Adventures in Oberhausen 7: The Consequences of Free Speech
March 5, 2020
This is it. Here we go. My fourth 16 Carat Gold. It’s a weekend that’s usually among my favourite of the entire year in pro wrestling. My version of WrestleMania is smaller, more accessible, the shows are shorter and everyone I know goes. By the end I will endure a wringer of raw emotions, highs and lows that I’ll remember forever, and experience the devastation of loss. It began on Thursday morning. Early doors. Loaded up on Monster Energy (Ultra Black – it tastes like cherry ****1/2) and on my way to Birmingham International Airport.
I arrive into the airport and slip into Spoons where Dizz has secured a table but is concealed by a sign and I do a complete circuit of the pub before she DM’s me a picture of where she’s at and I’m there. I am wired. Smashing a can of Monster was the most realistic way to get into the groove that early in the day but it’s had the effect of leaving me buzzing and fidgety. I have time for a quick pint while Jake turns up and I start to admonish people for touching their faces. Coronavirus is a pretty scary deal so we need to take precautions. I will lose count of how many people I tell over the weekend but it’s basically everyone. There are some rail issues this morning (the line is closed between Oberhausen and Essen Zollverein Nord) and Flybe has tanked overnight leaving several Carat attendees stranded. Including Mark from America who’s going to spend the weekend hanging around Manchester instead. Some talent have had flights rebooked and there’s already talk of a Carat Curse.
Eurowings take me to Dusseldorf . It’s cloudy and cold in Birmingham and Germany. The beloved Pink Bar awaits in Dusseldorf Flughafen. If you’ve never been to wXw the common meeting place on the Thursday arrival is at a bar on the concourse called “b2b Bar & Bistro”. The colour of said bar explains the nickname. It’s an easy place to get together before heading into Oberhausen. There’s a host of people there but I’m mainly with newcomer Dean, who only knows me and Mike Kilby, and regular Carater Allan Cheapshot. After a crafty Frankenheim Alt we use the newly acquired DB Navigator app, which is quite useful at avoiding airport ticket machine queues, and it’s off to Oberhausen. On route Allan realises he’s not packed a fork to eat the pot noodles he’s brought. I’d rather have a Bifi Ranger to be honest.
We arrive at 360 and a band of fans are already there. Lots of familiar faces including Bryan from the states, Lison from France and both Gary and Eammon from Ireland. Plus a load of others. The great thing about Carat is not only seeing the familiar faces but also some new ones and a chance to interaction with new people. We have a lovely little discussion about posh sports (golf is on TV), that Undertaker tweet that was blatantly Michelle McCool, Norm McDonald’s sports shows and the replacement for the forbidden handshake. The footsie version is quite popular, as is the Chris Hero forearm bash and the fist bump.
Joao and Mike Kilby get here (no Mort this year, sadly) and we start talking about Untappd and I manage to sign Dean up even though he doesn’t even like beer. “I didn’t want to feel left out”. We talk about the possibly of taking a non-wrestling holiday together and sampling booze along the way. Bamberg is a possible. Love them Rauchbiers. We hear about some of the more exploitative people involved in the unstable financial situation like offering an exchange rate of 89c to the Pound. The fine for travelling without a ticket has gone up to 60 Euro. Get that app, people. Although apparently Will Cooling got around having no tram ticket because in England you pay on the bus. How? How did you do that? Brexit means Brexit.
Hotel check-in at the Tryp. It’s very wet. Very, very wet. It’s absolutely pissing it down. The plans to seek an alternative route via public transport are swiftly abandoned. A load of people take taxis while we’re fortunate enough to get a ride in the STRIGGAMOBILE. While we’re waiting to leave Dean drops the bombshell that he didn’t think Joe Lemon was a real person. I never asked if he thought it was a character or what. The one bonus of Coronavirus is that wrestling fans might actually wash their hands (I’m told this was working until late on Saturday when the first instances of hand washing being skipped were noticed). Mike starts shooting during a discussion of Auf Weidersehn Pet. “Pat Roach, he’s like Tim Thatcher but good”. Mike has brought a load of beers from Amsterdam on the train and they’re lined up in the hotel for later.
The STRIGGAMOBILE arrives and Joao manages to get lost and not check his messages between our ground floor room and the car park leaving me standing in the pouring rain trying to beckon him. The STRIGGAMOBILE is full with five people in there and a boot full of out of date Veltins (“it was on sale”). The car is somewhat sluggish due to weight issues and clinks as it goes around corners. The rain is biblical at this point. On the way we debate where the career of “Rodeo” Chase Jenkins would have gone if he’d changed his name to Jake Steakhouse. He may even have developed and evil German cousin called Jacob Schnitzelbrude. We also talk about speeding tickets and how Dennis would have been banned for driving if he was in the UK. We also talk about discount supermarkets having the potential to become gimmicks for wrestlers who are real cheapskates, which leads to the frankly brilliant “Nick Aldi” (and Matt Lidl).
Of all the days for the doors to open late at the Academy. Wet. Once inside we get hooked up with press passes and I get the chance to grill official Felix “Shooter” Schultz about his credentials. I ask where he got his referee licence (as his shirt reads “licenced referee”). “Off the internet”. What happens if you make a mistake, do you get your licence revoked? “I don’t make mistakes”.
Julian Pace over Rust Taylor
Avalanche over Goldenboy Santos
Marius Al-Ani over Rotation, Vertigo (Canadian Rotation) & Hektor Invictus
Jay Skillet over Absolute Levandy
Killer Kelly over Stephanie Maze
Shigehiro Irie over Scotty Davis
Yuki Ishikawa & Daisuke Ikeda over Daniel Makabe & Chris Ridgeway
Rust Taylor was immediately noted as being one of the best hunks wXw have ever had. Marvin (Frankfurt) pointed out “his neck is so large”. Levaniel looks like being a star for wXw and his performance here merited discussion as he mimicked Absolute Andy to face Skillet. “Andy found some hair” notes Matt (Bluegodzilla). Yilmaz is extremely helpful here, giving me translations. However Levaniel feels the need to speak to the “international fans too”. “When the cake is speaking; the crumbs are silent”. Wise words. It’s a very funny match complete with a ridiculous faked low blow that Tas can clearly see (***1/4). Intermission is literally the only time I spoke to Maffew the entire weekend. A marked contrast to previous trips. How did that happen? He’s bought a Julian Pace energy drink. That’ll come in handy on Saturday. “Heute is Carat” (“today is Carat”).
European women’s wrestling is in trouble. So many of the top end signees have gone to WWE or AEW or are on tour in Japan. There’s very little remaining. Here we got a returning Killer Kelly, who’s very rusty and barely wrestled last year, against a wXw hopeful in MMA trained and Alex Wright protégé Steph Maze. She used to work under the name Steffi Sky but has only regularly been working since about a year-ish ago. Her inexperience was palpable and combined with Kelly’s rust this went badly. I don’t normally mention the low points on these weekender shows but the narrative is that the women’s division is in dire need of some help and it needs saying. Also I needed to mention the match because it featured trapping headbutts and Yilmaz did trapping headbutts in a shoot fight at school, naturally being sent home for doing so.
The last two matches were both very good. I’m glad Gary made his way back before them. “I had to use Dreissker’s dump”. Irie vs. Scotty is ***1/2 and a clear MOTN until the main where they were outshone. Ishikawa & Ikeda turned up to this weekend to do two things; kick ass and drink beer and they were all out of Konig Pils. Yuki was having the time of his fucking life here. When he was shouting “kick him” to Ikeda squaring off with a fired up Ridgeway I was in bits. The action was a bit much for Tobi who blurted out “God, I wish that was me” as Ridgeway lands yet more stiff kicks. Ikeda ends Riddy with a head kick and this fucking ruled. Great start to the weekend ****1/4
Some folks didn’t make the Inner Circle so we went to meet Ben Owens, Carsmile Steve and Meg Hewitt at the Brauhaus Zeche Jacobi, the nearest brewery to Centro. It was great to get the chance to chat with Steve about beers in a different country and Ben about Rev Pro. I also met another Mike who was short of money because he’d “spent all my change on the vibrating buttplug”. Would have been better off with a Gruben Gold imo. ***1/2.
Ben is staying at an air b&b but joins me in the Tryp bar for a beer. It’s still raining. The beer chat continues unabated with addition banter regarding a potential WrestleMania show called “Michael Barrymore’s Pool Party”. Tickets are dead cheap. Maffew regales me with the time he met Macauley Culkin, which I’ve been meaning to ask him about for almost a year. Lukas (Speckrapper) has brought me an altbier after reading my reviews of German beers last year. He also draws me and Mike a helpful map to the place in Dusseldorf where you can buy a pint of Kurzer Alt, which is apparently the best one. We talk about the gigs going on at the Konig Pilsner Arena this weekend and apparently one of them was a “Herman Germanman”. Never heard of him. As the evening moves on I get progressively drunker in the company of the Irish contingent and it’s delightful to spend time listening to the back and forth banter. “You like all the big bald lads” says Snowboii of Emma G after she’s listed off a few faves. The conversation moves to Jimmy Havoc; “he looks like a sperm in a cut off t-shirt” – Zig.
Snowboii then suggests that Moustache Mountain should have been called “Call Me By Your Shoot Name”. You really have to be familiar with the film to get that one. My notes become increasingly erratic and borderline gibberish at this point so I’m just going to let them form a flow of consciousness:
“After the incident at the paper mill” – Barry. Global force gold bullshit. Irish wrestler tinder. “Barry has an enormous cock” – Zig. Willy Sentence has a career on the NXT Largo Loop. German football fan, who can’t speak English, wants to chat to Zig about Man Utd. “I play FIFA more than him” *gestures at thumb*. Emma G – “Triple Jump Fuck Baby”. SANADA IS AN IDIOT – EMMA. 2.30am: what’s modia?
Friday, March 6, 2020
6 hours later. Banging headache. Thursday is supposed to be an easy one! A few ibuprofen later and it’s off to Louisiana for the press lunch. Patrick isn’t there so the session is hosted by Shaggy. “Tas forgot the badges”. Tas has said he quite enjoys this relaxing day one chat, spending an hour or so nattering about the business to the press. It’s mostly off the record and mostly reminiscing. I sit with Marvin (Frankfurt) and Jasper. Another gentlemen, who’s name I don’t catch, is at our table and insists on shaking hands but that’s ok because he’s wearing gloves. I think that’s ok anyway. Marvin struggles to remember what gloves are in English because the German is literally “handschuhe”. Hand shoes! Shoes for the hands! Marvin orders a “Fit & Fresh” salad with Caesar dressing and parmesan. I thought he was trying to be healthy but it turns out he’s just avoiding meat.
Marvin and Jasper take their jackets off and calamity, they’re both wearing the same shirt! “Well, now one of you has to go home and change”. I have the pork cutlet and struggle with the cutlery because I’m shaking due to a lack of food and an excess of alcohol. We talk about BritWres, WWE, politics, football and eventually move on to the hilarity of the German wrestling scene in times gone by. And also when Absolute Andy’s last proper back bump was (2018?)
