Now more than ever, great matches aren’t uncommon, especially in AEW. Even with those increasingly high standards though, outliers remain. They may not be unanimous examples of course, as taste will vary but regardless, I think we all have an internal playlist that fits the description. For whatever reason, there will always be matches that hit you a little harder, stories that strike a step deeper. It doesn’t have to be one genre or style either, that’s the beauty of this nonsense in truth.
Unsurprisingly, the latest addition to my collection came on Friday, as Bryan Danielson and Eddie Kingston painted a masterpiece on AEW Rampage. Physically, this match spoke for itself, a brutal affair packed with a violent brand of drama. Two of the promotion’s top stars fighting for every inch, combining their contrasting styles and so seamlessly existing in the middle ground within. The audience’s raw reaction told the tale, as Danielson and Kingston earned a stunning show of respect, a spontaneous standing ovation to be exact.
Beyond that though, there was an emotional weight to this war that for me at least, followed Kingston through the ropes. Before the bell, Danielson questioned Kingston’s work ethic, drawing a predictably emotional response. Kingston’s short fuse is central to his identity, but the content in this case was a little different. Disrespected by Danielson’s dismissal, Kingston cited his battle with depression, bringing that always present backdrop to the fore. Kingston’s mental health message certainly wasn’t muted before, though there was a certain anguish to his presence here.
Eddie Kingston is beloved, no matter where AEW goes, no matter who he’s fighting or why. Part of that is his unwavering vulnerability, wearing his heart on his sleeve at every turn, even in the heat of battle. In this scenario though, Kingston wasn’t opening up for anyone but Danielson himself, delivering each admission with that familiar rage. Kingston didn’t need or even want Danielson to understand, he just had to counter that concern. Win or lose, he wouldn’t be outworked, he’d have to be outfought.
A self-proclaimed master of self-sabotage, Kingston’s physique wouldn’t fail him, any frailties far outweighed by the fight within him. If there was any doubt before, this segment cemented the reality that on Rampage, Kingston would be bringing a frightening aggression, excessive even for him. This wouldn’t be a case of Kingston failing to prepare, it’d be a case of the brave gunslinger giving everything against his generation’s greatest. In many ways, the result always felt inevitable, but Kingston wouldn’t give himself, or Bryan, an easy way out.
With that brief but powerful pre-match context, Kingston’s arc felt like the hook here, even against Danielson. As usual, Kingston wasn’t just fighting the man opposite him. In fact, he wasn’t even sharing another round with himself, there was an idea that stood in front of Kingston here. After all, though their careers have run a comparable length thus far, Danielson is the antithesis of Kingston. The ultimate pro, Danielson is above critique at this point, an industry mega-star that could even qualify as a celebrity.
The irony of that of course being that Kingston doesn’t really want any of those things, it’s just the shining example he’s so often contrasted with. Danielson is the standard, a headliner in any setting and the era’s artistic centrepiece. On the other hand, Kingston is a rugged throwback, until recently struggling to stick in a major league setting. With those struggles came inevitable evaluations, as onlookers questioned Kingston’s attitude, commitment and style. Against Danielson, he could erase every doubt, with this pre-match exchange only the first example of exactly that.
Kingston’s performance never lacks intensity, his matches seldom without violence. This was a visible tier or two above the norm though, as Kingston swiftly made a mark on Danielson’s chest. Within the overarching narrative that I was so fervently following, Danielson’s brilliance was obviously integral. The only wrestler more selfless than Kingston, Danielson’s lack of ego allowed this to stand alone from his usual outings. Here, it was Kingston on the attack, not battling uphill but instead, the unusually dominant aggressor.
At one point, it was almost discomforting, as Kingston maintained offensive control in a fashion that’s hardly ever been the case throughout his incredible career. Kingston has made a living as the often overly charitable punching bag, selling for every foe, generous to a fault. In this match though, perhaps the biggest of Kingston’s career, it was quite the opposite. Danielson fits that same description and as a result, Kingston suddenly spread his wings on offence, absolutely brutalising the legitimately iconic WrestleMania headliner.
Even with that trend though, the endgame still felt set in stone, unbeknownst to Kingston of course. There was a focus to Kingston that even at his most intense, usually feels wavering. Though the aggression could’ve suggested otherwise, this wasn’t even desperation, it was a committed pursuit of victory. This was Eddie Kingston at his most professional ironically, producing a performance befitting Danielson’s status. Though it was absent both before and after, the respect was palpable, Kingston acknowledging his opponent’s excellence by maximising his own famed potential.
The Eddie Kingston story has familiar beats though, no matter the circumstance. In the end, that would be his undoing but not before an incredible visual that got Kingston in trouble along the way. In complete control, Kingston refused to relent on his ascent of the top rope, climbing up only to be knocked back down. Twice though, Kingston gathered himself and defiantly fought Danielson off, heading back up against his better judgment. On the third occasion, Kingston paid the price, as Danielson’s counter shifted the match’s momentum.
Though on the surface, it was just a fleeting sequence of action, it felt more significant than that within this particular story. In many ways, this minute or so was symbolic of the match itself, Kingston gallantly pursuing the industry’s mountaintop. No matter what came in response, Kingston kept climbing and ultimately, it was all for nought anyway. I don’t know, there’s something to that for me, both regarding this story but beyond that, within Kingston’s career journey too. On every rewatch, that transition carries more weight.
