFBO continued to impress me with their tag team creativity and whilst they're still not quite the complete product, they are tremendous fun inside the ring, in particular the Poetry in Motion style cannoball they do is glorious. The finishing sequence was some of the best work of the match with the Briscoes coming into their own with Draztik missing a 450, Mark nailing Ortiz with a cannonball off the apron, a massive lariat from Jay and then once Draztik escaped a Jay Driller attempt, Briscoe Brothers opted for a wicked looking Doomsday Device to take the three points. The novelty of getting to see top tag teams from Impact Wrestling and ROH do battle (for the first time) also played into the fun factor of the bout.

Shotgun Championship Fatal Four-Way Match: Ivan Kiev (C) def. Avalache [Robert Dreissker], Bobby Gunns and Alexander James (6:53)

This bonus match featured four guys that I was yet to become familiar with and at the time I found myself drifting from the contest a little, with the crowd a bit subdued also, but I came away having found plenty to enjoy. Avalanche looked particularly impressive here, with the booking of the bout making him feel like a star, as he took a bump into the steps early as Bobby Gunns and Alexander James combined, and then later came back dominant, including a double Samoan drop in the closing stages. There was also general multi-man stuff like the tower of doom, whilst Ivan Kiev hit a nice looking frankensteiner and Alexander James pulled out a Tower of London. These types of bouts often suffer from a little sloppiness and awkwardness with the amount of competitors, but I don't think that was the case here, with most of the action looking good, even if the bout rarely made the most of the amount of competitors in the ring. Kiev walked out with his title still round his waist, making the most of an opportunity after the dominance of Avalanche to pin James with a Samoan driver.

With Melanie Gray having suffered an injury during Femmes Fatales earlier in the day, Jinny cut a tweener promo, insulting Gray but putting over the division (mostly the British based talent), before offering an open challenge...

Jinny def. Killer Kelly (6:59)

A much better performance from Killer Kelly here than from Femmes Fetales with the Alfacinha benefiting from having a clearly defined character (and a heel, despite the previous promo). A big bicycle kick early doors from Kelly set her up as a potential threat to the calm, collected and confident Fashionista, who had only lost her first singles match in wXw earlier in the day. The simple structure, defined characters and some slick wrestling (one of the loveliest surfboard transitions I ever did see) held me for the time the two were in the ring, with some good pacing building towards some nice back and forth as the contest headed towards it's conclusion. Jinny continues to improve in the ring and develop her ability to hold a crowd, having got her character pretty nailed earlier on in her career, her selling in particular here stood out, taking time during the back and forth to show the damage that was being done and bring credibility to Kelly's MMA-esque gimmick. After a german suplex near fall for Kelly, Jinny would get the win with a rainmaker, giving her more momentum in the Women's Championship tournament,.

World Tag Team League 2017 Block A Match: A4 (Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani) [3 points] def. The Young Lions (Lucky Kid & Tarkan Aslan) [3 points] (15:43)

This was my first proper look at the Young Lions, after their debacle with the Spirit Squad from Night One and I took to them much more after this one. I thought they worked well as the spoiler for A4's antics, using classic heel tactics to control the match for a long time in the middle of the bout. This was helped by an spectacular face shine from A4, that got the crowd riled up early on, including it looking like Absolute Andy coud've won the match for his team with a sharpshooter within a minute. We then got a tease of a comeback with an Marius Al-Ani hot tag, only for Young Lions to double up, trip Al-Ani on the apron and take control once again. I know, eye rakes, referee distractions and t-shirt choking, isn't for everyone and perhaps the heater went on a little too long for the match, but I get a lot of of matches that are structured like this, especially when I'm into the babyface team and I was really into A4 after their Night One performance. 

Post the Absolute Andy hot tag, which featured a cool moment with a sharpshooter and boston crab being locked on by A4 simultaneously, I'm not sure if the bout managed to delivery on the potential energy that the heat sequence had been building too. A4 brought the intensity to match the sneakiness of Lucky Kid and Tarkan Aslan, but I found the action ended up becoming a little repetitive with a couple of near falls coming across as samey with Andy hitting about two thousand Fireman's carry facebusters and Al-Ani the same with frog splashes, meaning that when the pair won the match with those moves it ending up feeling a little flat. Cool moments like Andy no-selling a dragon suplex, lifted the home straight a little, but overall I would've liked to have seen a little bit of variety, not just in the moves being hit, but also in the story that was told, as the narrative became repetitive and hit the same beats for those last few minutes.

World Tag Team League 2017 Block B Match: The Rottweilers (Homicide & Low Ki) def. Ringkampf (Timothy Thatcher & WALTER) (17:29)

Two nights of World Tag Team League and two match of the nights from Ringkampf's Timothy Thatcher and WALTER. What makes that even more impressive is that this was a completely different match to Thatcher & WALTER's tangle with The Briscoes on Night One, with less structure and more of an out-of-control feel about the whole presentation. The scramble around ringside was a pleasure to watch as the audience moved out of the way of four men hitting each other really hard, with the balcony providing the perfect vantage point to see it all unfold. With the teams scrapping at ringside and beyond, there was a visceral energy to proceedings, that grabbed the audience and forced it to pay attention, unless they wanted a wayward chop to connect with their chest. The idea that The Rottweilers had to go for this wild style, to combat the dominant Ringkampf was a lovely piece of psychology as the match went like a runaway train towards it's conclusion. 

