Grinding the King’s Road: The Legacy of Eddie Kingston


by: A.C. Wright

sw eddie triple crown

The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” plays on a bluetooth speaker sitting on someone’s porch as they wash their car a few doors down from my new place. 

I unload the last of my stuff from my trunk – an old reusable tote featuring the face of Stephen Colbert that Tony gave me over a decade ago, now full of loose ends, a box of old SPIN and Alternative Press magazines that feature bands I still hold enough in my heart to cart around the physical media with the weight of words many have long forgotten, a Japanese Peace Lily that belonged to my grandmother before she passed, and a framed portrait of “the Mad King” Eddie Kingston smoking a cigarette whilst drinking from a coffee mug.

We were a few months into pandemic wrestling and Cody Rhodes was defending his fresh TNT title on an almost weekly basis – taking open challenges from any and all. Looking back that reign was pretty underrated and I don’t know if it was fully appreciated at the time for what it was doing. I had been a lapsed fan since around the end of WCW so I was unaware of who anyone was. Cody taking open challenges from these lads from other companies and the independents was big in introducing me to folks that I would grow to follow. However, of that TNT title run – outside of the Brodie Lee matches – the most important1 was the introduction of Eddie Kingston.

I moved into the Phoenix Plex2 last August after living a handful of years in an over-priced run-down apartment complex with paper-thin walls shared with a number of curious neighbors that included, but were not limited to – the man with severe anger issues that lived just below me and would wake me up with his screaming and throwing pots & pans, the guy that moved in after him who would fall asleep watching Wheel of Fortune at the highest volume and waking me up with the sound of the clicking wheel3. Another guy would  regularly spend his weekends pounding on his car engine with a hammer4 while blaring “Hotel California” starting around 7AM- including a whole week while I was stuck at home with Covid5.

I set up my record player and turn on “Get Better” by Frank Turner to block out the PTSD.

1 for me
2 what I call my home – because it’s fun to name things
3 admittedly preferable to the angry guy who definitely threw some rocks at my window when I gave him the old 3 AM 3 tap with the ball of my foot once to remind him other people lived there. I decided to just deal with the noise after that. I like to think I’ve got that fighting spirit but not at 3 AM against someone whose been bathing in cocaine like a chinchilla in dust – cupping mounds of the powder in each hand, throwing it in the air and running frantically through the cloud. He would do this with curtains wide open.
4 I assume based on the sound
5 that song still gives me flashbacks like when Vietnam vets hear Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Out walks this guy shouting, “No, no, no – we’re going to get this right!”

     He looked like someone I could have palled around with in high school a decade and change ago, wearing black cargo pants and a shirt with Travis Bickle pointing two guns. 

     No music – that wouldn’t be necessary. This guy was here to get paid to kick Cody’s ass and take his title. Eddie was the first person I’d actually believed since I had gotten back into graps and he was threatening to gouge out Arn Anderson’s eye. There was no reason for me to believe that he wouldn’t do it.

     This was a new beast, a special brute with fire in his eyes that I hadn’t seen in anyone in AEW up to that point. 

     Not to discredit other wrestlers that I enjoyed – but when most talked I could tell that “this is a show”. When Eddie talked I felt, “Do they know he’s out here with a live mic? What’s he going to say?”

     It was exciting – like being a kid seeing a Tarantino film for the first time. Wondering, “wait – they’re allowed to do this?”

     “You couldn’t last a day in my shoes! So you don’t tell me nothing about grinding. You talk about the sport of wrestling – that’s a joke. Cause every person you’ve faced has been a child. I am a grown-ass man and I will put you in the ground and smile,” Eddie told Cody, ensuring everyone watching had no doubt that he meant every word6.

     It was as emphatic an introduction as I think anyone could make. This stranger had been in my consciousness for no more than 2 minutes and I knew everything I needed to know about who he was, where he’d been, and what he was planning to do – and I was ready to see him have at it.

