Breaking Down & Predicting The 16 Carat Gold 2020 Tournament
One of my own personal goals this year was to cover a lot more pro wrestling than before. And that includes doing more Breaking Down and Predicting articles. The first one of the year is for Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) and the 16 Carat Gold tournament. The tournament has a lot of history and its list of winners contains some of the who’s who in pro wrestling. Wrestlers like Sami Zayn, WALTER, Zack Saber Jr., Ilja Dragunov, Shingo Takagi, Aleister Black and Kassius Ohno have all won the tournament before. The winner gets a guaranteed title shot for the wXw Unified World Championship at a later date. This tournament is full of wrestlers that were new to me and a lot of them probably be new to you as well. With each entry that might not be as well known as other wrestlers on this list, I tried to explain their in ring style and other things that would be important for fans to know.
16) The Rotation
The Rotation is one of those flippy smaller guys that fans always seem to get behind. He had to earn his spot in the tournament by winning one of the 16 Carat Gold qualifying tournaments and finally get a chance to run against the big dogs. He seems like a wrestler that is just waiting for his time to shine in the European independent scene, and as more wrestlers sign with major promotions, then that time may come sooner than some think. He has a lot of potential, but I think that he will have to wait for his time on the big stage. He does seem to be a lock for the high flying match that has become somewhat of a tradition for the final night of the tournament.
15) Puma King
If this tournament was just about a wrestlers look, then Puma King would automatically be in the finals. I mean just look at him! While at first I thought it was just a knock off Tiger Mask get up, the 13 year veteran has a lot more to offer than just a unique look. He is someone that has a very high flying offense and a lot of his moves have a little something unique on them, especially his delayed Pop Up Power Bomb. His match with The Rotation in the first round is going to be a fast paced one, and both men seem set for the flippy match on the final night of the tournament.
14) Eddie Kingston
I’m going to be completely honest here, I am not a fan of Eddie Kingston. His in ring style just doesn’t do anything for me. That isn’t me saying that he is a bad wrestler, he just not my personal cup of tea. In ring he is a brawler and someone that wants to grind the match to a halt when he wrestles, much to the contrast of the first two wrestlers on these rankings. It will be interesting to see what reaction Kingston will get in this tournament. His last time in a wXw ring was in 2013 for that year's 16 Carat Gold Tournament.
13) Daniel Makabe
One of my favorite things about covering new tournaments is finding wrestlers that I have never really seen or even heard of before. One of those guys for this tournament was Daniel Makabe. While the last name is familiar, Daniel Makabe’s style doesn’t resemble anything near what Togi Makabe does. Daniel is a very submission based wrestler, and he is able to transition from move to move with the best of them. The only reason that he is so low on this list is because all the film that I was able to find was him doing submissions and not much else. When a wrestler is limited to one type offense, then it is very easy to take away that offense and control a match. If Makabe is able to diversify his offense for this tournament, then he might have a chance to advance out of the first round.
If you’re looking for old school heels and guys that want to slow the match down, then Alexander James is your guy. He is someone that follows the Randy Orton mold of wrestlers that will take highflyers down to the mat and slow them down. He is also one that is willing to bend the rules to his liking and use underhand tactics to win. I think that he definatley has a future in pro wrestling, but with this tournament might not be the place that we see it. He is a solid wrestler and has a good base to grow off of, but with the star power in this tournament, I think that James kind of just gets lost in the shuffle.
11) Marius Al-Ani
A regular in wXw, I think that Marius al-Ani has all the makings of a wrestler that can be a star. He is someone that has a good look as a big guy, and is able to fly when he needs to. The only issue is that wXw has never really bought into him as a main event level guy. He has won the wXw Shotgun and Tag Team titles, and has had four opportunities wXw Unified World Championship, but has never been able to win the big one. He has been a mainstay in the Shotgun Championship scene, and I don’t think this tournament will be anything different for the German.
