SMF 13: A Look Back at Darby Allin
Updated: Sep 10, 2021
If this is your first SMF, please read the "Styles Make Fights" introductory post, to be sure you understand our premise, then come right back and join us!
Last week I said that Tay Conti needed to avoid the Beast Bomb and take her powerful rival, Nyla Rose, into the deep water of a longer match in order to finally overcome her. When I saw that her victory had clocked in at under ten minutes, I thought that I was going to have to eat my words, (again!) but then I took a closer look at the stats:
Nyla Rose's losses are on average longer than her wins, the opposite of Tay Conti. Although--at nine and a half-- the match in question is shorter than Nyla Rose's average loss, it's still over minute longer than her average win.
Nyla threw the kitchen sink at Tay this time around-- searching for something that would put her away, rather than remaining focused on her power game-- while Tay found success in using her expertise at leverage to match power with power. She did not attempt to dominate the match as she had done in her debut, but weathered the storm, avoided the finisher, and finally put her rival down with her own DDTay finish.
There are three singles matches on tomorrow night's card, and the highest profile one is Christian Cage vs. Frankie Kazarian. But I don't have any match data on Christian Cage, since this will be his AEW debut. So I've decided to do something a little different this week.
Darby Allin, a Styles Make Fights Retrospective
I was listening to the Pro Wrestling Musings podcast this weekend, and the guys (Craig, Griff. and Scott this week) made some excellent points as always, but there was one point where I especially wish I had been there to provide another perspective-- when they were discussing the limits on the shelf life of the face-in-peril trope for Darby Allin as TNT champion.
In general, it certainly is a trope that has limits and a formula that can grow tiring and stretch the bounds of credulity. But I feel that specific to Darby Allin, it's important to acknowledge just how much variety he already brings to his matches.
His win over Cody to become TNT champion is a perfect example of the trope in question-- absorbing punishment and countering out of moves until making a comeback primarily with aerial maneuvers:
His defense against Cage is a variant of this: Darby is still absorbing a lot of punishment, but not able counter as much due to Cage's raw power, so replacing that with even more flying, and even some strikes.
In his defense versus John Silver last week, (as well as against Scorpio Sky before that,) you see a mix that looks very similar to that against Cody, but if you look closely you notice that the technical rating is more for painful submission holds rather than counters:
These may seem like only minor variations on the theme of rope a dope, but now we get to the matches that were really different! In his defense against Janela, he went toe-to-toe with the challenger, dominating the offense with a wide variety of offense types:
If evidence is needed that the strength of his offence against Janela wasn't a fluke, he delivered an even more dominating performance against Ricky Starks, using a similar balance of offense types, a few weeks before capturing his TNT championship:
Darby Allin wrestles every match in a way that reinforces his character: a daredevil aerialist who is contemptuous of both pain and fear, whose back-first flying attacks are uniquely impactful in defiance of his size, specifically due to the fearlessness of his approach, but at the same time an incongruous-seeming amateur-style technical wrestling expert. But he also shows just how much variety he can bring to his matches within that character without slipping into moribund formula.