Now more than ever, professional wrestling encapsulates many things. It’s not one person or idea, nor is it a single promotion or product. As almost every show reminds us weekly, wrestling can be anything, for better or worse. Naturally, your enjoyment of each genre may vary but in terms of identity, the pro wrestling industry has never been more mixed. All Elite Wrestling captures that as well as any promotion, taking the ‘variety show’ approach that’s become increasingly commonplace as of late.
The results of that are divisive to say the least, with wrestling’s purpose vaguer than ever in its pursuit of the alleged ‘casual’ fan. When producing features such as this one, I generally try to distance my personal taste from the topic itself. Stylistically, there’s an audience for everything, with each setting producing its own pros and cons. In this case though, my own opinion is more of a disclaimer than a backdrop, as this week, wrestling’s standout individual story of 2020 takes center stage.
If only one wrestler could encapsulate my idealistic idea of professional wrestling, it’s Eddie Kingston. If only one career could capture the cruel spirit of this industry, it’s the one that Eddie Kingston is already many chapters within. There’s nothing picturesque about this journey, well not until recently at least. Instead, Kingston is a constant, battling away through ups and downs without an endgame in sight. Physically, Kingston wears his history, carrying a personality simply packed with his past.
There’s an optimism to his path though, a begrudging hope to his sheer persistence. Kingston represents the passion that keeps fans coming back, the excitement that every night, more magic can be made. Though his demeanor may guard it at times, there’s a desperation to Kingston’s performance, a desire to create something that’ll make this whole thing worthwhile. The result is a unique body of work, with almost two decades worth of compelling, captivating moments and matches under Kingston’s belt.
That commands a certain respect from more ardent viewers, but it seldom came without a ponder of what could’ve been. It’s not that Kingston was a secret, but his ceiling somehow still felt unknown. For those following along, Kingston had cemented himself long ago as one of the industry’s most enthralling presences. That truth had never been able to truly announce itself though, unable to find a setting significant enough to unlock its potential. Frankly, I’m not sure that many expected that to ever change, either.
Kingston kept going though, and in many ways, that became his identity. Depending on the scenario, Kingston would adapt but there was a central narrative there, one following his own trajectory. That allowed a rather rare connection between Kingston and his audience, one that thankfully, the man himself could seamlessly share. With just one promo, Kingston was able to bring fans onboard, painting a picture layered enough that it felt as though you’d lived every step. That’s very special, timeless in an industry that feels very much in transition.
Regardless of his reach, Kingston meant a lot to many, bringing an authenticity that just couldn’t be found elsewhere. That kept us coming back, even if we continued to wonder what Kingston’s career could, and perhaps should, have been. As the world came to a halt though, a potential answer finally emerged, with Cody’s open challenge providing an entry-point to outsiders. Kingston’s aforementioned audience only needed some encouragement, expanding upon his now famed promo this past July. In hindsight, that changed Kingston’s career but even then, it provided a much-needed extension.
After all, that call out of Cody led Kingston to Dynamite, opening the show and challenging for the TNT Title. There was such speculation surrounding that moment, a cautious optimism as the moment approached. All signs soon pointed towards a Kingston appearance, but other names loomed and in truth, fans knew better than to expect such a painless triumph. That anticipation eventually culminated in a moment that for me at least, will live forever, as with a microphone in hand, Kingston arrived in all his glory.
That sight certainly warranted excitement but bizarrely, I simply felt relief. It was natural to root for a wrestler of Kingston’s caliber, but I never doubted his performance. With Kingston, it was always a case of reaching that stage, a matter of at long last, being rewarded with that trust. As soon as Kingston made his first step on the AEW stage though, that checkpoint had been achieved. Kingston now only had to do what he’d done for well over a decade, be himself and allow the rest to take care of itself.
Looking back, that confidence was justified but it’s still been a wonderful ride since. Soon after emphatically announcing himself on the national stage, Kingston was officially signed, and the rest is already history. In just three months, Kingston has climbed the card, becoming a headline act in AEW as well as one of the industry’s most relevant performers. I knew that Kingston would thrive under this spotlight, and yet he’s still exceeded even the wildest of expectations. In fact, ‘climbed’ the card is probably incorrect, as Kingston hasn’t really needed to.
