AEW’s Eddie Kingston Seeks Career-Defining Moment vs. Jon Moxley at ‘Full Gear’

The Week in Wrestling: Eddie Kingston big break in AEW, Damian Priest on his respect for Finn Bálor and more.
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Eddie Kingston: ‘Maybe, on paper, it doesn’t look like I belong in this match. I’ve been betting on myself my whole life. I know I belong.’

Eddie Kingston celebrated the Fourth of July in a backyard show for ICW: No Holds Barred at the “Deathmatch Drive In.”

Four months later, he will wrestle Jon Moxley at Saturday’s Full Gear pay-per-view in a match for the AEW championship.

When finding a home with AEW seemed like a remote possibility, Kingston stood in the ring on the Fourth and cut an expletive-filled promo, filled with enough fury and wrath to awake the spirit of Thomas Paine.

“I was angry, extremely angry,” Kingston says. “Angry about the state of the world. Angry that I had to rush back from a tour of the U.K., leaving good people and good pay, because of the pandemic. Angry that I had to sell my gear to pay my mortgage.”

Calling out anyone listening, Kingston used that promo to share his most biting vitriol for Cody Rhodes, Zack Sabre Jr. and Nick Aldis. A ship without a port, Kingston was seeking a pro wrestling home, looking to give his career some momentum it desperately needed.

“I was supposed to wrestle Zack Sabre Jr. in England for RevPro, but then COVID hit,” Kingston says. “I wasn’t contracted but I’d been working for the NWA, so I called out Nick Aldis trying to make some buzz. I threw in Cody’s name just for fun, just to see what would happen. That anger was real, but I didn’t want to sit with it any longer. I wanted to use my real-life anger and turn it into something positive.”

That promo helped lead to a Dynamite match against Rhodes as part of his open challenge for the TNT championship later in July. His performance and the social media response surrounding it, along with some eleventh-hour interest from WWE, ended Kingston’s run as a free agent, as he agreed to a deal with AEW.

“I found the perfect home in AEW,” Kingston says. “WWE has shown interest in the past, but not always as a wrestler. That was always the sticking point. After my match with Cody, they saw me more as a player-coach, and that piqued my interest.

“My mother made the call. She said I would be happier in AEW than WWE, so I said, ‘OK, that’s where I’ll go.’ You have to be good to your mother; she gave you life. No one will ever know me better than my mother, so I listened to her.”

Fully aware of what is at stake, the 38-year-old seized the moment in AEW, capitalizing upon weekly television segments to show that he has few equals in the ring and absolutely none on the microphone. Kingston cuts a different promo from what viewers are accustomed to in the modern era of televised wrestling. Spoken by a man with 18 years of experience in the industry, his words sting—and rarely does he hold back.

AEW’s storytelling has been strong in the Moxley-Kingston program. Kingston was never eliminated from the Casino Battle Royal at All Out in September, which led to a surprise title shot on Dynamite later that month, which he lost by referee stoppage. Kingston voiced frustration because he never said quit and never tapped. So Moxley demanded a rematch, which is why the AEW championship match will be Moxley against Kingston in an “I Quit” match at Saturday’s Full Gear.

“This is my chance to prove what I need to prove,” says Kingston, whose New York accent is felt more than heard in every word he speaks. “I want to show that championship title to my mom, to my dad, to my brother and to my uncles, my nieces and nephews. I want to show it to everyone that has known me since I was a child. When I show them that belt, I’m going to tell them, ‘This is why I acted the way I acted. This is why I made the decisions I made.’

“When I show that championship belt to my uncle, I’ll tell him, ‘This is why I didn’t join the union.’ When I show that championship belt to my dad, I’ll say, ‘This is why I didn’t go to college.’ When I show it to my mom, I’ll say to her, ‘This is why I didn’t get married yet and give you a grandkid.’ When I have that championship, that is the reason. This is the top world heavyweight championship, and that is going to signify every decision I’ve ever made.”

An internal debate inside AEW revolves around what should be the main event of Full Gear. The Young Bucks and FTR meet in a tag title match that has been brewing for years, but wrestling promotions are built around their world titles. Moxley and Kingston have established a gripping, entertaining program, which has further enhanced the meaning of the belt. Kingston was careful with his choice of words when asked if his match should be the main event on Saturday.

“The politically correct answer is that it doesn’t matter where I am on the card, and that the Bucks and FTR should main-event because they’ve had such a big buildup,” Kingston says. “Here’s the honest truth: The Bucks and FTR have a right to be the main event. I honestly can’t wait to see that match. It doesn’t matter where on the card I am against Moxley. This is my job, this is my life, so it’s going to be a main-event match.”

