SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Darby Allin celebrated TNT championship victory by skateboarding with the belt
Defeating Cody Rhodes to win the TNT championship at last month’s Full Gear pay-per-view marked the most meaningful victory of Darby Allin’s career.
Following the show, Allin returned to his Jacksonville hotel room to decompress. He accomplished that the best way he knew how, which was to get on his skateboard and ride.
“There is a bridge right by the hotel that I like to skate down, so I took the belt and skated with it,” Allin says. “I put so much into it to get to this point, so much s---, and I was thinking about that and how now I’m chasing something new.”
Allin is only the third person to hold the title best known for its association with Rhodes. Allin’s style makes him unique, and his size and versatility allow him to work with bigger opponents, like Brian Cage and Will Hobbs, as well as others closer to his size, like Ricky Starks or MJF. There is no one else quite like Allin in wrestling, only increasing the potential of a captivating title run.
“I’m going to create something that is entirely mine, and I’m going to present the championship in a new light,” Allin says. “Work doesn’t end for me on Wednesdays. This is a seven-day life for me. It’s a heavy task to make this title mine, but I’m up for it.”
Winning the belt at Full Gear was especially meaningful for Allin, as that was the pay-per-view he was left off of a year ago.
“I was pissed off,” Allin says. “That drove me up a wall. So I worked harder and proved people wrong. Fast forward a year, winning the title from Cody, and it couldn’t have been any more different from a year ago.”
The title victory against Rhodes also marked a first in the company. Allin is now the first male singles champ in AEW history who did not formerly work for WWE.
“That means the world to me,” Allin says. “We have creative freedom here. That’s why I want to be here. I can be real. You need to step up and cross that line, and I’m the embodiment of that for younger talent. I would not want to work anywhere else, period.”
Allin has been embraced by wrestling fans, becoming one of AEW’s most popular babyfaces. He is in the midst of a compelling feud with Team Taz that still feels fresh after six months, which is extraordinarily hard to do. His connection with fans is a development he never envisioned happening, particularly at a company that airs on national television.
“I still can’t believe it,” Allin says. “In the eighth grade, I’m the guy who had no real friends. I was such a loner. During school break I would do these weird challenges with myself, like sitting in a walk-in closet and be in complete isolation. Now, to have all these people be huge fans and supporters, it’s insane. I never thought that was going to happen.”
Allin says the title run, as well as all of his success, is the byproduct of a willingness to be himself. Had he listened when others said he was destined to fail or changed the core of who he is at the request of others, then this run in AEW would never have materialized.
“Growing up, I wish I didn’t give a damn what people thought,” Allin says. “Once I stopped giving a damn, that’s when life became so beautiful. So I hope people do what’s in their heart.
“I told myself I was going to be a pro wrestler, but I said I was going to do it my way. I burned a lot of bridges sticking to my guns, but I’m being me, 100%. I’m still me. When you watch you get a real product, and you’re going to see s--- with me you’ve never seen before.”
Alec Price striving for key role in Limitless Wrestling’s Vacationland Cup tourney
Alec Price grew up in the shadows of Logan Airport in East Boston, and the symbolism is clear for those who have had an opportunity to watch him perform in the ring. Growing up in a part of town known for its jets, Price’s future in wrestling appears to have a rocket strapped to it.
The 22-year-old is prepared to take the next step in his launch at Limitless Wrestling’s Vacationland Cup, a tournament that airs on IWTV on December 19. Price’s name will not stand out in the tourney, especially when surrounded by well-known talent like Myron Reed, J.D. Drake, and Acey Romero. Yet Price has seemed to solve a pro wrestling puzzle that has existed for the past century, which is the ability to generate a response from those watching. And for better or worse, the reaction is usually consistent: people love to hate Price.
“I have a big mouth,” Price admitted. “But I don’t back down from any challenge and I love to fight.”
The third of five children, Price was born in South Boston and raised in “Eastie.” He grew up watching wrestling at his nana’s house in “Southie,” then began his journey as a backyard wrestler. Price’s determination has been visible over his career, which hits the four-year mark this February, and he is a proud product of the Bell Time Club wrestling school just outside of Boston.
“When I was younger, so many kids wanted to be like Jeff Hardy or Evan Bourne,” Price says. “My style is different. I was trained at Bell Time by Beau Douglas and Benny Jux. Beau was a student of Killer Kowalski, and Benny was a student of Tony Roy. Beau wants everything done in a very old school way, so that’s the way we train, and Benny has shown me so many tricks and the high flying and the right way to do it. Being trained by two people with totally different styles was perfect for me.”
The 165-pound Price brings a versatile style into the ring, and he is putting in the work to become indispensable for Limitless. The Vacationland Cup tourney is an opportunity to show his worth.
“I have to prove myself every time I step in the ring, especially with this roster in Limitless,” Price says. “The Vacationland Cup is Limitless’s biggest tournament of the year and there will be a lot of eyes on it, so I’m going to go in there and have bangers.”
