wrestling / Video Reviews

Hawke Reviews CM Punk vs. Darby Allin from AEW All Out

January 15, 2022 | Posted by TJ Hawke
Darby Allin CM Punk AEW All Out

Greetings, devoted TJ Hawke readers of 411mania.com. I know you must have missed me and can barely contain your enthusiasm for my presence once again gracing this website.

You may be wondering where I have been these last two years. While I could give a longwinded answer that attempts to provide an adequate response to that inquiry, the long and short of it is that there has not been too much in the world of pro wrestling that has inspired me enough to want to write about it.

I know you must have felt adrift and lost without my insight and analysis. The mere idea of that thought has haunted me for 24 months. As such, I can deprive you no longer.

And while duty probably would have caused me to return to these shores sooner rather than later, I am excited to report that something authentically good in pro wrestling is actually why I am here.

You see, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson joined All Elite Wrestling in 2021. While neither man was flawless in their first months with AEW, both demonstrated time and time again that they are two of the best modern wrestlers ever. Free from the obstacles that WWE forces onto wrestlers, Punk and Bryan produced some of the most sincerely interesting pro wrestling from a national United States promotion ever.

Hence why I decided I wanted to do something special to commemorate their work in AEW: I wrote a book about what they did.

The following is an excerpt from TJ Hawke’s first book: The 2021 CM Punk and Bryan Danielson AEW Match Diary: Reviews of Each Match CM Punk and Bryan Danielson worked in 2021. Buy it here.


CM Punk vs. Darby Allin

Going into this match, I genuinely did not know what to expect. 

The CM Punk wrestling return had been going about as well as it could be going. His first feud/match was going to be with the best active wrestler in the United States at the time. It was happening in Punk’s hometown. All the stars were aligned. 

But how well would CM Punk be able to perform at his age after so many years without being in the ring at all?

The match started with an homage to the infamous Bret Hart match against The 1-2-3 Kid. Here it signaled less that match’s particular story but instead that Darby likely had the in-ring advantage in this contest. Darby was faster and sharper. Punk was slow and rusty.

The problem for Darby though was that there was another difference between the two: Darby was younger.

Punk responded to that initial moment by utilizing the (rare for him) strength/size advantage he had over Darby. Uncharacteristically, Darby’s youth got the better of him, as he seemed to grow tentative and hesitant in response. Instead of just blowing up Punk, he fell into the trap of letting Punk dictate the action. 

Naturally though, Darby started to quicken the match to get the match more in his zone…and Punk nearly caught him with a GTS. Darby had not done enough damage and grew reckless and almost paid for it. 

Simultaneously though, Punk revealed his own desperation. He knew he needed that move in this match to give himself a chance. The GTS was his ace in the hole that he was going to use to bail himself out clearly. He gave away what the rest of the match later revealed: he really had no other clear path to victory.

That near-early-finishing sequence made Darby regress back into hesitancy and tentativeness, and it gave Punk room to slow things down more and dictate a deliberate pace with him on top.

While Punk was firmly controlling the match for this period, he was not truly dominating in the Brock Lesnar sense or anything like that. His rust was showing. He had Darby truly vulnerable after sending Allin violently into a ringpost. Instead of going for the kill, Punk settled for what may seem to be a low risk strategy. He never went for anything too big and instead settled time and time again for measured offense.

In reality though, the longer the match went, the more the old, tired, and out-of-ring-shape Punk would be opening himself up to losing. Punk’s strategy would nearly cost him.

Darby used his fast-paced offense to fight back and make some in-roads on a path to victory. Punk immediately understood the danger though and tried to force a GTS out of nowhere. Darby escaped but Punk knew how essential the GTS was to him having a shot at victory, and he maneuvered himself to finally connect on it on the third attempt.

Only for Darby to fall out of the ring after getting his face smashed.

While Punk understood how much of a missed opportunity that connected GTS was, he did at least now have a much better chance of victory. Punk tried to force through another GTS, but Darby fought for his life and escaped. 

Things were looking bleak for Darby at this point, and in his desperation he instinctively relied on what was his best chance to win (and win easily). He unleashed a series of lightning-quick moves including his trademarked terrifying tope suicida and a gnarly swanton to the floor.

Those high risk dives by Darby immediately paid off as it felt like the match was suddenly up for grabs. Despite Punk taking the majority of the match and even connecting on a GTS already, he really did not punish Darby in a meaningful way. A couple of big moves from Darby was all it took to even things up. 

Darby decided the time was right to finish things off, and he went for the coffin drop back in the ring. Punk cheekily avoided it, and that kicked off a sequence with Darby ever-so slightly on his heels that eventually concluded with a GTS (in the middle of the ring this time) and a victorious CM Punk.

This match was a masterclass on how to maximize a hand you’re dealt. CM Punk was never going to be in peak physical form for his first match back, while Darby Allin was in his physical prime. CM Punk should probably win his heavily hyped return in the context of US wrestling and especially one that was booked for his hometown. Meanwhile, Darby is one of the fastest rising stars in wrestling in years and needs to be seen as rising through the ranks. 

In lesser hands in the ring and duller minds behind the scenes, this would be a recipe for an unsatisfying display of mediocrity.

Here, at All Out 2021, we instead got brilliance. Both men came out of this looking great but with room to grow as characters and as performers. They managed to make this match wholly conclusive in its own right while also leaving a tremendous amount of room open for future singles matches if they wanted. 

It was one of those matches that reminded me how fucking awesome excellent pro wrestling is all over again. (****¾)

Review originally published at Everything Elite.

article topics :

AEW All Out, TJ Hawke