The Night That Made Darby Allin

When the formation of All Elite Wrestling was announced and later its television deal with a weekly show on TNT, one of the major pieces of the puzzle was the ability to introduce a mostly new roster to a national audience.

This past Wednesday, the wrestling world and TV audience were truly introduced to Darby Allin.

Just a four-year pro, the grappler that took his name from the eccentric late front man of the Murder Junkies, GG Allin, worked a title match against Chris Jericho in the main event of TNT this week. A skateboarder before he began his journey in the squared circle, Darby carved his on niche through a very risky style on the independent scene. Prior to his signing with All Elite, he garnered a following through his work in Evolve, PWG, and various other groups.

A native of Seattle, Darby was reportedly homeless before his pursuit of professional wrestling and his background might be just as intriguing as his in-ring persona. Aside from a fearless approach to his craft, the 26-year-old athlete also has a mystic around him that fans could be drawn to as he progresses in AEW. The face paint gives him an aura that makes the audience want to know more about him, which goes along with an almost quiet charisma he brings to the ring. Perhaps, the most important aspect that Allin brings to the table is that he doesn’t look like he’s trying to play of role of mysterious wrestler, but rather being himself. That authenticity is one of the keys that can make a star.

The result of the title bout against Chris Jericho was predictable, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile. Darby got over more with a loss than he would’ve with some type of fluke win, which wouldn’t have made sense anyway because Jericho’s involvement in the title match is used to help establish the AEW brand in its early stages on television.

Despite the insane bumps, Darby Allin isn’t some stunt performer, he can undoubtedly go bell-to-bell and has the ability to work a compelling match in the ring. In fact, the drama that unfolded in the bout against Jericho was a prime example of Darby’s ability as a performer. Allin made an impression on the viewing audience last week when he sailed down the ramp on a skateboard and hurdled himself at Jericho. He followed that up with a gutsy contest and worked up to the level of a main event talent, even if some of his inexperience showed through. When Darby found his arms taped behind his back, it immediately created the narrative of the young challenger as the underdog with him appearing to be defenseless against the legendary champion.

The storytelling here was really tremendous and it allowed for a narrative that ultimately benefited both athletes. It put the baby face in jeopardy and gave Darby a chance to show heart as he continued to compete either though the odds were against him. This allowed the audience to rally for Darby and also put over his persona as “willing to risk it all” in the ring. He deserves a lot of credit for the almost unbelievable spots where he generated offense while still taped, including launching himself through the ropes at Jericho. These sequences again put over his risky character and the heart he brings to the competition. The crowd appreciates his efforts and wants to see him succeed so the results of this story will be useful beyond just this particular match.

Ironically, the risks that Darby took might get him noticed, but his character and selling are what will get him over with the audience.

Outside of a storyline, you have to appreciate Darby’s ability and his efforts for the entertainment of the fans. In some ways, the way that the fans rally behind Allin is similar to Cactus Jack’s connection with the audience because you can see the passion and dedication he brings to the table. On the flip side, at some point, Allin must start to choose what risks he takes wisely to preserve his career because as mentioned earlier, he has a lot more to offer from a character perspective than just bumps.

The structure of the bout is also a credit to Chris Jericho and how smart he is as a performer. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, with the addition of this AEW chapter to his career, Jericho is putting himself in a league of his own in terms of longevity and the ability to remain relevant throughout different eras. Make no mistake about it, the 48-year-old legend could’ve re-signed with WWE, earned a good contract, and coasted on his accomplishments a few more years until he decided to retire.

Even the finish of the match was set up to maximize the narrative that put Darby over as a worthy competitor and got heat for Jericho. The champion obviously had the advantage with the defenseless opponent, but it still took Jake Hager’s interference for Jericho to beat Allin. Let’s be honest here, with everything that Jericho has done in his career, he doesn’t need to “look strong” and squash Darby, and it didn’t make him look weak to sell for an opponent that was taped up because Jericho has reached a level in his career where he will be just as over regardless of the results of a match. While I’m sure Jericho is getting a great paycheck to work for All Elite Wrestling, it speaks volumes to how smart he is that he’s using his role as champion to create hype for the company while working with the younger talent to get them featured on TV.

If All Elite Wrestling gets off the ground on a long term basis remains to be seen because there’s only three episodes of television, and where they are in a year from now will give a more accurate view of the situation, but for now, it looks like they’ve made many of the right decisions for the presentation of the product. Obviously, nothing is perfect and to establish a national promotion that tours for TV weekly is a process, but AEW has undoubtedly been able to refresh the industry.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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