“Eddie is at his best when he’s out of control!” Jim Ross declares as Eddie Kingston makes his way down the ramp. Konosuke Takeshita1 waits patiently for the Mad King to enter the squared circle for their first one on one encounter in an AEW ring.2
This is technically a bit of a “cold match” given that these guys don’t have any beef with one another. Their only interaction was a brief exchange of blows in the Casino Battle Royal a few weeks prior. It seems Eddie Kingston just went to Tony Khan and said, “I want to fight Takeshita” and thankfully, Tony obliged. Even so, there was a base level of excitement and heat that came with this match up. This might just be something that Eddie is able to carry around, himself, because he is one of the few wrestlers that makes me feel and believe every thing that he says and does. Wrestling is 100% real to Eddie Kingston and he makes you feel that.
Even the crowd could feel it. When you take into consideration when the match was filmed versus when it aired, it adds an extra level of special. Rampage is filmed right after Dynamite on Wednesdays – and this week’s Dynamite ended with an Interim World Championship match between Jon Moxley and Brody King. That match was a hard fought battle that I certainly enjoyed but it felt a little like something was missing – some level of heat or something. The crowd was there and into it at times, but overall it just didn’t seem to have the electricity that has been felt in many of the other Moxley matches this year.3
This very well could have been because the audience had already been there for 2 hours, more if they were there for the Dark matches before the show. So, understandably, the crowd might have been a little drained by the time Dynamite’s main event arrived – a problem that can sometimes make its way over into a pre-taped Rampage – but that wasn’t the case for this week’s opening bout.
1 A 26 year old from Osaka, Japan that has been on an amazing run in the states the last several months
2 In 2019, they were across the ring from one another in an EVOLVE Tag Team Title Match, with Kingston teaming with Joe Gacy and retaining their titles against Takeshita and MAO.
3 This was no fault of the brawlers or the audience as it was also a relatively “cold match” since Brody won his shot at Mox’s title by winning the Royal Rampage the week prior. So they didn’t have an actual program or anything, which can always lend itself to adding some drama. It was still a great match.
The crowd was back hot like this was truly the first match of the night. Eddie lights a fire4 in every arena that he walks into. His music is striking and presents that perfect pop from the time the eerie organ rolls through the sound system and King makes his way out with that walk of determination as the crowd erupts in “Eddie!” chants. Tonight, Eddie winces as he walks, briefly reaching at his back – injuries that were inflicted a week ago in Blood & Guts5, but his wild eyes grow wider before focusing in on the fight ahead of him, shutting out the pain of the past and preparing for that of the present.
Konosuke Takeshita has been turning heads and bringing his own fire since he showed up in AEW6. He is a multi-time champion in his home promotion in Japan, DDT, where he’s still a top guy and will undoubtedly have to find his way back to at some point – but for now I’m living in the moment and enjoying as many of his matches as I can.7 He’s quickly become one of my favorites to watch and seems to be bringing out the best in his opponents. Takeshita’s booking in AEW is showing how over someone can get in defeat8. Each match he almost has you rooting against your favorites as he dishes out stiff chop after full on knee to the face – pushing folks like, then AEW World Champion, ‘Hangman’ Adam Page to their limit.
Kingston and Takeshita start the match out trying to get a feel for one another. Testing the waters to see who is going to be the first to pull the other into the deep. They grappled back and forth a little, slipping in and out of submissions. At one point, Eddie has his knee in Takeshita’s back while stretching his arms out, but Takeshita is able to stand up and backs Eddie into the ropes, where Kingston releases the hold and raises his arms to offer a clean break. Takeshita takes advantage of the situation and lays a stiff shot right to Eddie’s stomach.
Eddie is now done with being cordial. He gave the kid the first shot for free, but that’s not happening again. He’ll give Takeshita his receipt with a thumb in the eye in a few minutes.
The two men are evenly matched and trade every sort of chop, forearm, elbow, and suplex that they’ve got and stand toe to toe with one another for the entire match. Each pushing the other to fire up and give the fight back to them.
4 Sometimes literally but in this case figuratively
5 it’s the little things that help to make King one of the best
6 A short run in April 2021 found him in a couple of matches on Dark Elevation and that one house show AEW did, The House Always Wins, that I still want to see the footage of. He was then gone for a year before making his return.
7 I still intend on following once he leaves, but I don’t want to take for granted these matches we’re getting regularly on national television and that he’s getting to do on the independents with folks like Lee Moriarty in Prestige and ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey in West Coast Pro.
8 Though I would undoubtedly love to see him start winning some matches on Dynamite rather than just on the Dark shows.
Eddie is no doubt beaten up coming into this match, having been in a series of brutal matches with the Jericho Appreciation Society, and some help from Minoru Suzuki. Takeshita, on the other hand, is relatively fresh. He’s been having matches, but none even close to the violent affairs ‘The Mad King’ has been a part of.
That doesn’t stop Eddie from giving his all and fighting with everything he’s still got left. Early in the match he has to drop the straps from his singlet, likely trying to relieve some pressure for his beaten back, taped up with the rest of his midsection. A target for his opponent, looking to get a win over one of the best in the game.
