If it’s a weekend night, you can be sure that Darby Allin is working somewhere. Usually booked in the middle of the card, Allin has quickly made a name for himself on the independent wrestling scene, mainly thanks to a no-fucks-given approach to giving the people what they want all while staying true to himself, even if it means risking life and limb.
So much so that friends and colleagues sometimes check in on him after his match.
To make sure he isn’t dead.
Putting his own well being on the line is nothing knew for Allin. Growing up in Washington State, Allin was obsessed with skateboarding as a teenager and there’s video footage that proves it wasn’t just run of the mill kids on boards at the local mall.
“The Roof of Doom! It was a buddy of mine’s house that he lived at, and we would all attempt to drop in on his roof, every week and see whoever could make it first. But nobody ever made it. That’s why it’s called ‘The Roof of Doom’,” said Allin. “We would film it for MTV, because I filmed a lot of stuff for MTV. The whole point of the Roof of Doom was strictly for MTV.”
While the footage never made it to MTV, Allin carries some scars from those days that prove he lived with disregard for his own body. Growing tired of life in the Pacific Northwest and seeking a change of scenery, Allin moved to Tempe, Arizona. He didn’t have much of a plan for when he got there, he just knew he wanted out of Seattle and wanted to be somewhere warm so he could skate more.
“In my first week of living there I broke my ankle skateboarding and walked five miles home on a broken ankle because I didn’t even know it was broken,” said Allin. “I ended up sitting on my skateboard, wheeling myself home, because I had no car at the time.”
The broken ankle wasn’t the only thing that came out of his relocation to the desert. Allin got himself a 9-5 job. And it came with benefits – just not the kind that would have helped with that broken ankle.
“I worked at a Dollar Store and it was cool because we could just take all of the food they were about to throw away,” said Allin. But before you start giving him credit for taking advantage of the job to save on groceries, you have to understand Allin’s motivation was a little bit different.
“They were going to throw away a thousand hot dogs and we took them, filled up my bath tub with them and took a bath in the hot dogs,” said Allin, who filmed the scene hoping to get it on MTV. “I had to fly to Los Angeles that night; so I had no time to clean up the hot dogs.”
That flight to Los Angeles was all about Allin getting his first taste of TV time. It wasn’t for skating though and it wasn’t MTV, and wrestling certainly wasn’t in the conversation yet. Allin had convinced producers of TLC’s Sex Sent Me to the ER that he had a story they needed to hear.
“I was broke and I came up with a fake story. So they flew me down there and gave me $500 and I found some random inspiring actress in Los Angeles,” said Allin. The narrative he concocted for them was about the time he and his “girlfriend” had a moment of intimate embrace interrupted by a swarm of bees. “It was a really fun time. It was stupid, but it was fun.”
While the money was nice at the time, acting wasn’t something Allin had ever considered doing as a full time career choice.
“That was a once off. I’ve always been into entertainment; I would always film movies and documentaries,” said Allin. “I would never consider it a career I wanted to get into, but I was always into working behind the camera.”
The $500 – or whatever was left of it after he paid the actress in LA – clearly couldn’t have lasted too long and while the Dollar Store gig had those oh-so-amazing benefits, it was a rather miserable existence for Allin and he grew frustrated, not just with the job, but with the general lack of direction his life had at the time.
“I was living off of like $5 a week of food in Arizona and I was 115 pounds. I was like ‘I need to change this way of living’ because it was just horrible,” said Allin. “I moved back to Seattle and I got into wrestling.”
While his early years may have been filled with youthful indiscretions, the move back to Seattle to pursue a pro wrestling career meant Allin finally had something to focus every ounce of his energy on that might one day pay off.
“From the first day of training I was dead serious on making this my top priority because I did not want to go back to living off of $5 a week of food,” said Allin. “I didn’t want to go back to any of the garbage that I was around. I was very serious about it and I’ve been very serious ever since.”
His decision to start training as a pro wrestler in Seattle meant he had to give up skateboarding. The toll it was taking on his body was going to get in the way of his being able to train or work properly. His skateboards friends weren’t exactly supportive of his decision to go in a different direction with his life.
“The skateboarding friends of mine didn’t understand anything because I told them ‘look, I’m going to quit skating and I’m going to start into wrestling’ and at the time they were like ‘what? None of this makes sense’,” said Allin. “But I knew deep down inside that I’ve always had a passion for wrestling and I couldn’t afford to wrestle and skate at the same time because I would get messed up so much on a skateboard. I couldn’t have the injuries so I just had to quit skating and focus on wrestling.”
The commitment meant more than just giving up his skateboard though. After leaving Arizona and moving back to Seattle, Allin wasn’t exactly rolling in cash so he ended up living in an abandoned warehouse Downtown Seattle. It wasn’t exactly the best environment,
“I chose not to spend any money on rent because I was going to be 100% into wrestling. Whether it was paying for flights or paying for practice or for driving places. I couldn’t afford rent anywhere so I was like ‘screw it, we’re going to going to live in a warehouse with whoever is in the warehouse,” said Allin, who understood that the opportunity cost of not doing it was too high.
