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Darby Allin: Masochist

Posted on May 24, 2021 by Susan Melony

AEW, or All Elite Wrestling, is doing well these days. They’ll start touring again in July, and at that point, their fans around the country can see all their favorite wrestlers again live, something they couldn’t do during the pandemic’s early stages. This is also a chance for management to see who the live crowds are cheering for and who has not “gotten over” in wrestling parlance.

One guy who seems to have gotten over is Darby Allin, the former TNT Champion. Despite dropping the title to Miro a few days ago, Allin seems poised for bigger things. One question remains, though: can an undersized individual make it to main event status in a company full of larger, more muscular specimens?

Who is Darby Allin?

The non-wrestling fan can easily spot someone like Hulk Hogan if they see him walking through an airport. People know Hogan’s name and face worldwide, but he’s also a large, physically intimidating individual. Darby Allin, by contrast, is a mere 5 foot 8 and weighs 170 pounds.

Darby’s real name is Samuel Ratsch, and he’s from Seattle, Washington. He made a name for himself on the independent circuit, participating in gruesome matches with “All Ego” Ethan Page. Allin was one of the first signings when AEW officially opened its doors in 2019.

Darby is a skateboarder in real life, and that’s part of his gimmick, as he often rides his skateboard to the ring. He also paints half his face like a skull, and he has several provocative tattoos, including one on his chest that states, “Nothing’s Over till You’re Underground.”

Darby cuts an enigmatic figure, but you need more than a cool look to make it in wrestling: you also need a credible move set. Darby has that as well, but more than anything else, the fans know him as a crash test dummy. He’s likely to hurtle himself off a balcony or smash through a sport tent canopy whenever he can.

In short, Darby Allin is a masochist. That’s the character, and so far, he’s ascended to the mid-card and held singles gold in AEW.

Why the Gimmick Wouldn’t Work in the WWE

Darby went to AEW because he was sure that his gimmick wouldn’t work in the WWE. He’s right. Even if Vince McMahon and the creative team let him keep all the skull imagery, they never would have seen Darby as a main event talent.

He’s not big enough. Shorter than six feet tall and at less than 200 pounds, most wrestling promoters would see Darby as a Cruiserweight or a Light Heavyweight. The WWE does have a Cruiserweight division, but it’s usually an afterthought. No Cruiserweight Title match has ever main-evented a WWE pay-per-view.

Vince wants to put over the biggest, strongest, most muscular guys. That’s probably never going to change, and Darby’s quirky skateboarder gimmick was only going to work on the indie circuit or somewhere more progressive, like AEW.

Darby’s Future

As we mentioned, Darby had a run with the TNT title, which is kind of like AEW’s intermediate singles belt, like the Intercontinental or US titles are in the WWE. The question is whether Darby can ever break through and hold the big belt, the AEW Championship.

So far, only Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Kenny Omega have held that title. All those champions make sense because all three are huge international stars. Darby does not have that status yet, but does he have it in him to step up to that next level?

Darby is 28 years old, so he’s only now entering his prime. He certainly has room to grow as a performer, even though he’ll always find it a little challenging for promoters to take him seriously as a main eventer because he’s undersized.

The problem is his reckless style. Darby is a masochist, and he’s always “wrestling from underneath,” as the saying goes in the business.

That means the story he and his opponent usually tell in the ring is that the other wrestler bludgeons him mercilessly, getting most of the match’s offense before Darby finds some miraculous way to win. This makes sense because Darby is so much smaller than most other wrestlers.

All those beatings and high spots have to catch up to you, though. Darby seems to have an incredibly high pain threshold, and that’s impressive. What’s unclear is whether his star talent can propel him to the industry’s peak before all that punishment catches up to him.

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