When Eddie Kingston first walked onto the AEW stage, it happened in slow motion.
Realistically, I know it didn’t, but my mind does this from time to time. During moments so legitimately impactful, memories are stored as though they are movie trailers. Sometimes set to this epic instrumental music equally impactful, these moments stand above the rest because they transcend wrestling to an extent. The stories pierce not just television screens, but souls themselves. And once they’ve done that, the possibilities are endless.
On July 22, 2020, in the midst of perhaps the highest level of uncertainty the wrestling business has ever experienced, All Elite Wrestling created one of these moments. The piercing story, created only moments before the match, stands locked in time forever. A debut willed by fans across the world. A walk through the tunnel forged through sheer determination and grit. An opportunity never taken for granted. And a moment with such gravity, a wave of goosebumps bounced from home to home worldwide.
In the ring stands our hero, a fighting champion lifting the company onto his back during an unprecedented worldwide pandemic. Instituting an open challenge to both demonstrate the TNT title’s importance and to generate much needed excitement during shows when no fans could be present. Cody Rhodes is known for moments like the one he was about to help orchestrate. When he wrestles, it’s feeling and emotion personified. One look into his eyes and no one can underappreciate the importance of every second he gets to spend in the ring doing what he loves.
The time hasn’t slowed yet though. Not until Eddie storms through the tunnel, microphone in hand ready to spit a memory. Because among other things, that’s what he’s known for, creating earth shaking moments out of thin air. Magic from nothing. He endears himself to fans through undeniable passion for this thing we all love. And because he does that, he’s a favorite of many despite playing one of the best heels in the business today.
By tearing into Cody and Double A, ripping real life struggles out of his soul and heaving them into the world, we were immediately enamored. Nothing else mattered in those moments because Eddie Kingston made things real. And in a world that often tows the line between what is real and relatable and what is a stretch in suspending disbelief, he had us. He still does, because when Eddie Kingston is on the screen, we believe. We believe because he believes.
“You couldn’t last a day in my shoes…I am a grown ass man, and I will put you in the ground and smile…”
By bringing his trademark intensity, eyes dark with focus and edge, Eddie is home on that stage. Not just the All Elite Wrestling stage, but in doing what he does. Mic in hand, talking truth and standing up for what he believes makes a wrestler and a champion. There is a moment after Eddie threatens Cody with the above quote when the camera focuses close-up on our champion, and though he’s frowning and maintaining focus, I swear I can read appreciation for the moment on Cody’s face. Eddie had been on the stage for just over a minute, and the man who lives for making memories already knew he was in the middle of yet another one.
One minute, not a single foot in the ring, and Eddie had us in the palm of his hand. I wonder how quickly after this promo and subsequent match that Tony Khan knew he had to have him in AEW permanently? I know Eddie has spoken on this and his desire to not just be a champion but be somewhere he was valued to such a degree that he could be himself without worry of repercussion. He has that in AEW and so much more.
The match with Cody was special and served as a perfect introduction to AEW fans who may not have seen him before. He’s a well-spoken man, but also one that is a legitimate shoot badass in a business that doesn’t have as many of those walking the hallways as it used to once upon a time. He’s a throwback. One in that he speaks in such a way that both makes fans love him and despise him simultaneously. His words are laced with personal truths, of which some would find difficult to talk about, but he does it anyway, which is sobering and limitlessly impactful. Also, in that though what we’re watching is fiction, as beautifully created as it may be, when Eddie speaks, fiction fades and blends with limitless possibility. That is an insanely rare gift.
When he signed, fans everywhere started fantasy booking. Of course we did because someone like Eddie can weave masterpieces with whoever steps up to the plate. He’s the Mariano Rivera of wrestling. The Sandman. Not simply a closer, but THE closer. Mariano wasn’t always perfect. His games weren’t always pretty. None of that mattered. When the game was in hand, and you wanted to bring it home, no matter the odds, you called on Mo to cement history. He had one pitch, and everyone knew it was coming. He was great anyway.
That’s Eddie. He’s not perfect. His matches aren’t always pretty. It doesn’t matter. When you want to bring a story home, create magic, and inject memories into time and space, you call on him. He has one pitch, the real and unapologetic truth of a pitch that is himself, and everyone knows it’s coming. And you know what? He’s great anyway.
All Elite Wrestling demonstrated this with his memorable feud with Jon Moxley. Saddled with the highest expectations of his career, a ridiculous amount to live up to, and an opportunity to prove to everyone that he belonged, Eddie closed what was nearly a perfect game with Mox. Promos that will live forever, laced with truth and history between them. It was bound to get personal, inevitable for the two old friends, but like the Red Sox for so many years, Mox knew what was coming and still almost lost everything. One loss doesn’t tarnish a legacy. If nothing else, it lifts it up and begins an arc toward more adversity to overcome. It continues a story.
Therein lies the inherent beauty of Eddie Kingston. As many times as he may fall, the real magic of his story is his unwillingness to accept anything less than what he believes he deserves, which is everything. He will always get up, and in a world where more people need that reminder than ever, what more could anyone want in a wrestling story? It’s a tale as old as time, but one that never loses its luster, especially when authored by a master.
Eddie is next level as a talent. But he is also next level as a man. And that, that is another kind of special all its own. Stepping up to be a leader in a company full of young men and women is not something I imagine is very easy. Deciding what is important to teach these kids, about the business, about history, about how to carry one’s self – a lot of that can be taught by example. Eddie doesn’t stop there though. Sure, he leads by example every time he steps through the curtain and treats his moment like it’s the main event of Wrestlemania, whether in front of 100,000 fans or a group of his pears. What Eddie teaches beyond his example is his soul.
When AEW and the wrestling world were rocked by the news that Brodie Lee had passed away, emotions were raw and real. Immersed in overwhelming sadness and awe of a man the business and fans alike admired and appreciated, we searched for a way to come to terms with how things would look without him. I have no doubt, though the tribute show they put on in his memory was absolutely beautiful, the locker room probably felt some of those same feelings. It’s human nature. Who stepped up in that moment to deliver a speech fitting of Brodie’s legend? Who stepped up to wrap the locker room in an embrace of love and truth?
Well, Eddie, of course.
“Don’t forget tonight. Use this. Take this energy. Yeah, it’s negative now, but make it positive. And tell everyone you love um…”
See, that’s Eddie Kingston. Legitimate tough guy. But a heart bigger than most and a soul warmer than the rest. He’s admittedly lived through some things many wouldn’t make it through. Negative awful moments and time a person can’t get back. Life isn’t easy. It shits on us all of the time. It challenges us to give in or step up. It’s never easy, but it’s how warriors are made. Eddie Kingston is who he is because he didn’t just allow life to bury him. He has never ever stopped digging. And neither should any of us.
Ironically, the heel he plays on TV is the shoot babyface we all love and respect outside of it.
Other kings demand fealty. They order you to your knees and bask in their godly legend, earned or not. They sit on a throne and oversee a kingdom controlled through fear and power.
All Eddie wants is respect. Don’t bow. Just step up. And tell everyone you love um.