All Elite Wrestling Daredevil Darby Allin on Doing It His Way, From Face Paint to Those Videos
Darby Allin shocked the world at All Elite Wrestling’s Full Gear on pay-per-view when the underdog defeated Cody Rhodes for the TNT championship. The face-painted man in black has turned heads and built up a strong following since the brand launched last year, and the 27-year-old’s popularity continues to grow.
It’s a gratifying time in the life of AEW’s resident daredevil, who drew early buzz for his stunts and through exposure from being featured on MTV’s Ridiculousness. The company has given him the freedom to infuse multiple passions outside the ring on the shows, and it has translated well. Coming off arguably the biggest win of his career on November 7, and readying for a big main event tag match Wednesday, November 18, on Dynamite — teaming with Cody Rhodes against Ricky Starks and Brian Cage— we caught up with this unique personality.
What does it mean to you to be called the “Face of TNT” after winning your first major AEW title?
Darby Allin: It mean I have to hustle more. It’s, “Wow, he actually did it.” I can’t stop and smell the roses.
Your first match with Cody Rhodes at Fyter Fest really gave you an opportunity to showcase what you can do. How do you compare that night to Full Gear?
Cody handpicked me to go against him for my debut. You couldn’t ask for a better debut. I had a lot to prove that night. Coming from the independent scene, a lot of people told me I didn’t belong, that I wouldn’t be a main-event type player. I said hell no to that. I went out swinging against Cody. Then fast forward to our fourth match at Full Gear. In my eyes it was the biggest match because it was for the TNT championship. It was a good feeling to step foot in the ring with him and step out as champion.
You have such a striking look and presentation. How has it been to put your creative mind to work at AEW?
It’s the best feeling to be able to flex my creative wings. For example, my buddy bought a church and painted the whole thing black. I set myself on fire and melted my pants off. That’s going to air [on Dynamite]. I burnt the hell out of my legs. We are constantly doing all this crazy stuff, but it’s nice. I went to film school and dropped out because they wouldn’t let me be me. AEW is letting me be me and coming up with all these crazy videos. I couldn't ask for more because the videos mean as much to me as the matches.
You've made a deep connection with your fans. On Halloween people even shared photos on social media dressed like you. You’re this “outsider” who has become successful. Do you feel an added responsibility?
I feel good because being myself is paying off. I don’t feel any added pressure. I’m going to keep being myself. I never said I was a role model, but if they want to take me as one I’m down.
A lot of kids for example look at me because I’m straight edge. I don’t drink or do drugs. I feel like that’s a cool outlook for kids to see. I remember in fifth grade and people would come to the school as part of D.A.R.E to talk about drugs and alcohol. It would be "Don’t do this or that." Us kids were like, “Why would we listen to this guy? He doesn’t even seem cool or anything.” So if people want to look at me as inspiration for that, I’m cool with it.
What do you make of the comparisons to “Crow” Sting?
My face paint just comes from my real life. That’s not really a character thing I try to rip off of anybody. I’ve always just liked the dark stuff. I’ve always been a fan of the gothic aesthetic. Just weird stuff. I’m flattered by [the comparison], it's cool, but it’s definitely not what I’m thinking about while I’m doing it.
You’ve gotten a chance to produce content alongside Tony Hawk and Steve-O. What was that experience like?
They just started following me on Instagram. I hit them up. I said, “Yo, this is what I want to do. I want to bring my world into wrestling instead of just wrestling into wrestling.” I was inspired by names like Tony Hawk, Steve-O and Bam Margera. I want to bring that world into wrestling because I feel there are a lot of fans that fell out of love with wrestling. Now they can see all these cool people collaborating and doing stuff. I’m at Bam’s house right now filming stuff. I’m trying to do as much as possible.
Do you take a minute and think, “This is so surreal?”
It’s crazy. I’m just chilling up here. We crashed at Bam’s house and thought of all the things I can bring to the world of pro wrestling.
You touched on the stunts you perform. How do you take the criticism from certain old-school voices who aren’t on board with your risk-taking style?
My trainer is old school. His name is Buddy Wayne. He is super old school. I’ve learned the old-school style, and I do apply it if you see my matches. It’s not just high spots. There is a lot of storytelling behind everything I do. There is a brain behind what I do. As far as what people say about me, that I need to slow down, I know what works for me, and my body feels great. I’m really on physical therapy, recovery, stretching, and icing. I feel great.
You have this big main event tag match coming up on Dynamite teaming with Cody Rhodes against Ricky Starks and Brian Cage. What can we expect from this one?
You can expect a main event, pay-per-view quality type match. I have a big chip on my shoulder and want to prove a lot of people wrong. I want to make people say, “This guy is champion? Sick. We get it.” Going forth in this match, having a partner as Cody, he has the same mindset. The main event of Dynamite is a big spot, especially when it’s against Ricky Starks and Brian Cage who we have this long-term feud with. It’s going to be something special. I’m looking forward to tearing the house down.
Now that you have the gold as we approach the end of the year. What do you hope to achieve next?
I want to main event a pay-per-view for starters. That’s the biggest thing. In life, I want to finish this movie I’m doing. I have to finish that up.
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT