It’s Showtime: The Sting Street Fight Redefined Cinematic Wrestling Matches
Photo Credit: AEW
The last feature film I sat down to see in theaters was Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman, a film that provided an amazing performance from Joe Pesci as crime boss Russell Bufalino. Short of calling Pesci “forgotten” amongst Tinseltown, he was out of the Hollywood limelight for the better part of 15 years (remember The Good Shepherd?) and reportedly turned down the role of Bufalino 50 times before finally agreeing to the role. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him in action, but Pesci, at 78 years of age, captivated me for four hours and rightfully earned an Academy Award Nomination as Best Supporting Actor (and robbed of the W, if you ask me.)
There was a great deal of buzz surrounding AEW Revolution (before and after the show), and I’ll firmly hold my ground in saying that Sunday’s event gave us the greatest cinematic match pro wrestling has ever seen. Better than the Stadium Stampede. Better than The Boneyard. I have my reasons.
Sting, the Pesci in this production, has teased for the past several weeks that he can still execute all the familiar signatures in the ring, but fans were cued in early Sunday morning that his Street Fight with Darby Allin against Brian Cage and Ricky Starks was pre-recorded. That small detail might have taken the wind out of the sails for some fans, but it’s the best decision AEW could have made—and it’s not because it’s clear Sting can’t “go” anymore. It adds to the anticipation of us seeing him legitimately work in front of a live audience in an AEW ring.
Now, The Boneyard Match at last year’s WrestleMania presented The Undertaker (the biker and The Deadman) in his element and his opponent, AJ Styles, in a situation unfamiliar. It was a fantastic way to present Undertaker, an established legend who had to be feeling every bit of his years, and in addition, added variety to a typically massive event that had to settle with no fans. Plus Metallica.
Since then, we’ve seen cinematic matches feature boggy swamps, tease deaths from rooftops and reincarnated men in ice boxes. At this juncture, we’ve gotten the highs and the lows of the creative choice (and sometimes lack thereof). Sunday’s Street Fight redefined all that and positioned not just Sting, but everyone involved on a higher level.
Unlike many of the cinematic matches before it, Sunday’s street fight had a wrestling ring as its focal point (heck, the reason why we’re all here), and the rest was surrounded by an extended violent playground of the Darby Allin ilk. The match used an expansive warehouse that blended the surreal of Fallout with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and plenty of weaponry at the ready, using each of those elements to their fullest extent. The introduction itself immediately popped by introducing the participants one by one as they readied for what remained a mystery to fans. Putting Sting in this situation positioned his legacy, once more, in a new light that felt fresh and left you wanting more from The Icon.
Starks and Allin had their hands all over this match and, in major ways, played roles of producer and director. In his post-Revolution presser, Allin said he was involved with 90% of the project: “A lot, lot of work put into this and I was up for weeks helping produce this, so it was a lot. It was a good experience because my ass dropped out of film school so this was kind of a test to see my directing skills, so it was fun. I had a good time and then, everybody trusting me, Ricky [Starks] busting his ass too, making everything—it was an honor to be part of this.”
Tony Khan further confirmed Darby’s involvement, agreeing that it was important to praise him as a filmmaker first, and a gifted wrestler.
“As a filmmaker, Darby envisioned a great spectacle and organized all of these shots and every time we called ‘cut’, he was right there making sure we did it right. There were times where it involved him doing something insane, to do it a second time, and he was willing to do it because he’s so passionate about it.”
Starks has caught plenty of eyes working behind the camera as well. His established and retro-fueled “free agent” vignette created attention on Twitter. Also last year, he and fellow NWA alum, Zicky Dice recreated a surreal and hilarious recreation of Se7en surrounding “what’s in the 7anny pack?” Not long after, Ricky was officially All Elite.
If you’re a modern-day wrestler, making the most of your social media by implementing quality video work has become as necessary as ring gear. Having this outside of the ring ability expands a star’s resume and only lends to one’s versatility in the business. That earlier mentioned “higher-level?” The Street Fight is one of several end results that keeps on giving. Starks and Allin had an extremely stacked production crew backing them as well. Steve Yu, who directed The Resurrection of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, was a major participant in the work as well as Tony Khan, WCW production legend Keith Mitchell and so much more that made Darby’s playground come to life.
That playground was indeed played in too. From Darby being vaulted into an errant window pane, to him sailing off the top story into oblivion onto Team Taz, plenty of stunts were executed beautifully for the camera that embraced the art of cinematography yet stayed true to it’s wrestling roots.
And wrestling, which has been completely discarded in some of the cinematic matches, was at the foundation of the Street Fight. It was there in all forms, and perhaps the most perfect example of blending the elements of cinema and wrestling together came when Cage carried Darby up a stairwell courtesy of a stalling suplex before crashing him down onto a trash can. That’s some squared circle symphony implemented in an erratic environment.
Then you have the actual ring in which the match started with brawling and then was ultimately ended with one simple, yet fatal Scorpion Death Drop on the canvas. A move that has put so many down and now a move that will continue to do so to new stars getting the rub from Sting. A perfect end to the chaos. A perfect end to the new “standard set” in cinematic wrestling.
— Diamond Dallas Page (@RealDDP) March 8, 2021