I don’t remember the first time I saw Eddie Kingston wrestle. It was most likely a CHIKARA or Dragon Gate USA show in 2009 or 2010. Maybe it was a Ring of Honor show. I don’t remember and don’t really want to remember – Eddie Kingston entered my life in the most nondescript way possible.

That was the time period when I realized there was more to wrestling that United States television wrestling. I discovered the indies and began to attend shows like the first DGUSA show. I became obsessed with PWG. I watched almost the entire history of Ring of Honor to that point. I discovered Pro Wrestling NOAH and then All Japan. I realized that this was an entire new world of wrestling I was missing.

Eddie Kingston didn’t stand out as much.

His wrestling wasn’t flashy. Others were smoother, crisper, had better matches. But I began to watch more and started to notice him more. I watched him battle Chris Hero in a violent Fight Without Honor at Final Battle that was, to my faded memory, the best match on the show. He had heart and grit and I began to understand.

CHIKARA ran shows in my area frequently. CHIKARA was most known for its wild characters and comic book storylines. It was campy and fun and unrealistic and a joke everyone was in on; that was the appeal. But, right dab in the center of the universe, was Eddie Kingston. He was the grounding wire, the guy that was so real he made the entire universe valid. I began to see more of his promos, the realist you will see in wrestling. I began to understand.

The turning point in his career was King of Trios 2011. This was the first King of Trios I was attending, and it had a stacked lineup. Great Sasuke, El Generico, 1-2-3 Kid, Manami Toyota, and Akira Tozawa were just some of the legends and greats on the weekend of shows. I was insanely excited and couldn’t wait.

Tragedy struck the week of the show. Larry Sweeney, one of the most beloved figures in CHIKARA history, took his own life. This shook the company to its core. A dark cloud was cast over the weekend. It was a noticeable energy, the roster grieving together. In doing so, they created one of the greatest weekends in independent wrestling history. It was an incredible show and a great tribute to Sweeney.

Kingston wasn’t in the tournament but he did wrestle Arik Cannon night 2. Eddie came out to Highwayman, one of Sweeney’s favorites. Emotion was deep in his face. He put on his game face, he won the match, and he was overcome with emotion. This was his tribute to his friend; tough it out, don’t give up, and honor him in the ring. And he did.

After this, CHIKARA had their first championship tournament:  the 12 Large Summit, named after Sweeney. This was a G1-style tournament that culminated on the first CHIKARA iPPV, High Noon. Kingston faced the owner of the company and his trainer, Mike Quackenbush. Leading into the match, he gave one of the greatest promos in independent wrestling history.

In near tears, Kingston described the trials and tribulations he had to overcome to reach this point. Injuries, the death of Sweeney, the ups and downs of being a journeyman independent wrestler. There is no Eddie Kingston character. There is just Eddie Kingston, the man. He describes how Sweeney would be the best man at his wedding. He needed to win the match, he needed to win the Grand Championship, he needed to honor his friend.

And then, for the first time, he did it. He won the Grand Championship. And, really, he is the man most associated with that title. He held it until CHIKARA’s year long hiatus. When the company returned, it never regained the same heights and feeling from the golden era. Kingston’s era.

After the demise of Chikara, Eddie bounced around the indies, showing up in most prominent places. He had Ring of Honor runs, AAW, GCW and many other places. He had a WWE tryout but did not sign. He appeared in Impact Wrestling. At the time, this felt like a major victory for Kingston. He never felt like a guy that would ever appear on national television. But here he was.

His run there lasted about two years. When he finished there, the grind of being an unsigned professional wrestler finally got to him. He announced his retirement. This was not a celebratory retirement. He came off as beaten down and defeated, wrestling was no longer his way out it was his burden. It was a sad ending to a long career, but luckily, his redemption was still to come.

In an article he wrote for the Player’s Tribune, Eddie was open with his demons up to this time period. He drank. He felt sorry for himself. He took up odd bouncing jobs. He was never going to get a steady job in the business, so he was going to move into the remote wilderness and fade away. But he told his brother this, and his brother said, “You do you. It’s your life. But what am I going to tell my son.” That is when it clicked for Eddie that he just could not retire.

