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Interview with Felix Kohlenberg (wXw)

Last Update: 3/27/2010 3:15 PM
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3/27/2010 3:15 PM
 
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-INTERVIEW WITH FELIX KOHLENBERG (wXw)-
by Stefano D'Alessio



WE-Hi. First of all thank you for taking some time for this interview as March has been a very busy period for you and the rest of wXw crew. Could you please introduce yourself and your role in wXw?
FK-My name is Felix Kohlenberg, I’m one of the four promoters of wXw mainly involved in Matchmaking, Talent & Working Relationship but also plenty of other non spectacular stuff that times up a lot of time like travel arrangements and all this.

WE-At the beginning of the month, wXw hold the fifth edition of 16 Carat Gold, the most important wrestling tournament in Europe. How do you rate this year’s edition?
FK-Most of the die hard wXw fans consider the 2007 version the best. It was the first big tournament in Germany and totally had a special atmosphere but I think 2010 easily beat 2007 in terms of quality and also the atmosphere. We had a record breaking attendance and for the first time more than 500 fans which is more than double of what the 2007 version drew. We had a very strong roster that worked extremely hard to make this weekend memorable.

WE-During the “making of” the tournament, wXw had to deal with the forfeit of Davey Richards (and Kenny Omega) . Why did you choose to replace Davey with two more entries (the Young Bucks) turning the 16 Carat Gold in.. well.. 17 Carat Gold?
FK-I mean how can you replace Davey Richards? He hasn’t been in Germany for over 1 ½ years and is totally on a roll. We were still in touch with the Young Bucks about bringing them back after their impressive debut in October. So we gave the fans 2 for 1 to make up for that and I’m happy it worked out well. Losing Kenny just three weeks prior to the tournament was hard but Tommy End deserves a spot in the tournament as well. Everybody should keep an eye on him. But I understand that for international fans seeing the lineup it was a letdown to lose Kenny (and Davey) but nobody thought about that during the weekend.

WE-Big Van Walter won the tournament defeating Daisuke Sekimoto, Munenori SAWA, Erick Stevens and, in the final match, Chris Hero. Walter’s victory surprised fans that maybe don’t consider him ready for scoring this upset win. What do you feel about it?
FK-Considering Walter hasn’t lost a match for a year he was one of the favorites going into the tournament. However it was top notch competition so many international fans didn’t expect he could do that but Walter is the guy to watch out in Europe right now. He earned his spot and proved in his matches that he is there for a reason. For somebody who most people say is only big and stiff and doesn’t have charisma or emotion there was some immense heat in these matches.

WE-Do you see any simile between Walter’s victory and the Bad Bones’ one in 2008?
FK-Both are wXw homegrown talents so we feel very proud about that. Bones has started in wXw in late 2005 and Walter debuted at 16 Carat 2007 so it took them both a little less then three years to get the big victory. On the other hand Bad Bones had a 15minute emotionally in ring celebration after “slaying the Dragon” when Walter only took a minute to destroy the trophy and shit on all formers winners of 16 Carat Gold.

WE-As happened before in 2006 (Baron Von Hagen) and then in 2008 (Bad Bones) an European wrestler overcome all the foreign contenders from all over the world. Do you think European Wrestling is finally filling the gap with other countries?
FK-I think the European wrestlers reached a total of higher level in 2010 then they did ever before. We always had standout talents that could hold with everybody but that was more like 3-4 wrestlers in the roster and now we can put on a whole European show that is on the same level as top level US Show. Right now Europe has Fergal Devitt, Pac and Mark Haskins in Japan and there is even more talent here that could step up any time.

WE-Ares is making a name for himself in the US indy circuit but he come back to Germany at the Carat wrestling his historical partner Claudio Castagnoli. What are your feelings about the evolution of the Swiss Money Holding, now “Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes” ( current Campeones de Parejas in CHIKARA!)?
FK-You only have to look at these two. Compare a promo shot of the Bruderschaft with a Swiss Money Holding photo of 2002. They are both in great shape but their development as wrestlers has been phenomenal. I’m really happy they can be a tag team again as there is a lack of real tag team in pro wrestling. I look forward to see the process. Both actually will be back in wXw April 17th and 18th.

WE-Only one week later the 16 Carat Gold, wXw wrote history again being the first European Promotion to promote a show in the United States. Can you reveal us when this idea come out and how much time and energy you spent realizing it?
FK-There was almost something like “Let’s promote in the US” kind of joking around but after the first Gorefest experience in the UK we were very careful with promoting outside of our area. When I first stepped into the Arena for the first DGUSA show I felt it. That sounds very cheesy though. The Arena IS Independent Wrestling and it’s the place for Hardcore Wrestling. In wXw we kinda feel like we both helped making Independent Wrestling and Hardcore Wrestling Europe. So we wanted to take the next step. When we first met DJ Hyde, who took over CZW from John Zandig, ideas got developed. This adventure wouldn’t have been possible without DJ & CZW but it was also Smartmarkvideo that helped to make wXw a name in the US and also shooting this show. There was Mike Pancoast with a great setup for this show, Nate Stein helping out with promotion and lot of other people.

WE-wXw “Vision” was a mix of European wrestlers (most of them at their first experience in the States) and US stars. How hard was mashing up the need to push your own product with the need to attract the American fans?
FK-Luckily the American wrestler we consider part of our roster like Chris Hero, Drake Younger, Sami Callihan, Jon Moxley helped drawing attention from the American fans without taking a wXw feel away. TJ Perkins was the only wrestler making his wXw debut on the show but he is such an outstanding talent I couldn’t resist of having in a match against Zack Sabre jr. It probably was not the right match for the audience at that point but everybody who is into that style of wrestling will really enjoy watching it on DVD. Having Alex Shelley finally on a wXw show and back in Philadelphia after four years helped getting fans in of course. We still kept a focus on our wrestlers and made sure they got the best opponents to showcase their skills.

WE-According to their feedbacks on the net, wXw “Vision” didn't live up to American fans’ expectations. What’s your feelings about it?
FK-I don’t think the show didn’t help up expectations, internet reviews are just different then a show itself. If you have a mediocre show but a standout main event everybody talks about the great main event so people think “wow, it’s a great show” but on the other hand if you have a good show with somebody bad stands out that what everybody talks about and get picked up and talked about even more. Of course it’s not like the whole US is falling in love with wXw right away but it definitely helped open the market for us a bit more. I think we put on a very good show that most of the fans enjoyed and a lot of fans will really like when it comes out on DVD very soon.

WE-The show has been hold at the historical former ECW Arena. Pro: the emotion to be in the temple of indy wrestling. Con: a crowd very very hard to satisfy. Could you explain what happened with the crowd during the match between Bad Bones and Steve Douglas?
FK-A lot of fans came to the show to see something similar to CZW and some Extreme Wrestling which is understandable looking into the name of our promotion. So the show got into the second half and the World Heavyweight Title Match was announced they seemed ready for some violence, then they got some chairs but they expected more craziness. It got out of control when Bones and Stevie slipped off the apron and fell throw a table after teasing moves for a minute. The crowd totally lost all their interest in the match upon that point which is a shame as the typical Oberhausen crowd would have been very into this match.

WE-The show was in conjunction with Combat Zone Wrestling. When did the collaboration start and how important was it for the “making of” the show?
FK-Like I mentioned earlier CZW was the biggest help for this event and we developed a great relationship with them but the show featured the best talent from Europe and the US which rarely gets combined. Without CZW this show wouldn’t have been possible but even though we always bought over talent from Combat Zone we really started working with them last October. We are also the official DVD distributor for CZW in Europe so European fans have easier access to getting the official CZW DVD releases and don’t have to worry about customs and shipping.

WE-The doubleheader with CZW will also be remembered for Thumbtack Jack’s last Death Match in the USA. As usual, lot of talks have been made around his cruel match against JC Bailey (especially for the needle in the Adam’s apple spot). What’s your feelings?
FK-I’m actually surprised people talk that much about it. On one hand fans are always hungry for something new and more crazy and then people complain it’s crossing a line. But I know TJ for so many years and he is just to smart to do something too dangerous. But it was cruel indeed seeing these two wrestle barefeet in ring full with thumbtacks. One of my favorite counters saw TJ throwing a hand full of Tacks on the ground when JC was charging him in the corners. That actually was Thumbtack Jack deathmatches are about not just sticking needles in somebody throat.

WE-According to the reports, after the wXw show, DJ Hide announced “Gorefest 3” in Germany next November promoted by CZW and wXw together in a "Tournament of Death vs Gorefest" type show. Can you confirm it?
FK-DJ announced CZW coming over to Germany for a full show similar to the Vision. He also challenged us to a deathmatch tournament. This will definitely take place and I’m sure we can provide more details very soon. This will be a weekend that no hardcore fan should miss.

WE-Another “must see” show in wXw Calendar is “Bonus Navigation” next April 3rd that will feature NOAH Stars Takeshi Morishima and Tajii Ishimori. What are the latest about this show?
FK-Aside of Morishima finally making his wXw debut I’m really looking forward to have Mark Haskins to return for the first time after his Dragongate Tour when he will face his tag team partner Wade Fitzgerald 1 on 1. Fans of cruiserweight wrestling will be in a for a treat that day as aside of the Thrillers Match Ishimori is going to square off with Emil Sitoci and Tommy End will have his hands full with the returning Michael Knight who had lot of impressive showings recently all over Germany. It will be good to have NOAH contribution to a wXw show again.

WE-Bonus Navigation will be another step of the collaboration with A-Merchandise’s boss Mark Sloan. He will reveal his next Uk Supershow next April 17th . Will wXw be involved in it as for Noah and Dragon Gate European Show in the past?
FK-After working with many different promoters and agents for so many years I’m happy we got a strong and reliable partner like Mark Sloan. Regarding the announcement I think you have to wait till April 17th to find out.

WE-How was collaborating with international promotion such as NOAH, Dragon Gate, CZW, CHIKARA, PWG and what are the differences between the European/American/Japanese’s way to promote?
FK-There are so many experiences about this. Since I was involved in wXw I was pushing to work with other companies. These days you can only achieve something in Wrestling when you work together. There are partners in Germany, all over Europe but also abroad as you mentioned. We wouldn’t have been able to bring as many wrestlers and even do Joint Shows without that. This is a huge part of what we are and what we do.
The promotions in Japan are different as it’s another business for them. Dragongate promotes between 250 and 300 shows a year, they don’t rely on going to Europe and miss 5-6 six days out of their touring schedule. NOAH didn’t need to send Misawa and Kobashi back then to wrestle in front of 250 people. But Europe/Germany has been a good place to go with appreciative fans and general good atmosphere. The benefit for wXw has always been bigger for us then for NOAH or Dragongate though. On the other hand we brought over the CHIKARA Six Men Tag Team twice to Germany to help them making a name for themselves and right now the #1 US Independent Promotion in Germany. I doubt CHIKARA or PWG will be back with wXw to do a full show or anything like that anytime in the near future though.


WE-It seems you fulfilled a lot of your wrestling-related dreams . What’s the next one for you and wXw?
FK-After so many years you realize you can push the wrestling we do on a solid level but there are limits and you experience them.
Aside of seeing our talent grow what was most special to me personally was bringing Dragongate to Europe after so many years of trying to set it up. Just a few days before the tour CIMA told me we are only a few days away form achieving our dream. That’s big words but the moment all Dragongate wrestlers were in the ring in Barcelona after the show and the fans were just excited and happy as the wrestlers it felt like something special happened.
We would like keep providing European Wrestling Fans with pro wrestling on a top level. Having a stage for young, hungry talented wrestlers and bringing some of the best from all over the world over here to compete against them. Of course I would love to run a show in Japan but that’s just a dream that I doubt we will manage on a realistic level but I would be very happy if we could contribute to getting more of our wrestlers the chances to compete in Japan / USA and make a name for them out of Europe as they really deserve.


WE- To end this interview, thank you again for this interview and for making all European wrestling fans proud of wXw!


Stefano D'Alessio

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