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paul sosnowski

[2020-03-07-WXW-16 Carat Gold: Night Two] Bobby Gunns vs David Starr (Title vs Career)

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I write about David Starr a lot.

There’s a few reasons for that. First and foremost, there is the fact that David Starr is a very good wrestler. He has consistently been a top level performer on the independent wrestling scene for the last four or five years, cranking out excellent matches in promotions all over the world. And even when he falls short, it’s rarely because Starr himself puts in a poor performance but rather that other elements and choices get in the way. That is the case for this match here.

This match could have worked. At around the twenty to twenty-five minute mark, there still existed the potential for this to be a great match. Around the thirty minute mark, I finally accepted that this was a bad match. By the time the match crawled aimlessly into its finish at the forty minute mark, I knew that it was bad match for sure.

A lot of the problems here are problems I’ve discussed about David Starr in the past. It’s helplessly bloated, aiming for the kind of maximalist spectacle and awe that Starr’s best OTT and Beyond classics attain but falling short every time. Those aforementioned matches work so well because of Starr’s ability to invest into longterm storytelling that bolsters and excuses the instances of overindulgence. That’s the reason I can enjoy forty minutes against Devlin, WALTER, and even sixty minutes against Janela. Here against Bobby Gunns, it just feels perfunctory.

The length of the match is exhausting. In fact, the whole match gives off a vibe of exhaustion especially from the crowd. The live crowd are visibly exhausted and somewhat detached from the proceedings even when the action is good (as it was in the early technical exchanges). It’s only after Starr’s amazing tope dive into the crowd that things liven up only for things to be dampened again by a crowd brawl that dulls the energy of the fans who can’t see the action.

There are flashes of brilliance here in how Starr sells the damage that Gunns does to his arm. Credit to Gunns as well as there’s a lot of good arm work there and he’s such a dirty bastard that it’s easy to root for Starr. That heel-face dynamic makes the ref bump teases and the subversion leading into low blow spots so satisfying.

But the match just doesn’t stop.

It keeps crawling its way towards a miserable ending, the worst possible one: Starr losing. It was an inevitable result. As soon as the title vs. career stipulation got announced, it was always going to be Starr losing. His disappearance from PROGRESS at the tail end of 2019 and his very public criticisms of the WWE have made it so that there was no way this match would end with Starr holding the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship above his head. Prolonging the suffering of that impending doom into a 40 minute slog felt more cruel than celebratory.

Starr’s loss bring us to the second reason that I enjoy watching and writing about David Starr so much.

David Starr is one of the few wrestlers left in our time who so vocally and thoroughly represents something beyond himself. The moniker of INDEPENDENT, the calls to unionize pro wrestling, the concerted efforts to never settle for less and always demand for more. These are the things that David Starr embodies not only as a character but as a person. In the face of criticism and cynicism, Starr has never once backed down from a very core principle: that pro wrestlers are workers and deserve to have their rights respected. As someone who came from a university that prides itself on activism and social responsibility, this always struck a chord with me. No matter what I think of David Starr’s matches, I can only ever respect what he stands for and the methods he uses to fight for those principles.

Which makes it so crushing and disheartening when those same principles stand in the way of his success.

In his farewell speech to the crowd, David Starr tells the fans that “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.” In this case, Starr’s insistence upon calling for unionization of wrestlers has led to him drawing the wrong sort of attention from the entity that stands to have the most to lose from that: the WWE. Both David Starr and wXw have gone on record that neither party wanted to part ways. It doesn’t take a genius to see why they would have to though. Starr’s politics have essentially made him persona non grata at WWE-affiliated events. That the WWE casts a shadow on the result of this match does as much to sour me on it as the overindulgent layout does.

There’s so much about this match that’s upsetting, some of it beyond the control of even Starr and Gunns. Unpleasant and grueling in all the wrong ways. Indicative of the worst of pro wrestling both stylistically and systemically.



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