One Wednesday night in 2020, I was working a shift at a job I was beginning to hate, knowing that it won’t be for long. Just enough to allow me to secure my future. This was a night I was missing an episode of AEW Dynamite, and I noticed social media buzzing at the latest name to accept Cody Rhodes’s open challenge for the TNT Championship. Most of these posts had a hashtag that read: #SignEddieKingston.
Curious to see what the buzz was about, I turned on my television and the moment Eddie Kingston stepped out to begin the challenge, I paid the utmost attention.
Cutting off Cody’s music with a microphone laced with venom, there was this man who looked like a regular, impoverished New York everyman, immediately eviscerating Rhodes as though he cut him off at an intersection on the way to work.
This man was Eddie Kingston, and man was he rough. From the get-go, I could see someone who’s lived a life of hurt and is still living it. Someone who sealed up his envelope holding his emotions and anguish, instead showing only violence. His proclamations of how Cody didn’t have life bad at all, that he’s been living with a silver spoon planted firmly in his mouth.
I too found myself wishing Eddie would be signed here. Little did I know this was his big chance, and I’m glad he took it. I’m glad AEW saw something in him and gave him this home. Clearly he was far from heroic, but we didn’t care. This was a man who reminded us that to be alive at all is to have scars, and he wore it so well.
Beneath those oddly beautiful eyes (seriously, why does someone so gruff have eyes so pretty?), there was a raging ocean of emotion that Kingston struggled with, and struggles with to this day.
After hearing of his inner battles in his Players Tribune article, the fact he’s been working on fixing his emotional health speaks a lot. I cannot stress how proud I am of Eddie for working on this rather than drowning it in booze and drugs. I’m glad he’s letting us in, and becoming a character so compelling, like William Shakespeare mixed with John Steinbeck.
In Kingston, we see ourselves. We feel him. And he knows this; this is his power. To understand people, you must feel them within yourself.
With Irish and Puerto-Rican blood inside him, this outcast is a fountain of relativity. For greater context of this, see his feud for the AEW World Title with Jon Moxley at 2020’s Full Gear. Totally against his former friend, against the former Dean Ambrose and all he stood for, he could not see reason. “It’s too late for me Jon! You ain’t savin’ nobody!” he proclaimed to Moxley, finger printed firmly against his title. One of the greatest annoyances of man is when someone claims to know you as much as you know yourself, and when it was his rival’s time to speak this truth, Eddie could not look him in the face. He couldn’t bring himself to, so instead he stared at the horizon while Moxley openly vowed to defeat him and silently screamed he would help him.
This man from Yonkers swam for too long in the depths of self-hatred, putting himself through more of it, becoming more of what he hated. This is an eternal struggle of his, and his belief he deserved the pain.
The storyline to All Out 2021, I feel, brought out more in his character. That there was more to hate than his emotions and his violence – his relationship to God, and how others viewed God, when the Bulgarian monster Miro challenged him. Eddie accepted because the same God Miro worshipped wasn’t Eddie’s God. Maybe this is why Eddie didn’t win this match for the TNT title – he still his issues with God, where Miro believes he was sent to succeed with the deity in his corner.
To Eddie, there is no sin and no virtue, just the things that people do.
Eddie Kingston is by no means a preacher; he speaks no parable nor psalm, but he speaks to our souls and reminds us that these pains we face make us human. That we are alive and we are whole. For anyone struggling with mental health, in his best and worst days, he unknowingly touches us as the ultimate talker. Perhaps the best conversationalist is someone who helps others to talk.
This Fall, Eddie has been through a feud with the newly returned and rejuvenated CM Punk. A man who once lost his passion and came off bitter when he left this business.
Ever since Punk came back, he seems incredibly, ridiculously happy. But it seems his tour of fun stops here, with past demons catching up to him. Namely how Punk treated Kingston in the past. That’s the kind of pain that can last years, decades. Many have compared this rivalry to Punk’s own against John Cena ten years ago – personally, I see it as someone who once hated himself and coped with it in a pretentious nature against someone who hates himself and uses that hatred to try and be better.
Their match at 2021’s Full Gear served to drive this grievous beef further, with as much symbolism as the night’s main event. The match itself felt old school, both in each men’s tastes of wrestling, and in their own indie past. It felt as though this fight was ripped straight out of 2000’s Ring of Honor, complete with Punk wearing shorts for old time’s sake in lieu of trunks or his new “long bois”.
Gritty and wearing red, this was a battle of rage and pain. In more than one way, Eddie drew color from Punk as he not only bled from his head, but bled support from the audience as they shifted to the New Yorker. In a strange, ethereal moment of beauty, Punk played up to this and the comparisons to his decade old feud with John Cena by copying his moves, until setting up for the five-knuckle-shuffle when amidst the red on his face, he stops. He doesn’t do it, going instead for his regular moveset. While his respect for Eddie grows in the match, the disrespect from Kingston remains, mocking everything Punk stood for. And when it came time for the bell as Punk stood victorious, he refused the handshake from the former Voice of the Voiceless.
There is still so much pain there, not made better by a handshake. For Eddie, who knows what will make him feel better and ready to accept CM Punk? Only Eddie knows. Maybe he doesn’t believe he’s worthy of this respect?
That is the crux of what makes Eddie work. He doesn’t believe he’s owed anything, he doesn’t believe he’s earned anything. He just does what he does, in spite of himself.. Humbly, Kingston doesn’t see his own greatness where others see it for him.
There is this talk that I’ve had most of my life, called the “Good Will Hunting” talk, where someone sets you aside and tells you that you need to wake up and see that you are meant for more than what you allow yourself to be. I’ve had people give me this talk, that I don’t belong in my small town, that I don’t belong in this county, in my state of mind, or in whatever corners of the internet I write in. That I’m meant for more, that I’m smarter and more creative than I give myself credit for. And that I need to get out and keep moving up. But for most of my life, I’ve been living a battle between self-love and self-hate, and seeing Eddie with those struggles has made me feel less alone in facing this demon.
That’s what we see in Eddie Kingston, and from the sounds of it, what Punk saw in him too, but approached it in the wrong way. Eddie is no “bum”, it’s just that people do not see the silent struggles he goes through. It’s not pretty, no matter how invisible it is. But that has not diminished the humanity inside of him, even as he gets used to the world falling in love with him.
Eddie Kingston has a big heart, yet you wouldn’t think it. He’s happy to see his friends and loved ones succeed, to better themselves, and is one hell of a motivational speaker.
Behind the curtain, Eddie Kingston is as real as it gets.