Let’s get straight to the first thing you likely spotted: in AEW, it’s a ‘Coffin Match,’ a ‘Casket Match’ is a WWE property. Yes, they are basically the same. Though, as the main point of this particular piece of writing compares to the more famous WWE iteration, that’s why it’s in the title.
The match type itself is synonymous with one name: The Undertaker. Alongside its more menacing -and, let’s be honest, better- sister stipulation Buried Alive, the vast majority of them throughout history have in some way featured ‘The Dead Man.’ AEW decided to have a crack at it themselves, giving Darby Allin and Ethan Page the honour first. Before we get to that, let’s break down the history and issue with the Casket Match.
The Problem With The Casket Match
If we’re honest, the Casket Match may be possibly the worst recurring stipulation of all time -up there with the one-hour Iron Man and a Strap Match at least. The requirement of getting someone inside an open coffin then closing the lid to win makes the potential outcomes quite limiting. You know what the finish will be going in, so there’s no build for it. Also, as the coffin is usually irrelevant until the final sequence, the bit before it is basically just a normal match -like when a bad Hell in a Cell bout would’ve been identical had the structure not been involved. As a result, the best Casket Matches usually have little to do with their restrictive stipulation, meaning that they’re good irrespective of the casket, so it’s not actually a good “Casket Match,” just a good “match” -does that make sense?
It’s why many Casket Matches have an extra finish after the lid closes. For The Undertaker, that usually meant the coffin being set on fire. AEW’s Coffin Match variation did it, too, only with Darby Allin predictably doing a Coffin Drop through it -though just because something is predictable doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. While these often make for an exciting moment, it goes to show the problem with the stipulation when they feel they have to one-up the actual finish.
A Brief History Of The Casket Match
Many companies have tried it to varying degrees of success. Lucha Underground had their Grave Consequences version. TNA did it too. Though, as has previously been mentioned, the most famous version is in WWE.
The majority of Casket Matches took place in the mid-to-late nineties, with a revival between ‘05 and ‘08. All but a few involved the Undertaker, with most that didn’t instead featuring Kane. The one often cited that the best in WWE history was at the Royal Rumble ‘98 between HBK and ‘Taker. Putting nostalgia aside for a second, it was a good match, though nothing spectacular. It’s likely most often remembered for the betrayal and post-match coffin burning by Kane.
Surprisingly, the first Casket Match happened well before ‘Taker ever got his hands on it. It was a one-off between Dusty Rhodes and Ivan Koloff from 1980. The more you know, eh?
The renamed ‘Coffin Match’ -most likely done so as not to incur the wrath of Vinny Mac’s legal team- was pretty much the same as its casket counterpart but with weapons. Darby Allin always seemed the character type to be associated with a stipulation at some point, and it seems that the time is now. You could quite easily see one of these annually involving Darby from here on out. At least his finisher isn’t called a ‘Kennel From Hell Drop,’ or we may have had something far worse to contend with.
For a Casket Match, the one which took place on the recent AEW special, Fyter Fest Night One, on July 14th, 2021, was surprisingly great. You could even say it was the first good, non-indie one to take place since the late-nineties.
As usual with these things, the coffin itself was completely inconsequential. The match would’ve been just as good without it, and it only served as a way to get to the post-finish Coffin Drop -linked above- which was basically just a visual pun, albeit a fun one.
The Future Of Casket/Coffin Matches
We’ll probably get more Coffin Matches down the line. In fact, it almost seems inevitable. AEW loves to include stipulations related to its roster’s history. Hell, they’ll wheel out any gimmick that Dusty Rhodes ever sniffed at. I’m surprised Cody hasn’t publicly said yet how his father actually invented the Casket Match, and that’s why Vince McMahon is a bastard. So yes, there will be more of them, and you can be damn sure Cody will be involved in one.
Obviously, the match type will now be associated with Darby Allin, but considering AEW’s version focuses on weapons, that should play comfortably into Darby’s strength.