Why Darby Allin Should Wrestle Sting’s Last Match

In a year that already looks like it’s going to be full of big twists, turns, surprises and moments for the wrestling world, one of the things being heavily discussed by the wrestling fandom worldwide is Sting’s last match. That’s right: after an illustrious 38-year career, ‘The Stinger’ has decided to hang up the boots for good.

This one is a little bittersweet for me. Sting debuted just 19 days after I was born (!), meaning he has always been part of my wrestling fandom in some way or other. I was most certainly a ‘little Stinger’, and I most certainly grew up into a ‘big Stinger’. At his best, there was hardly a more dynamic, more exciting personality than Sting. And while he may not ever have been a Bryan Danielson-style work rate wrestler, ‘The Stinger’ could GO in that ring, wowing fans with an exhilarating mix of power moves and surprising athleticism. His classic feuds with the likes of Ric Flair, Vader and The Great Muta will go down in wrestling history as some of the best feuds ever.

Sting has more than earned his retirement, and it’s a testament to his love of wrestling that he has stayed in the business so long. As such, an official ‘last match’ should offer the kind of sense of occasion befitting such a farewell and celebration. It should be on a big stage and it should be against the kind of opponent that feels appropriate for such a match.

Well, AEW have managed to tick the first box—the match is scheduled to take place at their next PPV, Revolution, on March 23rd at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. The location is fitting; this is the very same venue in which Sting went to a 45-minute draw with then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair at the very first Clash of the Champions event in 1988. Arguably, that was the match that made Sting a star, so having Sting’s last match there gives a lovely ‘full circle’ feel to the bout. Kudos to AEW for this move.

However, the same cannot be said about the choice of final opponents for Sting. That’s right: opponents. In a particularly deflating move, AEW seems to be pushing The Young Bucks for Sting’s last match…

Why The Bucks Are Not the Right Choice

To my mind, there are two main criteria that should be considered when picking a retiring wrestler’s last opponent, especially when that wrestler is someone as important and beloved as Sting. Firstly, will that opponent offer the kind of gravitas and occasion that the situation warrants? The match is not just a full stop on a career; it’s a celebration of that career as well. It should be celebratory, nostalgic, referencing what this wrestler has done in his career. It’s why Ric Flair originally wanted Ricky Steamboat to be involved in his last match. It’s why its fitting that Steve Austin’s last match as a full-time wrestler was against one of his most legendary adversaries, The Rock. The history matters.

Secondly, if the match is not to be an exercise in nostalgia, then it should be used to put a younger talent over and help take them to the next level and build them into a star. It’s a time-honoured tradition (if not always wrestler-honoured), when moving to pastures new, to put over the promotion’s next big thing when leaving. In theory, that should work two-fold when that match is a retirement. Imagine the rub a younger talent could get not only wrestling in a big star’s final bout but beating said retiring star convincingly and cleanly. Sting knows all about this: while Flair didn’t retire, and the end result was a draw, the aforementioned Clash of the Champions match made Sting, thanks to how giving Flair was. Flair knew Sting was going to be the new big thing and did what he could to put him over. An argument could be made that it would be somehow appropriate for Sting to do the same thing in his last match.

The Young Bucks discuss Sting's last match with Renee Paquette

The Young Bucks, based on this criteria, are nowhere near the right choice for opponents in Sting’s last match. Firstly, I don’t believe they have any prior history with Sting in other promotions, and they have only wrestled each other once, a six-man tag also involving Darby Allin, Shingo Takagi and El Phantasmo at the joint AEW/NJPW Forbidden Door PPV in 2022. That’s nowhere near being enough to play on the nostalgia angle or to celebrate Sting’s historic career. That leaves the idea of Sting putting the Bucks over on his way out, and although The Bucks seem to have major ‘go away’ heat at the moment, they are already big names on their own terms. They wouldn’t get any benefit from Sting putting them over, nor would Sting really get anything from beating them. There’s no sense of occasion there, of importance. It just doesn’t work.

There’s also the suspicion that The Bucks wormed their way into Sting’s last match as a way to get back on camera and take what they feel, I’m sure, are ‘justified’ potshots at CM Punk. You only have to look at The Bucks’ backstage segment on the January 17th edition of Dynamite. Rather than put all the focus on why they had returned to confront Sting, thereby promoting their upcoming match, Matt Jackson gave the following monologue:

“When we started AEW—you don’t know, you weren’t there in the beginning so you don’t know—but we used to say “change the world”. That was the slogan: “Change the world”. And we did, we were disrupters, we were rebels, we spat in the face of tradition. It was out with the old and in with the new, Renee. And for a while, we were doing that, we were changing the world and…somewhere along the way, we did lose our way. It was like the culture shifted, the toxicity creeped into the locker rooms, and the perception of the company, it was just different. And I think I know why. I think it’s because we started to lean on yesterday’s self-serving, superficial, cancerous superstars.

