wXw 16 Carat Gold 2023 N3
March 12, 2023
Our journey through 2023’s 16 Carat Gold is almost over. There’s been a notable drop in quality in the ring compared to my last trip to Oberhausen but it’s looked like a lot of fun and wXw’s stellar production values have not dropped off. The pre-show promo is outstanding as everyone speaks a different language.
wXw 16 Carat Gold Semi-Final
Ahura vs. Shigehiro Irie
Ahura has cut a “path of destruction” according to Met Dimissi. You’d think he’d need bigger pants for that. Anyway, all that is over as there’s no way Irie goes this far and doesn’t win. It feels like they’ve been saving him for a really big epic match. His previous tournaments have seen two QF defeats (Avalanche & Jurn Simmons) and a semi loss last year (Jonathan Gresham). Ahura would be an extreme outlier compared to any of those. Although there is precedent for ‘guy who cheats win the whole thing’ as Absolute Andy did that.
As with all Irie matches this weekend it’s a bit sluggish, by his lofty standards, but when he takes over with power spots there’s a huge talent gap. Ahura’s continues his cheating theme by thumbing Irie in the eye. In a sub-10-minute match they manage to have both guys kick out of the other guys finisher. They have a few clunky near falls and the Beast Bomber finishes to a huge reaction. The crowd are desperate for the Shiggy win! I like that they continued the Ahura cheats to win theme, but Irie was just too powerful for him.
Post Match: Ahura fat shames the crowd and calls them “socially incompetent”. He runs his mouth some more, so Maggot runs in and gives the Cutter. He then announces they’ll face each other again in a street fight in Frankfurt.
wXw 16 Carat Gold Semi-Final
Axel Tischer vs. Peter Tihanyi
Now the choice is whether you want a heel/face final or whether Tihanyi could push Irie in an all babyface final. Tihanyi lost in the QF’s last year, so he’s already improved. Tischer is a gifted technician, which is not surprising due to all those training sessions with WALTER, Axel Dieter Jr and Tim Thatcher. They tell an interesting story, where Axel can’t cope with Tihanyi’s high flying and opts to ground him with limb work.
Tischer’s approach is a variation on his bullying of Slamovich in the last round. I don’t know when it happened but Tischer has gone from a guy I couldn’t even watch to a guy who wrestles my kind of match. Tihanyi ends up being the weak link. His striking isn’t up to scratch and his selling is wildly inconsistent. Where the match works is pitting Tihanyi’s big spots with Tischer’s desire to make them look good. It doesn’t always work and Tischer does some of his more frustrating selling, where he looks goofy. It’s the first time it has raised its ugly head this weekend. Enough of it does land to make the match a success. Mainly because of Tischer’s insistence at keeping on the arm throughout. To the point where Tihanyi injuring his arm on his own finish, the 450 Splash, makes perfect sense and Tischer finishes with a kimura. A limb match that doesn’t suck! That alone is worth bonus points. Axeman coming good as the MVP of the weekend isn’t what I had on my bingo card. ***½.
Avalanche ruins Anil Marik’s day backstage and challenges him to go and find two friends and fight Amboss.
Amboss (Robert Dreissker & Arrows of Hungary) vs. Anil Marik, Massimo Pesca & Nick Schreier
Aww, look at all the little babyface underdogs here. Dreissker is still wearing a protective face mask but he figures all these children can’t hurt him anyway. The Arrows spend a few minutes roughing up the kids and Peach gets CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIIIIIIIIRE*. Dreissker taps Pesca out and poor Marik didn’t even get to tag in. A squash.
*Copyright Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Elijah Blum vs. Adam Priest
Priest is small but technically gifted. He’s also from the dirty south. He reminds me, quite a lot, of Jamie Noble, BOOOOOOY. Priest works heel, pulling hair and kicking Blum in the fork. Night 3 of Carat frequently has a match like this on it, which doesn’t capture the imagination of the crowd and just sits there, in silence, being fine. I don’t understand what it does for anyone. The crowd are anxious for important matches, which are forthcoming. Blum’s comebacks are clean and crisp and Priest’s heel work is solid enough that the crowd do get invested into it. Blum eventually overcomes the cheating and hits the Parting Gift for the duke. This was technically decent, and Priest is a solid hand. Blum showed his potential in flashes.