Michael Kovacs is the first topic. Kovacs is one of my favourite wrestlers because he has a Cagematch account and rates wrestlers based on their ability to drink. He once famously changed his rating on Robert Dreissker two points higher because he was now “a force at the bar”. I also hear a great story about Kovacs wrestling AJ Styles. AJ was the heel and shoved Cheerleader Melissa to get heat. Kovacs was supposed to berate him for putting his hands on a woman but went a bit verbatim and said “you touched a woman, that’s disgusting”. Eww, girls.
Next up is “Sick” Shooting Star Z. “Sick” being in quote marks because that was his nickname ahead of his real name; Shooting Star Z. What a fucking mark. “He was a horrendous wrestler and a bad human being”. He got retrained in America and reemerged as “John Sturmpflieger”, which was a Nazi gimmick. I’m told I have to see some XCW, which is “Sick” Shooting Star Z’s promotion. Legendarily bad. We move on to Evil Rider Martin Note who also had a Nazi gimmick. “But he was a Nazi on a motorcycle so that’s different”. “Of course he was a face”. I am howling at this point. But we’re not done; Evil Rider had a little brother character called Little Rider, which was Emil Sitoci!
What follows is a bunch of terrible named, terrible gimmicked early days wXw hardcore wrestlers like Steve Towers, Thomas Blade, Big Sick Ben and SigMaster Rappo. I also get to hear about Eric Schwarz, “The Bounty Hunter” who went insane, turned into a right-wing conspiracy theorist/gun nut and apparently took his wife hostage. Next is a story about early days wXw co-owner HATE, who got bought out when the promotion got good. HATE was bad with money and owed cash to Gema, a German organization that keeps track of payments for music copyright. How much cash? 25,000 Euro. It nearly put wXw out of business.
It’s back to the Tryp for bar chat and most of the lads are going bowling. Mike doesn’t fancy it and we think Joao is heading that way. “Bye Joey”. “Bye Joshua”. He comes back anyway and we head to Franziskaner with “Big Cake” Mike Kilby, Joao, Dean, Raff and Jake. The aim is to get some banana weisens that the Ogden’s and Ian Hamilton have been raving about. On the way the phrase “Chasing the Meat” is accidentally coined after Mike mishears Raff say “he’s gone to get money”. It must be the accent. “Chasing the Meat? Is that what he calls it in Coventry? He hasn’t got time for a wank, we need to get a beer”.
The banana weisen isn’t technically a beer, it’s a Franziskaner with banana syrup in it and Ian hasn’t even logged the right one; instead logging a “Fahrtwind(!!!)” beer instead. “Ian’s speaking a load of Fahrtwind about this beer” says Mike. The Chasing the Meat thing gets debated as a possible gimmick pitched by Vince McMahon, while dressed as a butcher, covered in blood. “You’ve got to Chase the Meat”. Imagine the fantastic four part documentary we’ll get about the Meat Chasing Era in 16 years time.
From there it’s daft football stories from Marco Boogers to the Brazilian player who joined a succession of clubs without ever being able to play. A ruse that almost got discovered when he was asked to come on as a sub, but instead jumped into the crowd to fight a fan. When confronted by his angry chairman the player claimed the fan called the chairman a crook and said he couldn’t stand to hear it. The chairman gave him a new deal! We talk about Netflix football shows and Mike decides to slander Sunderland. “There’s no bigger void of nothingness than Sunderland”.
The Franziskaner restaurant is like an old Swiss chalet and is heated like it’s midwinter in the Alps. We go on to rubbish Swiss wrestling, which is a complete nothingness at the moment. News comes in from Knippi’s: Geoff Ogden has won the bowling! Our boy James Harris came in second, adding to his haul of medals, and Allan Cheapshot comes in third. He should DM Meltzer the results imo.
The sun. The sun has appeared!
We attempt a quick beer tasting and the beer I dubbed “pedoboner” is sampled. Paderborner is a fucking terrible beer. It’s one of the worst I’ve ever had. It has a shockingly high 2.74 Untappd rating and yet is borderline undrinkable. What is good, however, is Eammon’s baking and seeing as Mike is neighbours with him in Tryp we get some cake samples. *****.
The rain has officially stopped and it’s off to the Turbinenhalle for N1. We debate the plural of moose in the sunshine. “Mooses” suggests Eammon. Meese? As we enter the car park a caravan is attempting to enter and boy has he fucked it up. We hear the crunching of wood behind us as a sign jabs the caravan in the side and the driver’s wife is out of the back like a shot to yell at the poor bastard who just wrecked their mobile home. Tailgating at wXw is a thing. Considering getting a Winnebago one year and setting up camp in the back of the car park. We head in and the Turbinenhalle is looking grand. The set up is beautiful. They’ve moved the ring and changed the ramp and added in more flags and a live feed screen. So whenever action spills out of the ring the camera broadcasts it direct to the screen over the entrance. I nip into the merch area, which famously hosted the early 16 Carat Gold tournaments. Black Taurus is a huge draw. He has a massive line for his merch. I decide to watch the shows from the ground for a change. The press area feels cold and analytical, which is a pity because it means I don’t get to debate the importance of stuff with Ian and Will Cooling in “Cooling Corner” or “Cooling Tower” as Meg dubs it.
