How Birling Skateshop Helped Organize Free Indoor Skateboarding in Ottawa
As told by Adam Wawrzynczak Photos by Aaron Cayer This past February, the city of Ottawa launched a free weekly indoor skateboarding...
Skateboarding and pro wrestling really aren’t all that different. With either one, you’re risking injury to enjoy an activity that’s constantly frowned upon by people who “just don’t get it.” Both are best enjoyed while watching with friends and with the consumption of alcohol.
As similar as they are in certain aspects, they’re still rarely seen together. But why is the combination of skateboarding and wrestling as hard to find as a guy with a pony-tail NOT wearing a Tool shirt?
Meet Darby Allin, pro wrestling’s first skateboarder. He’s managed to combine his love of skateboarding and wrestling on a successful run to become one of upstart wrestling promotion AEW’s new champions while successfully avoiding making the skater gimmick feel corny.
We caught up with him to talk about life as a professional wrestler, his love of skateboarding, and that time he appeared on Sex Sent Me to the ER.
Where are you calling from right now?
Beautiful. Is that hometown, or?
I live here now but it’s definitely not my hometown. I grew up in Seattle. I just bought this house in Atlanta so it’s cool.
Oh, congratulations, man. It’s not easy right now during the lockdown and everything to buy housing. Like right now, I’m calling from Toronto and I think a one or two bedroom is a million bucks. So, I don’t really plan on buying shit for a while.
Oh, yeah, no. Fuck all that shit. I live out here in the woods and stuff so I have like thirteen acres down here. I have a lot of privacy. I couldn’t live in the city. Shit’s way too expensive.
Are you a hunter at all or you just like the outdoors?
I just build shit. I want my house to be like Pastrana’s or Bam’s house where it’s just crazy shit on their property. I look up to houses like that. Where it’s pretty loud and shit’s blowing up.
Actually, the last time I heard of Bam he was doing an end of the Bam Castle thing and he was getting everyone to piss in a hot tub. Then at midnight he was going to jump in there so I hope he’s doing well…
I’m going to his house next week for five days. We go there like every month.
How’s he doing?
Good. He’s actually in California right now so he’s not even there. We just get the place to ourselves and we just skate the barn and hang out and do bullshit.
That’s incredible- he just gives you the keys to the kingdom?
That’s a level of trust I don’t think I have with my friends at all, so respect to Bam.
I can do it. I think he sees that on my end I’m not a freeloader, you know. Like dude, I’m on TV. I’ve got my own shit to worry about. I’m not here to shit in your closet.
Or piss in the hot tub. How did you and Bam meet?
Ah, shit (sighs) Just through mutual friends, I guess. Novak kind of got me hooked up with him.
Oh, Brandon Novak. He’s doing fantastic. What is he four or five years sober now?
Yeah. He’s doing sick! He’s doing real good. There was that thing over the summer where I wanted to feature as many alternative sports people as I could that I looked up to on AEW. I got Tony Hawk on, Pastrana on. I got Steve-O on and I wanted Bam on but it didn’t work out with the scheduling. It’s cool. That’s how we kind of connect it.
So what kind of came first? Was it the love of pro wrestling or was it a love of skateboarding?
It was the love of pro wrestling that came first. That was like, Jesus, I can’t remember- it was just always there. You know, it was one of those things where you can’t remember where you started the shit but it was always just there.
With skateboarding, it could just be the board and me. I didn’t have to have a coach whether it was a team sport or whatever the hell you would do growing up. Then I totally fell out of love with wrestling because the shit got unbearable to watch. And then, yeah, fast forward now and I’m here.
How would you describe AEW versus WWE to skateboarders who have never really watched AEW?
I would describe it as having a lot of creative freedom. You see a lot of shit that you wouldn’t see on your average wrestling show and it’s really nice and refreshing to me. There’s just something about the world of pro wrestling where I feel like there’s so many small-minded people. Like we live in this bubble of what professional wrestling is and fuck, it’s unbearable at times. That’s how I would describe it. You get people like me being able to skate with Tony Hawk on the TV show and, you know, jump off an 80 foot bridge or whatever the hell I see fit.
Do you get to pick your own entrance music and everything in AEW?
Yeah, yeah. I had my friend Wicca Phase Springs Eternal create my jam. I gave him an old skate punk band and I told him like “Yo, could you have the song kind of sound like that.” That was all an original piece. I mean if you have the creative mind for things just let it fly down there.