At this point, I must come back to my experience as an Eddie Kingston fan. During the CHIKARA run, he was never my guy. Sometimes the matches would be good, sometimes they could feel like a plodding change of pace. But he stood out because he was different, and that stuck with me. He always was real, and that stuck with me. I just didn’t realize it at a time.

I remember the exact moment I realized that Eddie Kingston was my guy, the wrestler I most associate with my personal show going experience. It was in 2018, after his CHIKARA run and towards the end of his time in Impact. I hadn’t seen him as much then. I didn’t watch Impact regularly. He mostly popped up on the undercards of random indie shows I’d watch.

I went to a GCW show at their Compound, a training school the promotion opened in an industrial park warehouse. Kingston lost in the third match of the show. My memory says he cut a promo after his match, but I honestly can’t tell you that for sure. I saw him standing in his street clothes after and realized that this guy who felt lost in wrestling at the moment, who didn’t have a character, summed it all up for me. He was independent wrestling. He lived it and he bled it. It isn’t always glamourous. It isn’t always about the great matches. It was the grind, the comfort of seeing old friends on each show, of seeing these guys progress through their career. I thought back to seeing High Noon live, I thought back to his reign in CHIKARA. He was always the same. He was always Eddie Kingston.

Fast forward a few years. July 22, 2020. The most important day in the career of Eddie Kingston. The day he was finally vindicated.

The global pandemic of 2020 brought obvious uncertainty to professional wrestling. It also brought some ingenuity and experimentation. An example of this was the Cody Rhodes open challenge. Cody, one of the founders of AEW and a pillar of the company, held open challenges for the new TNT title he held. These were usually answered by independent wrestlers, essentially as an open tryout. On this night of Dynamite, Cody’s challenge opened the show.

After Cody’s entrance, before any other music could play, Kingston walked out, mic in hand. It was all on the line for Kingston here, and he knew it. If he didn’t nail this opportunity here, there was nowhere else to go.

He came came out on fire. He talked about the grind. He talked about his rough upbringing. It’s one of the best and most impassioned promos of his career. It was absolutely clear to everyone that he not only deserved a change in AEW but felt at home there. And, despite WWE now being interested in Kingston only after he appeared on AEW TV, he signed a contact a week later.

That August, he was the final man eliminated in the Casino Battle Royal at All Out, but he still got a TV title match against Jon Moxley weeks later. He lost. But his promos were so impressive and his connection so real, he main evented the next PPV against Moxley again. The biggest match of his career. But it was still during the pandemic in front of a limited audience. And he wasn’t quite there yet. His ring gear was awkward looking, a tribute to Mitsuharu Misawa that didn’t quite land. The match was good but not great. It wasn’t the grand arrival some would hope for. But still, he entered the main event scene and was now forever associated with Jon Moxley.

The next PPV was main evented by Moxley vs Kenny Omega in an exploding barbed wire match. There was high drama in the match, it was brutal and unique and a spectacle. Moxley was left lying in the ring when it was about to explode. In an homage to Onita vs. Funk, Kingston ran out to cover his enemy, to protect him from certain doom in the form of a massive explosion. The clock hit zero, Kingston lay over his opponent and the explosion… fizzled. It was a dud. Kingston looked silly. Another big spot that didn’t deliver. This time, it wasn’t even his fault.

He formed a team with Moxley, and quickly they gelled. They wrestled the Young Bucks at Double or Nothing 2021, the first AEW show back with a full audience. Again, they lost. He got another shot against the Bucks, this time with Penta El Zero M. Lost. He feuded with Miro for the TNT title. Lost. He fought Bryan Danielson in a tournament for a world title shot. Lost. He had a brief but violent feud against CM Punk, Punk’s first real feud after returning to wrestling. Another loss. Kingston was proving he belonged in AEW, but not enough to win. He could never do it.