WXW 16 CARAT GOLD NIGHT ONE
Rust Taylor over Scotty Davis, Levaniel & Hektor Invictus
STRIGGA over Maffew Gregg
Mike Bailey over Chris Ridgeway
Jurn Simmons over Lucky Kid
Rotation over Puma King
Eddie Kingston over Daniel Makabe
Bandido over Julian Pace
Shigehiro Irie over Black Taurus
Jeff Cobb over Alexander James
Cara Noir over Marius Al-Ani
Jay AA over Pretty Bastards
The arrival of Rust Taylor creates sweaty palms everywhere. “There’s no need for Pete Bouncer now” – James. Before the show STRIGGA beats Maffew Gregg in their third match. This time by destroying a balloon. Death match next year? Pre-show also sees the debut of a ridiculously catchy Carat song; “Carat ist nur einmal im Jahr” sung by Disko King Franky. It’s on YouTube.
Bailey looks well up for this and in a kicky opener bests Riddy ***3/4. Rotation is also a first round highlight, battling to a win over Puma King ***. Kingston has something to say after besting Makabe saying “I’m done making stars. I’m done putting over jabronis”. He promises to win. Pace vs. Bandido is handily match of the night at ****. Pace raising his game in magnificent fashion to compete against one of the best wrestlers in the world. A career best outing to date.
We get a preview of the Catch tournament in late September with Laredo Kid and JD Drake being the first guys named. Irie vs. Taurus was a banger with “Beef Mode” engaged ***3/4. Cara Noir is over in wXw. It took a little gentle needling but the fans finally realised what they were seeing. No “who are you?” chants here. They went away and watched the PAC match and the Ilja match and got to see him do good work against Al-Ani here ***1/2. The N1 event was capped by the tag titles changing hands. Jay AA bringing both comedy and effort in bags in a well received babyface win. It would be one of the most consistently popular booking decisions of the weekend ***1/2.
I had a quick word with Julian Pace about his performance. I’m glad I got the chance because of all the wrestlers on this weekend who deserved a huge pat on the back it was Julian. He was asked to step up and did so. I’m a little sad I never saw Rotation to talk to him but he also did well in his underdog role and held on to that babyface pop. Not easy with the Carat crowd who’ll turn on a white meat babyface at the drop of a hat. I also got the chance to talk to German Mauro Ranallo and Griese. I think Griese was happy, it’s hard to tell. Lovely to see both gentlemen and I’m sad I don’t get more time with people over Carat.
Back at the hotel and we were drinking some Dutch beers. Dean’s distaste for beer led to the suggestion of Rumtappd. There’s one for Cooling Corner. Flow of consciousness time again here; “I just like nuts” – Mike, witbier gag reflex, it smells like cat sick and it tastes like soap. *KILBY NOISE*. “Enter the spittoonery”. “The bathroom?” “Yes”. “That’s what they ship crude oil in” – James of FAXE and their big, big can. “I’d rather drink my own piss over Maltsmiths” – Mike. Music dubbing. “Four stars? FOUR STARS?” Carlsberg Elephant Extra Strong. 10.5%. That’s a 4am beverage right there.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
Four hours sleep and a huge fuck up. When I ordered my WrestlingKULT ticket my Paypal ordered me to change my login details and I assumed it had gone through but it hadn’t. I had no ticket and the show as sold out. For the first time, ever, I had failed to complete Mike Kilby’s Wild Ride. So I went back to bed.
I nip out for breakfast and on returning discover that the room absolutely stinks of beer. I pour away the remains of the FAXE and that improves the scent slightly but the room is compromised and I pity the Tryp cleaning staff on Monday. Coronavirus has changed the way of the world and I obsessively wash my hands. I wash them so I can eat an apple but accidentally check my phone and have to wash my hands again. But then lean on the window sill and have to wash my hands again. I write something down and go to grab another bite of food and realise I have to wash my hands again because the pen has been in the Turbinenhalle and is therefore filthy. After recovering from this I nosh down a Bifi Carazza, the king of all Bifi products. It’s the one that tastes like pizza. Big recommendation there. ***1/2. I also rate the Big Corny, a chocolate bar that has a limited edition brownie flavor and is loaded with rice crispies but it doesn’t stick to your teeth. If I wasn’t coming to Germany for wXw I’d be coming for the Big Corny. ****. At the venue I hear about KULT from Gary. The highlight being Mot van Kunder say “once you go black you never go back”.
Daniel Makabe over Serious Kev Lloyd
Chris Ridgeway over Heisenberg
Rust Taylor over Tyson Dux
Scotty Davis over Mike Bailey
Ethan Allen over Luke Jacobs
Daniel Makabe over Scotty Davis
Chris Ridgeway over Rust Taylor
Daisuke Ikeda over Yuki Ishikawa
Daniel Makabe over Chris Ridgeway
The tournament itself was decent with consistently good matches that didn’t do anything stupid and never outstayed their welcome but also nothing felt rushed. It was a nice balance and left time for the big two matches. Ethan Allen vs. Luke Jacobs was a match where both of them knew it was a big deal and they had to do something with this opportunity they’d been given and holy shit, they fucking smashed it. Outstanding performances from both. I’ve been putting Jacobs over since I saw him in Breed last year but Allen looks terrific as well. They had a legitimately great shoot-style match and won over every last man, woman and child in the Turbinenhalle. This is why I love wrestling. You can come out of nowhere and deliver and they did. Great match, great performances, great reception ****.