wXw Unified World Championship #1 Contender’s Match
Francesco Akira vs. Mike D. Vecchio vs. Tristan Archer vs. Levaniel
Akira should already be due a Shotgun title match, having beaten Roman. Mike D was a late contestant, replacing Jurn Simmons, but he’s won over the neutrals this weekend. Mike D is out here blowing my mind. He does a backdrop driver and a DDT at the same time and it doesn’t look stupid. The two former champions; Archer and Levaniel, are nowhere near as good in the ring as Mike D. I was hoping Levaniel had improved over the past 3 years but it’s not to be. He’s always going to be a better character than a wrestler. When the match is Akira vs. Vecchio it could be taking place in just about any promotion in the world. Well, good promotions. The match is cursed with a lot of terrible overselling, as all matches of this type usually are. They also work in a tower of doom spot. I love how Mike D and Archer take the same spots off Akira, but Mike takes them far better. Vecchio picks off Archer with a powerbomb and becomes #1 contender. Just put the belt on this guy. He’s over huge*.
*Maybe wait until a heel has the strap though.
The match was extremely flawed, thanks to some of the usual four-way nonsense. Mike D Vecchio and Francesco Akira rose above it. I know Akira is already signed up for New Japan but if wXw can get away with pushing him as well, they absolutely should. Mike D. Vecchio is a no brainer for a push to the moon. WWE probably won’t steal him because he’s under six foot, but he’s a find. ***
On Carat weekend the “flippy boys tag” has often garnered the reputation of the most fun match of the weekend, even if wasn’t necessarily the best contest. It’s the match where wXw throw all the most fun dudes in together and let them do whatever the fuck they want. It’s usually great, although perhaps not as memorable as the great Carat finals down the years. For example; under the Dragunov-WALTER final was Speedball & ACH vs. Dijak & JT Dunn, which ruled btw, but I had to look it up to see who wrestled in it.
Trey Miguel, Arez & Fuminori Abe vs. Komander, Senza Volto & Aigle Blanc
I’ll flat out say, before we get underway, that spotfests are not my favourite thing in wrestling. There are two ways to do a spotfest. One is to gradually build to crazier and crazier spots and the other is to just go balls out from the start. There are no dives in the first 90 seconds so I guess we’re building. Some of these match ups are better than others. Trey Miguel finally gets his flowers after spending most of the weekend as a heel. Senza Volto is one of those Euro wrestlers that could easily be mistaken for a Mexican wrestler. I do love Abe deciding to do proper tags and work Komander’s leg. Bless him, he didn’t get the memo. A lot of the spots in this are overcooked and convoluted. Komander’s top rope bouncing shit is completely out of control here. A lot of the really big spots are tentative because they’re so hard. Like Komander superplexing Abe off Aigle’s shoulders on the top rope.
Not that the match doesn’t have cool shit in it. When they just start popping off one on one spots it’s great. The most well executed ‘big’ spot is Komander doing his rope walk and Arez jumping in to intercept and hitting a Spanish Fly. I also love the multiple dives spot, culminating in Komander walking the ropes to hit an SSP to the floor. The security guy that helps on the catch can’t hide his smile at being involved in something so daft.
Komander just hitting his usual finish on Arez is a bit of an underwhelming end to the carnage. Some of the choices made here didn’t please me but then I am a spotfest curmudgeon. I preferred Komander vs Arez in singles. I did enjoy Abe eschewing the style and just punting flippy boys around the ring. ***½.
wXw 16 Carat Gold 2023 Final
wXw Unified World Championship
Axel Tischer vs. Shigehiro Irie
The belt is on the line here as it was vacant coming into Carat. Irie is long overdue a killer match this weekend. Tischer has been the best in-ring talent for wXw this weekend, which a shocking statement but it’s true.