Takeshita is almost deceptively strong and proves as much the countless times that he lifts Kingston, who is not a small man, with such ease – bringing Eddie down with suplexes, a thunder bomb, and more situations that you don’t generally find Kingston in. Still, Eddie is able to push through and give it right back.
They fight into a “picture in picture” commercial break, which in some cases can mean a slowdown to some of the action, the competitors may take their time before moving into any specific pieces they want to make sure are on the actual show rather than alongside a State Farm commercial. However, in other cases – it doesn’t matter, and the folks in the ring just continue going all in like there are no breaks. This was a case of the latter, with the pair trading violent suplexes before exchanging concussive strikes.
Both men fall to their backs, laid out, making minimal movement as they try to regain the strength to continue. Takeshita is the first to become mobile and he covers Kingston, who isn’t able to kick out or get a shoulder up, but is close enough to get his foot on to the bottom rope at the 2 count, so the match continues.
The two men roll their way to opposite side of the ropes and slowly pull themselves to their feet on the ring apron, going back and forth with brutal elbows and chops. Eddie tries to pull Takeshita in for an exploder suplex on the apron but Takeshita is able to fight free and turn King around to deliver a German suplex, bringing Eddie down on the hardest part of the ring – but Takeshita doesn’t release the hold and tries to deliver a second German, this time on the floor.
Luckily, Eddie has the where-with-all to grab the actual ring apron, preventing Takeshita from being able to lift him back for the suplex. Kingston elbows his way out of this one9 and pulls Takeshita back for a suplex of his own with Takeshita landing on his head. The ref begins counting as the two beaten battlers pull everything that they’ve got left in them back into the ring right at the 9 count. Some folks are going to complain about some of the lack of selling from some of the moves in the match, which is maybe fair but, to me, this felt very much in line with the King’s Road matches that Eddie has a vocalized love for and wears proudly on his sleeve.
For me, that simply didn’t take anything away from this match10. If anything, it kind of added to it. That feeling that, these guys are getting the hell beaten out of them and shouldn’t be able to stand but their hearts just won’t let them quit. They force away the pain for as long as they can before it catches up and overtakes them and they have to fight through it again.
A fight within a fight.
Both men find their way to their feet and stand off in the middle of the ring, trading shots before Kingston lays in a lariat that sends Takeshita ass over teakettle onto his back and Kingston goes for the cover, hoping for the end – but Konosuke Takeshita kicks out at 1! Kingston pulls him in for a Liger Bomb and drops to the pin attempt, draping his left leg over Takeshita to try and keep his shoulder down, but it’s not enough to close the deal. As Takeshita kicks out at 2, Kingston again reaches at his back in pain.
Eddie is able to muster up the strength to pull Takeshita up and set him up to deliver his spinning backfist, that has meant the end for a number of Eddie’s opponents, but Takeshita blocks it before delivering two elbows that stun Eddie at first before King shakes it off and defiantly shouts at Takeshita who delivers a stiff elbow followed by a rolling elbow to the side of Eddie’s head. Takeshita pulls Kingston in and delivers a picture perfect brain buster and it feels like Takeshita may pull it off – but Eddie’s heart is still beating and he’s not ready to call it just yet, so he kicks out at 2 and a quarter.
Only able to get to their knees, the two fighters are eye to eye trading whatever they can manage to lift – elbow for elbow, shoulder for shoulder, chop for chop. Takeshita is the first to pull himself to his feet and Eddie, more slowly, joins him before delivering a hard slap that knocks the taste out of Takeshita’s mouth. This clicks something over in Takeshita who pulls Kingston slightly more upright and delivers quick elbows back and forth between Eddie’s face and taped up abdomen.
Eddie collapses onto Takeshita, arms around his neck, being held up like a drunk dance partner. Eddie composes himself enough to deliver some chops to the side of Takeshita’s neck, turning him around to deliver a half and half suplex – Takeshita again landing on his head but again immediately jumping up and making a run at Eddie, this time delivering a lariat that knocks Kingston to his back.
9 Good advice for us all – when in doubt, just start throwing elbows
10 Also, Eddie sells his back injury a lot before, during, and after the match
Eddie too jumps up quickly and goes for his spinning backfist but Takeshita is able to duck and deliver an elbow strike that sends Kingston into the ropes, spinning around to try and deliver a jumping knee. Eddie dodges it however and turns around to finally land his backfist right on the side of Takeshita’s head. This just knocks Takeshita back a little, building up the last bit of strength he can muster and connecting with his jumping knee but it sends Eddie dazed still with just enough spirit to circle back around with a second spinning backfist that finally takes Takeshita down.
“How is Eddie still standing?!” Jim Ross yells from commentary as Kingston falls back onto his opponent into the cover by pure happenstance, finally down for the 1 – 2 – 3.
A damn near perfect match all the way to the final call. A young rising star looking to prove himself to a veteran star who is looking to prove that he’s got just as much heart and soul as anybody, including this incredible athlete 13 years his junior.
Eddie said it in a fantastic promo later in the evening – “Takeshita is the future.” Both of these guys are the present.
Matches like this make me more okay with being on this pretty strange timeline.