David Starr vs WALTER
The Dome, Tufnell Park, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 11/29/2017) It’s funny how things work out sometimes. This match wasn’t even meant to happen, originally booked to be a Massive Product vs Ringkampf rematch before Jurn Simmons became ill, but even as a last-minute change it’s my favorite match in this series yet.
By this point WALTER is pretty much done with this feud. He’s won every singles match they’ve had over the last 22 months and all but one of the tag matches. He holds no ill will towards Starr; he’s more like an especially persistent fly than a real rival. But it’s persistence and desperation that drives Starr, the need to achieve a sense of belonging via accomplishment. In the weeks since World Tag Team League, it seems like this determination to beat WALTER might end up costing Starr his friendship with Simmons. And another altercation with WALTER might end up costing him his sanity.
Starr’s frantic here, even more than he was at Tag League. He’s scrambling to make things work, to get any sort of offense in, to gain traction against the Sisyphean mountain that is his opponent. Sometimes I think Starr’s selling is way too over the top for me, edging into the melodramatic territory that I find exhausting in a lot of popular wrestling today, but here his over-selling isn’t so much an attempt at drama as it is just sheer frustration. When WALTER chops him down, he’s not just selling the pain; he’s selling 20+ months of defeat, with this newest chop being one step closer to another loss. He’s almost like a petulant child throwing a tantrum at someone getting the upper hand for even a moment. It’s great to see and, as I mentioned, it extends to his offense, as when he gets frustrated enough Starr just starts smashing WALTER’s hand against the apron, trying his hardest to leave any lasting impression on this Austrian behemoth that has tormented him for the better part of two years.
The hand work doesn’t stop WALTER, of course, because what can? But it does give him a lot of trouble and supplies Starr with a target he can key in on in dangerous moments. What’s more, Starr can play to WALTER’s temper and bait him into a striking battle, which results in WALTER nuking him a few times but ultimately Starr’s able to use his superior speed to hit a beauty of a Code Red and lock on a sleeper hold briefly, trying to beat the giant at his own game. This cheeky game plan proves to be his downfall, though, as WALTER’s able to free himself from a bridging German suplex, wear down his smaller opponent with another sleeper, and ultimately put Starr away with a big clothesline.
What sets this apart from the other matches in this feud is A. Starr’s great performance, highlighting the toll that this series of matches has taken on his mental wellbeing, and B. the sheer meanness of the wrestling here. This feud has always had stiff striking and crazy spots, but there’s an animosity here that is only now starting to truly surface. Starr’s continual failures are bringing something dark out of him and his efforts to destroy WALTER have awakened a sleeping bear who isn’t afraid to lash out violently. No matter how poorly it ends for these two men, it’s a hell of a thing to watch for the rest of us.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: I’ve compared Starr to Shawn before in speaking to his daytime drama theatrics. At this point in his career this was definitely Starr’s dramatic peak, a record that’s been broken several times over in the months since. I think a lot of people would call this Mania match Shawn’s career performance, or at least close to it. One of these performances was bad enough that I had to document its awfulness with GIFs while the other forms the crux of one of the best matches of the decade. Clear-cut answer here, to me.
VERDICT: Better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25