Soner Dursun (c) vs Rockstar Spud
FutureShock Adrenaline Championship
53Two Theatre, Manchester, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 10/26/2017) Man, this match sort of rules. Really simple, really effective, really well-executed pro wrestling. The basis of the thing is that Rockstar Spud, a 15+ year vet whose biggest claim to fame is a fairly minor role in a dying distant third-place promotion in the States, is quietly flummoxed by this young Dursun and his adoring fans in this little fed in Manchester. At first this manifests in what appears to mind games from the veteran, in which he stares Dursun down, berates him as a “Johnny-come-lately”, stalls for minutes at a time before and after the bell, but as time goes on it’s clear that Spud is legitimately frustrated by this young champion. Spud’s able to get the best of the kid in a few shoulderblocks, but once he continues to go back to it Dursun utilizes his size and speed advantage to turn things around. He’s only applying simple moves like wrist locks and head locks, but due to Dursun’s size it does a number on Spud, who is taunted by the crowd the whole way through and begins to lose his temper. Moments later, Spud lands weird on an up-and-over and falls to the floor, clutching his leg. The referee steps in between them as Dursun approaches his opponent and before long a number of wrestlers and officials are huddled around Spud as a hush falls over the crowd. Spud, with the help of a few men, is able to get to his feet, shake hands with his opponent, and hobble out through a side passage of the venue (unable to climb the steps to the locker room) as the audience claps politely for him. As soon as it happened, it seemed like this was a fake injury spot, something heels often employ in wrestling to get ahead. As it wore on, though, and as Spud went to the back and as the referee shooed away cameras and as Dursun began to cut a promo apologizing for the short, inconclusive main event, it felt more and more real. Until, that is, they cut to a wide shot from the hard cam in which we’re able to see the stage and entranceway behind Dursun, from which Spud comes out sprinting, sliding into the ring to attack Dursun from behind rather viciously. From here on, Spud is AWESOME as this malevolent heel, launching Dursun into the garage door of the venue, chucking a wet floor sign at him, throwing straight right hands at his chin, dragging his forehead against the exposed brick wall of the venue, connecting with rough chest kicks, wrenching away at his leg, etc etc. All the while he’s jawing at the crowd who minutes before were chanting Oompa Loompa songs at him. Delightful stuff. Dursun, due to his sheer fire but also his significant size advantage, is able to make brief comebacks but every time Spud’s able to catch him (in more ways than one, I should say, as Spud’s basing here for the highflying from a man quite a bit bigger than him is real good) with some underhanded trick in order to regain control. Eventually Spud goes for the kill, hitting three diving elbow drops with the sort of deliberateness and poise to make such a goofy string of moves work, and it helps to keep the subsequent kickout stay together and function to pop this tiny crowd big. Spud’s beside himself but frustration isn’t far from anger, as he soon spits at his opponent in defiance. Dursun, a proud young man who was unhappy with Spud’s stalling even before the injury fakeout, does not take kindly to this and begins throwing strikes, overwhelming his smaller opponent before hitting this W I L D triangle moonsault on the outside that sees him land more on the apron than on Spud, the bulk of his torso and one leg smacking against the steel frame of the ring on the way down. It’s certainly a sloppy move but it has such an energy behind it that it rides the line between exciting and unappealing, coming out on the better end of it. The kid follows it up with a pretty gross dropkick and a neckbreaker on the apron that again looks worse for him than his opponent, topping it off with his signature frog splash (done better here than I’ve ever seen him do it) for the win. Lovely, lovely, lovely match here. A compelling story told by a competent young champion and an exceptional veteran challenger with lots of fire and quality junior heavyweight wrestling along the way. Added aesthetic points like Dursun’s sweet purple tights and this great-looking venue, in which a crowd of about 40 are loud and clear and full of funny heckling, round this out to be a quietly great match. If Dursun was a little more experienced (tighter in some of his selling and move execution as well as less prone to annoying tropes like repeated moves on the apron) or if there was some blood here, this could easily have wormed its way into my top ten matches of the year. As it stands, it’s not all that far off. Can’t believe I haven’t heard anyone talking about this match. Go out of your way to catch it.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: If nothing else, this match is convincing. It convinces me of Spud’s initial injury, it convinces me that he’s the biggest villain in wrestling when he makes his move, it convinces me that this stringy C-tier BritWres dude is going to unleash furious vengeance upon him, and it convinces me that it’s the best thing in the world when he does. For all its bluster, Shawn/Taker doesn’t make me feel anything in the way of good. It might be quite a bit smoother than this match but it can’t get its hooks in me at all.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25