When William Bibbiani first announced to us writers that he wanted to begin a series of articles looking back at classic matches that were important to us, my mind immediately went to Schmoedown Spectacular II and the Star Wars Championship Match between Ken Napzok and Sam Witwer. As a massive Star Wars fan, my pathway to the Schmoedown came through Collider Jedi Council and Sam’s previous matches (Singles v Freddie Prinze Jr, Force Bros v The Council and the Fatal Fiveway at Star Wars Celebration).
Sam “The Warrior” Witwer was widely regarded as the great Star Wars mind in the newly formed Star Wars Division, with a great knowledge of quotes (and some pretty good impressions of the characters while giving his answers). However the rigours of Star Wars Celebration proved too much and though he only missed 2 questions, they totalled 8 points and saw him eliminated 2nd in a match that Ken Napzok went on to win, which earned him the new title – “Captain Needa” proving Sam’s eventual undoing. In a bizarre twist of fate, Captain Needa gave Sam the victory in his return to competition in a Fatal Fiveway that introduced us to Alex Damon and Joseph Scrimshaw, setting him up for a shot at Napzok’s title.
Following that Fatal Fiveway, the entire narrative of the upcoming match changed, as Ken Napzok was revealed to have turned away from the light side and joined the Lion’s Den. With his betrayal of Rachel Cushing, Ken became Public Enemy Number 1 and his upcoming match against Sam turned from two friends competing to see who the bigger nerd was, into a battle between good and evil. To add even more hype to the match, we saw a new format debut: an Iron Man match. 28 minutes of Round 1-style whiteboard action, finishing with a 2-minute buzzer round, with as many questions as the competitors could get through in the time limit. This would take away the luck of who got the easier questions and would once and for all prove who knew Star Wars better.
Through the promos and entrances, Napzok was embracing his new persona and was supremely confident in his ability to win, while Sam was much more at ease – the Force was with him. Coming out to the Force Unleashed music, Witwer emerged with a lightsabre, but symbolically now had the blue blade of a Jedi compared to the red blade of a Sith. Instead, when a red blade emerged, it was in the hands of Grace Hancock as she and the Lion’s Den led out “The Pitboss” to a storm of boos. And so it was time to begin…
“Give me nerd strength” – Sam Witwer
I won’t give you a full play-by-play because I would never be able to do the match justice but suffice to say it was a perfect example of nerd-dom as both contestants built up a score as they flew through the questions. Sam took an early 1-point lead, but it was almost impossible for him to pull away. As the match went on, Ken’s weakness on quotes began to prove costly as he missed several questions that related to completing quotes.
After 10 minutes, Sam held a 17-18 lead. By 15 minutes, Kristian was thoroughly tongue-tied trying to even ask the questions, but Sam had extended his lead to 24-27. Captain Needa made an appearance for the 3rd Witwer match in a row and there was no way either of them was going to miss a character who has become such a key part of Schmoedown history. As we reached the 2-minute mark and the end of the whiteboard round, Sam had amassed a 5-point lead.
“The crowd thinks it’s easy or is laughing at the absurdity of the question” – Mark Ellis
That lead was probably going to be needed, as his match for the Force Bros had show that the buzzer round was not his forte. So it proved again as Napzok often had the faster hand, while Sam blanked on a couple of early buzzes. The lead quickly evaporated as the clock ticked down. A miss from Sam then a correct answer from Ken meant that with 2 seconds left, the scores were level at 46-46.
And then came the moment of controversy. Time expired as Mark Ellis was asking the next question, but instead of stopping there and then, the question was completed and Sam got in first with the right answer to take the victory, looking thoroughly exhausted as he was handed the belt.
While Ken would spend the next few months accusing the judges of corruption and saying that the final answer should not stand as time was out, the decision had been made that, like in football, if the clock runs out mid-play, the entire play stands. This was something that has since been officially included in the rules of subsequent Iron Man matches to avoid any controversy.
There was so much special about this match that created such a legacy. The match was a hit, being voted Match of the Year at the 2017 Schmoedown Awards. It gave great legitimacy to the fledgling Star Wars Division and showed potential competitors just how good their knowledge would have to be in order to compete for the belt. The victory also led to Sam Witwer joining Emma Fyffe’s new faction, The Fyffe Club, who were quickly setting themselves up to be the heroes of the league.
The Iron Man format as well proved a hit and featured again in Above The Line’s title defence against The Patriots, as well as some of the Exhibition matches, as it takes away the luck factor and puts the focus firmly on the knowledge.
Sadly, Sam’s success as an actor has left him unable to compete since this match, and in his absence, Alex Damon has become a force in the Division. A 1v1 between the pair for the title is something so many of us want to see – including Alex himself – and I hope we get it someday!