David Starr vs Orange Cassidy
Number One Contender’s Match
Electric Haze, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
(reviewed 11/27/2018) I’m not really sure how to talk about this match. I could describe how elements of this match make it better than similar matches this year that featured popular joke characters taking on the world’s biggest and best. I think this one’s a fair bit tighter in its execution, with Starr’s beatdown being focused every step of the way, even as he slowly loses control of the match. Despite its bloody nature that beatdown isn’t hard to watch in the same way that watching a 50 year old man fling himself against wood and steel is hard to watch. What’s more the man being beaten down isn’t some puffed-up star of yesteryear being laughed at or even an amalgamation of tropes and references to be heralded as “the guy”. Even if this form is merely a comedic side character, Cassidy is charming and endearing, drawing this crowd in when he’s being brutalized and blowing their socks off when he fights back. Starr, too, is so compelling as the villain here, with his cocky self-assurance and underestimation of Orange biting him in the ass again and again. His effortless switch between bowling the man over and being rocked by his best shots together form what is probably Starr’s best performance of the year, in a year in which he’s had quite a few different stellar showings. Even if I didn’t want to compare this match to all the joke matches in 2018 that get it wrong, I think this is just a well-executed match wherein an unassuming underdog takes a world class shithead to the limit. What’s more, it’s able to transition from comedy to competition seamlessly without one aspect undermining the other, something that I’ve seen precious little of in 2018. That grace means a lot to me. More so, even, than the parts of this match that had me pissing with laughter or gobsmacked by its drama. I’m sure most folks won’t find themselves sharing these sentiments with me but I urge you all to try.