“It was just a way of being dead serious about wrestling and not being caught up in a 9-5 job and just winging it, just really winging it and hoping for the best with no Plan B,” said Allin.
Thanks to the combination of the athleticism that he developed while skating and the overwhelming desire to make wrestling work, Allin picked up the basics pretty quickly and just two months after running the ropes for the first time at a wrestling school in Seattle, Allin was booked for his first match.
“It was in some redneck part of Portland, where you were judged very easily about your appearance and everyone there thought I was the biggest weirdo,” said Allin. “At that time I was training for about two months and had the opportunity to have this match. I didn’t care where I wrestled; it could have been in a K-Mart. I didn’t care.”
Even though he was a rookie making his debut, Allin still got paid. Kind of.
“(The promoter) paid us in a Subway gift card,” said Allin. “He’s like ‘hey, here’s Subway’. Alright, cool.”
Despite the possibility of more five dollar footlongs in his future, Allin, who is straight edge, felt that the Pacific Northwest was probably not where he should be. The warehouse he was living in was full of the wrong type of people for him to be around and he didn’t feel like he’d reach his potential with the working conditions he was dealing with. So he got up and left.
“Let’s just say I was too hungry to be stuck in the Northwest and the dead zone down there,” said Allin. “I never want to be the big fish in the little tiny pond. Throw me to the wolves and I’ll survive.”
Allin drove himself to Florida, Tampa specifically, and continued to look for opportunities to hone his craft. That’s when he made the decision to head to Dallas, Texas for WrestleMania weekend and attend the EVOLVE Seminar that acts as a tryout for independent wrestlers.
“I came out of nowhere. I was doing nothing. The first time I went to the EVOLVE Seminar I’d only had like 40 matches,” said Allin. “Like I said, Seattle and the whole Northwest was a dead zone and I didn’t care, I was just so hungry to get out of there. It was hard, I didn’t know where to go, what to do.”
Allin clearly impressed WWN VP of Talent Relations Gabe Sapolsky and it lead to a somewhat historic contract with EVOLVE.
Need to congratulate Darby Allin on becoming the 1st wrestler to get a WWN contract after being seen in a WWN Seminar/Tryout.
— Gabe Sapolsky (@BookItGabe) September 13, 2016
“I was very fortunate to have that EVOLVE tryout when it happened because I was on the verge of just packing up and moving to Mexico and training there, wherever,” said Allin.
For somebody who has struggled to fit in since before he was even riding around Seattle on a skateboard, Allin landed at EVOLVE and found himself comfortable in his own skin and not being forced to become something he’s not – something he credits to the other signature on that contract.
“I’ve learned a lot just about not changing who I am as a human being. Just keep doing what you’re doing and that is the number one thing I live by right now,” said Allin. “Gabe takes me for who I am, you learn a lot about how being yourself can get you the places you want to be and you don’t have to act fake, you don’t have to kiss ass, you can be whatever you want, you don’t have to play by any rules and Gabe showed me that it’s okay.”
Since debuting with the promotion at EVOLVE 59 in April 2016, Allin has had a long running feud with Ethan Page and found himself working with guys who have since moved on to work for WWE like Tony Nese, Drew Gulak and TJ Perkins. Even having been in the ring with wrestlers who have moved on to the biggest stage after working with EVOLVE, Allin knows that’s not a guarantee for what the future holds for him.
“I’m very happy, of course, wrestling all of those guys, but I know whatever happens, happens. If there’s bigger and better thing coming up, let it happen, but otherwise I’m not going to sit here everyday and be like ‘I want this, I’m so nervous’,” said Allin.
“I’m just so hungry. It’s hard to explain. It just feels natural if that makes sense. It’s not like I feel I don’t belong here, because I definitely feel I belong and I know I bring something to the table.”
In June 2016, at EVOLVE 62 in Ybor City, Florida, Allin was gorilla pressed into a structural pole by Ethan Page. Many wrestling fans across the country were introduced to Allin thanks to a clip of him hitting the pole and subsequently lying prone on the floor afterwards.
The 24 year old, who has since moved to Orlando where he lives with Sami Callahan, looks back at the last ten months and doesn’t point to one moment or one match as the thing that stands out the most.
“A highlight is not dying on anything that I’ve done, not being long-term injured,” said Allin, half joking. “But besides that, a big highlight is you go into this company, 100% yourself without anybody trying to change you and you belong. That’s a big highlight – just being accepted.”
Some fans might not be able to see past the half-painted face, but the Darby Allin ring performer isn’t just some creation born of shtick. It’s a reflection of the guy who took up skateboarding, worked at the Dollar Store and eventually ended up living in an abandoned warehouse.
“It’s not really a character. I’m just kind of myself and it’s everything I do is what I want to do inside of my soul and it’s not forced,” said Allin. “Like I said, everything is just me in there. It feels all natural and that’s awesome.”