AEW: The Ascent to Stardom of Darby Allin

AEW Logo (photo courtesy of AEW)
AEW Logo (photo courtesy of AEW) /

Arguably, one of the most difficult things to do in Professional Wrestling is to build new stars.  It is a delicate balancing act between protecting those stars that are already established and introducing someone that the promotion sees as an integral piece of their future to that star level.  AEW has been working on doing this with multiple talents, but they have been most successful in doing so with Darby Allin.

As with most things in life, timing is everything.  Finding the future star, pairing him or her with the right opponent, and coming up with the best possible potential storyline to enhance your fanbase’s emotional investment in the up-and-coming star are all critical aspects of this intricate process.

Most of us got our first look at Darby Allin at Fyter Fest 2019 when Allin had the opportunity to face Cody Rhodes.  Cody would eventually hit the Cross Rhodes on Allin and cover him for the pin but as the ref’s hand was about to come down for the three count the 20 minute time limit expired and the match was ruled a time limit draw.

The little-known Allin turned a lot of heads at this event.  Darby displayed quickness and toughness throughout the entirety of the match, two of the things that he would continue to build his name on at future AEW events.  After the match, Cody would take a chair shot to the head by Shawn Spears.  The focus seemed to shift off of Darby and on to a Spears-Cody feud but little did we know, AEW had just told the first chapter in a long-term story between Cody and Darby as well.

AEW creative has laid out a blueprint on how to build a new star with its handling of Darby Allin.

On October 2nd, 2019 Dynamite premiered on TNT.  Darby Allin was not on the televised portion of the card.  He was instead featured on AEW Dark in a match vs Cima.  Allin would pick up an exciting win and you could hear the buzz in the crowd as Darby hit his coffin drop successfully for the first time in AEW.

The buzz around Allin continued to grow as Darby would be featured on Dynamite the following week, as he would go one-on-one with Jimmy Havoc, with the winner getting an AEW title shot the following week against Chris Jericho.

Allin would pick up the win vs Havoc and go on to main event episode three of Dynamite in a Philadelphia Street Fight for the AEW Championship with Le Champion.  This was a huge spot for the largely unknown Allin at the time.  Dynamite was still in its infancy and every episode had the capability of either gaining or losing fans for the brand new company.

But instead of putting a veteran like Havoc in the match the brain trust at AEW opted to push Darby.  And he did not disappoint.  Wrestling a good portion of the match with his hands duct-taped behind his back Darby looked to be on the verge of beating Jericho when Jake Hager intervened, costing Darby the title.  Even in defeat, the heart and determination displayed by Allin earned him more and more fans.

The popularity of Allin would continue to surge three weeks later.  Jon Moxley would cut a scathing promo on Dynamite basically saying that no one in the AEW locker room had the…..let’s say “guts” to step up to him.  Later in the evening, Darby Allin would be victorious in a three-way match with Shawn Spears and Peter Avalon.  After the match, Darby grabbed the microphone and said all he needed to say in 4 words. “Jon Moxley, I accept.”

Darby would give Mox all he could handle next week on Dynamite, but would once again come up short as Moxley scored the pinfall victory.

Even though Allin’s win-loss record wasn’t exactly sparkling in his early matches in AEW the reactions he would get from the crowds was getting louder and louder each and every week.  Through Dynamite’s first eight episodes Darby Allin had been featured in the main event of two of them against two of the most respected wrestlers in the world.

AEW would continue to show great faith in Darby as a singles competitor as he had many more high-profile matches in the coming months.  And while he performed admirably in all of the matches Darby would taste defeat in a battle with Pac and a rematch with Cody Rhodes.

Darby Allin was on his way.  And while he was still missing that signature win over one of the best in the world he had done enough to earn a singles match at the upcoming Revolution pay-per-view versus his rival, Sammy Guevara.  Guevara made his way to the ring and then the arena went black.  As we all waited in anticipation for Darby Allin’s music to hit you could hear the crowd chanting, “Darby! Darby! Darby!”  This definitely put to bed any shred of doubt about whether or not Darby was over with the crowd. In an intense back and forth match that really showcased both of the young stars Darby hit his signature coffin drop and scored a huge victory, taking yet another step up the ladder to superstardom.

Darby Allin’s Path to the TNT Title

In late March of 2020, AEW announced that a new men’s singles title would be introduced in the TNT Title.  A tournament bracket was also announced shortly after and the bracket included Darby Allin.

After securing a victory in a first-round matchup with Guevara, Darby found himself with a second-round matchup with none other than Cody Rhodes.  This seemed like the perfect time for Darby to breakthrough.  He had battled Cody to a draw at Fyter Fest and lost the rematch to him a few months earlier.  Surely Darby would avenge his loss and go on to be the TNT Champion.

But it wasn’t to be.  Darby would once again fall to Cody.  And while Cody would go on to defeat Lance Archer and become the inaugural TNT Champion, Darby was left searching for answers.  He had been given opportunities to win the AEW Championship and the TNT Championship yet had not been able to close the deal on any of the opportunities.

Darby went back to work.  Scoring victories on Dark and Dynamite.  After securing a win over Ricky Starks it was announced that Darby Allin would receive a shot at Cody Rhode’s TNT Title at the upcoming Double or Nothing pay-per-view in August.

While Darby was chomping at the bit to get back in the ring with Cody, Rhodes did not feel the same.  He felt like Darby had had his chances to beat him and that Darby had already “bent the knee” twice.  Cody also expressed while Darby is a formidable challenger there were also many other challengers that deserved a shot at the TNT Title that had not been given the number of opportunities Darby had already received.

As we all know, the fourth time was the charm for Darby as he would pin Rhodes and win the TNT Title at Double or Nothing.  And in telling the story that only AEW can seemingly do these days, Cody bent the knee and presented Darby the TNT Title after the match.  Darby was not only over with the fans, but now had the respect of one of the top wrestlers in the promotion as well.

The build of Darby Allin is an ongoing process.

It would have been really easy for AEW to give Darby Allin the TNT Title and pat themselves on the back and say, “That’s it!  We have built a star!”  But they have continued the process since Darby’s title win.

Pairing Darby with Sting, who is one of the most popular wrestlers of all time, was a really smart way to bring even more eyes and fans to the brilliance that is Darby Allin.  While Sting is advanced in age and will probably only compete in cinematic style matches, just his name and presence alone attached to Darby Allin brings another level of credibility to Allin’s rising star.

The way Allin has been built as a relentless, never say die competitor is crucial to his continuing ascent as well.  Darby is definitely one of the smaller competitors in AEW men’s division.   His matches against Cody, Mox, and Brian Cage have really brought this to light.

However, the emphasis on Allin’s heart and will to win make this disadvantage minimized.  Watching him take destructive bump after destructive bump versus Brian Cage, yet continue to kick out at one and defiantly give Cage the finger showed us just what a pitbull Darby Allin is.

This was displayed again on last week’s Dynamite when Darby battled Matt Hardy in a falls count anywhere match.  Hardy put Allin through some big bumps that definitely could have ended the match.  Yet the resiliency of Allin continues to shine through as he piles up successful TNT Title defenses.

IMPACT is making Omega vs Swann feel momentous. dark. Next

The partnership between Darby Allin and AEW has been a perfect match.  Darby is an extremely creative performer and AEW gives their talent the creative freedom that many other promotions do not.  Because of this, the sky is the limit in regards to both Allin’s success in AEW and his worldwide popularity.