Then there was Ikeda vs. Ishikawa. I had relatively low expectations from this. I thought they’d do some mat grappling and be all polite and nice but show off some lovely technique but no. They beat the ever loving fuck out of each other. They were throwing punches like a couple of drunk uncles at a family outing that’s gone wrong. Full force. No fucks given. Fist fight. When Ikeda did a running headbutt I giggled and jumped for joy. ****1/2. It’s a shame that Daniel Makabe got almost overshadowed by the performances and he almost got lost in the background with a series of solid performances. I had all three of his matches at *** or higher. Final was ***1/4. This may be the best AMBITION I’ve ever seen.
Quick break before the wXw Now Showcase event. Eammon had cookies here and while I didn’t like them as much as the first batch they were ****1/2. I love Eammon. I should probably go to OTT just so I can eat in the queue. Also during the break a picture of Carnage wrestling gave STRIGGA the Coronavirus. Schalke will play the rest of the season behind closed doors. Shaggy had a new look for Carat and I’m pretty convinced he’s actually Erick Stevens. Mike went to talk to Jurn and accidentally went for a handshake. “I’ll shake your hand, Kilby, fuck Coronavirus”. We also managed to get to Rewe, the supermarket by the train station and get some extra beers. James scored a ham on the bone from their hot counter and I have to say it looked pretty banging.
WXW NOW SHOWCASE
Carnage over Mexxxberg
Rizo over Kaiden
Lexa Valo over Kat von Kaige
Joe Gacy over Anthony Greene
Peter Olisander over Emeritus & Michael Fynne
Nico Invaradi over Luca de Pazzi
Tarik over Tyson Dux, Sebastian Suave & Brent Banks
The Wrestling Deutschland experiment is dead and the Now Showcase is the replacement. It was sporadically successful. Some of the wrestlers were inexperienced at this level and it took time for some of them to grow into the spotlight and working in front of an entirely new audience. The crowd were receptive and gave most of the wrestlers a good reception. The stand out match was the Gacy-Greene clash, which I had at ****-****1/4 and thought was blowaway good. Greene has improved so much in the past 12 months. I was shocked. They had a magical finish where Greene was knocked off the top rope and as he dropped down Gacy drilled him with a neckbreaker. I was jumping for joy for the second time today!
The other stand out match was Tarik’s win in the Team Smash match. Smash, from Canada, is a decent promotion and everyone looked good in their contest. ***1/2. Everything else was only good in patches, which was unfortunate. The Bodyslam guys were ok and I’m sure they’ll be disappointed they didn’t kill it like the CZW guys did. Likewise Whitewolf. I would have much preferred to see the promising Rizo take on the more established Carlos Romo here over a nervous looking Kaiden. I know Romo hasn’t been in Whitewolf much of late but you need to sell the product first and foremost and that means sending the A Team.
Issues with women’s wrestling again cropped up here and the BEW match from Valo and von Kaige was desperately over ambitious. Probably the worst match of the weekend. Showcase was a better event than either of the Wrestling Deutschland shows but mainly due to the North American contingent. I would love to see Whitewolf and Bodyslam guys do time in wXw’s Academy to improve. Fynne especially feels like he’s a fine tuning away from being a star.
DJ Hyde was over and announced a CZW matinee show on the wrong date in Hamburg (it’s actually in Frankfurt). Otherwise a flawless performance from the CZW gaffer.
With two shows down and the Wild Ride failed I managed to miss the media work and, famished, went for food with Marvin (Frankfurt) and Marvin (Dortmund) at the 360. I’m glad I went because I got to see Passi and this is the only time I saw him the whole trip. Dortmund Marvin pointed out he had to spend 54 Euro in 360 because of a lost bet the last time he was here. The wager? That Taichi would beat Okada. The mix of English and German makes for a few laughs with nine/nein. We book a segment for later entitled Absolute Andy: This is Your Life in the style of the Foley/Rock segment. It would have worked. Before leaving 360 I bump into Steve and Meg, enjoying their first Carat, and have a debate about beans on toast. Meg is wrong.
WXW 16 CARAT GOLD NIGHT TWO
Cara Noir over Jeff Cobb
Eddie Kingston over Rotation
Marius Al-Ani over Daniel Makabe
Jay AA Invitational Tag Gauntlet won by Young Guns
Alexander James over Alpha Kevin
Mike Bailey over Bandido
Jurn Simmons over Shigehiro Irie
Bobby Gunns over David Starr
N2 was incredible. A rollercoaster ride of emotions that left me dizzy. It’s hard to know where to start. Cara vs Cobb was a strong opener and increased the sense that Cara was going places here ***1/2. Kingston bullied Rotation in a great performance and my favourite Eddie match all weekend ***1/2. Gauntlet matches are not usually my thing but Andy stayed up all night learning web design, MS Paint and made an App that picked the teams for the gauntlet so I suppose it was better than usual. Also there were some random pairings. My favourite, by far, was Avalanche & Black Taurus; TEAM MEAT. Second would have been Levaniel & DJ Hyde. Young Guns came in last and bested Riddy & Scotty to win ***1/4.
Then there was Bailey vs. Bandido. From the second they were in the ring and the crowd were singing specialist songs for both of them and everyone joined in, it was a guaranteed win. They did lots of cool shit here but it all clicked. One of the best matches I’ve ever seen live anywhere, let alone at Carat, and thanks to a post match where the crowd hurled money in the ring and Bandido invited Chris Lawson, superfan, in to celebrate with him, I went full fucking boat on this. *****. A sure fire MOTYC contender. It filled me so full of happiness to be there watching it that I thought I’d never come down off the buzz.