What do you think is the best entrance music song of all time and why is it Billy Gunn’s theme song?
I don’t know. Honestly, I’m trying to think of something that if you showed a group of fools they would be like “This doesn’t seem wrestling. This transcends wrestling, this transcends everything.” I don’t know what the greatest song is to be honest. Billy Gunn’s is funny because I feel like you could play it in a room full of people and they would think it’s hilarious. I don’t know what the best jam is that would actually get me to jump off something or go crazy. I don’t know.
Maybe that’s why the AEW is so much better than the WWE right now. They’re letting you have that creative freedom to get hyped up. And it’s your own thing. You’re not playing, you know, a puppet of Vince McMahon, right?
Yeah, dude, that’s the reason I signed. I saw the writing on the wall. If I was to join anywhere else, I would have had to play a role, a character.
I had a fighting chance in this world of professional wrestling at AEW because I knew if someone just let me be me, I’d be selling good.
Can you tell us what it’s like to be a part of the John Huber memorial episode of Dynamite?
That was that was a good experience to have everybody have one come and go for the night and pay tribute to him. It was a very special feeling backstage. You know, it’s something I haven’t experienced in wrestling or really in life. There’s funerals that I’ve been to but this is like we’re presenting the world with our memorial. It was a very uplifting night. You realize how important things are with people.
What would you say is your Mount Rushmore of wrestlers. Your top four?
I don’t give a shit. Yeah. I don’t care.
Do you have a Mount Rushmore of pro skateboarders?
I am trying to think. Dustin Dollin would be in there. Obviously Tony Hawk, Geoff Rowley. There’s so many young guys that I like too. Rowan Zorilla, Ben Kadow. I love all those guys. It’s just the list thing. I can’t pick. There’s certain people I watch and then it gets me so hyped to go wrestle. I wake up and watch, you know, that new Hockey/Fucking Awesome skate video. It’s like dancing on thin ice. That shit gets me so high to just get thrown through a table.
Speaking of which, you grew up with Matt Schlager, right?
Yeah, he was a local. He lived down the street from me. Ran into him at the skate park after his Ridiculousness episode. We just started shooting the shit because I dropped in on this crazy ass lightning bolt sculpture in Seattle for the All City showdown. That was a skate contest back in the day in Seattle. I dropped in on that and that was my kind of local legend status. He had his own being the Ollie down thirteen flat thirteen in the rain. We kind of bonded by being dumb fucks.
Is it true that you bombed down that sculpture with the two broken ankles?
Yeah, I had a fractured ankle. All summer I was like I’ll have to I set a date to drop in on the lightning bolt and I had the fucked ankle and I was like, OK, well, I’m going to let this ankle heal and I’m going to do this. But my dumb ass was walking on a fucking ledge and then I fell off and I couldn’t catch myself with my bad ankle so I tried to catch myself with my good ankle and it just went (makes snap sound). But when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. So that day I rolled up and then and I was like, all right. I just taped them up. Yeah man, it ended bad. I don’t know though, it ended kind of good because the slam was so iconic for me.
Was that on Ridiculousness as well? No, that was on the Tony Hawk Ride channel. They purchased the rights to it. I was on Ridiculousness a bunch of times though.
What were the videos on Ridiculousness?
Skate slams, gross shit. You name it I did it. I licked the gum wall in Seattle if you know what that is.
No, what’s that?
It’s a wall in Seattle in an alleyway. Tourists put their gum on it and the whole thing is full. I licked the whole wall and ate the side of it. I did that for Ridiculousness and that was cool.
Did you get recognized on the street for that?
No. In the video I had a red fucking thing tied around my ass like a cracked out Karate instructor. So nobody is going to recognize me for that and it was at nighttime. It’s fun, you know, man, I don’t care. Like I got tested.
That wasn’t your first time on TV. You were on ‘Sex Sent Me To The E.R.’ if that’s correct? With a made up story?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I slept with a lady and got attacked by bees and shit. It was a good time. I like that man. It’s so fun. I was just going to film school in Arizona and I broke my foot trying to drop in on this sculpture in Arizona so I couldn’t get a job because they didn’t want to hire a dude in a cast and crutches and shit like that. So I hit them up. I made up a story and they thought it was real. I forged a fake doctor’s note, so they thought it was real and then they flew me down to Pasadena and the rest is history. I had a good time. I was hyped. I was like my first time I ever got paid for anything. It was entertainment, really.