10) Julian Pace
These next three wrestlers I’ve become fans of by watching some of their matches for these rankings. First is the high flying Julian Pace. He is a guy that follows the Rey Mysterio mold of the ultimate underdog in his matches. He loves to fly and has a lot of arial based offense. He is a wrestler that fans get behind because he has that underdog mentality. For someone that is only entering his fifth year as a pro wrestler, Pace seems to get it as a pro wrestler. I think that he is going to become a big name in pro wrestling, but it will take a little while for him to get there.
9) Shigehiro Irie
If you’re looking for who might be the strongest wrestler in this tournament, then Shigehiro Irie might be the wrestler that you are looking for. He has a very strength powered moveset, and has a lot of potential. Having split his time between Europe and Japan, Irie has gained quite a following. His power might be only matched by Jurn Simmons in this tournament, but I just couldn’t put him in the top half of the rankings. Last year in this tournament he was able to make a run to the quarterfinals after he beat Chris Brookes in, at least what I think, was a mild upset. However, I don’t think lightning will strike in back to back years for Irie. He is a lot like Julian Pace in the fact that his time is coming for him to be a big name in pro wrestling, and I think that it will come a lot sooner for the big man.
8) Black Taurus
I first started watching film on Black Taurus, and I was immediately blown away by what he can do in the ring. A man his size should not be able to move that fast in the ring. He is someone that is willing to risk it all to try and get the win. Taurus is a 14 year old vet, but is someone that hasn’t had the championship pedigree that others have found. He’s been a frequent in AAA and has been on both Impact and MLW this year, but success still hasn’t found the luchador. I feel like he could be a darkhorse in this tournament though, as we have seen some surprise wrestlers make runs in the past. Like back in the 2013 tournament when both Shinobu and Karsten Beck made runs to the semifinals. Don’t count Taurus as a wrestler that can make a surprise run in this tournament.
7) Mike Bailey
If you want to talk about one of the journeymen of the Independent Scene, then look no further than ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey. He is someone that has wrestled for almost every single major wrestling promotion in the world. Bailey is looking for that big break in pro wrestling where he can become one of the biggest names in the pro wrestling world, and this tournament could be his ticket to that. An all around wrestler that does put a touch more emphasis on striking, Bailey has all the tools to be a major star wherever he chooses to go. This will be his first tournament since 2017 when he beat ACH in the first round but fell to Matt Riddle in the quarterfinals. But there is a bit of a question of where Bailey’s focus will lie for this weekend however. Bailey joins Daniel Makabe and Chris Ridgeway as wrestlers doing both 16 Carat and Ambition 12, which is wXw’s shoot style tournament that they also hold on 16 Carat weekend. Will Bailey have his focus on 16 Carat and a future wXw Unified Championship match, or will it be on Ambition 12?
6) Jeff Cobb
This is where it started to get hard to rank the remaining wrestlers. The top six are all viable options to pick as winners, and all offer something different in the ring. Cobb has replaced Lio Rush in this tournament due to Rush’s WWE schedule. Cobb is someone that is fantastic in the ring, and his repertoire of moves for a big man is so diverse. From his Shooting Star Press to his suplexes and his Tour of the Islands finisher, everything he does is very unique. He also has found a lot of success in tournaments as well, with his showing in the G1 Climax and Battle of Los Angeles as proof. But if Cobb has tournament experience and a vast moveset, why is he this low on these rankings? It simply comes down to the politics of pro wrestling. Cobb has shown up on AEW Dynamite and has frequently been on Ring of Honor as well. wXw is an affiliate of WWE, much like Evolve and Progress are. I hate that that is the reason for him being so low on these rankings, but I can see it being the reason why Cobb doesn’t have as good of a tournament that we all know that he can.
Bandido might be the most unique wrestler in the field, as he is someone that does a little bit of everything. His high flying and power in the ring are a great combination for someone of his size, and you know what the scary thing is? Bandido is only 24 years old. He is already so talented in the ring, and he has so much more room that he can grow. He has been making waves all around the world ever since early 2018. He’s been a back to back finalist in PWG’s Battle for Los Angeles tournament, winning it all last year, and was in the Best of the Super Juniors in New Japan. The only reason I have Bandido just in the top 5 is the same reason as Jeff Cobb just above him. Bandido is a regular wrestler for both CMLL and ROH, both of which have a working relationship with New Japan. With wXw having a working relationship with WWE, I just can’t see Bandido getting past the quarterfinals of this tournament. I really want to be wrong on this one, but it’s a gut feeling that I have that he won’t make it too far in the tournament.