There is a certain sizzle to this world title bout, which would only be amplified by placing in the final spot of the night. It is highly unlikely that Moxley drops the belt to Kingston, but there are outside factors in play. If Moxley is destined to drop his IWGP United States title at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s signature Wrestle Kingdom show in January, it benefits AEW if that happens when he is not their reigning world champion. Although the long-term plan remains a Moxley-Kenny Omega feud for the belt, a change of pace with Kingston as champ would turn the heavily favored Moxley into an underdog, heightening the manner in which AEW offers unpredictable, cutting-edge content.

“If you’re waiting to see Moxley-Omega, then good, keep looking past me,” Kingston says. “That’s disrespect to me. I’m going to win. If that puts a wrench in some people’s plans, that’s O.K. Those are their plans, not mine.

“I’m in this business to be the top guy, I’m in this business to be champion. I am working my ass off to prove I can be the world champion for the top company in America. This means everything to me. I will be AEW champion, and when I’m champion, my goal is to be better than ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, so the work never ends.”

Kingston is frequently described around wrestling as an incredibly gifted talker—so much that he even once cut a convincing promo on a chocolate chip cookie. But often overlooked elements of his work are his in-ring intelligence and overall resourcefulness, bringing a deeper meaning to his matches.

“I honestly believe I’m better than Moxley on the stick and in the ring,” Kingston says. “Outside of Kenta Kobashi, I believe I’m the greatest pro wrestler in the world. I have to believe that. If I believe someone is better, then why am I getting up in the morning? Why am I going to Muay Thai training? Why am I working on my grappling? Why am I going to the gym and studying tape? Maybe, on paper, it doesn’t look like I belong in this match. I’ve been betting on myself my whole life. I know I belong.”

Kingston wouldn’t be a long-term fit for WWE. He belongs in AEW, where his past can be highlighted and his personality can be let loose. He makes a phenomenal rival for Moxley, the former WWE superstar (as Dean Ambrose). Moxley captures people’s attention the moment he steps into the ring, while Kingston has made fans believe, but never received the opportunity for a prolonged stay in a top company.

Once the foundation for Chikara, Kingston has always been generous to those around him. Recently he helped elevate Santana and Ortiz during their time together in Impact as part of LAX, which played a role in AEW’s interest in the pair. This Saturday marks his chance for a career-defining moment, an opportunity for the hungriest man in pro wrestling to get a seat at the dinner table.

“I’m going in calculated,” Kingston says. “I won’t be running in headfirst, fists blazing. This is one shot I didn’t think I’d ever get, that’s why I had to b---- and moan.

“I like the pressure. I like having my back against the walls with my ashy knuckles like my man Jay-Z would say. I was raised to be an underdog, and I love fighting. You can cheer, boo, love it or hate it, but when you watch, you’re not going to see me lose this shot.”

Paige and WWE at odds over Twitch, highlighting major conflict in pro wrestling

Paige and her bosses at WWE remain at odds over her platform on Twitch.

WWE has made it a priority to limit their performers’ availability and earning rights with third-party ventures like Twitch and Cameo, as the company continues to create its own in-house versions. WWE is still charting out its most effective method to best capitalize upon money through streaming services, but there is no doubt that this will infringe upon the money made by the talent and instead make more money for the company.

Multiple WWE performers, including A.J. Styles, Cesaro and Mia Yim, have temporarily suspended their Twitch channels. Mike Johnson from PWInsider reported that talent met with Vince McMahon to work out better terms for wrestlers who have established a presence on Twitch, but as of the current moment, were unsuccessful in that attempt.

Sports Illustrated spoke with a handful of wrestlers on the WWE roster about the stricter policies regarding Twitch. The repeated theme throughout the conversations was that the talent have placed a higher priority on their wrestling career than the supplemental income received from streaming. That is complicated for someone like Paige, who is on WWE’s inactive list due to a neck injury.

Paige drew significant attention last week upon mentioning she was looking into unionization. If she is making more money from streaming than her WWE contract, this may be her way of tempting the company to fire her. But WWE will be wary of that, as it would set a precedent for those looking to exit the company. So Paige and McMahon are now engaged in a power struggle, an area where McMahon has succeeded over the course of the past three-and-a-half decades.

A fight from Paige could have tremendous ripple effects throughout the industry. Wrestling companies have long limited their talents’ earning rights, and it will be worth watching to see how far Paige is willing to take this fight in order to hold onto her Twitch stream and the following that she built.

Damian Priest on Finn Bálor: ‘I can’t wait to get in the ring with him again’

Damian Priest lost the North American Championship to Johnny Gargano last week on NXT.

While he begins his chase of Gargano this week, Priest is always keeping a close eye on the work of Finn Bálor, the reigning NXT champion. Bálor is still recovering from a jaw injury following his TakeOver 31 fight with Kyle O’Reilly, but Priest is eagerly anticipating his return—as well as the chance to work a program together for the NXT title.