6 by this point I am leaning forward, wide eyed, smiling and nodding like that shot of Jack Nicholson in the Departed

I moved into my previous crappy apartment situation when I moved back to Alabama from Washington state and just needed somewhere with four walls that I could escape. It was never my intention to stay there for as long as I did but there was the pandemic and rising cost of living, it became difficult. I also struggle with depression and rarely felt like I deserved better or that it could get better. 

My brain tells me lies about how nobody cares about me and how I’m just a disappointment, my family is better off without me, or whatever horse shit that the sickness wants to feed me, in that state. 

My mind doesn’t know that it’s not true though, coming from my own voice – internally and externally, each biting and vicious. I take it as fact because your brain has no reason to believe you’re lying, so it must be true – I must be a total failure unworthy of love or joy.

Time to open these blinds and turn on Iron Chic’s “My Best Friend (is a Nihilist)”.

     Eddie quickly became a favorite of mine and I dove into his history and learned of his time in Chikara.

     I’m a big fan of “world building” in movies and books7 and also in my professional wrestling. So I love the idea that when something happens to a wrestler in one company, that history goes on with that wrestler and isn’t just written off. 

     Eddie is one of the best at carrying his history.

     Chikara was a more comic book based territory where things had the capacity to get a little cartoony at times – with the exception of Eddie Kingston. He was their Punisher. Their guy that was based in reality. While he was there he had an amazing feud with Claudio Castagnoli, with Eddie knowing what a piece of shit Claudio was but nobody believing Eddie until it was too late. When Claudio left the company to go to WWE, their story was cut short before Eddie was able to get even with the evil Castagnoli. 

     Eddie carted that weight around with him for years, even mentioning his dislike for Claudio in various interviews. However, it seemed unlikely they would get the chance to pick their feud back up.

So I’ve got this list of stuff that I go to when I get really low. My little toolbox of “this might not exactly fix everything or anything, but also it might help a little”. Things like songs or albums that have been known to lift me up or comfort movies8.

I’ve got a YouTube playlist of videos that make me happy and/or have a message I need to hear/feel in those moments and one of the first videos on that list is of Eddie Kingston talking after a match, raising mental health awareness. Sharing with everyone in the room and me at home that we’re not alone. There are people that love us even when we don’t feel that9. There’s another video that was specifically from “mental health awareness month” a couple of years back where King gets very personal about his own struggles and again shares the plea that, “you’re not alone.”

7 like how all of Tarantino’s movies are set in the same universe or how a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s books are connected through characters, places, and events
8 Point Break, Twister, & Big Lebowski are always go-tos
9 These might sound like simple things to people that haven’t experienced it – but there are times that you hit a wall and you no longer care and don’t feel like you have the strength to fight the sickness – your favorite people or things make you feel nothing – and it can take over and make you forget that you have folks that care. You do though.

I can’t really explain to you why it means something to hear a perfect stranger who isn’t actually talking directly to you or know who you are, but it’s someone that you admire for whatever reason, tell you that it’s okay to feel the way you feel and that other people feel that way too – but it helps and matters in those moments. The reason we all tell one another these things when we are feeling well enough to is because we know it’s important to be heard. 

In the video at the live event, Eddie makes one of the most important points that when someone decides to take their own life – you leave people that did truly care about you behind. 

I’ve lost friends to suicide, who I’m still not over and miss on a daily basis10.

I have struggled with my own suicidal ideation – moments where I feel desperate for it to be over – but, you see – a couple of years back, my first nephew was born and I made the decision that I was going to do my part to stick around as long as I can to make sure he’s got someone to look out for him. 

So as low as I may get, I hit that and know that I have to find a way out and keep going11.

The flute from “Sure Shot” by Beastie Boys starts up

“Cause you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop..”