4) Cara Noir
Was I the only one that had never heard of Cara Noir before last years Natural Progression Series? He has been on a tear these past 12 months, going from from somewhere on the midcard to the main event scene. He’s wrestled the likes of Pac, TJP, Mike Bailey, Paul Robinson, Mark Andrews, Chris Brookes and many more on his rise up the card. But can ‘The Black Swan’ rise to the top of his third promotion, like he has in Progress and Attack!? Noir has a very strike based offense and while it’s a good offense to help make Noir stand out from the pack, his real strength is working from under someone. He gets beat down and has to overcome a stronger opponent, with the best example that I could find being his match against Pac in Riptide. I just struggle to think that Noir will rise to the top of yet another promotion so quickly, especially considering this will be his wXw debut.
3) Jurn Simmons
If I were to describe Jurn Simmons to someone that doesn’t watch pro wrestling, I would say that he is the schoolyard bully that is also the coolest kid in school. If I were to describe Simmons to a pro wrestling fan who has never seen him before, I would say that he is a smaller version of WALTER. He is a hard hitting big man that has a lot of charisma. When you watch him in the ring, he is one of those big guys that just get it in the ring. He also has something going for him that nobody else in the tournament can say, and that is the fact that he is a two time wXw Unified World Champion. He won a fatal four way on the second day of 16 Carat Gold in 2016 to start his first reign, and did the same one year later by defeating Axel Dieter Jr. (better known as Marcel Barthel in NXT UK) to start his second. He is also one of the very few guys from the main wXw roster that have never won the tournament, and has surprisingly only been in the tournament once before. It was last year's tournament when he made his tournament debut, but was ousted in the first round by another wXw mainstay, Avalanche. Can Simmons turn his fate around and win this year's edition of the tournament?
2) Lucky Kid
Can Lucky Kid get lucky two years in a row? His run last year through Timothy Thatcher, Axel Dieter Jr, Ilja Dragunov and WALTER to win the tournament was so impressive, and will be hard for him to top this year. Kid is one of those wrestlers that can do it all in the ring. He can do some high flying, he can grapple, he can strike and he can heel it up with the best of them. He is also in the same boat as Bandido in the fact that he is still super young (27) and can still grow so much in the ring. I’ve been a fan of Kid since his matches in the German qualifier for the WCPW World Cup when he beat Juvenile X and Da Mack to qualify for the tournament. His match with Hiromu Takahashi is still a personal favorite of mine. Kid is also looking to join some elite company in 16 Carat Gold history, as he tries to join Chris Hero (better known as Kassius Ohno in NXT UK) and Tommy End (Aleister Black) as a two time winner of 16 Carat. He can also become the first person to win back to back 16 Carat tournaments in history. Kid is someone that wXw can build around for the future, if WWE doesn’t snatch him up soon. And while I think he is a solid pick to win the tournament, I think that there is one person that would be a better choice
1) Chris Ridgeway
Call me biased if you want, but I think Chris Ridgeway winning the tournament would be a very interesting move for wXw. Ridgeway has been putting on amazing matches in Pro Wrestling NOAH over in Japan, and hasn’t done too much in Europe this year so far. With this tournament and the upcoming Super Strong Style 16 from Progress Wrestling, Ridgeway has a chance to walk away with a lot of hardware this year in pro wrestling. Ridgeway is a very brutal wrestler with a lot of high impact moves and bruising strikes in his arsenal, and someone who is looking for that big break. Last year Ridgeway had two very highly regarded matches against Kyle O’Reilly and Hajime Ohara, and you can tell that that big break is coming soon for Ridgeway. Him winning the 16 Carat Gold would be the perfect start for that breakout year.