Instead, he asserted himself as a leading man right away, a star upon arrival. There’s a confidence to Kingston, a comfort in his own skin, an innate ability to adjust accordingly. It allows for a startling believability, a faith in Kingston’s actions and words. That trait’s importance can’t be overstated and is the central cause of Kingston’s acceleration past some extraordinary performers. Kingston was never a charity case, never a contract of respect. Instead, this was a major acquisition, even if that wasn’t obvious to everyone as the ink dried.
That’s certainly changed since though, as in recent months, Kingston has swiftly cemented his debut as a pivotal piece of Dynamite history. For all these years, Kingston simply needed a chance to talk and to AEW’s credit, they haven’t complicated things beyond that. On the contrary, they’ve empowered Kingston, arming him with the exposure that his skill set deserves. That’s led the promotion to their next PPV main event, as just months after reaching a career crossroads, Kingston now challenges Jon Moxley for his AEW Heavyweight Title.
In many ways, Kingston and Moxley have felt made for each other, pairing for one of the year’s strongest programs. In their first match, these two men told a simple story stacked with passion and physicality. They’ve continued that trend in their promos, creating a clash of characters that’s as convincing as it is compelling. On the surface, this is terrific pro wrestling but, in my view at least, it symbolizes more than that. To me, this rivalry is a reminder of how effortless this art form can be.
With logic and sheer talent, this is all rather easy, it just requires some performers with polish. That may sound nonsensical but moments like this are far too fleeting, with individual brilliance so often lost within the weekly narratives of wrestling television. It’s all so divorced from the overall goal, the ultimate aim of securing an audience’s investment. This program is in direct contrast to that, stripped-down to its core ingredients and flourishing on the back of the performers themselves. That’s a credit to both men, as well as the promotion’s belief in their skill.
This is a statement in that sense, a throwback conflict in a world of variety. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better either but for me at least, it’s become the leading example of why I watch. That’s nothing new for Kingston, whose inexplicable ascension continues to inspire some much-needed optimism. For the longest time, Kingston’s career was an engrossing, but frustrating tale of how unfair things can be. Considering that, it’s staggering to see how swiftly things have changed, with an almost fairy-tale filter suddenly hovering over Kingston’s career.
It was quite the struggle to reach that point though, which makes this Saturday even sweeter. At Full Gear, Kingston is the challenger for a major promotion’s biggest prize and best of all, he’s convincing us all that maybe, just maybe, he could even win. While it’s certainly apt, it feels wrong to deem Kingston a ‘breakout star.’ Instead, this is an industry titan finally granted the platform to steal a grander stage. This is Kingston ensuring that the world pays attention, guaranteeing that he’s not lost in the history books after all.
The hard work is already done, Kingston is now simply sending off his résumé as one of the greats, a standout among an iconic generation. So often, we try to make the intangibles explainable, focusing on individual skill and style when in reality, that curious connection dictates success. In my view, wrestling’s finest doesn’t belong in any particular category, as regardless of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, they are able to make us believe. The best professional wrestlers are inexplicably capable of making us care, whether it’s through outlandish boasts or bell to bell thrills.
With all the above, Eddie Kingston has us hooked, in complete control of his audience’s emotional investment. Though the terms are often fitting, Kingston isn’t just an ‘indie star’ and nor is he a mere ‘throwback.’ Kingston isn’t only a ‘talker’ either, he’s a professional wrestler in its purest form. There’s a beauty to what Eddie Kingston represents. A bitter, brutal beauty that right now, appears somehow headed to a once unfathomable happy ending. Perhaps that thought’s slightly romantic for Kingston’s career but at Full Gear, it’s hard to ignore.
For years, Kingston was fighting for just a single chance, one true shot at glory. This doesn’t feel like that though, it actually feels as though it’s the first of many major moments in Kingston’s future. To me at least, that’s the only win necessary, far more stirring than the glamorous title triumph we so naturally envisage. At Full Gear, Kingston represents far more than just another title challenger. He’s an image of what AEW, or even wrestling in general, can be. Beyond that, he’s a symbol of perseverance, an embodiment of determination.
Complacency isn’t in Kingston’s character, but Saturday signifies that in the most conventional sense, he’s finally made it. That’s a marvelous tale to tell but one far too glossy for Kingston, who’ll enter Full Gear with that familiar grimace etched upon his face. He wouldn’t have it any other way though, because Eddie Kingston isn’t the hero of this story and would never strive to be either. Whether he knows it or not however, Kingston is the hero of his own story and after eighteen arduous years, that remains the most riveting story of them all.