For much of his career I had no idea who Eddie Kingston was.
That changed very quickly in 2019.
Not having watched Impact or ROH for quite some time, and not while he was working there, seeing him for the first time in NWA in 2019 was a jolt to the system because he has an indispensable uniqueness to his character.
The first time I heard him speak was his debut promo in NWA, which was really just him sitting down on a porch and talking about his path and the people he wanted to take out all while putting the entire company on notice. It was the way he talked, what he said, but most importantly the conviction of how he presented himself. Some wrestlers can cut the exact same promo and come off as forced, but this was organic. I also remember some time later on in one episode of Powerrr where he confronted the Pope over how he had treated Homicide; someone Kingston credited with saving him from taking his own life. Reality and theater completely blended here, as the look in Kingston’s eyes made you sure without any doubt he believed every word he said. Not because it was a character he was in, but because he meant it. Heart and soul. I think that’s when I was hooked on him, even if I was very late to party on Eddie Kingston.
I’m still cooler than those lame bandwagoners who only jumped on his coattails once he arrived in AEW to challenge Cody Rhodes for the TNT title, so I at least have that.
Before we get to the meat of the point, let’s talk about why the AEW part of the story matters. You might recall about two years ago, days before he and CM Punk were to going to fight at Full Gear 2021, he penned his own article for The Players Tribune. You can click the link to fully read it, but here’s an excerpt:
I didn’t want to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium.
I didn’t want to throw a touchdown pass at the Superbowl.
I didn’t wanna be a f***ing astronaut.
I wanted to be a professional wrestler.
It’s an amazing thing to know what you want at all out of this life, and it’s another to put yourself on the path toward getting there. The journey there is never easy though, and most likely you’ll get knocked off that path. Maybe you recover. Maybe you don’t. How you respond matters one way or the other, because your options are either push on… or quit.
Over time he probably had every reason to retire. Busting your ass for years only to end up wrestling in front of eight people, none of which were even sitting together. Then to top it off, probably not even getting paid. In the article he details a lot of the hardship he faced coming up, the people who reached out to help him, whether they were “Large Marge” or one of his good friends. When you have time you should read it if you haven’t already.
One passage that jumps out though is one story about his brother. One day he was at Eddie’s house and Kingston told his brother he was just going to move to Alaska, work with his hands and start a new life far away from the insanity of wrestling (my words, not his). He’d given up, had no ties holding him where he was and considered himself a failure. It’s the kind of low you feel when you’ve got little left and have to swallow your pride to get by. Here is another excerpt:
“He just looked at me, like only a brother can look at you, and then he took a sip of whiskey and he paused. Then he said, “Alright. Hey, you do you. It’s your life. What am I gonna tell my son, though?”
My nephew had just been born.
I said, “What the hell are you talking about?”
He said, “How am I gonna tell my son not to be a quitter when his uncle quit on his dream?”
And I just looked at him like: “You son of a bitch. How dare you help me? How dare you.”
I had this vision of my nephew in the first grade, talking to his friends at school, like, “My uncle’s a wrestler!”
And you know how little kids are: “What??? No he’s not!!! Your uncle’s not a wrestler!!!”
I decided in that moment that I couldn’t quit.
Eddie’s story matters, and not just the touchstone itself at Saturday night’s AEW Continental Classic Triple Crown Championship clincher at World’s End. Title wins are a dime a dozen, but the road travelled is what makes it special. Especially in his case; it feels earned.
Prior to his AEW debut COVID had just hit, he was in the U.K. and was stranded there. He had to use his last $2,000 just to get home. He claims he saw the end, resigned himself to having to sell his ring gear just to make a mortgage payment and was a month shy from outright losing his home altogether; on the brink of having to move in with his mother. I think that’s more uncomfortably relatable than anyone reading this might care to admit, but it’s reality all the same for many people.