With an attitude that doesn’t speak so much as it screams, Price first introduced himself to Limitless by traveling to Maine for their shows with fellow wrestler CJ Cruz. He got his first opportunity by working for the Let’s Wrestle promotion, Limitless’s sister promotion that allows talent to get their reps in front of smaller venues. Price and Cruz delivered a high-octane match in October of 2019 that immediately seized everyone’s attention that night, and he followed that up in November by tearing it up as a fill-in against J.D. Drake.
Price was never intimidated by the enormity of the moment. His fearlessness will serve him well in the Vacationland Cup, where he can begin to establish himself as a legitimate player for Limitless.
“I’m thinking differently,” said Price. “If I’m working the match right before the main event, my goal isn’t to be better than the main event—it’s to have the kind of match that is going to make them work harder. There is still a lot for me to learn, but I can be anywhere on this card and deliver.”
The (online) week in wrestling
- The history of the WWE would look very different without the contributions of Pat Patterson. All my condolences to his loved ones on their loss.
- A.J. Styles won a highly entertaining triple-threat match against Keith Lee and Riddle on Raw, becoming the number-one contender for Drew McIntyre’s WWE championship. McIntyre has previously mentioned that Styles was at the top of his wish list for a title program.
- Kevin Owens is coming off an incredible week. He provided commentary for NXT on Wednesday, wrestled Jey Uso on Friday, then cut an outrageously good promo on Roman Reigns as SmackDown went off the air later in the night. He followed that up with a verbal sparring session with Paul Heyman on Talking Smack, providing a glimpse of how this Owens-Reigns program will stand out on both the mic and in the ring.
- NXT before Sunday’s TakeOver airs Wednesday night, but it will be incredibly difficult to steer viewers away from this evening’s Dynamite, where the main event is Jon Moxley defending the AEW championship against Kenny Omega. Omega shared last week with Sports Illustrated that he wants to deliver a pay-per-view caliber match against Moxley.
Dave Meltzer reported in The Wrestling Observer Newsletter that one of the talents at the most recent Impact Wrestling tapings learned that they had tested positive for COVID-19. If Impact considers itself a legitimate player in pro wrestling, then the company should provide COVID testing for talent before tapings to provide the safest environment possible.
- Killer Kelly is now a part of the Impact roster, adding even more depth to one of the most talented divisions in wrestling.
- I’ll respectfully disagree with this tweet. If Kevin Nash is in the lead role of a film, or for that matter, just in a film, I’m watching.
- Yes, this was real.
- The new Liv Morgan special on the WWE Network serves as another reminder that Morgan has earned a sustained run at the top of the card. She is incredibly talented but needs a legitimate chance to show she is one of the top talents in the world.
- Mike Bennett is back in Ring of Honor, where he looks to rebuild the organic momentum he had before leaving the company in 2015. He had uneven runs with Impact and then WWE, but there is plenty of potential working with and against Matt Taven in ROH.
- Terrible news regarding the amputation of Jimmy Rave’s left arm. For those looking to contribute, here is his GoFundMe.
Young Rock actor starring in upcoming film
The wrestling world will soon meet Uli Latukefu, who is set to play a starring role on Young Rock, the upcoming NBC series about Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson.
Latukefu plays the 18-to-20-year-old version of Johnson during the period when he suited up for the Miami Hurricanes football program. It is a natural fit for the 6' 5" Latukefu, who bears a striking resemblance to the famed wrestling icon. Before Young Rock premieres in 2021, Latukefu also stars in another wrestling-centric project, The Legend of Baron To’a, an action comedy, which will be released on Friday.
“I’ve enjoyed wrestling since the late ’80s and stealing my cousin’s Royal Rumble VHS tapes, so it was a thrill for me to be part of this,” Latukefu says. “The main attraction for me was the story about a guy who struggles with his identity. He looks up to his father but he’s trying to carve out his own name.
“There is also the cultural attachment with me being Tongan and the story being about a Tongan family. For those not aware, Tonga is a neighboring country to Samoa in the South Pacific, and to share this story is really meaningful because it’s one that hasn’t been told before.”
In the film, which will be available to stream, Latukefu takes on a local gang that stole his late father’s championship wrestling belt.
“The whole story revolves around getting this belt back,” Latukefu says. “And this story will translate to people more than they think. It’s about a father who was an immigrant that came over from Tonga and made something of himself.”
The Australian-born Latukefu grew up a wrestling fan, sharing that his favorites included the Ultimate Warrior, Jake (the Snake) Roberts, the Bushwackers, the British Bulldog and Bret Hart. Although he now has a couple wrestling-related projects on his resume, he noted that there are no plans to pursue a career in pro wrestling beyond what he is doing on-screen.
“I’m happy to have a stunt double,” Latukefu says with a smile. “I did close to 90% of my stunts, and I was very sore after that.”
In addition to presenting an interesting script, The Legend of Baron To’a serves as a chance for viewers to build a relationship with Latukefu before the Young Rock series.
“People haven’t seen anything like this before,” Latukefu says. “Generally speaking, there aren’t too many films from the Pacific Islands and that culture. It’s very enjoyable, and who doesn’t like an action comedy with some wrestling? I’m excited for people to watch.”
Tweet of the Week
I’ll stand by this: Die Hard is a Christmas movie.