In the cold world of life, not just professional wrestling, we have winners and we have losers. That’s just how it is. Life isn’t always fair; it can be cruel, unforgiving and indiscriminately hard. Some who have tasted success do so undeservedly, while some that have lost do so through no fault of their own. Some winners are gracious and some are smug. Some losers shake it off and some find it hard to accept. Somewhere in the trenches of life lies Eddie Kingston.
Eddie Kingston appears to be universally loved. But why have the fans of professional wrestling taken Eddie into their hearts?
For many reasons, Eddie appears to be connecting with the majority of wrestling fans since he has made it to a mainstream platform. If you take a quick glance at the Twitter machine or any message board, you will see widespread praise and appreciation of Kingston wherever you turn. Simply put, the guy is over.
His in-ring style is one thing the draws fans in. He has a combination of Japanese-influenced power wrestling and all-out brawling, with a dash of Eddie Gilbert’s showmanship. To put it mildly, when you watch Eddie Kingston throw hands, a fight is what you witness. His intense mannerisms and uncaged anger almost begs you to question “Is this a shoot fight?”. It’s a thing of beauty watching Eddie Kingston perform.
His in-ring performances are enhanced by his appearance.
He’s unconventional in terms of how people expect a professional wrestler to look. He’s not 6’5, 250 lbs of pure muscle, with an overdone tan and killer abs. Eddie has a normal-ish body, unshaven and average in height. That doesn’t stop him from being a pro wrestler, though for 20 years it’s probably a reason he was overlooked. He’s a mean-looking son of a bitch, with a raw unapologetic demeanor splashed across his face whether he smiles or frowns. If you pass him in the street and you weren’t an AEW fan, you may never suspect he was a one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet. He certainly hasn’t got that Mark Jindrak look that Vince McMahon would fawn over, that’s for sure, but the Mad King looks more like an ECW veteran than a sports entertainer, especially with his Cactus Jack-esque physique.
And that’s part of his appeal.
And his attire, what can I say. Eddie looks like he grabbed the first items he could find off his floor before driving to the arena to compete. There is nothing fancy about his clothing; it’s simple, effective and free of any bells or whistles. He looks like a common man. As someone who grew up in a working-class family, Eddie’s no-frills attire again makes him more identifiable and makes him stand out from the crowd in an era where Gucci sneakers seem to be all the rage.
We have all been spoon-fed the ideas that wrestlers need to look a certain way to be successful and it is far from accurate. History tells us that you don’t need to be a mass of steroids and fake tan to connect with the audience. Dusty Rhodes, arguably the man the people of the 1970s and ’80s, demonstrated that you can be your beautiful self and still get over like rover.
Just like Rhodes, Eddie doesn’t possess the hulking, bodybuilder physique, but damn is he over. People can relate to him. He looks like one of us, someone whose face tells a story of hardship and struggle, someone who has had more defeats than victories as he has navigated life. Additionally, unlike Dusty, he doesn’t seem as warm and approachable. Eddie gives the impression that he’d knock your teeth out if you looked at him crooked. That’s probably an accurate impression.
The similarities with Dusty don’t end with his appearance. Just like Dusty, Eddie appears to connect with the audience due to who he is, where he has come from and what he has gone through. Rhodes was the famous son of a plummer who made a visceral bond with the common man. The “hard times” Dusty spoke of were relatable to the life of the regular people he entertained and Rhodes fully encapsulated every bit of his smooth-talking charm by endearing himself to blue-collar America.
Flash forward to present day, the hard times may have evolved but they are still present in today’s society and Eddie Kingston has been his own “hard times”.
“On Fridays, if I made it through the week without trying to choke anybody out in my elementary school, my reward was Chinese food and a wrestling tape…” —@MadKing1981 https://t.co/kHdca7uJD0 pic.twitter.com/E5S4wVmRjB
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) November 10, 2021
Where Dusty was speaking about employment, Eddie’s struggles are similar yet different. In Eddie’s debut promo in AEW, where coincidentally he interrupted the son of Dusty Rhodes, he spoke about his hard times. Growing up with junkies, alcoholics and trying to rise above it all. As a man of almost Eddie’s age, as well as living in an inner-city, I can relate to that. Okay, it wasn’t Yonkers New York for me, but drugs and alcoholism were openly present as I grew up and I too have done my best to claw my way out. While I used education to better myself, Eddie used wrestling. Eddie is open about his struggles and the battles he’s fought, and the words of Kingston resonate with the audience who have gone through similar sh*t in their lives.
Eddies hard times did not stop there. Eddie, in his awesome article in the Players Tribune, which I highly recommend, talks about his anger issues as a child:
“The only thing that saved me from jail was the fact that I was so young. I was just an angry, angry, angry kid. I wanted to fight the world. I never felt like I fit in anywhere.”