A few minutes and many strikes later, Kingston finally landed his signature Spinning Backfist, falling to the floor as the arena rose to its feet. Finally, Kingston was on a level playing field with Danielson, proving himself as ‘The American Dragon’s absolute equal. Though not the conventional headline act, Kingston quite clearly belonged on this night, and that couldn’t have been clearer as he crawled toward his hard-fought advantage. Not for the first time though, Kingston seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, or something like that anyway.
Suddenly caught in a Triangle Choke, Kingston was swiftly choked unconscious, offering a rebellious middle finger before the lights went out. I’ll always remember Handwerk Reviews’ description of Kingston as “the greatest and most captivating loser of a generation.” Certainly, Kingston’s role on Rampage couldn’t fit that any more perfectly. As Danielson stayed frozen in exhaustion though, this finish appeared to be conveying a different conclusion altogether. Kingston had lost, clearly, but this was very much a case of Danielson winning.
With a point to prove, Eddie Kingston had produced an effort that would’ve conquered almost any titan of his or any generation. Unfortunately, Bryan Danielson was the outlier, because of course he was. I suppose that in some ways, that’s as Eddie Kingston as it gets, saving his best night for the one man that’d still be just a touch too good. Kingston didn’t feel much like a loser as they both laid lifeless though, the momentary moral victor before inevitably taking himself back to square one.
Clearly, this story is incomplete, hopefully still quite a few chapters from its conclusion too. Perhaps the ultimate triumph remains ahead of Kingston, or maybe this is just the latest example of a never-ending curse. Time will tell but on Rampage, Kingston validated his whole career. For two decades, Kingston has showed signs that he’s worthy of this spotlight and against the world’s best, he couldn’t have felt more at home. There’s glory in that, it’s just that as usual with Kingston, it’s never quite as visible as his hand high in victory.
Well folks, it’s been too long. I can only apologise for my absence, but these things happen (in MMA) and my inconsistency is nothing if not consistent. Frankly, I may not even be back, but I have this article to offer so for now, that’ll have to do. I’ve been working on a review series of sorts covering Eddie Kingston’s YouTube bouts since joining AEW. That’ll be posted on our Distraction Patreon page, but this particular portion felt more enticing and so, here’s a full piece.
It’s Eddie Kingston vs. JD Drake, AEW Dark #76. Enjoy:
As silly as it may sound, I simply love this match. Perhaps it’s an investment thing, maybe the context helps but good lord, it’s just such a wonderful little throwback. That term can be a backhanded compliment at times but in this case, quite the opposite. This is simple TV wrestling, even if it’s almost hidden within a very long YouTube show. To fill in the gaps, JD Drake is a beloved piece of the latest independent wrestling ‘era.’ He’s not a big name nor a flashy one, but if you know you know.
Drake is a hardworking brute that can really move, packing his performance punch with strong promos too. Dark is a unique show, especially under current circumstances, featuring unsigned talent in a virtual trial environment. Not everyone can be a success story in that sense, but Drake is a special case. He’s not an unknown, not just another rookie simply finding their way. Instead, Drake is a polished pro chasing a chance to change his life, a revered wrestler seeking his full-time home.
That description once belonged to Drake’s opponent here: Eddie Kingston. After almost two decades, Kingston’s place in the industry seemed cemented, regardless of the audience’s adoration or the respect of his peers. AEW changed that, as Kingston forced himself onto national television by taking his own, admittedly higher profile, trial bout and leaving absolutely no doubt. Kingston had a TNT Title thriller with Cody, officially coming onboard weeks later after an onslaught of online support. Kingston was finally where he belonged and now six months later, the roles had reversed.
Suddenly, Kingston is the established ‘superstar,’ with unforgettable Dynamite segments and even a PPV main event under his belt. On paper, this is just another mere showcase for Kingston, who has been a relative regular on Dark, racking up wins to accompany his more heated conflicts on the promotion’s flagship. To those that were aware of Drake’s skillset though, this appeared to be something very different, a veiled showcase of the free agent, a clash of two of the industry’s hardest hitters.
There’s a bizarre dynamic to matches of this ilk on Dark. If they end flat in 90 seconds, you really shouldn’t be surprised, let alone disappointed. The suspicion, or expectation at least, here though was that Kingston’s intentions were slightly grander, even if nothing elaborate or excessive. That belief was confirmed as soon as Kingston arrived, sharing a knowing grin at Drake’s presence. There was an excitement to Kingston, a nod to those familiar with the context beyond AEW’s own established truths.
Kingston’s perverse glee was short-lived though, being pushed off with ease after attempting to lockup with Drake. Back to square one, Kingston stood hands on hips, sizing Drake up as after a second attempt also stalled, he’s forced to adjust his approach. Naturally, a heavy chop follows, with Kingston opting for an exchange of strikes after failing to move Drake physically. That tactic doesn’t get Kingston any further though, as Drake’s fiery response suggests that he’s outgunned in that regard too.
With plan A and B already out of the window, Kingston snatches a desperate headlock, just holding Drake in place as he attempts to recover. Drake pushes him off though and Kingston has no choice, again trading chops and clearly struggling, adding a tool or two for survival’s sake. Even a headbutt doesn’t put Kingston in control though as Drake is simply rolling, virtually battering Kingston a toe-to-toe brawl. This matters, because Kingston has established that as his style, consistently swapping strikes with AEW’s biggest and baddest bruisers.
Drake is making him think about that twice though, not just belonging but even thriving. So desperate for any kind of reprieve, Kingston heads to the middle rope, landing a big shoulder tackle that historically, is reserved for those that in some form or fashion, outmatch Kingston physically. Thus far, that description isn’t out of place here, as Drake has simply been a step ahead, wrestling with palpable confidence, completely unmoved by the moment. Though the shoulder tackle floors Drake, Kingston still can’t out-strike him, eating violent chop only seconds later.
At this point, Kingston has no real choice and so an eye-poke follows, breaking written and unwritten rules to avoid a fair back and forth. Kingston is desperate now, doing everything in his power to ground Drake, appearing deranged as he batters his opponent to the mat with an onslaught of brutal headbutts. Drake is no fool though and won’t be caught by the same shoulder tackle twice, this time stepping to the side and landing an emphatic right hand. Drake builds on it too, scoring the Vader Bomb for a big near fall.
With momentum on his side and perhaps, even the win within reach, Drake gets slightly overambitious, missing a spectacular moonsault and allowing Kingston to seize. A swift Uraken later and Kingston had survived, clutching his chest frantically after only barely avoiding a historic upset loss. Putting my rambling aside, this match is only five minutes long and yet, it achieves so much in my view. This bout is built around one idea really, but it’s executed with such proficiency, ensuring that this one note sticks with me.
There are critically acclaimed matches every single week, but the internal narratives don’t always live long in my memory. This match though, it’s such a contained effort, not adventurous or sensational but just so shrewd, an incredibly neat little venture. Three months later and JD Drake has become an AEW Dark regular, filling an actual role on the roster and even working a standout Dynamite bout with Darby Allin. Drake has yet to receive an official statement or ‘ALL IN’ graphic but his point has been proven, it’s just a matter of him receiving his rightful reward.
Ideally, Drake will indeed get both of those things, earning the international exposure that his talent deserves. If that is the case, Drake will be following in Kingston’s footsteps, perhaps the industry’s ultimate example of refusing to relent, sticking with a craft that at times, simply refused to love him back. Kingston is a rather romantic fairy-tale in that sense but matches like this ensure that his roots are never lost. Though his role may have changed, Kingston’s instincts remain as sturdy as ever, selfless as either supporting act or leading man.
Good lord folks, how has it only been a week? I mean seriously, it seems as though years have passed but nonetheless, let’s not waste too much time! After all, there’s no time to waste in November 2020, I’ve been only sitting at home for eight months! Ugh. Sorry pals, ignore my grimace, I’ll grin before long. Why? Well in fairness, Full Gear is now just days away and to the extent that professional wrestling can remain actual escapism, this show feels like a standout example.
Seriously though, I am excited for Saturday’s PPV and look forward to this final promotional push. Let’s get to it, no time to wa…eh, my word count is long enough.
DISCLAIMER: I’m a weird fella, somehow still left stranded between “all wrestling is good” positivity, and “good lord can we go back to 1981 already” negativity. If you’re in either of those camps and prefer content leaning in that direction, this probably won’t be for you. Sometimes I’ll grimace, other times I’ll grin. I am not credible nor consistent, please accept these truths before scrolling any further.
You know, my negativity needs taming. How bad can things be? Let’s settle down and have some fun, watching cool moves with Tony Schiavone. Ignore my cynicism, perhaps this is the exact escapism that I need!
We begin with Chris Jericho and yeah, I’m feeling better already, this is indeed the voice that I wanted right now. Oh well, only one promo I suppose, I’ll be okay! Anyway, he congratulates Jake Hager who, ah, this is an interesting start huh? Nonetheless, MJF soon interrupted, hoping to ease any recent tension. Jericho shunned this, suggesting that unlike his Inner Circle family, MJF is soft. Fine segment, even if I genuinely think that considering how niche AEW’s audience is, the Chris may not have been a perfect opening sight. Either way, it’s just one segment!
MJF and Wardlow vs. Sammy Guevara and Ortiz
You know, I often watch AEW and think oh man, this is great but what if, just maybe, they had another voice at the announce desk! It’s a common thought of mine actually. In fact, I didn’t want to admit this but during last week’s main event, I actually began to weep at the lack of announcers. It’s just so limiting, why have three opinions when you can have four?! That’s not an issue tonight either, as the aforementioned ‘Demo God’ is here, like all night, he’s just here now. This was advertised already but again, not ideal.
Regardless, let’s get to the match as structurally at least, this was a rather interesting case study. Sammy has always had babyface upside in my view, but he’s just such a wonderful antagonist with his mannerisms and such. This match showed the other side of that coin though, as in terms of layout, this match was effectively built around his hot tag. They set the table for that with a pretty lengthy heat segment, by AEW standards anyway. MJF and Wardlow worked Ortiz over, halting the anticipated excitement of a Dynamite opener.
That’s not a criticism either, as it’s exactly what these two men should do. They are in a separate category, completely uninterested in the roar of the ‘crowd.’ As you’d expect, that limited Wardlow’s arsenal somewhat but he still shone in flashes, explosively launching his foes around when possible. Again, I’d love to know who’s producing Wardlow because frankly, his in-ring maturity is something that this project has really allowed me to appreciate. Thankfully, similar maturity wasn’t required of Guevara, who eventually ran wild on the aforementioned hot tag.
To his credit, Sammy made that prior work worthwhile, producing a comeback filled with fire as well as offensive innovation and creativity. Inside the ropes, it’s a seamless transition for Guevara but if an actual babyface turn is oncoming, his character work will be my main focus. Either way, Matt Hardy eventually interfered (lol) and that allowed MJF to score the submission win over Ortiz. Solid match that served a purpose even if personally, I remain unsure as to what that is. Enjoyed it regardless.