Then came 2022, a year with the highest highs and lowest lows for Kingston. His year started strong. He was thrown into a feud with Chris Jericho built around Jericho, not thinking Kingston was in the same league as Jericho because he was a lowly independent wrestler. Jericho brushed off Kingston’s legitimacy. After Kingston was briefly sidelined with an orbital bone injury, the two fought at Revolution 2022. And this time… EDDIE WON! He finally got the big victory! He did it! This was vindication. Validation. Finally, Kingston fans were listened to. We finally had something to sink our teeth into. Our guy won! This was the year of Eddie, and nothing could stop him.

But everything stopped him.

The Jericho feud continued, with a full heel turn for Jericho coming from the loss. It culminated in a Barbed Wire Everywhere match with Jericho. The match was a dud. It was not a good match, and it ended with Eddie awkwardly losing. I felt defeated. After all the clawing, after finally getting validated and hopefully getting pushed into the main event scene, after the ups and downs of his entire career… it felt like a giant step backward.

This loss transitioned to a feud with Sammy Guevara. Before it really got going, the feud was derailed. Kingston and Guevara got into a fight backstage after Kingston took offense to unplanned comments Guevara made during a promo building the match. Guevara got suspended and the feud never regained steam when he returned. Kingston was relegated to the preshow on the next two PPVs, wrestling Tomohiro Ishii and Jun Akiyama. While these were good matches featuring Kingston victories and were clear gifts to diehard fans, they also felt like simple make-goods for the lack of substantial Kingston progression.

The end of 2022 into 2023 frustrated me as an Eddie Kingston fan. I was told that the Jericho feud wasn’t a Kingston burial, that Kingston had to lose. That it was his fault the barbed wire match wasn’t good. It was his fault that he fought Sammy backstage, derailing his push. He reaped what he sowed. It didn’t matter that others that got into backstage altercations around the same time returned to their original spots. Everything was on Eddie. He deserved a burial. He reached his ceiling, he should never win. I felt like I was being kicked down as a fan, piled on. He didn’t deserve anything else. I needed to just be happy with what I got. At the beginning of the year, I thought a brief Eddie Kingston AEW title reign was an actual possibility someday. At the end of the year, I was told that I should just be happy for any run at all.

That continued into the New Year. Eddie “quit” AEW to join Ring of Honor. Now he got demoted off TV. He main evented the next ROH pay-per-view against longtime rival Claudio Castagnoli. Another loss. Now he was back again to loser status, but this time he was losing on the b-brand.

Shortly after the loss, Kingston announced he was taking time off to deal with a hernia injury. This felt like a real crossroads to Eddie’s career, and I didn’t have much hope after it. This felt like the end.

Eddie Kingston has long been associated with the King’s Road era of All Japan Wrestling. That era was propped up by the Four Pillars: Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue, and Toshiaki Kawada. Misawa was the Ace. Kobashi was the golden boy. Taue was the guy along for the ride. But Kawada, he was the one I related to most. He was ugly. He was missing his front teeth. He was just as good as the others, maybe even better. But he had a temper. He had an edge. He would go a little too far.

Kawada couldn’t win the big win. He could not beat Misawa. Every step forward led to two steps backwards. When he finally did beat him, Kawada broke his arm and had to take time off. When he finally won again, he missed the company’s peak and when his reign would have resonated most. He didn’t ever get the full run he deserved.

Of the Four Pillars, Kingston has been associated most with Kawada. They sat down for a back-and-forth conversation while Kingston was in Japan. He wears Kawada’s iconic black and yellow colorway. But most importantly, you can see Kawada in Kingston every time he steps in the ring. Kingston has the chip on his shoulder, he will never give up, he will fight through injury. He just could never do it.

Until now.

Kingston returned in mid-2023 and immediately brought life back to AEW. Despite previously being relegated to Ring of Honor, he propelled himself into a main event program in one promo, hitching on with the Elite in their feud against the Blackpool Combat Club. He was a key part of a 10-man tag between the two teams at Forbidden Door 2023, taking a bullet for Moxley only to be beaten down by him moments later. However, the Kingston team won. Eddie was back.