I was an angry kid who didn’t fit in too, and I used to get in scraps daily whether in school, the flats I grew up in or on the football pitch. And just like Eddie, I wanted to be a professional wrestler, I just didn’t have the brains, guts or the resources in Ireland to seriously try. In that respect, Eddie is the person I wish I was and by the looks of it, many others see this too. It’s hard not to admire Kingston, admittedly I’m even a bit jealous.
But it’s Eddie’s openness with depression that makes him stand out from the crowd. His use of his real-life issues makes you not only take notice, but also makes him more relatable to the audience. It’s damn real. Eddie is brutally honest about how he has suffered as a kid and young adult growing up with depression:
“To be honest with you, the only thing that kept me from getting depressed was wrestling. I either had to be fighting in the neighborhood, or sitting at home watching a match. Otherwise, I’d fall into a depression. Back then, I didn’t even have the words for it. I was trying to be such a hard-ass that I didn’t want to hear about no mental health, no therapists, no feelings.”
He lays bare his very real battle with depression, which is no easy achievement. It takes guts to discuss this topic publicly, especially in an industry that would usually frown on mental health in the past. I, and many other fans, see this raw expression of reality and we identify with Eddie.
Eddie has spoken about when he found ECW, that he knew guys like New Jack, he knew men like Tommy Dreamer and identified with these characters. In a similar vein, the fans have taken to Eddie because we either know guys like him or are guys like him. He presents himself with confidence, bravado and ruggedness each time he pops into my television screen and when he speaks, you believe him. His passion explodes onto the screen as he speaks from the heart, and he is so damn good, it’s hard to tell where kayfabe ends. He’s just so damn believable that you strike every punch with him.
He has spent 20 years on the indies, or as he phrases it “20 years on the road in the indies, never quite making it, getting bitter, getting self-destructive, getting depressed, having to ask my parents for money so I could make rent. And to be honest with you, sometimes I have no idea why I kept going.” A good portion of us can relate in some way or form, whether it’s going to a dead-end job to make ends meet or questioning why are other people doing better in life despite busting your ass. Some days we don’t know why we continue to grind and some days feel harder than others, and we see that part of ourselves in Kingston.
And everything he says is steeped in honesty and he brings that baggage with him into every fight. You never get the impression that he’s never being anything but real with the audience. He is himself, flaws and all hanging out, and you never feel like this guy is serving you bullshit. You look at men like John Cena, Seth Rollins and others, and don’t get me wrong they are entertaining in their own way, but you feel it’s all an act with them. Eddie is different, with his “what you see is what you get”, no-nonsense attitude, he not only makes you love him, but makes you love professional wrestling.
And I truly believe, whether he wants to be or not, Eddie is the role model we all need and that young professional wrestlers should look up to. Not for his awesome suplex ability or his glass cutting promos, and make no mistake but for his strength to seek help when he knew he needed it.
“If I wasn’t getting help for my mental health, if I was too afraid to talk about this stuff, I’d end up killing myself. Period.”
Imagine the strength it takes to not only admit that to yourself, but to state it with the whole world watching. There is never any shame in having mental health issues, nor is there any weakness in seeking help. I will never understand what some people go through fully, and I won’t pretend to but I’m sure many folk can read Eddie Kingston’s account of his battle with depression and realise that it’s ok to not be ok. How many professional wrestlers have lost their lives through addiction? Eddie didn’t want to be another name on that list and strived to improve his life.
Eddie says that when people ask him about advice, he points people in the direction of older veterans in the AEW locker room:
“A lot of the young guys who come to me for advice, I tell them to go to Arn Anderson or Tully Blanchard or Jake Roberts or Billy Gunn…”
Now maybe when it comes to in-ring advice, the likes of Arn Anderson may be better equipped to handle those questions. However, if you are looking for an example of how to keep your head healthy as you navigate the wrestling landscape, Eddie Kingston is the guy. He’s had some recent ups, but Eddie has clearly had his dark days. He has made his mistakes, who hasn’t and he has fallen many times, but Eddie has come through the hard road he traveled and learned from his experiences. While Jake, Billy and Tully all had their issues, just as Kingston has, Eddie has not only recovered to the point that he is a fit and healthy human, but he has career has gone from strength to strength too. That’s no easy feat. Eddie is a shining example of how that it’s always possible to make positive changes, no matter how hard life becomes.
Eddie Kingston is Eddie Kingston and we love him for being himself. With shades of Dusty Rhodes and even some Mick Foley and Misawa inside him, he has found his way into the hearts of the professional wrestling world. The power of Dusty Rhodes in very dark times to made life so much easier for those folk who had similar struggles. Eddie Kingston has a similar appeal, as he sheds light into the hard life he had in the hope that it can help other people find hope and salvation in this cruel world.
He may not ever win a World Championship and he may never have the big moment he dreamt about when he was a young kid, but right now, he is undoubtedly is the champion of the people and long may his reign continue.