SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
With AEW’s Double or Nothing on the horizon and a World title match possibly featuring four of its homegrown stars, it seemed like an opportune time to turn the All Elite Assessment spotlight onto the AEW anointed ‘Four Pillars’.
This week let’s focus on…
Samual Ratsch, better known as Darby Allin, is an AEW Original and one of its most distinctive performers. With a half-painted face indicating a significant personal tragedy, Darby combines a punk rock ethos, skater style, and a devil-may-care attitude. A perennial babyface in AEW, Allin has a kinetic connection with the live audience who appreciate his physical sacrifice in pursuit of victory.
Allin is clearly an artistic soul, not only in his unique presentation but through the various vignettes he has presented throughout his AEW run. A car accident during his formative years in which his uncle was killed has informed Allin ever since in both his kamikaze attitude and his straight-edge lifestyle.
Allin’s wrestling education has seen him journey the American independent scene, most notably representing PWG, GCW, Evolve, and Progress. These experiences allowed Allin to sample many differing wrestling styles and match up against several AEW alumni such as Ethan Page, Brian Cage, and Sammy Guevara.
As the notoriety of independent wrestling in the U.S. grew to a high point in the late 2010s and with AEW signing many of the movements standout stars, Darby appeared to be a can’t-miss prospect – a prospect who perfectly encompassed All Elite’s independent spirit, it’s rebellious attitude, and a style distinct to the main roster WWE product.
Darby Allin was signed to AEW on the company’s formation and soon after made a splash with his new employer by wrestling AEW EVP Cody Rhodes to a time-limit draw at the Fyter Fest special. Indeed, Allin’s early AEW career was seemingly tied to Cody. After the time limit draw, Darby and Cody would meet in the TNT Title tournament semi-final where Darby would fall to defeat. The newly-formed title, though, would be in Darby’s near future as he would capture the belt against inaugural champion Cody at the Full Gear 2020 PPV.
In late 2020 the direction of Darby’s AEW narrative would be changed significantly with the introduction of the legendary Sting. The one-time “Franchise” would form an alliance with Allin in a pairing which played to the tandems mutual love of brooding. The team would then compete against adversaries Team Taz at the Revolution PPV in a cinematic match which not only showcased Allin’s fearless form, but acted as a surprisingly successful reintroduction for Sting.
After a 186 day reign, Allin would lose the TNT title to Miro and move onto a feud with the Men of the Year team. A more prominent role was just around the corner, though, with the debut of the divisive CM Punk. Allin would face Punk on his return to professional wrestling at the hugely successful All Out 2022. Multi-man tag matches with mentor Sting as well as an alliance with spirit animal Jeff Hardy and a second reign as TNT champion would follow.
Recent Dynamites have positioned Allin as a potential opponent for World Champion MJF alongside his fellow “Pillars,” though his character presentation has been at odds with his previous man of few words persona. Recent sniping at his rivals and celebrating a bye in a tournament have been discordant with Darby’s journey. Creative course corrected this week with a backstage segment which rolled back on the vitriol between Darby and rival Jungle Boy with the stage set for a qualifying tag match on this week’s flagship show.
Darby has long been seen as a key player in the future of AEW and the current “Pillars” storyline has reinforced this idea. Darby is a unique individual who brings something different to the menagerie that is All Elite. His look, vignettes, ring-style, and attitude grab attention and his persona exudes a cool factor that few others on the roster possess.
A title win against the heel MJF does feel too soon for the talented Darby, but intriguing feuds could spin-off from defeat. A rivalry opposite Jungle Boy would be ill-advised given the polarizing reaction to their current interactions and a narrative opposite Guevara could feel like a retread.
Sting has openly admitted that he is in the last act of his wrestling journey and Darby is primed to play a huge part in his denouement. Sting seems keen to pass the torch to Allin in a huge vote of confidence.
Darby and Sting could have a run at the AEW Tag Team Titles against a respectful FTR. This would be a new direction for the painted pair and could culminate in a PPV featured match. A turn against Sting would be ill-advised at this stage as fans currently see Darby as an authentic persona; a betrayal could feel an unnatural course in the medium term.
If Darby is to come up short in his World Title opportunity, then AEW should maintain his current momentum by booking him in the upper mid-card. Sporadic appearances and self-produced videos are useful tools to keep Darby in the fans’ minds. There are plenty of heels on the dastardly side of the ledger for Darby to match up against including fresh feuds with the Jon Moxley, Jay White, and Chris Jericho. Imagine a program with the vicious Moxley. This would place Allin and Sting in a perilous and sympathetic position whilst Darby and Moxley would match up well given there risk-taking mentalities.
Darby Allin has been long regarded as a key player in the future of AEW but may well now be the company’s present. A hugely marketable act who has an authenticity that many others in AEW lack.