Post-match, MJF jumped Jericho and this certainly added actual tension, with the prior ‘soft’ comment sparking some spite. It’s a bizarre feud because I’m unsure as to what I’m supposed to feel but if nothing else, I do have faith in Jericho having a smart destination in mind. Perhaps that’s foolish of me, probably is in fact but here we still are, I suppose anyway.
Meanwhile in Gotham, Tony Schiavone sat down with Kenny Omega for an interview. This was quite good, as Omega projected pure arrogance with a promo that veered about as close to ‘sports style’ as he’ll go. He was talking like an athlete, just one without any self-awareness, one truly in love with his own success. This presentation works for Omega and if he can mirror it somehow once the bell rings, AEW has a new top heel. If not, the waters remain muddy for me, but this was still a step in the right direction, further positioning Page as the babyface.
Miro vs. Trent
All the gang are ringside for this one and lemme tell ya something folks, TRENT IS TALL! I am quite certain that this isn’t news, but it still rules that while AJ Styles was IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Trent was a Junior. That has nothing to do with this, just thought it was worth mentioning that Trent is a big fella. Big meaning that he’s not 5’8, basically. Speaking of big, Miro is still looking jacked (baby) and I’m delighted to report that after a strange few months, ‘The Bulgarian Brute’ finally made an impression befitting his talent.
Miro’s work had that familiar snap here, the explosion that always made him so exciting in WWE. As I’ve maintained throughout this run, Miro’s best skills are subtle and his value to AEW is rooted in the fact that he’ll shine in actual matches. This outing proved that in my view, but it was also encouraging to just see more rhythm in general, as Miro seemed to have regained some flow to his offence. He just looked much more comfortable, which is of course a credit to Trent who in truth, likely deserves much more appreciation for his value to this show.
Speaking of such, you’ll hear no complaints from me about this match’s length or intention. Some will have wanted a squash, but Trent warrants better and as I’ve already said, Miro has a much better shot at getting over with matches like this. With that being said, the actual layout itself proved harmful in my view. I’m struggling to capture why but for whatever reason, this match lost its way for me and I wonder if they allowed their focus to become somewhat skewed.
Shenanigans began to compile late, and the action took a natural backseat, which took the wind out of its sails unfortunately. Still a good match, just sense that they are capable of even more together. Either way, Miro has arrived and that’s good news for all involved. Smart matchmaking, even if the actual feud itself is rather weak.
The chaos continued post-match, as Miro refused to relent until an Orange Cassidy save. Oh, Dark Order jumped Orange by the way and rightly so, he stole Penelope’s sunglasses. Filth.
Elsewhere, Page sits down for an interview of his own, taking some time with JR. Battling his nerves, Page is relying on the booze, unsuccessfully trying to convince Ross that he’s prepared. You know, this whole angle could come across rather tasteless and for some, I’m sure it already does but personally, I have only praise. Page has become one of wrestling’s best characters, vulnerable, flawed and wearing his heart on his sleeve even when he attempts the opposite. His delivery is a big part of that, just terrific stuff, and a standout narrative within Dynamite’s 2020.
Speaking of standouts, Team Taz is here next and yep, you guessed it: HE’S PISSED. Paying homage to my Twitter timeline at any point this year, Taz called the current rankings into question. He then pointed to the big screen, citing quotes from Tony Khan’s initial interviews. Okay, that part’s a lie but seriously, imagine that! Free idea for ya Taz. Ricky Starks then asked for an explanation as to their absence from Full Gear and Taz couldn’t help, instead promising their presence this Saturday.
Private Party vs. The Young Bucks
Pre-match, poor Matt Hardy was attacked, with Guevara swiftly returning the favour. This feud couldn’t feel more like a favour, literally fitting it in as they go. It’s a backdrop to other angles, existing so that Saturday, they can have one final shot at redemption. I’m very much rooting for Matt in that regard, he deserves a grin at this juncture. Speaking of grins, I can’t stress how great it is that I no longer like The Young Bucks. Why would I want to cheer wrestlers? it’s easier to star rate without emotional investment anyway!
You know, I didn’t want to dwell on this topic as in truth, I’ve already battered it. Unfortunately, I can’t just move on, because everything Matt and Nick currently do feels empty to me. I no longer know what they are or where they stand, which shifts all of that responsibility to the other team. Private Party aren’t in a position to make up the difference and as characters, FTR aren’t either. The Bucks have to be the heart of these matches, the element that we are on the rollercoaster for.
Nonetheless, this match was very good in a vacuum, as Private Party looked encouragingly polished while physically at least, Matt and Nick did what they do best. This was an athletic showcase that spotlighted their opponents, producing in-ring excitement that still escalated towards a spectacular closing stretch. It doesn’t hit as it could or even should, but that doesn’t halt my enjoyment of their efforts once the bell rings. Aside from the cool moves, there was a narrative in motion here, as Matt sold his previously injured leg.
That was logical, even if my prior gripes call the whole direction into question. The Bucks lean on this plot point quite a bit, with Matt battling physical ailments while Nick grins wide. It’s cool, even if not exactly the cloud that I hope for with my #DreamMatch. I don’t want to gloss over Private Party here anyway, as Isiah Kassidy’s hot tag was truly elite. So much so in fact, that Chris Jericho compared him to known technician Will Smith. Seriously though, that provided the perfect transition to the match’s thrilling final stages. Very good match, even with the self-inflicted hurdles.
