The Tim Burton creature pictured directly above these words is a pro wrestler named Darby Allin, who currently performs for the start-up promotion All Elite Wrestling. Today I am here to tell you that I would die for this skeleton twink. Allin has only been wrestling for about four years, and he’s only ever been on TV twice—the past two Wednesday nights, on AEW’s TNT show. But in just a limited amount of time in the spotlight, he’s become absolutely captivating.
Allin, as you can at least partially tell from the photo, is doing a sort of goth skateboarder street rat gimmick, with a character name that I will bet $100 is a reference to the Germs’ Darby Crash and the much more aggressively gross punk icon GG Allin. (Darby’s real name appears to be legitimately unknown to the public.) As a wrestler, he is a nihilistic risk-taker who heedlessly throws his skinny little body into heavy bumps because, uh, half of him is dead. His signature move, the coffin drop, is just him trust-falling off the top rope, and his career is already littered with daredevil spots.
You can hear him do promos—calmly, intensely, thoughtfully—at this link. But Allin’s magnetism, as with many great wrestlers, is more about what he can get across without saying anything. His most visible tattoo—“Nothing’s over till you’re underground” on his chest—sums up the character with one glance, while the makeup, brooding theme song, slight stature, and idiosyncratic ring attire of cutoffs over black tights all combine to make Allin feel fresh and fascinating and shockingly new. Had he come up in WWE, he would have been pigeonholed as a short weirdo and left to rot on 205 Live. In AEW, he just main evented the most popular wrestling show on Wednesday nights.
Most importantly, though, beyond his good looks or what he represents as a wrestler, Darby Allin is fun. He took on AEW champ Chris Jericho in the show’s finale last night, and even though he was the loser in a rushed match with a foregone outcome—AEW has been heavily advertising Jericho vs. Cody Rhodes for the title at the next PPV—I couldn’t stop cheesin’ as he bounced around the ring with a legend. The absolute best sequence of the whole night saw Jericho tape Darby’s hands behind his back, only for the underdog to resolutely continue attacking with his high-flying abilities. It’s silly and joyful and dangerous-looking and absolutely what TV wrestling should be.
It was also the second powerfully rewindable Darby Allin moment in eight days. The first, from last Wednesday, was perhaps even more electric. To set up the match that would happen on the following episode, Darby joined a huge brawl between the good guys and the bad guys by skateboarding down the ramp and tackling Jericho to the ground in a star-making moment. In a chaotic scene that featured most of the company’s most famous wrestlers, Darby stood out the most.
Listen to the crowd reaction he gets and think about how, before that night, Darby Allin had never been on television before. Plenty of people tuning in wouldn’t have recognized his face, but everyone identified his star power immediately.
In conclusion: He’s simply wonderful, and god I hope he keeps it up. AEW has a lot of talent to juggle across just two TV hours every week and an extra hour on YouTube, and it’s a really pleasant surprise to see a charismatic up-and-comer get so much attention in these first few episodes of Dynamite when there are much bigger and more established names on the roster. Unlike WWE, which has always felt stubbornly focused on pushing a few handpicked champions regardless and often in defiance of what the crowd says, AEW has muscled its way into the picture by giving the most devoted wrestling fans the performers they want to see. And the fans—well, me especially—clearly want to keep watching the hell out of Darby Allin.