     Backfist to the future, to ROH Supercard of Honor (3.31.23) – “The Mad King” stands across the ring from the reigning and defending Ring of Honor World’s Champion, Claudio Castagnoli. This would be their first bout since March 13, 201112. The two men went back and forth keeping fans on the edge of their seats with every near fall as they emptied nearly everything in their respective bags of tricks13.

     The match came down to Claudio attempting a Ricola Bomb that Eddie reversed into a hurricanrana, but Claudio rolled through again catching Eddie for the 3 count – but Eddie wasn’t laid out. There was still more fight in the King. Claudio had just gotten briefly lucky.

     I remember feeling slightly deflated when Eddie lost. He was so close. 

     It’s not all about championships. There are a lot of those these days. It’s about the stories being told around those championships. It should be the champion that makes the title, not the title that makes the champion.

     Still, who doesn’t want to see their guy win “the big one”?

10 My buddy Scott in particular, who took his exit 8 years ago, would be so into watching wrestling with us now
11 for a lot of folks that means medicine and/or different types of therapy and more tools. It’s important to remember that there are all sorts of options and the same things don’t work for everyone. It can seem intimidating to begin that kind of work on yourself but you are worthy of feeling well and there are people, far more qualified than I am, trained to help folks figure out what’s best for them.
12 Unrelated, I started writing this piece on March 13, 2024. Synchronicity? 
13 the spot where Claudio gives Eddie a gutwrench suplex from the apron to the floor lives in my head. I just thought about it in present day and jumped out of my chair and screamed, “holy shit, no!”

“Unsatisfied” by The Replacements is playing as you walk back into the kitchen where I pour a finger of sweet tea into one of my Batman Forever McDonald’s collectible glasses, taste to make sure it is in fact sweet enough. It is, so I fill the glass.

Eddie has talked about how close he was to calling it quits on wrestling during the pandemic because there were no shows, so no way for him to make money. He sold his boots and was preparing to leave the business for good. He’d been grinding for 18 years on the independents and various smaller companies but he had never been invited to the bigger dances in the capacity he’d hoped. 

WWE had reportedly been interested in Kingston as a trainer rather than as an on screen talent, but Eddie knew that wouldn’t satisfy him. He knew that he still had more years of actual wrestling left in him.

I can’t tell you how close I’ve been to doing something similar in letting go of my own goals and dreams.

Making a career in any sort of arts is difficult and doesn’t come with recognition or money. If you’d have asked me when I was a teenager, I’d have guessed I would have been further along than I am. That I would be making a living doing something that I at least cared about. My first guess wouldn’t be that I’d work a series of dead end jobs to get by while funding my creative endeavors, unsure of what the fuck I’m actually supposed to be doing14. I’m also not saying that I was given a raw deal or anything. I made choices at different times in my life where certain things took priority or I messed up and wasted time on this or that. I take responsibility for not being closer to where I’d like to be. I’m just saying that I guess I had higher hopes for myself.

So it’s easy to catch yourself ready to say, “I’m done,” and deciding to focus on a stable career and planting roots and going on about that work that you don’t truly find fulfilling but at least it pays better than shit jobs of your past and you let go of who you really are and just push yourself through it until you can retire, if you’re lucky enough to make it that long15.

I’m very thankful we’ve ended up in this timeline where Eddie Kingston knew enough about what he had left in him to keep going and take a chance on his dreams, not knowing if they would come to fruition.

As Eddie was on he verge of quitting, he said that his brother talked him into continuing on by telling him, “how can I tell my son never to quit, never to give up when his uncle did? How can I tell him to never quit, when you’re quitting wrestling?”

So Eddie decided, “I guess I’m not quitting.”

“The Days of the Phoenix” by AFI comes on next, shaking our dissatisfaction and pushing us to the future.

14 but – does anyone? Writing feels really good these days. So I’m just following that buzz.
15 I’m not mocking this path. Some people can do this and be completely happy and fulfilled. I am just speaking for myself. Who has also done this and been completely unsatisfied and ready to call it quits on more than just the job.

