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Equipment Check - Pt.2

By John Marshall

After the brilliant response to the first episodes of “Talking Tungsten”, we couldn't wait to bring you the second part of our foray into the things the top players on planet darts have tried to reach stratospheric new levels.

Last time out we looked at one of the best to have ever played the game completely switching his setup, an Australian slinger who made his own points and a solid tour pro reaching new heights by changing manufacturers. Today we are going to check in with the hottest property in darts and his recent changes, an underrated veteran who never switches it up, and the first name you think of when you consider swapping and switching darts.

Don’t Stop The Darts Swap Party

If we started last time out by saying our first name was “arguably” the greatest player of all time, there can be no debate over Peter Wright being the most famous darts tinkerer in the history of the game. It's so hard to track and keep up with all the changes Peter has made over the years, but he has interchanged everything from dart shapes, weights, flights, stems, stance, and even his grips.

It's fair to say Snakebite is a revolutionary in everything that he does. He started using his loud and colorful persona in the early 2010s and this saw him steadily improve and rise to stardom with a shocking appearance in his first world final in 2014. He was even using a set of darts remarkably similar to the new shape Phil Taylor had started using after his own downturn in form. This catapulted Peter into the limelight and he would do everything from crouching down to hit doubles and making the crowd cheer as he was about to throw.

He had so many near misses in finals and gave up so many winning positions to the hottest player at the time Michael Van Gerwen, in what would go on to be a timeless rivalry. As he strove to improve he stopped so many of the onstage antics and focussed on precision refinement of his preferred darts shapes with manufacturer Red Dragon. The hard work and new ideas eventually combined with a little good fortune in 2017 when he took advantage of long-time nemesis MVG’s injury absence to claim his first title at the UK Open.

By the time Wright's best year rolled around in 2020, he was already gaining a lot of attention for having multiple sets on stage, and even swapping during the match. He could throw a huge average one night and have wrapped the next. He went to Red Dragon with a plan and a request and it paid off as he won his maiden world title with his now-famous set that has been reproduced in many colors and editions. He perhaps gave away the focus he puts on it by name-checking all the work his designers did in his acceptance speech.

There will always be those who say he changes too much, and sure enough, the 2020 editions did not last long. He has since achieved Matchplay and World Championship success with changes to flights and darts, but it still remains maddening to see the amount of on-stage switching. At the recent World Cup, Gary Anderson banned him from switching on stage, and Snakey has used MVG’s own darts against him, as well as trying a return to his Eric Bristow style grip and stance he used in that famous Lakeside 1995 match against Ritchie Burnett.

It's too late for Peter to change who he is now, and I don't think anyone can disagree that the mad scientist approach to constant revisions and improvements is what makes him feel good. This tinkering may at times have gone too far but without a lot of it he would have never forged the career 99% of darts players can only dream of.

Machine Set to Factory Settings

Solid, calm, underrated, and knows how to win. It can only be James Wade. The Machine has had a superb career racking up 11 major wins, the third-highest of all time. So much of Wade's game is put down to his ability to not worry about averages, and purely play the game that he needs to win that day. He is seen as a darting opportunist who preys on top players going out, and off moments from the opponent.

This is perhaps why he has never gone seeking out the huge equipment changes that uplift averages and scoring power massively. He has forever stuck with his trusted Unicorn darts in similar shapes, barrel designs, and his standard flights. It's very hard to argue with the results.

It has to be said though he remains the best player to not win a world title, and for his talent at a young age, people expected him to win more. There is still time of course to see Wade make changes, and former players have commented that maybe a change could bring about this. He has gone through barren spells and it's a testament to him that he has come back without changing much in his game, he simply trusts his ability.

We have recently seen Wade drop to number 16 in the rankings, yet come back with a new renewed scoring ability and a slightly different entry point for his darts into the board. They are opening up the treble twenty in a way that he did when he was playing really well in the 2010s. Paul Nicholson pointed this out recently on a Euro tour run to the semi-finals of the event. Maybe we are seeing Wade tweak a throwing action or release subtly for the first time, but even that seems to be to get back to what he was doing before, rather than pushing forward.

Shot in the Dark

Finishing off our list with the hottest darting equipment news on the scene currently, is reigning world champion Michael Smith's change from long-time manufacturer Unicorn and joining the relatively small company from New Zealand, Shot.

Unlike Wade, Smith has left a company who had been with him since his youth days and oddly enough has done it when at the very top of his game. A move Peter Wright himself would be proud of. This swap potentially shows the maturing in Bully Boy’s mindset and his desire to really stamp on the opposition and improve from a position of strength, something rarely seen in this game.

Shot is famous for its unique and eye-popping designs and this could be the biggest coup in darts history of its kind. It seems like a great fit in design and attitude as both are looking to topple the established elite and cement new legacies. There will be much more specialist content on this switch and how it is going over the coming months so keep looking at Matador Darts across all platforms for the latest takes on this developing darting story.

That's all for this special two-part look at how equipment switching and sticking can influence a professional's career. With so many evolutions still finding their feet and coming into play like grooved points, all-in-one flights, and different material stems you can expect the darts you see used on TV to diversify massively. That means we will always be looking at those elite sportsmen and women willing to push boundaries and try anything to gain a small advantage.

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