And you mentioned Sting. This isn’t about Sting. Sting is none of those things. Sting is great. He’s a role model employee. He is awesome, in the conversation for one of the greatest of all time. I am actually envious of the way people talk about him. Maybe they’ll talk about us like that one day. However, it’s about what Sting represents.Sting is the last of a dying breed, and the image of Sting, it isn’t with what we wanted to do here in AEW, we wanted to change the world. So unfortunately for Sting, we’re gonna have to say goodbye to Sting and everybody like Sting…”

Reading the above, you would be well within your rights to respond with, “ok, so if it’s not about Sting, what’s the point? Why are you having this match?” Predictably, fans did just that, taking to social media to talk about how the Bucks were still trying to pick fights with CM Punk. they talked much less, unfortunately, about the Sting match. Because that’s how you sell tickets…

Even if you take the tack that The Bucks are playing on the public perception of how fans believe the Bucks really feel about Punk, to get major heel heat (and if the chants of “shut the f**k up while they were speaking were anything to go by, they’re getting the wrong kind of heat), it remains that this promo did nothing to make the match with Sting feel like anything but a side note. And maybe to The Bucks that’s all it is, a stepping stone on the path to wherever it is they’re taking this evil, Punk-bashing VP gimmick. But that only means that the match with Sting is not getting the real respect and sense of occasion it deserves.

Sting takes the mic on AEW Dynamite

While I take on board the fact that, apparently, it was Sting’s choice to have The Bucks in his last match (as he enjoyed his Forbidden Door match with them) and that The Bucks came back for it earlier than they’d intended to, I still believe the match is being sold short. From a fantasy booking point of view, there is a much more satisfying match out there to be had for Sting’s last match, one that meets the criteria of being celebratory, relevant to Sting’s (recent) past and would put a younger talent over and push them potentially to the next level.

I believe Darby Allin needs to be the opponent in Sting’s last match.

A Man Called Darby

When Sting first joined AEW at the end of 2022, it looked like we might have been heading towards a ‘Stinger’-Cody Rhodes matchup. I didn’t anticipate that over three years later, Darby Allin and Sting would still be part of a much-loved pairing that has endeared itself to fans through its mentor-and-student relationship. The pairing at first signed a little superficial: both wore face paint and both were moody, grungy characters, with Sting’s image playing off The Crow. But beneath the surface, there were deeper connections between the two.

Sting’s ‘Crow’ gimmick came from what he saw as his betrayal by his fellow WCW wrestlers when they suspected, wrongly, that he had joined the nWo. After everything he had done for the company, ‘The Franchise’ had been doubted, accused, insulted and rejected. The pain manifested itself in the gothic, loner ‘Crow’ version of Sting. Pain was something Darby Allin knew all about, from having experienced a period of homelessness to having survived the car crash that killed his uncle. From a kayfabe point of view, Sting had bounced back, defeated nemesis ‘Hollywood’ Hogan and captured the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, putting him back as the figurehead of his beloved company. If anyone could guide Darby Allin to success, Sting could.

The relationship was mutually beneficial. Sting had only intended to wrestle in AEW in cinematic matches at first, perhaps conscious of his ageing ability in such a workrate-focussed company. It was Allin who persuaded Sting that he could still go live and in front of people, resulting in ‘The Stinger’ returning to the ring at Double or Nothing in 2021. Sting never looked back, having wrestled a further 25 matches to date from that point, all in front of live crowds. The pairing with Darby Allin also seemed to light a fire under Sting, seeing him pull out extremely crazy dives on a semi-regular basis like he was a young wrestler all over again. Now, I’m not advocating that all older wrestlers should be doing crazy highspots just to keep up with young talent—Sting was clearly doing what he felt comfortable with and has thankfully come out unscathed—but it was noticeable that Sting was pulling out some tricks he wouldn’t have considered ten years earlier.

The argument could be made, however, that the partnership has benefitted Sting more than Allin. ‘The Stinger’ has been re-energised, and has found a comfortable place on the card where he is supported by a younger wrestler who can do a lot more of the legwork in the ring. Allin, on the other hand, has found himself in a comfortable holding pattern—perhaps too comfortable. Part of that is down to how Darby has been booked, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that Darby has given more of a rub to Sting than the other way around.

Sting and Darby Allin share a fist bump

Remember, when AEW started Darby Allin was positioned in a way that suggested big things in his future; his first match was against Cody Rhodes; a lot of time and attention were given to his vignettes; he came to the aid of bigger stars than him on an early Dynamite, skateboarding down to the ring and clobbering Jericho and The Inner Circle with the board. He held the TNT Championship twice, which suggested the promotion had a lot of confidence in his future. Hell, he was even picked to be CM Punk’s first opponent after an eight-and-a-half-year absence from the sport. Darby Allin should be a made man.

