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“It’s about moments… wrestling is about moments and making memories and that’s what draws people in.”
A young wrestler in a struggling independent promotion said that to me several years ago. We were discussing why the promotion was struggling, despite the good wrestling and storytelling in the company and the quality big name talent on the roster that was being brought in to fill out the card featuring a roster of young talent that now fills out the rosters of major promotions across the world.
The young wrestler was venting about the promotion’s lack of drawing success and he felt that what was lacking to get the promotion on track to draw bigger crowds was a lack of big moments. He mentioned to me some of the big moments he witnessed growing up that bonded him to big name wrestlers for a lifetime.
I began thinking about this conversation when I thought about Darby Allin’s rise in AEW, which built to a fever pitch last night after he defeated longtime rival Ethan Page in a Coffin match at Fyter Fest on Dynamite. Page and Allin wrestled some extremely dangerous matches in Evolve and had great chemistry together, although Allin took things too far with the risks he took in those matches.
AEW booker Tony Khan almost immediately paired them in a feud on Dynamite after Page debuted. Allin got tossed down a set of stairs by Page, who formed a tag team called Men of the Year with Scorpio Sky. Allin’s longtime partner, Sting, got involved in the feud to offset Sky.
Allin has benefitted from working with a variety of wrestlers in AEW, but it has been the moments that have taken him from stunt wrestler to star.
Khan immediately put Allin in the spotlight when Dynamite launched on TNT in the fall of 2019. On the second episode of Dynamite when the Inner Circle was laying waste to a group of babyfaces that included Cody Rhodes, Hangman Page, and MJF, it was Allin that had his music hit to end the show by making the save. The pop in the building that night was deafening when Allin’s music hit and the show ended on a high note.
Allin worked with Cody Rhodes before AEW launched on Dynamite and after. He captured the TNT Championship from Rhodes and solidified himself as a star with a long title reign that ended when Miro beat him for the title on Dynamite on May 12. Allin didn’t miss a beat going right from being a strong champion to feuding with Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky with Sting by his side.
Allin had his first of many memorable moments in AEW on the second episode of Dynamite. His brooding character, defined by his dark attire, skateboard, and half of his face painted white, may not seem like much on the surface, but he’s been at the top of the list in of the most consistently pushed young talent in AEW.
Allin doesn’t have a lot of size or strength, but he makes up for it with his charisma. Working with Sting during the COVID-19 pandemic only heightened his stature.
Sting & Allin teamed to face Brian Cage & Ricky Starks in a cinematic street fight match on the Revolution PPV on March 7. Allin was the star of the match. He created another big moment when he leapt off the balcony of a warehouse to hit an elbow drop on Cage several stories down.
Allin was heavily involved in the creative direction of the match. Allin talked about how satisfied he was after the match at the post-show media scrum. Allin isn’t one to where his emotions facially, but he looked very satisfied answering questions from the media about the match on this night. He mentioned multiple times that Tony Khan had been incredible to work with and had let him use nearly all of the ideas he wanted to use for that match.
The biggest reason the pairing of Sting and Allin has worked so well is that Sting’s character has been used to enhance Allin, but never overshadow him. The mixing of the imagery of Sting’s character with Allin’s was woven nicely into their cinematic Street Fight.
Last night on Dynamite, Allin created more moments during his main event Coffin match against Ethan page. He opened the match hitting a Coffin Drop on Page while wearing a protective shield on his back, which brought back fond memories for fans of the clever spot Bret Hart did in WCW when he wore a steel plate around his waist under his shirt to protect himself from a spear from Goldberg.
With only roughly 14 minutes of TV time remaining when the match started, Page and Allin set a blistering pace. Sting came out to offset Scorpio Sky, who had surprised Allin by jumping out of the coffin when Allin opened the lid early in the match, which gave Page the upper hand.
Sting didn’t overshadow Allin or Page and the two put on an incredible match that was made even more impressive by how good it was given the time constraints both men were under to tell a satisfying story.
Allin won the match, but after the match, he created another moment. Allin went up top and with Page lying in the coffin with the lid shut, he came off the top rope and hit a Coffin Drop through the casket on Page. The building exploded in cheers. Replays showed multiple angles of the casket exploding upon Allin’s impact.
Allin reminds me of Mick Foley in many ways due to their penchant for high risk bumps to endear them with fans, but it’s not the only thing both men do well. Both men have an endearing underdog quality to them, that makes it hard not to root for them.
Foley and Allin also solidified themselves as stars by being parts of unforgettable moments. Allin’s Coffin Drop through the coffin at ringside on Page is one of those moments I won’t forget. It wasn’t as dangerous as Foley falling through the top of the HIAC at WWE’s King of the Ring 97 against Undertaker. It also wasn’t as dangerous as Foley being tossed off the top of the cage through the announce table at ringside earlier in that very same match, but it was just as memorable given the explosion of the wood from the coffin and the pop from the crowd.
Allin is not only being placed in good storylines and having good matches, but AEW booker Tony Khan is putting him in position to create moments that will create lasting memories for fans that saw them live or watched on TV. Allin can officially be called AEW’s first home grown star after his performance last night if he wasn’t already. His ceiling is high to create more moments as he moves up the card and feuds with bigger names in the future.
Contact Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SR_Torch