From there, he checked off another box on the bucket list. Kingston went to Japan for NJPW for the first time. He beat Kenta for the NJPW Strong title in a sold-out Korokuen Hall. He was obviously overtaken with emotion. He made it and won a title in the greatest wrestling venue in the history of Japan. Weeks later, he participated in the G1, the most prestigious tournament in Japanese wrestling. He was in some of the tournament’s best matches (notably his match with Tomohiro Ishii). He ended the tournament with 8 points and a 4-3 record. It was incredible just to see him in the G1, let alone do decently well.

Upon his return to AEW, Kingston wrestled Castagnoli again for the ROH Championship at Grand Slam in Arthur Ashe Stadium. New York City. Eddie’s home. The match opened the show. The crowd was molten and the building shaking. And this time, this time… he did it. He beat Claudio, his long-time rival, in his own hometown. He used Kawada’s famous powerbomb to win, the same powerbomb Kawada himself implored Eddie to win. He cut an emotional promo in the parking lot after—career vindication.

But still, it was hard to celebrate as an Eddie Kingston fan completely. After years of wanting just one big victory, one title, him now having two was too much for some. He didn’t deserve it. He was only getting his flowers by attrition. These were “Make-A-Wish” victories for a man nearing the end of his glory years. Companies were too caught up in his story, pushing a guy who wasn’t as good or as deserving as others, was parachuting in. Once again, we couldn’t just celebrate. Kingston fans have learned to always be on the defense.

As the year ended, AEW announced their own version of the G1, the Continental Classic. The most talented names in wrestling were in the tournament—veterans like Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley, rising stars like Swerve Strickland. Kingston wasn’t given a chance. Then, he announced that his NJPW Strong and ROH Titles would be on the line in the tournament, along with a  new title, creating the AEW Continental Triple Crown.

This caused massive uproar. How dare he! How dare Eddie put up an NJPW title in an AEW tournament! We can’t have another AEW guy holding an NJPW title! NJPW needs to get out of this relationship right now! Jon Moxley can’t hold it! Bryan Danielson can’t hold it! Swerve can’t! These guys won’t even go to Japan! NJPW’s plans are ruined!

No one thought Eddie could win.

His first match was against Brody King. Kingston lost in a hard-hitting match. His next match was Danielson. Danielson mocked Eddie and beat him mercilessly. After the match, Danielson gleefully help up a sign that said, “Eddie is a bum.” With only 5 matches in total, losing two felt insurmountable.

It wasn’t. He beat Castagnoli again. He beat Daniel Garcia. He beat Andrade El Idolo. He made the B-Black final against Danielson. The man who mocked him. The man Eddie wasn’t good enough to beat. He won. He beat Danielson and made the final.

On December 30, 2023, Kingston faced Jon Moxley in the Continental Classic at the Worlds End pay-per-view. Moxley, his old rival. The man he’s been intrinsically linked to throughout his entire AEW career. The man Eddie couldn’t beat. The man he saved. The man who turned on Eddie, who looked down on him. Who respected Eddie but never respected him quite enough.

They had a fast, all-out G1-style sprint. Hard chops. Big throws. Both men barely able to stand.

He fucking did it. Eddie Kingston vanquished Jon Moxley. He walked away, tears flowing, holding three title belts. The Continental Crown. He reached the top. He torched his enemies and his doubters.

I don’t know where else Eddie’s career will go. He is 42 years old, obviously towards the downside of his career. I don’t know if he will spend another decade in AEW or retire next year. I don’t know if he will eventually win the AEW title or drop the Continental Crown a month from now and never sniff gold again. But I know that today, Eddie has reached the top of the mountain. He is forever a part of wrestling lore and legend. You cannot tell the history of AEW, and, therefore, wrestling, without mentioning him. The man who scratched and clawed for everything. Who almost retired. Who was supposed to just be happy to finally have a shot.

He did it. And it can never be taken away from him.

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