I think if you watch wrestling long enough you can distinguish between fact and fiction, what’s real and what’s not, and more importantly when it comes to the people who step between the ropes the authenticity of the passion that comes out in key moments. However, let’s say you’ve been deprived of that on your whole journey–few ups and mostly downs. Faced with the scenario of losing everything, what then? Your only option is to make your own luck. In this case, with nothing left to lose, Kingston took the mic at an outdoor show in New Jersey and proceeded to run down every champion in every company. He called out everyone.
That got clipped and made its way to Cody Rhodes and AEW, who invited Kingston to Dynamite where he then ran down Rhodes and declared he was going to gouge out Arn Anderson’s eye if he pointed his finger at him, and the rest is history. The groundswell of support that came from that one match, that one effort feels like it reinvigorated him and renewed the young kid who just loved wrestling and happily waited, traded, waited, and then traded some more AJPW tapes of Misawa, Kobashi, Taue and Kawada among others.
You know the rest, but to say Eddie Kingston is beloved by pro wrestling fans is understated. To say his journey in bullet points is unique would be false. Everyone struggles at some point, we all get down and ponder why we’re still hitting our heads against walls when it seems pointless. If anything, at the granular level what he’s picked himself up from is remarkable and worth being inspired by.
One year ago Eddie Kingston had never held a world title. He only just debuted for NJPW a little over two years ago. And yet last year alone he competed in NJPW’s G1 Climax. He won the NJPW Strong Openweight Title. He won the ROH World Title. And now as 2023 comes to a close, he won the AEW Continental Classic to claim the tournament’s championship and the right to unite the three titles into a modern American Triple Crown Championship linking AEW, ROH and NJPW together. The cherry to top the sundae was defeating Jon Moxley, someone he’d never beaten, had been a friend and foe of, and someone who bullied him into giving his best Saturday night at World’s End. The aftermath of the win, with Kingston now holding three championships, was a “hey, look at you” nudge from Mox and a big hug before Mox took his leave from the ringside area to give Kingston his deserved moment.
So what does his story mean?
Hard work and perseverance pay off. And if you direct that toward something you’re passionate about, the struggle to get there is well worth it. That simple formula applies to anything. But the next part is twofold–if you’re in his place, what do you do now? Your life’s work has all come together to the apex where you hold three titles–an American Triple Crown–and you’ve exorcised three ghosts in short order in defeating Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli twice in a span of four months. You could question yourself, as Eddie might, about whether you deserve it, ask yourself if you’ve peaked, or how long will it be before it all goes away. The answer to all of that is it depends on you in that moment, and I say “you” because at the core of his story is the simple reality that he is most of us. His story is not that unfamiliar ups and downs alike.
The more you think about it the answer to what his story’s meaning is, is pretty simple. And much like the truths in most of his promos, I think that answer can be found in his second AEW promo after losing to Cody Rhodes on that night he was on national television for the first time.
“I learned a long time ago in this life that you never lose. You learn. And I learned tonight that Cody Rhodes was the better man. He was the better grappler, the better fighter… but just tonight. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I’m not going to say the year, the number, all that jazz because that’s just pitiful in my opinion. In my humble opinion. But I have nothing else in this life that I love doing. So whether AEW brings me back or not, I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep going until the wheels fall off because I have nothing else but this. I CHOSE to have nothing else but this. Cody, you were the better man tonight. I give you that, no excuses man. You were. But I’m not stopping. I’m going to learn and move forward. ‘Cause that’s all I can do.”
We watch wrestling and we like to talk about the storytelling aspect. The combat aspect is one component of it, but the other part of it relies on finding avenues to you as a fan to hook you, grab you and keep on the edge of your seat like you’ve been taken prisoner. That’s the power of pro wrestling storytelling regardless of promotion.
We could call Kingston’s backstory Foley-esque, or we could run parallels to Rocky Balboa, but the common point is Eddie shouldn’t have arrived where he made it–but he did against the odds because he chose to not give up. He chose to fight on and believe he could if not for himself then for his nephew or mother. The spark is the catalyst, and for him it was that night in Jersey when he cut that promo on the entire wrestling industry with his home on the line. That night and the days that followed, people listened, they rallied, and now we can’t help but the respect the Crown earned by the Mad King.