Afterwards, FTR threatened to repeat their attack on Matt’s leg but Hangman made the save, running Cash and Dax off with Omega not far behind him. Everyone then talked trash, pulling mean faces and such. Well, at least they didn’t try too hard or overcomplicate things further. FTR and The Bucks were certainly more interesting when Hangman and Omega were involved too, so bringing them back is smart, even if purely for perception. Unfortunately, this angle’s fate is sealed until the match itself.
Moxley and Kingston Face Off
My love for this rivalry is well-documented but wow, they reached new heights here. In just five minutes, Kingston and Moxley may have produced the best segment in Dynamite’s brief history and on the promo front, that’s already no mean feat. Kingston began, overcome with intensity as he quite literally screamed in Moxley’s face. Kingston explained himself once more, reluctantly embracing the bitter, resentful lunatic that he’s become. Moxley wouldn’t budge though, then providing some perspective of his own, discussing the root of Kingston’s behaviour, in his view at least.
This resulted in an incredible visual, as Kingston turned his back while Moxley mentioned their past, forcing doubt in Kingston’s mind. This continues to be a fascinating morality play, as here more than ever, Kingston naturally draws sympathy. He’s a man corrupted by the system he’s in, changed by his own misfortune. Moxley doesn’t need this like he does, but that doesn’t make Kingston’s actions any more likeable. It’s truly pulling at the heart strings, daring fans to pick a side when they’d least like to, tempting them with Kingston’s tale.
This segment was as good as it gets, capturing an authenticity that just isn’t found in modern pro wrestling. Honestly, the ‘modern’ there probably isn’t even necessary, as in Kingston’s case especially, he’s just historically great. This was a genuine dispute, a believable conflict erupting in front of us. Kingston shouted over Moxley, he lost his way in the moment, left unhinged by the gravity of this opportunity. Simply beautiful stuff by both men and all in just five minutes too. This is how it’s done folks, pro wrestling at its absolute best.
Okay look, this edition is probably about to fall off a cliff, because that last segment has left me pacing. Can’t believe it didn’t close, am unsure as to how I’m supposed to reset. Anyway, Pac talked to himself while in isolation. Weird that they actively promoted this segment, but I’m glad to see the mad lad nonetheless.
Elsewhere, the Natural Nightmares stopped by for an interview as next week, they’ll face The Butcher and the Blade. The Bunny interrupted though, distracting them long enough for her pals to attack.
Red Velvet vs. Nyla Rose
Brandi is alongside Velvet here, which is a dynamic that I’ll pretend to be aware of moving forward. Rose has Vickie Guerrero in her corner and though she’s in Saturday’s title match, the lack of emphasis on this pairing has been truly incredible. Don’t get me wrong, it was never something that I desperately wanted to see but still, they’ve barely been on Dynamite as an act. Combine that with Shida’s lack of presence and suddenly, you have a PPV title match that’s unlikely to capture a single headline.
Rose made the most of her minutes here though, improving even on Britt Baker’s recent squash match effort. In fairness, Velvet swiftly set the tone here, jumping Rose and laying her stuff in immediately. Credit to her for running wild without hurting Rose’s aura, that’s a compliment to the quality of her work. Rose’s cut-off continued that trend too, transitioning to sheer dominance and staring down Shida along the way. This was her best effort yet in the squash match genre, and was a standout showing overall.
It just all looked great. Powerful, violent, and aggressive, Rose hit all the correct notes here and Velvet only elevated her offence. Eventually, Rose closed the show with Shida’s finish, delaying things in order to make a statement.
Squash Grade: Big Grin
Post-match, Vickie talked trash to Brandi before focusing on Shida, predicting a title change as you’d expect. That led to Shida snatching Vickie, swiftly sparking a brawl with Nyla. This ‘feud’ is a complete miss overall but if nothing else, this was solid stuff that provides at least some momentum for Saturday’s match. Nothing ground-breaking but effective and in this build, that’s a major triumph.
A very funny video package followed, previewing Full Gear’s tournament final between Page and Omega. I refuse to spoil anyone’s fun because I love fun and am very cool!!!
Speaking of cool, Darby Allin is attempting to murder Cody impersonators.
The Dark Order vs. Cody and The Gunn Club
Speaking of Allin, he’s brooding like Stang here as we enter our ‘main event.’ So, they definitely had concerns about Kingston and Moxley’s runtime, right? That’s the only reason for this match going on last and even then, it’s still very strange. This is presented as a major moment for Austin and righty so but well, he was fine. That’s not a criticism, he simply didn’t do anything of note and considering the spotlight here, that’s just bizarre to me. He also took the heat segment, so I’m unsure as to their intentions with this match’s existence, let alone its placement.
Don’t get me wrong, Billy Gunn hot tags certainly deserve a grin in 2020 but still, it’s a Billy Gunn hot tag…in 2020. Basically, this match was a ‘Road To’ multi-man and not a particularly good one at that. Bizarre, but at least Austin got the win I suppose. Again, wish he’d have stood out even a little before that but he’s young, so I’m in no rush to draw any conclusions. Even if I was, it’s not on him, just a result of odd decision-making.
Post-match, The Dark Order tried to be bullies but Orange got revenge, arriving late to leave Silver laying. Cody then grabbed a microphone and saved this somewhat, cutting a terrific promo on Darby. Talk of leaving the empire quickly followed and next thing I know; Cody is calling himself the ACE. Now that, that’s filth. There’s only one ace and that’s Cockroach Mask you neck tattoo-having, acting class-taking, 3* match-making hack!