And then we had Starr vs. Gunns. The interest in this match was down to the possibility of Starr being ousted from WWE affiliates and that certainly seems the case with his defeat. With that hanging over the match I found it hard to enjoy and was a little frustrated they opted to have such a long match with such a flat, disappointing finish. I know some people in the building were into this but I just didn’t like it that much. ***1/4. Starr’s post match promo where he could barely hold it together and stated that while the decision was mutual for him to leave it wasn’t what he, or wXw, wanted. So why are we in this position? It baffles me. If WWE can dictate to other promotions who they want to book and hurt that promotion’s bottom line by costing them their stars and pulling talent like Lio Rush at the last minute with no replacement…why would you ever get into bed with that? It left an extremely sour taste in the mouth, just two matches after Bailey and Bandido had left me positively giddy. Wrestling eh?
“Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence” – David Starr.
“I was going to thank WALTER but fuck WALTER” – David Starr
The after party is underway. We pass Snowboii who’s “doing a Kilby” and “no selling the after party”. “I’m going to watch the cockpit”. Was that a metaphor? I assume Cardi B is playing when we enter because Mike makes a crack about “Cardio B”. Mike has dressed up for the occasion and is wearing the stylish Kilbybund. There are a lot of sad Germans who feel the WWE thing has finally overwhelmed everything and as beers are sunk there are more frowns than usual. Most of my German friends leave relatively early, which is a bit upsetting. I understand their hurt. It would hit me just as hard later on.
I specifically went to the after party because I knew that’s the only thing Dohmi was at and I wanted to hang out and chat with him. We talked about the XFL and mustard and wXw and it was fun. I realised after a while that most of our XFL group chat was in the same room for the first time and got Ben Owens to photograph us together. If the XFL is thinking expansion then Oberhausen is where they should go. Or Dusseldorf. I’m not picky. Just not Essen, too many gangsters. Too much crime.
I find myself singing along to “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. A good old sing-song and beers is good for the soul.
“Judas” comes on. I still don’t know any of the lyrics to that. I find it quite unremarkable. However it does lead to Tobi giving Dohmi an accidental Judas Elbow.
“So…who’s going to sing the Spanish National Anthem?” – Dohmi. I don’t remember how it does so I give him a karaoke rendition of the Black Swan part of Swan Lake instead.
“Shoot Legitski” is something I actually said. He sounds like an XFL player.
Fucking German walls!!
Assembling a football team with beer bottles. “I don’t like the fitness levels of these two”. Th. Konig is short and fat, like Jan Molby and can only really play the holding role in midfield. “The first ten yards are in his head”.
Reshuffling of empties. Has FAXE moved up the rankings? The cleaner is a big FAXE fan.
“I get lost in a Wikipedia wormhole. First it’s Soviet tanks and now I’m reading about the Ugandan Premier League”.
Neil Shipperley van wanking justification. “Fake Premier League footballer Pornhub channel”.
*Thump*. “That’ll upset the person downstairs” *Looks out of window*. “Oh, we’re on the ground floor.
“Power Uti was the original Mad Kurt” – Barry
Sunday, March 8, 2020
The mood is very down in the lobby this morning. I pop over to the garage to grab some food with Marvin (Dortmund). We have a nice little chat about turkey and I bring Mike some Bifi rolls so he’s able to get going. 16 Carazza Gold! A Cornetto later and we’re ready. At noon we head to the Turbinenhalle and I am massively relieved at the lack of media panels this weekend. That Sunday morning panel was always death. Instead we get to talk about chocolate bar star ratings and our ‘spot’ preferences. Pretty sure I compared caramel to the Canadian Destroyer. In Germany they use so much white chocolate it’s like the 2015 poison rana. Some people are queuing already for the night show. The matinee show hasn’t even STARTED yet you lunatics. They chant something at me as I walk in and I have no idea what it is. I get to have a chat with Ben Owens again pre-show and he tells me about some after party antics where a German, who could speak next to no English, cornered him in the toilet to ask him about the Titanic. I also see Eammon who has rocky road. I fucking love Rocky Road. *****. I also see Chris Lawson who looks fragile. “A weak gust of wind would knock me over”.
WXW WE LOVE WRESTLING FEATURE EVENT
Scotty Davis over Daniel Makabe, Rust Taylor & Anthony Greene
Oliver Carter, Norman Harrass & Pretty Bastards over Team Smash
Marius Al-Ani over Chris Ridgeway
Stephanie Maze & Killer Kelly over Valkyrie & Baby Allison
Alexander James over Joe Gacy
JayAA over Young Guns
WALTER over Shigehiro Irie
The afternoon show was an easy one to sit through. It started off fine with the four way, during which Lison checked to see if I could see past her. I am not used to that level of politeness. Germans; not one of you has ever done this and in fact some of you have stood directly in front of me. Twice I’ve been asked if I could see and it was Lison and Toni Storm. Angels, both of them.
The Bastards tag was pretty good. Team Smash looked good, especially Tarik who should get booked in more places. I can see him breaking out this Mania weekend if he’s on enough shows. The women’s again stuck out like a sore thumb. This time because of Baby Allison, who looked like she was wrestling underwater. Valkyrie looked good and the match would have been far better if she’d never tagged out. There needs to be quality control in women’s wrestling the same as men’s.
The last two matches were both tremendous. JayAA had their work boots on again for the challenge of the Young Guns, who had a great first weekend in wXw. They both got to look consistently strong here thanks to the wisdom and generosity of Absolute Andy ****. It was nice to see WALTER again. It feels like it’s been forever. Irie rose to the challenge and they had a competitive match with Irie marching into WALTER’s chops at just the right speed. It just confirmed what I thought about WALTER to begin with; he should have gone to Japan not America ***3/4.
