Eddie Kingston has been a revelation for All Elite Wrestling. The fortuitous but gutsy Yonkers, New York, native burst onto the scene on the July 22, 2020 episode of Dynamite to challenge Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship.
Over the last year, The Mad King has helped the company reignite some of the spirit and grit of independent wrestling on network television.
At Full Gear 2020, the 39-year-old experienced the highest of the highs as he battled his friend Jon Moxley for the AEW World Championship in an "I Quit" match. So, it's only fitting that he should return to the event this weekend to take on a veritable indie legend and star acquisition in CM Punk.
The build to their showdown has been one of the most riveting aspects of AEW programming ahead of the pay-per-view. This feud doesn't rely on years of continuity like Kenny Omega vs. "Hangman" Adam Page, but it feels so in comparison to other ongoing storylines. This shouldn't come as a surprise because Kingston's earnest and gladiatorial promo work has been his biggest strength since he stepped foot on the company's flagship series.
That same authenticity made his poignant and unwavering account of his journey up to this point for The Players' Tribune such a great read. He bared his heart and soul to readers as he chronicled his introduction to the form of entertainment he loved so much, the crushing lows and the beautifully rendered victories that will define his career.
The Most Fitting Orator for a Dark-Horse Talent
The Players' Tribune is the perfect platform for Kingston. Let's face it, he is the best choice to tell his unique story because no one else could retell the events with the same vigor and trademark audacity. The whole essay reads like a dramatic one-man show that only he could perform.
Seriously, you could feel his voice coming off the page due to the informal conversational style of the piece. Even more, readers could feel his immense pathos, relatable moments of joy and inspiring breakthroughs.
It was a deeply satisfying pilgrimage that perfectly sets up every heartbreak and success along the way. More importantly, it's incredibly honest about Kington's continuous struggles with mental health even during the brightest points of his career.
This openness is what makes it so easy to connect with the unconventional star. His bond with hardcore fans mirrors his own attachment to ECW wrestlers.
"I remember when I first discovered ECW," he said. "I felt like I was watching guys I knew. I mean I watched WWF like everybody else, but it always felt kind of soft to me. ECW, it wasn't characters, it was like real guys I knew from the street corner. I knew guys like New Jack. I knew guys like Dreamer. When those guys went through the table, it was like your uncle going through the table."
Similarly, Kingston doesn't come off as a caricature of anyone. No, he looks and talks like someone you used to know from around the way.
The former CZW world heavyweight champion even hilariously described staying up to watch the religious channel to see Paul Heyman's violent brainchild. What a wonderful parallel to the maniac who wears rosaries down to the ring he would grow up to become.
You can see how his childhood watching wrestling on VHS tapes molded him into the performer we know and loved. His passion and appreciation for the niche sport seep into everything he does. It's infectious and further paints someone so outrageous as just one of us.
An Unlikely Beacon of Hope
Kingston's recount of his career is every bit as brave as it is almost inconceivable. That's not to say we doubt any of it actually happened, but there is a vulnerability to his story that feels surreal. His well-documented financial plight due to COVID-19 before he miraculously earned an AEW contract seems like something out of an award-winning biopic.
It's almost too good to be true, but his perseverance in the face of so many hardships is what makes it so hard not to root for The Mad King. His blue-collar background and straightforward presentation make him an everyman of sorts. His reluctance to give up on his dream or give in to his vices makes him even more admirable.
In an industry centered around hypermasculinity and larger-than-life characters, Kingston stands out as a part of a new generation that isn't afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves. That's important in a day and age when addiction and depression have ended so many stars' careers prematurely. His theme song, "Cold World," draws comparisons to the late DMX's iconic depiction of his own struggles on "Slippin'."
To that end, his story is an excellent companion piece to Moxley's recent move to deal with alcohol addiction. He even expressed pride in his friend and tag team partner for taking such a courageous step.
In Kingston's own words, he has no business being here. On the surface, he doesn't look like the ideal signee for a major pro wrestling promotion, and he has stumbled many times to get to AEW.
However, that's what makes his ascendancy to network television and high-profile matches like his encounter with CM Punk so beautiful. It's an emotional chapter for such a hardened individual, but he deserves every second of it.
Win or lose, Kingston's humanity will always shine through as his most endearing trait.