(This promo was genuinely tremendous. Sorry Tana, I still love you more! xoxo)
Imagine this show without Kingston and Moxley, shades of 2016 RAW without ‘The Legit Boss.’ Those two men are carrying the programme but thankfully, their segments are so extraordinary that in truth, that’s not too grand of an indictment. Instead, it’s a compliment to the World Title feud, which is simply a cut above. Considering this episode’s purpose, that promo battle alone makes this go-home outing successful. Unfortunately, there’s very little around it on this particular week, so I’m somewhat capped in terms of my overall adoration.
Even still, one rivalry has me tuning in and one match has earned my money on Saturday. That’s fine with me though, as some stuff is so great that the rest is just icing, it can only fall so far.
I must say, I always think it’s fun when people wax lyrical about things they love. It’s especially enjoyable when I have some understanding as to who or what they are talking about, which immediately narrows it down to two or three topics. Nonetheless, wrestling is one of those and I’ve always loved to hear what performers mean to fans and why. With that in mind, I thought I’d do an almost quarantine-edition of that very thing, talking exclusively about people I like on a platform that protects me from all debate and dispute.
Before I start listing some names though, let me set the table a little here. Want to stress to anyone still reading this that I’m a strange fella, the kind of guy that would describe his taste as “varied” or “simple” while simultaneously hating almost everything. Well, that’s not exactly true but if people love something, you can generally bet the house that I’ll at least pretend not to. Wish I wasn’t that way to be honest, hopefully I won’t be by the time I’m old enough to realise that I shouldn’t be writing about professional wrestling as a full-grown man.
Also, this list isn’t a collection of wrestling’s men and women that I respect or admire. In fear of sounding phony, that list would be incredibly long and also unnecessary. Yes folks, I think that Daniel Bryan is quite good at wrestling, Kazuchika Okada too. That’s not what this is though, it’s an extremely strict criteria involving only those that of this very moment, I am genuinely invested in. That doesn’t mean they are the best or anything like that, they are simply performers that I’ll actively watch, regardless of setting.
With all that nonsense out of the way, let’s get to some names:
Now look folks, I know 2020 has sucked thus far but I do feel like every once in a while, we should all unite in celebration of this guy. It seems almost lost in the chaos that after over a year out of action, Hiromu Takahashi has just slotted back in as one of the world’s most dynamic, exciting, and generally entertaining professional wrestlers. Regrettably, I missed much of Takahashi’s prior NJPW work. Now don’t get me wrong, I caught enough to be very aware of him, much of it simply came during my NJPW hiatus.
That was a time in which I became a snob and decided that NJPW was too popular for me to like. I did this while tuning into Monday Night RAW live every week like a raging lunatic. Hey, don’t take that as an insult if you still do the same, unless you’re British like me, then I’m very much insulting you. Anyway, Hiromu Takahashi, he’s good right? Not sure why I’m crafting a narrative that he’s underrated here because he’s probably not, I’ve just ignorantly muted every social media account that actually likes wrestling. Remember when I said I was a strange fella?
No but seriously, this guy is so, so special. His matches can be rich with flash, often awe-inspiring in fact. However, they can just as likely be uncomfortably violent, pure brutality if he’s in the mood. If those two options aren’t enough to win you over, he’s also more than happy to embrace comedy to a degree that makes nasty podcasters like me grimace, all while wondering what Rick Rude would think. Wait, maybe it’s just me that does that…. perhaps I should rethink the style of these things. Then again, maybe not, wrestling needs more never-ending sentences in my opinion.
It’s interesting, Jezza and I rarely discuss NJPW on The Distraction because it’s pretty consistently great and what can a simpleton like me add? Well, based on these last few paragraphs, absolutely nothing. All silliness aside though, if Hiromu is wrestling, I’m watching and he’s a perfect example of what this article is about. I don’t love every Hiromu match and he’s probably not as prolific as some of his famed peers. Who cares though? He can give me a modern New Japan “classic” just as easily as he could produce a match totally distanced from that style.
He’s not alone in that sense of course but the beauty of Hiromu is that for the most part, I find it impossible to predict what he’ll do. That’s so perfect for his whole presentation, he’s so seamlessly wild, an untamed element of such a professional, proper product. He can be whatever that moment needs him to be, but he manages to never really change, he fits regardless of his actions on that particular night. I always understood why folks loved Takahashi but in 2020, I’ve experienced it myself.
He’s someone I’m genuinely invested in right now and frankly, I’m not sure I ever saw that coming.
Now this pick is a little bit different. I’ve covered Eddie Kingston in greater detail before, but I have to say, I find my own fascination with this man to be rather puzzling. Even after all these months, I’ve still yet to watch Kingston’s match catalogue in the detail I intended to, but in terms of sheer connection, he may be above every other name on this list. Perhaps I relate to him or in some bizarre way, seem to think I understand him but whatever it is, I really and truly care.
If I were to take a guess, I’d assume that even as a cynical, miserable wrestling critic, Kingston manages to make me believe like no other. There are some great talkers in wrestling, perhaps less than I’d like but still some very capable speakers, nonetheless. With that being said, I’m seldom left totally immersed by any of them and that unquestionably, is more a commentary of me than it is the performers. In the same way though, it’s also a compliment to Kingston that he’s very much the exception to that rule.
Kingston is so incredibly authentic, his honestly almost piercing within the world of wrestling. I’m not saying anything new here of course, Kingston is widely respected as one of the great promos but the more I watch his in-ring work, the more I’m befuddled at his position in the industry. Now don’t get me wrong, Kingston has had a career to be proud of, but I’d argue that he’s made approximately 400 million dollars less than he should have. His work is actually rich with subtlety, he sells with great commitment and consistency, all while fighting with the passion befitting his personality.