Some of us are just not made for that path and we make compromises to be able to keep at least one foot on our chosen path while managing to live via the one we don’t really have investment in beyond paying our bills and supporting our families. 

King Strong title

     Eddie is a student of Japanese wrestling and has expressed his admiration for the King’s Road style. You can see his love letters to his heroes like Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, Jun Akiyama, or Mitsuharu Misawa in moves of theirs he’s adopted and others he’s even been encouraged by them to use16. So when he started making appearances for New Japan, he fit right in.

     In July of 2023 as part of NJPW’s Independence Day event in Tokyo, Japan, Eddie found himself facing the NJPW Strong Openweight Champion, KENTA, who was on day 45 of his reign with the title. There was something special about seeing Eddie in the historic Korakuen Hall, hearing his music flood through the PA, and seeing the crowd get excited for him. You just knew that this was one of those things he’d dreamed about – and I love seeing folks achieve their dreams.

     It was a hard fought match, and one of KENTA’s better outings of recent history, but ultimately it led to Eddie Kingston defeating him. Getting to see Eddie celebrate with his friend/mentor Homicide after the match was just as memorable if not more-so. Then Eddie got to talk at the NJPW press table. It lit me up and made me happy. He had earned this and it was just beginning. 11 days later Eddie would be marking off another item from his dream list when he entered the G1 Climax.

I take a look around my kitchen and move the stool of an old desk next to my refrigerator and side eye the window from that angle before placing my peace lily on the stool.

I can’t tell you how grateful I feel every time I come home now. I used to dread it, as strange as that sounds. There was just a weird energy around my old place. So I was miserable at work and then miserable at home.

It finally got to a point where I had to tell myself, “This is not the place that you die. Get the fuck out.”

Happenstance17, led me to finding the Phoenix Plex while reminiscing on a house I used to live in with 3 of my best friends. I’d caught up with the two that are still in town the night before and decided I’d take a drive past our old spot. I wasn’t expecting to land my new place, just a couple of blocks down from there, but that just happened to be what was in my cards that day – and I couldn’t be more thankful.

“Turn the Season” by Fucked Up comes on the speakers in the living room and I nod.

16 Eddie had been using the Northern Lights Bomb as a finisher on occasion, but Kawada told him that he should try a power bomb, like what he used
17 or God, if you ask my mother. Some days I’m okay with agreeing with her, but also so much of it was just being present and following my gut. It’s kind of wild how often that ends up working out. You’d think I’d listen to it more.

     King still had some unfinished business back in the states and after a couple of detours – including a couple of tag matches teaming with Katsuyori Shibata – he’d earned the opportunity to challenge his old rival, and still ROH World’s Champion, Claudio Castagnoli. Their next match would be on the biggest stage this feud had seen yet – AEW Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

     This time both Claudio’s ROH title and Eddie’s Strong Openweight title would be on the line. Winner takes all.

     On top of that, it was ROH rules, so if Eddie won, would the code of honor be observed? Would Claudio shake Eddie’s hand? This fight was about more than titles. It was about respect.

     They were in New York, Eddie’s homeland, so the match had a hot crowd to open the show. Each man was unloading everything they had in their respective arsenals to try and put the other down. Claudio was able to land the Ricola bomb in full this match but King kicked out. Eddie landed a series of backfists and a Northern Lights Bomb but Claudio managed to kick out of that. 

     What was left?

     Eddie had one more trick up his sleeve, so he pulled Castagnoli up and tried to get him set but Claudio fought out and delivered a strong uppercut – a move that has finished Kingston in other encounters between the two – that Eddie absorbed before spinning into another backfist that knocked Claudio loopy enough for Eddie to pull him in and deliver a Kawada style Powerbomb, like his hero had suggested, to get the 3-count and win the Ring of Honor World’s Title and more importantly get the handshake and brief respect from one of his longest rivals.