Not a lot of time between shows here so it was off to McDonald’s for the first time on the trip. I refused to eat there and just had a coffee, hoping Eammon would come by with more Rocky Road (spoilers, he did, love you!) I’m glad I went over to Maccies though because I got to meet Dominik from Poland. We had a great chat about Japanese wrestling and Japanese food and prices and all that. He told me about paying 50 Euro for some fish dish that he hated and then resorting to fast food for the rest of the trip. I’ve written it down as “Dom ate squid testicles”. We coached him on improving his Twitter so he didn’t look like a bot anymore. I’m starting to think his profile pic was taken sat next to me in McDonalds though.
Joao started to get a bit testy here as Mike kept interrupting him in mid story. After three times he lost his cool; “he’s always interrupting, this motherfucker. This prick”. I’m laughing typing it up. We get into WWE terminology and how your English would be totally weird if you learned it watching Smackdown. “Help, I’ve been run over, take me to a local medical facility”. The melancholy is starting to set in a touch though, just in the background, and Mike, almost without thinking, blurts out “I want to go to Luton and play X-Box”. Mike Kilby, he’s the real lunatic fringe.
WXW 16 CARAT GOLD N3
Mike Bailey over Jurn Simmons
Cara Noir over Eddie Kingston
Amale over Stephanie Maze
Tim Thatcher & Daisuke Ikeda over WALTER & Yuki Ishikawa
Alexander Wolfe over Avalanche & Ilja Dragunov
Bandido, Jeff Cobb & Julian Pace vs. Black Taurus, Puma King & Hektor Invictus
Cara Noir over Mike Bailey
The final night of Carat is always a hard day for me. Sometimes I’m just ridiculously happy but upset because it’s over. Sometimes it’s something different. N3 this year was a challenging day. I had some issues with the show, which are shared by some people but, based on crowd reaction, maybe not all of them. I wanted Bailey vs. Jurn as the final and I wasn’t that bothered who would out of those two. Cara feels like a Progress guy whereas the other two are not routed anywhere. The final was good but very long and drawn out with a lot of story that didn’t really connect with me. Bailey, coming off a classic with Bandido, should never have been portrayed as the heel. There was nothing wrong with having a hot face vs. face match and when they did that it was better. Cara winning is fine, he deserves that success but wXw, who are usually more unique and driven in their own direction, feel like the copycats here. Good match though ***3/4
The highlight of N3 was the wacky pre-main event tag that absolutely fucking ruled. It took me a while to get into it, for reasons to be discussed later, but once it hooked me in, usually with Bandido vs. Taurus, I was all in ****1/4. One of the better matches of the entire weekend. Sensational stuff. Bandido and Taurus are exceptional. Pace made himself this weekend with a series of clinical performances. Absolutely great match. Booking it as the semi, rather than the final, aside I also really liked Bailey vs. Jurn ***1/2.
Now we have some issues to talk about that lead me into a very dark place. The women’s issues were again prevalent here but that wasn’t as bad as the sheer amount of Alexander James that seems to be required to create a storyline in the women’s division. The wXw women’s division is failing the Bechdel test. Miserably. There was also a long Kelly promo, where she lost her way and a long angle and I was pretty fed up by it all having already seen it happen over the entire course of the weekend. Alexander James virtually in the “where’s Poochie” role on these shows. If you were playing TEW and you booked him to do the same thing all the time you’d get a warning that the crowd were losing interest and he was losing overness. Well, apart from with Captain Mighty Pants but he’s a die-hard.
Then there’s WWE. I hate WWE. If I wanted to watch WWE I’d watch WWE. The late addition of Alexander Wolfe was not welcome for me and not helpful to my anti-WWE mood following the Starr angle the night before and it effectively ruined my interest in Avalanche vs. Dragunov, a match featuring two of my favourite wrestlers. One I spend most of talking to people about how much I hated WWE. This compounded by Tim Thatcher’s final match. Instead of enjoying it I was reminded that yet another person of interest was being removed from my viewing pleasure so he can go and watch video tapes with Shawn Michaels in Florida and work the Largo Loop. My only pleasure here coming from Yuki Ishikawa nutting WALTER and Allan Cheapshot remarking that you can’t headbutt WWE contracted talent. What are they going to Ishikawa? Blackball him from Konig in Centro?
Finally we have Lucky Kid. A guy who won Carat last year and then spent a year losing matches and going nowhere and getting stuck in dead end feuds before being distracted into losing more matches by this weird eye gimmick. Only for it to be revealed that Lucky was behind the whole eye gimmick. What a mastermind! Causing himself to lose multiple matches, including his first round Carat match, in order to….actually I don’t know what the point was. But he’s turned heel and formed a new heel faction and changed his name. I hated it. It made no sense at all. And all this happened on the same show.
During the rest of the show I found myself emulating David Starr on N2 during his entrance. Soaking everything in, glancing around a building I had so many fond memories in. Wondering if this would be the last time I ever set foot in it. So disillusioned with what I was seeing and suddenly finding a massive disconnect and need to criticize wXw that I’d never had before. This company has been so good to me that it’s been hard to critique at all in all honesty and I’ve spent many hours removing negative comments because they didn’t belong in the review. I always wanted to convey what a great time I had because I always did.
