Dennis Priestley : biography
Dennis Priestley (born 16 July 1950) is an English professional darts player. He has won two world championships, and was the first player to win both the BDO and WDC (now PDC) world championships, in 1991 and 1994 respectively. He is nicknamed "The Menace", after the cartoon character Dennis the Menace, and reflects this by wearing red and black, and using red and black flights.
Friendship/Rivalry with Phil Taylor
Priestley is good friends with Taylor, who describes Priestley as a darting "soul-mate" in his autobiography. During the early years of the PDC, Priestley and Taylor had an agreement where they would share prize money won at events. The arrangement lasted between 1994 and 2000 and made sound financial sense given that, in Taylor’s words, they "cherry-picked most tournaments" (contesting 5 of the 7 World Championship Finals in that time) and also struggled for exhibition work due to the dispute with the BDO. The agreement eventually ended when the prize money grew to a level where the players could individually sustain a better living and this ironically coincided with Priestley’s sharp dip in form.
Taylor and Priestley first met in major competition in the 1990 World Masters. Taylor won that semi-final encounter en route to the title. Priestley quickly assumed the upper hand in their rivalry, however, with victories over Taylor in the 1991 World Championship and British Matchplay final later that year. Their early meetings in the WDC were also won by Priestley, who defeated Taylor in the finals of the 1993 UK Matchplay and 1994 World Championship.
The turning point (and peak) in the Taylor/Priestley rivalry arguably came in the 1996 World Championship Final. Although Taylor was, at 1/6, an excessively hot favourite, the match was very evenly poised: Taylor was the defending champion and reigning World Matchplay champion, while Priestley was the former champion and reigning World Team champion. Both players had conceded only a handful of sets between them en route to the final and produced (statistically) the greatest World Final ever at the time: not only was Priestley’s average of 102 a landmark, Taylor’s average of 99 was also higher than any previous World Finalist.
The 1997 WDC World Final was of a similarly high standard. Like the previous year, a barrage of 180s took Priestley to an early lead before Taylor’s brutal scoring and ruthless finishing put him in command. Trailing 2-4 in sets and 0-2 in legs, Priestley recovered to 2-2 in legs before clinching the set with a 160 checkout against the throw. Priestley found himself 0-2 down in the following set. Again he recovered to 2-2 before fractionally missing a 140 checkout for a similar escape. Taylor won that set and the next for a 6-3 win. Ironically, in the 1996 final, Priestley had similarly trailed 3-4 0-2, recovered to 2-2 and just missed a 132 checkout (bull, bull, double 16) before losing the set.
Although only one set ‘against the throw’ proved decisive in both the 1996 and 1997 WDC/PDC World Finals, the 1998 final proved much more one-sided. Becoming the only duo to contest three successive World Finals, Taylor and Priestley were unable to produce another epic contest. Taylor’s 6-0 win evidenced a cross-roads in their respective careers. While Priestley struggled to remain at the top of the PDC ranks, Taylor entered an era of unprecedented domination and consistent 100+ averages.
Despite this setback, however, Priestley bounced back to reach his sixth World Final in 2000. An average of 98 gave him a 5-2 semi-final win over top seed Peter Manley, while Taylor blitzed into the final without losing a set. The form of both players subsequently dipped in the final, where – from 3-2 2-2 – Taylor pulled away to a 7-3 win.
In somewhat nostalgic fashion, the pair provided another epic contest in the early rounds of the 2004 World Championship. After Taylor took the opening 2 sets, Priestley won 7 of the next 10 legs before a relieved Taylor wrapped up a 4-1 win.