Anyway, this is different because right now, Eddie’s de facto “home” is inactive, with NWA’s future seeming unclear to say the least. Kingston appears in a range of promotions across the world but as of late, he’s felt like an increasingly pivotal piece of NWA’s project. I don’t think that was initially the case, but it seems that before long, Kingston’s potential reach became clear, with his undeniable promos thriving in their product. While far from a major hit, I’d assume NWA did get some new eyeballs on Kingston and ideally, that’ll lead him in the right direction.
That direction being of course that I want someone to sign Eddie Kingston and pay him handsomely to be Eddie Kingston. After all these years, I’d argue he’s quite good at doing that and after watching all available wrestling television, I’m fairly sure that he could make every single one of them better. Wherever he goes though, I’ll be watching because at this point, I care and that’s a feeling I try to embrace, rare as it may be for me.
In 2020, there are many, many great professional wrestlers scattered across the earth. Some of them can do stunning things, others have entertaining personalities and almost all appear to understand the modern landscape better than I ever will. With that being said, I’m not sure any of them are as timelessly “money” as Randy Orton. Look folks, I don’t care where you take this man in your rasslin time machine, he’s probably going to be the top heel. Orton is just so masterful at the subtleties, little things that were once so commonplace among main event stars.
That’s not a criticism of the current scene either. The audience has changed, and performers inevitably follow popular trends as they look to adjust. However, I know what I like and if you’re unsure as to what that is, just picture Randy Orton working a limb. Orton does so many things that too often, I take for granted as standard wrestling activity when in reality, it’s what makes him so great. He can be so suddenly violent, snatching guys with such a cold, calculated aggression. He’s as vicious as any headline heel should be but there’s an eeriness to Orton, a puzzling uncertainty.
The best example of Orton’s brilliance comes in his selling though. Firstly, there’s a surface level praise that, frankly, should be more common than it is. Orton seldom renders prior work wasteful; he sells with admirable consistency that best of all, suits his tone. That part is the key here though, a trait almost totally unique to Orton in my view. After all these years portraying wrestling’s Norman Bates, Orton has figured out how to sell in a fashion that belongs in a horror film but yet still feels at home in the wrestling ring.
He’ll bump with a snap; it all looks as crisp as you’d expect but he’ll almost freeze on impact. Orton then reels but you never feel any sympathy for his state, it’s instead nothing but caution. Yes folks, I’ve concluded that Randy Orton has mastered a sell that leaves you wondering if he’s actually dead, or he’s about to make you leap out of your seat, spilling popcorn as he returns to life, wiping out protagonists in an instant. With that in mind, the RKO is even more perfect, a finisher that leaves any babyface feeling in danger at all times.
I’m not sure anyone else will even understand what I just wrote so here’s something we can all agree on: the promos. Randy Orton wasn’t considered a top tier talker for much of his career but right now, I’d argue he’s the best character on WWE TV by a mile. His promos are gripping and this year more than ever, I’ve been in awe at his ability to make insane actions almost comically feasible. Orton makes it all much more logical than it is and seems hellbent on proving that at any given moment, he can be better than any wrestler you enjoy.
I’m glad to see WWE’s sustained commitment to Drew McIntyre but speaking purely as a fan, I’d 100% care more about RAW if Orton dethroned him. I’m not saying that’d be a good move to be clear, quite the opposite in fact but I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t pique my interest. In 2020, Randy Orton is as complete as he’s ever been. He’s wiser, more motivated, and may tick more boxes now than he ever has before. History will be kind to Orton, but I don’t need to wait, this man is an all-timer, plain and simple.
CONTINUED IN PART TWO
Anyway friends, this has become much more in depth than I intended it to be and I’m fairly sure I just burnt multiple features that could earn me money. What an on-brand decision. Speaking of such, here’s something that’ll kill all interest in this: I’m now going to make you wait. These first three names conclude part one of this bizarre series and I’ll continue what I expect to be a trilogy some other time. if you’re still with me, I think you need to question your life choices but even still, I’m very much thankful for your boredom.
Hope to see you all next time folks…. not that I’ll know, it’s written, not like we’re discussing these things.
Armed with nostalgic visuals and a throwback format, the NWA holds a unique place in the current wrestling landscape. In an era of in-ring thrills and athletic spectacles, NWA Powerrr has quickly become home to some of wrestling’s most engaging personalities. In four months, that programme’s podium has already hosted multiple memorable promos, allowing its performers to talk without any real filter or restriction. Thus far, that element has been NWA’s most prominent, quickly providing them with a unique selling point in an admittedly crowded field.
Some names stand out more than others though, forming an organic hierarchy of sorts. In the NWA, almost everyone talks for themselves but within those ranks, a few figures truly command your attention. You anticipate their next word or thought, awaiting every minute of promo time they receive. Eddie Kingston may be the clearest example of that right now, the least surprising highlight of a show stacked with familiar faces and breakout stars. As soon as Kingston’s involvement was announced, the results seemed obvious, the perfect fit at the perfect time.
The news sealed my interest too as if nothing else, Eddie Kingston on a studio wrestling show felt worth watching. I’m not even particularly sure why either, as my confidence in such a concept was mostly unfounded. Regrettably, my knowledge of Kingston’s body of work was relatively sparse, especially then but I’d seen enough to reach a common consensus: there was something special about him. I was far too late to the party in that regard though, only catching the fleeting YouTube promo until Kingston’s first stint in Impact.