That’s amazing. What was the story? You slept with an old lady and then bees got you.
Yeah. Rolled over onto a bee’s nest. It was either that or I was going to have one where I was allergic to cats and I’m with the old lady in the bed and we didn’t know the cat was under the blankets and was clawing me and I like swelled up like a balloon and floated away.
That’s really fucking good. Was that story inspired by any true events?
No, not inspired by anything. I mean when you have a broken foot in Arizona when it’s like one hundred twenty degrees outside and you’re inside all day, you start thinking of some random shit.
How would you say pro wrestling and pro skateboarding are similar?
The adrenaline rush and the pain. Professional wrestling is cool because when you do have a wipe out there’s like hundreds or thousands of people. But sometimes when you’re skating and you fall and there’s like three people, there’s not that much of a rush. It just fucking sucks. There’s something about both worlds where there’s that element of danger that gets me going. You know, for example, when I was fighting Brian Cage last week and going through that table as I was in the air. It gave me flashbacks of like crazy skateboard stunts. There’s a lot of similarities, just the danger. And I love it.
Well, I mean, if you’re going off a giant sculpture and you’re doing, what was that that jump- like 50 feet to the table that you did the Brian Cage?
Yeah it was a big boy. Super fun. I don’t know man, if it wasn’t for wrestling I don’t know what I’d be doing right now. I was getting pretty risky with the stunts I was doing for wrestling. In kind weird way I feel like wrestling, as crazy as I wrestle, I feel like it tames me.
How does the backstage react to you being a skateboarder? Do they accept it with open arms, or is it one of those things where they just don’t understand?
Yeah, they accept it. There’s not really anything to it. I’m just skating, you know what I mean? I’m so disconnected from other wrestlers. I’m so bored with people. I just like to skate and go on crazy adventures. I’m not there to be friends with anybody, man. I’ll change in the boiler room by myself. That’s not a lie, that’s true.
Did Chris Jericho kind of push you towards the skateboarding wrestler idea?
Yeah. I was bringing the skateboard and doing stuff on the skateboard on the independents. Like hitting people with it here and there. The actual entrance he pushed me for riding the board down the ramp and shit.
That’s amazing. Canadian legend.
Yes. I just didn’t want to do it at first because I know to me, skateboarding in professional wrestling forever was known as the hokiest shit there was. So I was like, dude, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make something I’m so passionate about hokey. Then I realized if I can make it crazy and jump on people’s backs with thumbtack skateboards then it can feel like that raw Thrasher’s style instead of just hokey eighties bullshit. So I made it my own and we’re here today.
You have that move where you acid drop on their back. How do they react when you tell them backstage, this is the move that’s going to go down? If somebody told me that, I would be like, there’s absolutely no fucking way.
Well, it depends. I pick and choose who I do that with. I’ve only done it to like two guys, three guys maybe and it’s normally a receipt because literally I’m like “Yeah, motherfucker, you knocked me out last week, so I’m jumping on your back.” He’s like, “OK, I get it.” You can’t complain. Just revenge.
I always thought too growing up as a kid you’d see the Pedigree and you’re like, wow, that looks like that’s just worst move to take. What is the worst finishing move to take that people kind of just dread at the end of the match?
Dude, I don’t know for others, but for myself in particular, getting the 450 splash.
Oh yeah. The Juventud Guerrera.
Yeah. Like all that shit. That for some reason man, whew, it just sucks the life out of you. It’s fucking wild.
A little side story- years ago I interviewed Diamond Dallas Page. It was one of the most bizarre interviews I’ve ever done hands down. I asked him what his worst injury was and he gave me a story about cheese substitutes for a half an hour. And then he finally ended it with “It’s probably the elbow drop from Macho Man Randy Savage. It feels like you’re going to shit out your intestines.” On the topic of another wrestling legend, what’s it like to work with Sting?
It’s sick. He’s game for whatever. I would show him videos and he’s like “You’re out of your mind, but this works.” The first thing I showed him was me running my friend over with the car in my backyard for like that one problem. It was sick because I got to use a Grindline song for that. I know a lot of people don’t know Grindline from outside the skate world so it’s cool to use stuff like that. He’s down, man. He’s like “What do you have planned this week?”
You can watch Darby Allin on AEW DYNAMITE every Wednesday on TSN.