“That guy is incredible,” says Priest, who is 13-year wrestling veteran Luis Martínez. “It was 2013 when I first saw his stuff in Japan. I’d been in the business at that point for years, but I became an instant fan. When he got signed by WWE, and wrestled in NXT, I watched every week. He was just so good.

“Last year, before the pandemic, we teamed together on a couple road loops. You can be cool with somebody, but it’s when you work together that you form that relationship. Not to say that we’re boys, but there is definitely a deep respect for one another as people, as well as our love for the business.”

Priest and Bálor worked a physical, entertaining bout in June at TakeOver: In Your House, a match that still stands as the most compelling, exciting match of Bálor’s career.

“I found out that Bálor wanted to work with me,” says Priest. “I thought, ‘Finn Bálor wants to work with me? That’s crazy.’ He told me he liked my stuff and thought we could do some business, and what a pro he was.

“I’m so proud of that match, that was my coming out party for a match. That day, everything worked, and I was able to go with one of the best ever.”

Bálor remains undefeated in TakeOver events since his return to NXT last fall, which includes his victory against Priest.

“I can’t wait to get in the ring with him again,” says Priest. “I’m looking forward to beating him up and getting a different result this time.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • The WALTER–Ilja Dragunov match from NXT UK is a work of art. It was a physical bout featuring lots of controlled violence, and it helps introduce Dragunov to a larger audience. The match also serves as another reminder that WALTER has a future as the top star in WWE. 

Vince McMahon will be the subject of a multipart Netflix series that will undoubtedly be of huge interest to wrestling fans the instant it is available. 

  • If you’re seeking additional reasons to watch AEW and NXT on Wednesday night, here are two: Dynamite features the return of Pac, while NXT has a match pitting Shotzi Blackheart against Toni Storm.
  • Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics does a tremendous job covering the economics of pro wrestling and pointed out this past week that WWE is on pace for its most profitable year ever. 
  • All the best to Kylie Rae, who announced her retirement from wrestling earlier in the week. 
  • Leyla Hirsch will always deal with critics saying she is too short, but she is tremendous in the ring—and she had a fantastic showing last week on both AEW Dark and then Dynamite in matches against Hikaru Shida and Serena Deeb
  • Congratulations to Renee Paquette, whose cookbook is available for pre-order. 
  • Jake Hager won his fight last week at Bellator 250, though this showcase bout nearly went awry at the end. 
  • There is something about Eric Bischoff appearing on a wrestling show airing on TNT that always feels right. 
  • Big matches are in store this weekend for New Japan Pro Wrestling at Power Struggle, which includes IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental champion Tetsuya Naito defending against EVIL, as well as “Switchblade” Jay White challenging Kota Ibushi for his title contract. But perhaps the biggest match on the card pits KENTA against Hiroshi Tanahashi, which should determine Jon Moxley’s opponent for Wrestle Kingdom in January. Tanahashi-Moxley would be a box office matchup, and it allows Tanahashi to pick up a key Wrestle Kingdom win after losing at this past year’s event to Chris Jericho. It also protects Moxley if he were to lose to someone with the skill and stature of Tanahashi. 
  • The Undertaker made a Halloween-themed appearance on The Jimmy Fallon Show… 

Conrad Thompson previews this week’s edition of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard

A new episode of Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard is set for this Friday, as Prichard and cohost Conrad Thompson dissect and analyze the career of King Kong Bundy.

Bundy reached his wrestling pinnacle at the age of 30 in 1986, headlining WrestleMania II in a steel cage match against Hulk Hogan. But by the winter of ’88, Bundy had left the company and did not return until 1994.

“Bundy did an ad campaign, one that he didn’t know was going to air in America, and that led to the end of his push and his entire run in the WWF,” says Thompson. “Bundy had appeared in a computer ad as a spokesperson, and he did this on his own. When Vince found out, he wasn’t happy. Bundy worked one more Saturday Night’s Main Event, and then he was done with the company.”

When Bundy returned, McMahon put him in line for a program with The Undertaker that culminated at WrestleMania XI. That run could not muster any momentum, and Bundy never reached the levels of popularity he had years prior in the World Wrestling Federation.

“That wasn’t a high point for the Undertaker or Bundy, or the business for that matter,” said Thompson. “It will be interesting to discuss why Bundy didn’t opt to go to WCW, which definitely would have had a spot for him.”

Thompson looks forward to hearing Prichard discuss the initial interest in Bundy, what made him a top priority for McMahon, and the manner in which the pair ended their working relationship in 1988.

“Bundy is such a fascinating story,” says Thompson. “After he left the WWF, he decided to work local indies in the northeast and keep a low profile. And we’ll talk about the stand-up comedy routine and his appearances on Married… with Children, as well as why Bruce thinks he’s not in the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Tweet of the Week

In addition to the string of good luck, Io Shirai delivered a fantastic match last week in the NXT main event against Candice LeRae.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso