“I hate this. I wake up every morning. I don’t want to be alive. I hate the cold feeling in my gut that I get when I look in the mirror at myself.”
To hear Eddie Kingston address his enemies is to hear a man overrun with rage, to hear a cruel and cracked bastard with terrible intentions, to witness pain seep from his chest.
At PROGRESS Chapter 103: Beer Snake City in February, the Yonkers native assaulted Ilja Dragunov: yanking on his hair, wrapping his arm around the rising star’s throat and beating on him until he stopped moving. Then pacing around his fallen prey, Kingston barked into a mic. His wounds, his scornful view of the world, his years of frustration all poured from his lips.
“You know LAX? Yeah, those motherfuckers owe me 10 percent,” he told the London fans. “Ha, ha, ha. Laugh it up, you jerk-offs. ‘Cause I’m staying at home piss broke while they’re making millions of dollars off some mark.”
He talked of being a fighter his entire life. He lamented “actors” infiltrating his sport. Other wrestlers’ success had left him weary. Profane and incendiary, Kingston smeared his heart across the Electric Ballroom for all to see.
This is the kind of theater Kingston creates when he speaks.
The veteran independent wrestler has been telling moving, gritty stories for years. Since debuting for Chikara in 2002, the husky brawler has wrestled for Combat Zone Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor and a long list of other promotions. Everywhere he has gone, Kingston has turned the lead-up to his next bout into a work of art. Kingston’s violent threats swell with intensity. And he so often pumps in a palpable, unsettling aching into his speeches. As a result, every rivalry feels like a blood feud and every match feels like a battle for one’s soul.
The pro wrestling promo is often a one-dimensional endeavor. One guy promises to kick another guy’s ass. Insert catchphrase. Stare menacingly at the camera. End scene. That’s not the case with the masters of the art, those who elevate the medium. In the hands of men like Jake Roberts, Paul Heyman and Dusty Rhodes, the promo becomes an oration, a sermon, a Shakespearean monologue. Count Kingston among those giants.
A microphone in Kingston’s hand is a heated switchblade that he drives down to the bone. The following sampling of his work, from his time with AAW Pro, Chikara and elsewhere, is a demonstration of that and a journey into a man’s personal darkness.
“I Know How to Deal with Pain”
Ahead of CZW’s Tournament of Death IV in 2005, Kingston urges his opponent Zandig to respect him. Barbed wire lies curled at his feet. A tormented Kingston glares into the camera.
As he speaks of his place in CZW, he transforms the common “I’ll get you to respect me” refrain. There are still the usual elements of a man looking to prove himself, of feeling underappreciated that we so often see in promos, but Kingston veers off in a grim direction. He recounts his drug addiction, getting stabbed, his pain, his hell. “My family tree is fucking filled with drug addicts, thieves and hustlers,” he says.
His self-loathing is jarring. Wrestling’s usual cartoon hero is gone. Instead, a broken man in search of admiration calls himself “a fucking prick out on the fucking street.”
A dramatic change in volume also powers this speech. Kingston begins with near-whispering before moving to straight-up shouting. By the time he yells, “You will have to kill me” to Zandig and the audience, it’s hard to not be completely sucked in.
“Get ready for the battle of your life.”
Kingston’s promo en route to Chikara’s High Noon even in 2011 is a masterclass in making a match feel like it truly matters.
He tells us winning the Chikara Grand Championship is vital to his existence and his story. He must win to pay tribute to the late Larry Sweeney. He must win to redeem himself for his lifetime of sin. This is not an athletic contest; it’s an act of penance.
“I need this,” he explains. “I need my redemption. I need it because I’m so tired of hurting.”
Victory against Mike Quackenbush means so much to him that he’s willing to disregard his own health. He laughs off news of a torn MCL, promising to crawl to Philadelphia if needed.
And Kingston drives home why we all need to tune in with a series of great lines, a flurry of pinpoint verbal jabs. “If you never watched one second of pro wrestling, you will be shocked and you will be awed by what Chikara gives you,” he says, breathless from emotion.
“My Peace, My Calm”
You don’t need to have seen any of what has transpired between Icarus and Kingston before this 2014 promo. In seconds, the raving New Yorker makes his loathing unmistakably clear. The boiling rage he spews in front of the camera is instantly compelling.
“You should not be alive,” Kingston barks. “You should not breathe the same air I breathe.”
He is a man in a tailspin after losing the Chikara Grand Championship to his rival. Icarus has left him desperate, engaged, directionless.
As Kingston explains, the championship gives him purpose. It offers him everything he has lacked. “For 33 years I’ve had a hole in my chest that could not be filled by anything in this life but her,” Kingston says.
Kingston speaks of the Chikara Grand Championship the way Golem spoke of his “precious.” It was a piece of him since torn out. And now the audience is compelled to watch his journey to retrieve it by any means necessary.
“Are You Willing to Do Something Like That?”
Like William Ernest Henley’s Invictus, Kingston’s AAW Pro promo following Jake Something’s attack on David Starr is an exercise in the power of brevity. In just a few lines, he digs his hooks into the audience. The words are few, but the cuts are deep.
Kingston at first dismisses Jake as a guy with a good body and good look and little else. When he questions how far Jake is willing to go in a dogfight, his voice slips into a chilling tone, like a hitman telling his mark what’s about to happen to him.
“Are you willing to get blood on your hands?” Kingston says.
Kingston sure is. He stabbed a kid in high school with a pen, he explains.
There is suddenly an ominous energy ahead of what’s to come. Will we see bloodshed? Will we see a man in mortal danger? The sense of foreboding is heightened by Kingston’s gut-punch of a final line. “I know you have something to live for; I don’t,” he says coldly.
“I Should Bury You Where You Stand”
This spring, Kingston showed up to NWA Powerrr with his hands behind his back, fury waiting to leap out of him.
On the throwback-style NWA Powerr set, he confronts The Pope and The Dawsons, half smiling, half gritting his teeth. Belying his playful tone, Kingston reminds us right away of how dangerous he is. “I came here today and I had a screwdriver in my pocket,” he says.
Mid-speech, Kingston makes a turn. He goes from playing to the crowd to dead serious, reddened face, tightened heart. He talks of targeting The Pope’s eye and tongue. His intentions are macabre, his bloodthirst insatiable.
His emotion picks up as he talks about his longtime ally Homicide. “He is my blood,” Kingston says. “Because of him, I didn’t commit suicide. Do you understand that? That’s reality.”
That mention of suicide is the kind of dagger Kingston throws at us. Suddenly, one questions where the line between script and real-life ends. It so often feels like Kingston is revealing to his rival and the crowd a dark secret. His emotion-rich appeals are either instance of great acting or a pained man allowed to spill his innards on the stage in the name of art.
When 18th century English poet Thomas Gray said that “poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn,” he could have been describing any Kingston promo. Throughout his career, the former Chikara grand champ has delivered words that seared like a branding iron.
Pro wrestling so often delivers its most powerful notes via the pain inflicted in the ring. The babyface survives pain to score the upset. The heel doles out a beatdown, creating sympathy for the victim. For Kingston, though, his biggest strength is using the pain he reveals to move us. He is a man long in agony wishing to make others suffer. And his promises to do so read like verse.