And yet he’s not. By no means is Darby Allin the only victim of AEW’s stop-start booking, but when you consider the potential Allin has to be a star, and one who would be an alternative to the style of stars in other companies, and the fact that Allin seemed to be singled out for big things early on in his AEW career, it seems shocking that he is still stuck in a mid-card rut. His brief second run with the TNT Championship ended after 28 days when he dropped the belt back to the man he beat for the belt, Samoa Joe, in an exercise clearly designed to elevate the already-established Joe, with very little benefit to Allin, who was soon back in the mid-card, and sometimes opening the show, in tandem with Sting.

Even Darby’s Double or Nothing 2023 main event against Sammy Guevara, Jungle Boy and then-AEW World Heavyweight Champion seemed designed more to appease AEW fans critical of the promotion’s use of the young, original talent, in particular the so-called ‘Four Pillars’, that were initially pushed in the company’s infancy and now have their momentum stop and start like a faulty locomotive. Needless to say, Darby has been nowhere near AEW’s main event scene since Double or Nothing. Instead, it’s been back down to the lower reaches of the card with ‘The Stinger’.

Why Darby Allin is the Right Man to Retire Sting

It’s fair to say that Allin and Sting are used by AEW as a fun attraction, a team you’re happy to see on the card without being particularly invested in. You enjoy watching them but you know they’re there to warm the crowd up before the bigger matches with bigger stakes take place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an important role, but one in which Allin is seeing his substantial talents wasted. While the team of Sting and Allin works on paper, ultimately Allin has gained little in the way of rub from the association. By having the student challenge and ultimately retire the mentor, AEW could go a long way to righting that and have Allin retire his friend and partner. Imagine the rub you could get from being the man to retire Sting—wow! Just one match could be a complete star-maker.

AEW doesn’t even need to turn Allin to set up the match. Have Allin save Sting from an attack from The Bucks and then have Allin challenge ‘The Stinger’ to the match. Have Darby say with Sting leaving, it’s time for Darby to become his own man. The only way he’s going to be able to do that is by proving he can step out of his shadow first—by wrestling Sting’s last match and retiring him. Sting can appear shocked and conflicted, but ultimately agree to the match out of respect for Darby. Simple. Get the audience invested in the match by having them question whether Darby can fill Sting’s boots or whether he’ll crash just like he has done in other big matches. Play on the fact that Darby hasn’t been seen via the booking to have reached his potential. Even sow some doubt as to whether the pair can keep it civil before the match or whether they’ll snap at each other with the tension.

Sting and Darby Allin share a tense glance

Allin will be more than capable of making Sting look good in the match, considering Darby is one hell of a bump machine. But ultimately, Darby should prevail. And he should do it in a way where Sting has put up a hell of a fight, he has made Darby work for it, but that his victory is deserved. Have Sting hug Darby after and raise Allin’s hand in the ring. If done correctly, there should be no looking back for Darby Allin. He did the thing no other wrestler could do: retire Sting. Where AEW would go with Darby from there is certainly open, but a big high-profile feud with a big-name opponent would double down on the rub gained from retiring Sting.

Darby has a distinct enough personality to make him stand out as a star on the roster. While not necessarily the strongest promo, his grungy, moody vignettes have a strong, individual character and directed into the right story and the right feud, Allin’s promos could very effective indeed. And on a roster where a majority of guys and girls are willing to push their bodies to the limit with violence and crazy aerial spots, Allin’s own take on death-defiance stands out less as a desire to pop a crowd and more often as some form of self-flagellation. With his absolute absence of fear and his smaller frame lending a sense of added drama to his bumps—how does his body withstand the punishment it takes?—Allin’s performances often feel like they are reaching to be transgressive in the way, say, Darby’s hero GG Allin was in his own punk performances. At Allin’s best, you are compelled to wonder what is driving him to commit the acts of reckless insanity he does. And that drama, that ability to stand out, is why Darby should be a star and why he should get the rub from Sting’s last match.

It also make sense for Sting. Yes, it might be recent history, but his partnership with Darby Allin has still been a big part of the sunset years of ‘The Stinger’s’ career. Having Darby be Sting’s final opponent gives an additional level of meaningfulness to the match in a way The Bucks can’t offer. It adds an extra level of emotion to the encounter. Not only that, but it also fulfills the tradition of giving an up-and-coming wrestler a major rub whilst on your way out. Mission acomplished.

Ultimately, if The Young Bucks are Sting’s own personal choice for his final match, then who am I to question Sting, especially after he has given to wrestling over the years? It’s just that I think a match as important as Sting’s last match should have more to it than just a random match with a team that doesn’t really need the rub. One thing I do know: I will be emotional during the match and I’m gonna miss the hell out of seeing Sting in a wrestling ring.

Thank you, ‘Stinger’.


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Written by Chris Flackett

Chris Flackett is a writer for 25YL who loves Twin Peaks, David Lynch, great absurdist literature and listens to music like he's breathing oxygen. He lives in Manchester, England with his beautiful wife, three kids and the ghosts of Manchester music history all around him.

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