The final sledgehammer blow to my mood was discovering that Patrick Strubbe, the man who’d run most of the media centre events, and someone I considered a good friend, was leaving wXw. As I joined the rest of the media guys at ringside for a photo opportunity I found myself holding back the tears. As I said goodbye to Patrick he said “I want to be mentioned in the Adventures in Oberhausen”. One final time. Of course. Patrick has been instrumental in the media centre working from day one. I can’t imagine myself doing 7 trips if he’d not been so accommodating and effective in his role. Then I looked around the building at the emptying fans, the confetti on the floor, the chairs being cleared away. The ending was palpable. I was barely holding it together.
The dream was over.
As I walked away from the Turbinenhalle, in the pouring rain, it really felt like it was the end. And that’s what is so great about professional wrestling. It can bring you down in ways you never thought were possible but it can bring you right back up again and higher than ever before. But first more stream of consciousness from the final night where, if you can believe this gentle reader, I laughed absolutely uncontrollably like I’ve not done in years.
Bifis and Hot N’ Spicy Pringles to snack my way through some lonely beers while everyone else is over at Centro.
Miracle berries on Joe Lemon.
“I emailed them, it started ‘normally your beer is shit’”
“Didn’t Uwe Rosler’s grandad bomb Old Trafford in 1941?”
“Who’s better? Willy Beavers or Dick Trickle?”
“Th. Konig Zwickel” translates to “The Kings Crotch”. I tried to read out this translation for a couple of minutes before just handing my phone to Mike, Connor and James so they could read it individually. My brain was gone. Absolutely gone.
Fat Tomas Brolin at Leeds was actually a doppelganger. They exist. Everyone has seen German Arn.
“Veltins+: The Pilot’s Choice”. An alcohol suitable for flying a luxury airliner.
“You know how beer is like oats and stuff…I’ve gone through the sonic waves of taste” – Mike Kilby.
“The Penguin Book of Cheesecake”
Mike spills beer up my leg while I’m trying to review something. “Welcome to the splash zone”. Gone. Absolutely gone. Uncontrollable laughter for 10 minutes or so.
There’s so much beer and beer stench in my room it’ll take Tryp six hours to clean it. There are 27 bottles of beer in this room. All empty.
“Just the FAXE, ma’am”
“FAXE is 70% can”
Carat is a time for forgiveness. CZW is back, baby!
James starts singing “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City” from the musical Oklahoma. Stops abruptly. No one else a fan?
“Did you see me shooting on Belgian beer on Twitter?” – Mike
We should do a beer sticker book. With swapsies.
To the bar. There’s a large Irish contingent still there. As I walk in Zig is saying “an absolute face full of Nazi gash”. What an entrance. I keep hearing bits of stories around the room. “Shades of Paul Walker”. “Best bouncer to ever wrestle in wXw”. “Barry just loves lesbians”. I get the full details on everyone switching their profile pic to Barry after he was convinced a photoshop mockup of his picture on Sofia Vergara’s Instagram was real. “How did Sofia Vergara get my picture?”
Monday, March 9, 2020
It’s hard to put into words the Oberhausen experience. It was a place and time we were lucky to be a part of. Forever entrenched in wrestling history. The birth of Tommy End, Big Daddy Walter, Ilja, the touring wrestlers who made their breaks when they couldn’t elsewhere, the Turbinenhalle, a truly sacred building that looks like shit from the outside. The kebab van whose large size is truly astonishing. Buster’s Erotik Discount RIP. The Centro. Steffy. The late nights in McDonald’s after the after party. Rubbing shoulders with wrestlers all over Oberhausen. Holding McDonald’s door open for Meiko Satomura. Chatting to Jon Gresham about Zero1 in Burger King. Seeing the entire RISE unit going for food at 5am. Mike’s Rico Bushido impression. The meat vending machine on the estate. Knippi’s Bowling Palace. The first place I had a beer in Oberhausen. With Scott from WARPod. Dan Jones from Rock Bottom Radio. Allan Cheapshot. Oli Court. Mike Kilby.
The media centre and all the people I’ve met through it. Patrick, Shaggy, Tas, Shooter, Felix, Dennis, CMJ, Dirty Dragan, Rotation, Katja, Yilmaz. Too many to name. Alan 4L. Sarah 4L. The Major of Oberhausen. The Shellakabookie. The Jim Smallman late night gig and post gig chat. The live podcasts where Rob Reid and myself performed in front of an audience while Disko Franky encouraged me to get closer to the microphone by making a blowjob motion. Oberhausen isn’t just the shows. It’s the stuff going on around the shows. The Kult Tempel. The zinc factory. The shell garage. The Tryp Bar. The all nighters. Jamie Hickman. Shauna. The Ogdens. Benno. JP. Will Cooling. Ian. Jen. Gunni. Lukas. Einar. Raff. Matt. Mark. Gary. Dave. Bryan. Johnny. Brian. Blaine. Golazo. Lison. Chris Lawson. Sarah. Dizz. Chris Linay. Jake. Emma. Barry. Zig. Snowboii. Eamonn. Jamesie. Ben Owens. Tobi. Dohmi. Connor. Victoria. James. Mort. Joao. Mike. Maffew from Botchamania. STRIGGA. Jasper. Griese. Passi. Both Marvins. People I feel I’ve known my whole life and have my experience in professional wrestling that much richer because wrestling is better when you’ve got people to share it with. To argue about it with. To criticize it with. To love it with.
This is Oberhausen. Where dreams come true. Where a piece of music can give you chills. Where lifelong connections are made. Where sadness and disappointment can have a silver lining. Where money rains into a wrestling ring. Where the magic happens. WWE can’t take that away from me. Or from any of you. I am a hopeless romantic optimist and where there is love and hope that’s where you’ll find me.