Being in a better place physically can absolutely make a world of difference to how you feel mentally – but with depression it’s not so much an “if” but “when” is it going to come back? You never know when something is going to push you into it. Some days that can be harder to ignore than others, so I try to stay in the present when I can – which is 100% easier said than done, I know. I’m not here to bullshit you.

It’s tough – but so are you.

I throw on “Stop Being Greedy” because what’s an Eddie Kingston essay without some DMX?

     When people look back at historical reigns, Eddie’s name truly has to be in the conversation now. He has absolutely been one of the most fighting champions of this era. So much, in fact, that when AEW announced the Continental Classic tournament toward the end of 2023 and that the winner of the C2 would be the first AEW Continental Crown Champion. Eddie not only declared that he was going to enter the C2 but on top of that he would be adding his titles into the mix.

     This meant that whoever won the Continental Classic would be considered a Triple Crown Champion – holding the AEW Continental Crown Championship, the ROH World’s title, and the NJPW Openweight title. 

Due to excessive word count, I have been advised by my manager, the ruthlessly aggressive Tex Shackleton, that the entire section I wrote about the Continental Classic had to be deleted because quote: “Nobody wants to read all that shit, Doc.”

Additionally, Tex deleted it from the master file as well so I won’t be able to add it on my own website for anyone that might have been interested. I apologize for any inconvenience or possible whiplash from missing story pieces. Personally, I think it was some of my finest work.

     What I will sneak in about the C2 is that it was very refreshing in a year that had been pretty draining on my fandom for the overall AEW product. It was a tournament that was telling a lot of great stories. Not the least of which being around Eddie and his friend / enemies in the Blackpool Combat Club – Jon Moxley, “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, and Claudio Castagnoli.

     Eddie overcame Claudio, Danielson, and three other battlers to make it to the top of the Blue League and his friend Jon Moxley had landed himself top of the Gold league. The two fought it out in the C2 Finals over the Triple Crown at AEW World’s End on 12/30/23. The damage both men had built up over the course of the tournament was evident with each brawler trying ultimately to just outlast the other through the hardest hits they could muster.

     Eddie had fought Moxley in AEW twice before, both while Mox was the World’s Champion. It was a beautiful feud with exchanges between the two men that still gives me chills, eventually leading to Eddie covering his fallen friend to shield him from expected explosions, cementing him as one of the biggest baby-faces in the company and sending them into a fun tag run together in which I stand by they should have won the titles from the Bucks at Double or Nothing 2021.

     Moxley defeated Kingston in each of their other encounters, even when they met in ICW back in 2011 but it was finally time for Eddie to overcome every odd and defeat Mox and become a Triple Crown Champion like so many of his heroes before him.

triple crown eddie

I can’t tell you how inspiring it is, as a guy in his mid/late 30s, to see someone in my age range take a chance on themselves, go all in on their goals, and achieve them – coming out the other side a Triple Crown Champion. It’s not so common to see someone get the credit and respect that they so rightfully deserve later in their careers. Too often are the stories of people having to quit on themselves before they had the chance to be fully realized.

     Even though Eddie had proven himself by becoming a Triple Crown Champion, there was still one man – whom Eddie had beaten but still refused to show King any respect – the oh so arrogant American Dragon.

     Both of their previous encounters in the C2 were spectacular but I remember watching their second match in the tournament and thinking how it was a perfect match. You could show it to anyone to get them into pro-wrestling. Everything you needed to know was in the match. You could feel the desire Kingston had to beat Danielson and the defiant Dragon that didn’t want to give an inch to the man he’d declared a bum.