Through no fault of his own, that initial run flattered to deceive but his presence motivated me to dig a little deeper. That led me back to Kingston’s famed High Noon promo which in turn, directed me to the match itself. There was certainly something captivating about Kingston, an authenticity that in its sheer sincerity, demanded your respect. So, with my knowledge slightly expanded, I mostly moved on, only returning to the odd clip occasionally. It was Kingston’s return to Impact that solidified my prior perception though, portraying ‘King’ to perfection and enhancing his angle immensely.
Entwined in an intriguing saga with LAX, Kingston maximised every minute, establishing a character that extended beyond wrestling’s usual parameters. Though his rare skill set was now more undeniable than ever, Kingston’s Impact return would also be relatively short-lived. He’d certainly fit the description though, translating to television seamlessly and validating every praise of his promo ability. Kingston deserved better after that performance but one year later, he found a far more fitting home: arriving on the NWA Powerrr premiere.
Since, Kingston has maintained my interest and then some, bringing an incredible energy to each appearance he’s made. Alongside Homicide, Kingston was an immediate factor, seeming at ease from episode one. In fact, Kingston has almost felt underutilised, receiving ample talking time without being a central focus either. That had especially been the case as of late, with Kingston’s most recent character developments feeling somewhat under-cooked. Kingston’s dealings with The Pope had been featured but their story was just beginning, existing mostly in the background until this week.
My investment in Kingston made that somewhat frustrating but it was hard to be anything but reassured. After all, I knew the inevitable: at some point, Kingston would speak on this matter and in many ways, that confidence is the beauty of this show. It was well-placed too, as in just one minute, Kingston totally shifted this programme’s trajectory. As soon as he finished speaking, I felt compelled to momentarily halt my viewing. I’m not even particularly sure why, I just had to take a minute before continuing.
Minutes later and I felt the need to re-watch that single minute. Over and over, I’ve watched Kingston’s promo in hopes that somehow, I can piece together it’s brilliance. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at understanding why things like that resonate but this transcended those usual explanations. I think that partly, it was the range of emotions so swiftly covered that made this so remarkable. Kingston initially brought humour to proceedings, then intense anger followed by an almost despairing honesty.
Kingston’s rage in defending Homicide really spoke to their alliance, catapulting both characters to a whole new level for Powerrr viewers. As Kingston touted his partner’s accomplishments, his raw passion elicited cries of support from the audience but just one sentence later, he’d rendered them silent. Initially, this appeared to be just another sublime studio outburst, filled with vim and vigour. Kingston wasn’t talking to the audience here though; he was speaking directly to the culprit. As a result, Kingston was almost frenetic, unleashing his emotions with a blunt brutality.
That led to the aforementioned silence, as Kingston pointed directly at Pope, declaring “because of him, I didn’t commit suicide. Do you understand that? That’s reality, that’s real.” That particular sentence was delivered in a hushed rage of sorts. Kingston wasn’t much quieter than before, but his tone had certainly shifted. Just like Kingston’s delivery, the audience’s reaction was natural. There weren’t any grandiose elements within Kingston’s statement. Instead, there was a guarded honesty that had been fearlessly unleashed in front of us.
This segment provided great insight into the Kingston character, pushing his honour and loyalty to the forefront. It very much gave perspective to Homicide’s importance too, his impact on the industry as well as of course, Kingston himself. On the other side, it truly shaped The Pope’s still emerging character. He was clearly this story’s villain before, but his villainy had never been clearer than after Kingston had finished talking. Those effects are undeniable, this promo enhanced their angle dramatically, but it still doesn’t quite capture its impact on my own investment.
In truth, I still haven’t found the explanation for that. NWA isn’t low on confident talkers, but this promo felt different to me. It was startlingly genuine, authentic to the core. The emotional rollercoaster Kingston took us on was truly unique and if I had to guess, that’s the leading reason for the reaction it’s received since. I think it was for me anyway but perhaps all of these factors just speak to Kingston himself. There’s a special ingredient present in this, it’s part experience perhaps but there’s a trait here that simply can’t be taught or learned.
If the art of professional wrestling is capturing our imagination and evoking emotion, Eddie Kingston truly is an artist. Regardless of platform or presentation, you can always believe in this character. You may loathe him in one place and love him in another, but you’ll never doubt a move he makes. There’s no uncertainty in those eyes, bringing full commitment to every word, whether they are inspired by loyalty or deceit. In the grand scheme of things, I still know very little about Eddie Kingston, but I know more than enough to truly care.
Thankfully though, I’m now increasingly aware of why for so many years, he’s resonated so strongly with his fanbase. Simply put, Kingston can make us feel the kind of emotion that’s rare in wrestling. So rare in fact that when it’s palpable, wrestling can create moments that for those viewers, will live forever. This all sounds incredibly complex, but it should be reiterated that all of these thoughts were sparked by just one minute of Kingston talking. A single minute that I’ve since re-watched enough that it’s truly etched in my mind.
The best wrestling often appears rather simple in hindsight and I don’t think that’s necessarily a fallacy either. Far from it actually, that’s almost the charm. All Kingston needed was a minute of our time and in many ways, that’s the perfect encapsulation of what’s made him so enduring. More knowledgeable fans than me were aware of all this long ago but personally, I’ll hold this promo dear. Why? Because after all these hours of wrestling, it left me truly stunned. So much so that 1400 words later, I’m still not particularly sure why.