Tischer brings mental toughness and scouts Irie’s spots including the rebound splash off the ropes due to Irie’s insistence at delaying it so he can shout “auf de fresse” (quite literally “on the face”). Axel goes after Irie’s face in response. Literally ‘auf de fresse’. This also plays into Ahura’s shot to the eye earlier tonight. Where Tischer’s bully boy tactics worked in earlier rounds, they’re not effective here as Irie is too tough to be perturbed. Tischer’s technical stuff is very decent including mat work and suplexes. He’s still not at the level of a WALTER, Dragunov, Sabre or Thatcher but his attitude fits this spot. The crowd get more animated, and the match feels more important because of it. Tischer can sense victory and hits just about everything in his arsenal, one move after another. Tischer’s true power lies in his in ring demeanour. He carries himself like a big star and a guy who fully expects to win this. Tischer almost exclusively targets the head, which makes his impact finishers mean more, as he’s been clever with his finishes all weekend. When he can’t get the pin, he tries to choke Irie out. Having used all this to win matches already intensifies the false finishes. Irie gets a reversal and elbows the piss out of Tischer until Tas calls it as the Axeman cannot defend himself. They got the timing a little out here as Tischer didn’t feign unconsciousness until after Tas had called for the bell. I think I’d have rather had Irie let go, Tischer stagger to his feet and eat another Beast Bomber. This wasn’t one of those blowaway great Carat main events but it was really good, and arguably the best match of the weekend (either this or Komander vs. Arez). ***¾
It’s a lovely moment for Irie, who’s been grinding at pro wrestling for years without ever hitting a high like this. He’s arguably one of the most talented unsigned guys in the world. If this wXw run is his ticket into AEW or New Japan I wouldn’t be surprised, nor upset. He’s a lovely lad. Deserves all this and more.
The confetti that rains onto my keyboard at the finale here is actual confetti from Irie’s celebration. I had it shipped specially to my house to enhance the reviewing experience.
I know I’ve become a grumpy old bugger in the past few years and my star ratings have to be among the harshest in the business nowadays. That said, I really enjoyed this show. One ok, one good semi final, a decent #1 contender’s match with the right winner, a fun lucha match and a great match to finish the tournament on with a feelgood winner.
I’d like to extend my love to the wXw family for carrying on despite the issues of Covid and the virtual collapse of the vibrant European scene. They’ve taken a beating and come back strong. I know this isn’t the Carat of 6 years ago, which drew me into wXw’s inner circle of fandom and culture. But then 2017’s Carat could draw from a far more diverse pool of talent. Not just from the global wrestling sphere but also from Germany and wXw’s own talent pool. Domestic (and frequent visitors) talents in 2017 included Da Mack, Marius Al-Ani, Robert Dreissker, Ilya Dragunov, Tim Thatcher, Bad Bones, David Starr and WALTER. Not including people who didn’t wrestle in the tournament that year; Emil Sitoci, Jurn Simmons, Absolute Andy, Julian Nero, Francis Kaspin, Axel Dieter Jr and Bobby Gunns. With imports ranging from the fun (Mike Bailey, ACH) to the elite (Cody Rhodes, Matt Riddle) with a legend like Koji Kanemoto thrown in for good measure. There’s no way to get back to that anytime soon. 2017’s Carat is one of the most memorable weekends of my wrestling life.
Where wXw have piqued my interest where BritWres have failed, and will continue to fail, is their determination to put out a product that means something. That lines up with their history and is counted alongside it. While the in-ring has changed, a lot the background people are still there. Pouring their heart and soul into wXw. It might take a while, as anything worth doing takes, but I can see wXw getting back to that 2017 level again. The same I cannot say for sure about any of the promotions from the British Isles. Most of them are nowhere near the level they were at in 2020 let alone the peak of 2017, when Eurograps ruled the world. Could I see Progress, OTT or Fight Club Pro returning to their previous peaks? Absolutely not. And yet wXw pulled 1,100 fans in for N2 of Carat this year. The biggest crowd they’ve had since pre-pandemic days.
It warms my cynical old heart to see good people fighting back in pro-wrestling.
My ongoing commitment to pro-wrestling is tenuous at best. It’s been really nice to hear from all of you over the past week or so. I’ve had an assortment of lovely people telling me how useful my reviews are and how missed I’ve been in the community as a whole. Thank you. I do hear you. This year I’ll be once again taking the WrestleMania weekend wild ride. I intend to review every show that gets streamed on Mania weekend. I attempted this last year and failed (and didn’t even start reviewing shows until the weekend was over). I did all the Indies and then couldn’t watch WWE. Haha. Shitshow. But yeah, I’ll be around.