You know, I’ve been thinking about Eddie Kingston a lot as of late. In fairness, who hasn’t? After all, Kingston produced another PPV thriller on Sunday night, arguably stealing the show alongside Chris Jericho. In fact, Kingston even went one step further this time, finally winning “the big one” and in theory at least, entering a new chapter of his already spectacular AEW stint. I have to say, I’ve not been there since the start but I’ve been here long enough that quite frankly, this is one of the most unique wrestling tales I can recall.
That’s not a reference to what’s playing out inside the ropes either, as that’s awful familiar. We’ve all seen the underdog protagonist, pursuing that elusive big win and eventually, scoring it too. In truth though, that’s not really the story of Eddie Kingston, it’s simply the closest on-screen equivalent. The Eddie Kingston story is the most aggressive, gritty fairy-tale that pro wrestling can muster, the journey of a man from near retirement to main event status. Better yet, from a literal backyard to Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was during the build-up to that show that I originally began writing this piece. For those of you familiar with my work, you’ll know that this isn’t my first Eddie Kingston feature and realistically, I highly doubt it’ll be my last. Either way, Kingston posted a video on the week of Grand Slam, a reflective look at his road to that very point. The response stunned me, a degree of goodwill that for a range of quite understandable reasons, is seldom found in the current wrestling conversation.
It was even more pronounced less than two months later, as Kingston’s Players’ Tribune piece filled every wrestling feed for a day or two. In my heart, I’m right there with them but I must say, there’s a part of me that’s fascinated by the whole thing. Why does this story resonate with people so much? From veteran wrestlers to the most cynical analysts, they all make room for a sappy sentiment when it comes to Kingston. I mean, I get it but wow, this almost feels bigger than the man himself.
As a fan, I even wonder what we’re rooting for at times. I mean, I personally want Eddie Kingston to be AEW World Champion but in his story, the actual story, hasn’t he already won? In some ways, it feels like Kingston’s true arc has concluded, making it to the big time and more than that, belonging there too. After all, it was only a few years ago that Kingston was almost pleading for an opportunity to do exactly that, publicly promising that if you gave him something, anything, he’d make it work.
Call me crazy though, I don’t think Kingston is even close to satisfied. In fact, I think his recent output speaks for itself in that regard, producing the finest work of his long career since AEW’s most star-studded additions. That’s telling and it suggests that just like his on-screen rollercoaster ride, Kingston’s journey is far from over. Honestly, those two tales are increasingly tied to each other, as Kingston’s wins and losses simply portray his unexpected ascent of the AEW hierarchy. In that sense, Revolution may have been ‘The Mad King’s biggest night yet.
I don’t know which guy the audience was rooting for on Sunday night. It was probably the fiery, often petty television character who picks a fight with any and every one, but I sense some were pulling for the vulnerable man behind that violence, the guy that opens up at every turn. Upon thought, I’m not sure there’s a difference, really. I mean, it’s a simple matter of perspective I suppose, but the conclusion is the same. Those thunderous “Eddie” chants speak for themselves, no matter their meaning or motivation.
Even in my own experience, I see just how varied that support can be. Somehow, AEW has become a family affair in my life and indeed, sharing Eddie Kingston has been about as weird as you’d expect. To my father, he’s a brave prize-fighter, the kind of guy that filled boxing’s heavyweight golden era once upon a time. I don’t think he sees anyone else through that particular lens but once Kingston puts the dukes up, my dad goes time travelling I guess.
To my mother, it’s a whole lot less serious. Honestly, I think she just finds him funny, enjoying his goofy facial expressions and somehow becoming invested along the way. To my brother, I’m pretty sure that he was just Jon Moxley’s friend and foe for a while there but you can only watch so many PPV hits before looking in Kingston’s direction. Granted, what you find may not be the traditional wrestling standout, but he only needs a match or two to earn that exact description.
Well, that’s the case for most onlookers anyway. To some, Kingston remains their first impression: a limited mouthpiece, not fit for national television. Then again, those that actually watch the programme disagree, with a particular portion of the audience even building Kingston’s case as one of the world’s finest wrestlers. I guess that’s me, as well as a handful of others but I must admit, I even questioned myself on that front at times. Especially as Kingston struggled for momentum during career lulls, it was hard to heap praise without a moment’s pause.
As Kingston charged to the ring at Revolution though, those already distant doubts were finally erased for good. Against a very much motivated but at this point, admittedly inconsistent Chris Jericho, Kingston brought the absolute best out of a wrestling legend. He had the people hooked from start to finish, reacting to every single up and down. Stylistically, the match was unique in that setting, another overt love letter to Kingston’s favourite era of wrestling: those iconic 90s AJPW classics.
I know, I know, that’s a cliche at this point, especially with Kingston. Frankly, most of this is. What’s next, I talk about how “authentic” and “real” Kingston is? I mean, probably, that’s often how we’ve explained an appeal that with each week, feels increasingly without any need for explanation at all. Honestly though, we do Kingston a disservice with that description at times, or branding him as a “throwback,” quite naturally contrasting him with his more flashy counterparts.
The truth is that regardless of why you enjoy him or when you started to, Eddie Kingston is an extraordinary professional wrestler. He doesn’t need our qualifiers, or particular introductions, he just needs to be loudly listed alongside this current landscape’s other in-ring greats. I don’t care the personal preference or individual definition, Eddie Kingston just is pro wrestling and no matter where they come from, those weekly “Eddie” chants encapsulate exactly that.
Thanks to the remarkable JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) for the fabulous photos.