MJF, Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara and Jungle Boy are the semi-official “four pillars” of AEW’s future. Original signings with the company and all 26 and younger when the company started, the four wrestlers have all traveled down different paths during their three years with the company. This article is the second in a series of four that will examine the current accomplishments and assess the future prospects of each “pillar” in AEW.
The most obvious comparison to Darby Allin is Jeff Hardy, a comp that has been made consistently since Allin first broke through on the indies with EVOLVE and other promotions. The alternative-babyface appeal and risk-taking jumps made it easy to draw a parallel between Allin and the trend-setting Hardy.
Since Allin made it to national television in AEW, there is another legendary wrestler who is a better, and far less obvious comparison: The Undertaker.
On the surface, that sounds absurd, Allin is a mid-card babyface, while The Undertaker is an all-time legend. The Undertaker was a menacing tower of a man, while Allin is undersized and scrappy. The Undertaker wrestled a conservative style, based on basic striking and a few signature power moves, while Darby wrestles with reckless abandon, taking risks left and right.
The comparison between the two doesn’t come from their wrestling style, or their prominence in the wrestling world, but rather from how they have been utilized during their careers.
Allin is a unique enigma in relation to the rest of the AEW roster, while he had a lengthy run as TNT Champion at the end of 2020, he has largely been absent from the title picture. Much like how The Undertaker was rarely in the world title picture in the 1990s despite being one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster, Allin has remained focused mostly on feuds outside of titles, engaging in various storylines that have culminated in a coffin match, which has become his signature match.
Allin has simultaneously been kept apart from a lot of the AEW roster, but also has never been buried. He remains one of the most protected members of the roster, and is as over as he has been throughout his career in AEW. He’s become a stable entity for the company, someone that can be always counted on to give a huge effort when asked. He’s popular and hasn’t grown stale despite being on television for years because he is being used so strategically.
As a performer, Allin has thrived since getting to AEW. On the indies, he was reasonably popular, but not considered one of the top performers at the level. In AEW, he has been one of the most durable, consistent performers across the entire roster, regularly outshining bigger names with longer resumes when programmed with them.
While his crazy dives and stunts will be what people will immediately gravitate towards, Allin has proven many times that he isn’t merely a stuntman pretending to be a wrestler. His speed and technique are of major-league quality, and he’s had numerous strong matches without any death-defying antics. His traditional bell-to-bell work has been a surprising strength in AEW since he debuted, and he’s impressed a lot of doubters with his ability between the ropes.
His tenacity in the ring has also made up for what should be his biggest shortcoming. A man the size of Darby Allin should have a difficult time getting a push on national television, but his fearlessness and ability to convincingly come across as tough and dangerous have allowed him to feud with huge men like Brian Cage and Brody King and look credible in the process.
Most importantly, Allin has stood out in AEW thanks to his creativity and commitment to remaining true to his character. On the indies, Allin was popular for his crazy dives and hardcore stunts, but there are a lot of guys willing to take those risks on the independents. What has separated Allin from the rest, and allowed him to flourish in AEW, is his look and his character work.
The black-and-white vignettes that Allin shoots and edits himself, have given him a unique identity in the company and are unlike anything else shown in wrestling.
.@darbyallin calling for a coffin match against @andradeelidolo!
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— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) April 14, 2022
Not a natural promo, his stoic demeanor and few words enhance his personality. In real life, someone like Allin is never going to be comfortable cutting a promo in the ring for 15 minutes, so why should he do that? The vignettes, the short backstage promos, the music and lighting effects, they all work in helping establish a character that feels authentic and different from everybody else on the roster.
The question for Allin going forward is if he will ever be pushed further than he is right at this moment. Allin has a much higher floor than Sammy Guevara or Jungle Boy, but he also might be close to his ceiling. Could Allin potentially be a world champion? Could he main event a PPV? He seems talented enough to accomplish those goals, but will the company ever push him that far, or does he even want to be in that role?
Allin has spoken many times that he does not think he will have a long career in wrestling. He clearly has other interests outside of wrestling, particularly with filmmaking, and has said that he has invested a lot of his earnings into his own passion projects. While MJF aspires to be the next Bruno Sammartino, Allin gives off the vibe of being completely content with what he is doing right now.
Is that what you want from one of your “pillars?” Someone content with a secure spot in the mid-card? It’s hard to say. Allin will almost certainly retire having left something on the table–the bumps he takes in his matches guarantee that–but if he is perfectly fine with being the level of star he is at this moment, he can walk away satisfied because his character seems sustainable at its current level.
Unlike the rest of the four pillars, I’m not sure Allin needs to evolve to have a strong career. He is over, he isn’t overexposed, the partnership with Sting has allowed him to get on every PPV card and have fun, memorable matches, why can’t he do this for a long time? Obviously, if he suffers a lot of significant injuries (he hasn’t so far, which is remarkable given his wrestling style) he will have to change, but at his current rate he seems fine.
Allin has shown himself to be dependable and relatively egoless with his approach to wrestling. He’s also popular and gets good reactions from the audience. Contrary to WWE hagiography, The Undertaker was often not the company’s top main event star. However, he was strong enough for a long enough time that he turned into a real legend. There are certainly worse careers.