     So when the challenge was laid out for Eddie to put the Triple Crown on the line at Revolution, Eddie agreed under the condition that if he was able to beat Danielson again – Bryan would have to shake Eddie’s hand and declare his respect for the Mad King. Dragon agreed, so sure of himself – unwilling to admit that Eddie had already bested him. He didn’t believe that he, perhaps the greatest professional wrestler of all time, could be upset twice in a row by this “king of the bums” – but he was wrong.

sw eddie dragon

     I was lucky to get to be in the crowd at Revolution and witness the mat classic they put on. Danielson has said before how there is nothing better than excellent professional wrestling and that’s absolutely what this was. Bryan had underestimated Eddie and despite a very strong battle, the American Dragon fell to the Mad King.

     Bryan Danielson was a man of his word and he shook Eddie’s hand and showed him the respect that Eddie had been trying to prove he was worthy of since long before the Continental Classic or even AEW. This was a respect he’d longed for since he and Danielson had met in locker-rooms over a decade ago.

     After the match the two men shared a moment together in the training room where both are being checked out and iced up after their battle. Eddie explains that all he’s ever wanted was the respect of his peers because championships come and go but real legacy is that respect from the people that have also proven their own greatness. 

“Love, Love, Love” by The Mountain Goats softly starts up

Eddie fell in love with pro wrestling at a young age, not unlike a lot of us. Some of us maybe even had our own dreams of growing up and trying to become like our heroes – but we decided on different paths. 

We’re still allowed to be happy for the people that get to follow their loves and achieve their goals. Also, we’re allowed to try and achieve ours too. There’s no rule that says you have to stop going after what you want at a certain age. 

You just have to know what that is –

Whether it’s to win a Triple Crown Championship or to write an essay about a Triple Crown Champion that does them justice.

–  And know the reason you’re doing it.

“some things you’ll do for money and some you’ll do for fun,
but the things you do for love are going to come back to you one by one”

   It’s wild to think that this all came about because Eddie was on the verge of quitting – talking shit, angry but ready and calling his shot in the middle of a ring with chains for ropes in what looked like someone’s backyard, daring champions for companies he didn’t work for to step up to him. Ready to take on the fucking world to get what he loved.

     Eddie followed his love of professional wrestling to the ends of the earth and it feels like, after a very long time, it is showing its love back to him.

Choose your shot, shoot it when you get the chance, and don’t ask for forgiveness for going after what you love – to the bums and the losers, our time will come.

eddie 3 belts

     This run that Eddie has been on has been an all-timer and when people look back on it, I hope they trace how far back it goes and all of the defenses he’s made, not to mention other matches that he fought in between. The man is a fighting champion if ever there was one. 

     Eddie barely made it through all of his Blackpool Combat ghosts before he was met by what will be his next, and possibly largest, challenger yet – “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada.

     The two will have their first singles encounter at Dynamite on Wednesday (3.20.23). 

     What happens if Eddie is able to conquer one of the largest mountains in professional wrestling? Will it finally solidify him in his own mind as worthy of the admiration he is shown?

     What happens if Eddie loses? Will it send him toward his old ways in search of something else to quench his desires or has he truly gotten what he wanted in the respect he’s being given by his peers?

     Personally, I think he’s proven that it’s the latter and has said as much – championships come and go, it’s the legacy you create that matters.

Win or lose – Eddie is in the process of carving out a legacy that is all his own. One that he can be proud of.

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel..”

Nina Simone sings to me from the speakers as I hang my portrait of the Mad King in my kitchen  above my Peace Lily – a fun juxtaposition, so anytime I pass it, I can be reminded that sometimes the things you love do find a way to love you back and you can achieve your goals if you’re willing to fight for them and put in the work. 

“Feeling Good” continues as I walk out onto my new porch and into the sunshine.

IMG 2539

A massive thank you to:
Matt Charlton (ShiningWizardDesigns Instagram / for the wonderful drawings
Michael Watson (AEW / Brainbuster / for the beautiful photos of Eddie

(my framed Eddie photo is a shot by Ryan Loco)
They are each amazing and you should absolutely take time to follow them & check out more of their work.
You can read more from A.C. Wright at Swinging At Ghosts

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