The bout shied away from having one team in control for too long, almost feeling more like a Fatal Four-way in how it flowed from big nasty chops, forearms and kicks, to big move near falls like Homicide's 187 cutter to WALTER and then a great submission sequence that mimicked the finish of Ringkampf's match with The Briscoes on the previous night, only to Low Ki to roll through on his sleeper hold to hit a double stomp, before saving Homicide with a springboard. The finisher sequence ironically featured some of Low Ki's best work of the weekend, but also resulted in an injury that would stop the Rottweilers from competing on Day Three! Ki landed on his feet after being gorilla pressed into the ring from WALTER on the elevated ramp, slickly nailed a dropkick before climbing to the top rope and hitting a Warrior's Way on the Austrian, ending up landing awkwardly on the ramp. In fact, any interaction between Ki and WALTER was barrels of fun and ferocity, I can't be the only that would love to see the two face off one on one again (they previously clash in wXw in 2008). The Rottweilers picked up the victory with 5150 (Electric Chair and Cutter combination), leaving everyone in Group B with three points heading into the final round of group matches.

The Spirit Squad's heel promo was going annoyingly well and then Kenny mentioned the war. Man's clearly never watched Fawlty Towers.

WTTL Block A Match: Massive Product (David Starr & Jurn Simmons) def. The Spirit Squad (Kenny & Mikey) (11:32)

After a long day, I was pretty unforgiving to this match live, especially the portion that devolved into an arm wrestling contest between Mikey and Jurn Simmons. I couldn't work out what was going on, the match stopped and then there was a weird table in the ring and to be quite honest I'm still baffled by the whole situation. Perhaps if I'd have had more energy I'd have enjoyed this a little bit more, because it was a little out there and completely different to the rest of the show, but in the moment I wanted it all to end and end quickly. The actual match was a step or two up for the Spirit Squad after their match with the Young Lions bombed on Night One. Having Kenny and Mikey work a clear heel role, opposite the over as fuck Massive Product was a much more effective use of the team, that, at least, gave the match some direction. Massive Product became the first team to pick two victories winning with a Spike Massive Piledriver, meaning that Spirit Squad would be unable to reach the final after two straight losses.

Unified World Wrestling Championship: John Klinger (C) def. Ilja Dragunov via Disqualification (18:35)

Over-booked, Attitude Era title matches have come into vogue in European wrestling recently, we've seen Travis Banks vs. Pete Dunne in both FC:P and PROGRESS and Morgan Webster vs. Chief Deputy Dunne in ATTACK! They toe a fine line between being exhilarating storyline magic, where the action never stops, pulling on past storylines and alliances and just being a mess. I don't think my lack of investment in the John Klinger vs. Ilja Dragunov feud in comparison to the examples above, particularly impacted on my enjoyment of this, because the issues had been made clear on the previous night, however, for me there was way too many moving parts here to produce a wholly satisfying main event. RISE being removed from ringside, Klinger being able to lose the belt through disqualification, RISE coming back later on, A4 and Massive Product aiding Ilja Dragunov, Da Mack's belt shot to Klinger and subsequent disqualification, only for Mack to be revealed as part of RISE. There was way too much going on, with parts of it lacking strong storytelling logic that I had gotten a feel for over the previous two shows. Obviously, the main difference between the three matches mentioned above is that the babyface eventually overcame and won the title, having all that build over fifteen plus minutes to conclude with a disqualification, with the match being just a step in a larger storyline left me feeling a little flat by the end.

That being said, let's talk about how good Klinger and Dragunov are, because when they went at it one on one, they put on some great, compelling action. This was my first exposure to Dragunov in the ring and I quickly began to see why he has become so popular in the promotion. He absorbed a shit load of punishment, with chops leaving his chest a bloody mess and then came back and dished out some of his own. Watching Ilja Dragunov is a cathartic experience, he pulls you in with sheer wrestling ability, he hits hard, he's smooth and has intent in his move delivery, but perhaps his biggest skill is in making you believe and almost feel every strike, blow and slam. He shows it in his face, his eyes, his mouth, his arms, legs and back...with every fibre of his being Ilja shows the pain, oozes charisma and breaths fire. Let's not forget that Johh Klinger was in this, as well, and showed exactly why he's been the figurehead of the promotion since August. The two combined wonderfully at points when left to it, brawling in the crowd, exchanging hard strikes and telling a great story of a desperate champion trying to combat at challenger who clearly had his number. These are two guys that I'd love to see more often, obviously in the UK, where both would be able to do amazing things with the likes of British Strong Style's Pete Dunne, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven, as well as Travis Banks and Mark Haskins.

After the bout, it was made clear that Da Mack had joined RISE as he struck Ilja Dragunov, before watching as Julian Nero entered and got beat down by the group, which eventually lead to Avalanche hitting the ring and turning the tide to send the stable packing. The show closed with an emotional promo from Ilja Dragunov, which even though I had no idea what he was saying was delivered beautifully and with real emotion. 

I think Night Two was slightly ahead of the opening night, being more consistent in it's quality, but at the same time nothing matched Night One's epic main event between The Briscoe Brothers and Ringkampf. Of course, WALTER and Timothy Thatcher still had the best match on the card with The Rottweilers, whilst I also had a lot of time for the Young Lions vs. A4 and EYFBO vs. The Briscoes, whilst the main event was tremendous fun at times, even with the over-booking as John Klinger and Ilja Dragunov impressed. The Shotgun Championship match was an improvement on Night One's effort offering something different and the Spirit Squad were used much better, with the exception of their cheapest heat promo. All round, most of the things that I had criticised from Night One were improved on on Night Two, with the stage being set for a massive final night of action on Night Three...

You can check out this show now with both English and German commentary on

Review by James Marston

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