Featured image by Lee South

First reviewed here.

Disclosure: I participated as a paid member of the pre-show promotion of ROH Supercard of Honor.

Why does Eddie Kingston lose matches?

Of course, we know the answer to that in our reality. Looking at his career as a whole, we know that Eddie Kingston wasn’t always the most stable talent to have in your locker room. Heated grudges and a volatile attitude meant that it often took a little extra trust on a promoter’s part to push Eddie Kingston hard. Talented as he always has been, it’s just a safer bet to go with other established and similarly talented wrestlers who perhaps won’t cause the same kind of headaches that Eddie might have a decade ago. In 2023, it’s not quite the same story, it’s more a problem of place and time. The Khan-verse promotions get by portraying themselves (in their ideal state, at least) as forward thinking companies with an emphasis on a new generation of talent. Eddie’s not of a new generation, he’s a seasoned veteran getting a long overdue run in the spotlight.

A much more interesting approach to this question is from a narrative standpoint though. Why does the pro wrestling character Eddie Kingston lose his matches? To that we have quite a few answers. He’s simply not quite as athletically or physically gifted as many of his contemporaries. His rugged upbringing means he’s more concerned with a hard nosed fight than a straight competition. And, in a reflection of his reality, his temper can get in the way. Hard pill to swallow, but Eddie Kingston does have attitude problems that exacerbate longstanding insecurities and destructive mentalities. Not a conducive combination in a pro wrestling match.

What makes the main event of Supercard of Honor this year so great is how well it explains to us the mental roadblocks that Eddie would spend the following months of the year trying to overcome. Many people at the time speculated that it might be a good moment for Eddie Kingston to finally win a major title in the Khan promotions, and even then I disagreed. It’s important to look at where Eddie was as a character at this time. The end of 2022 was marred by a loss to Chris Jericho, a legitimate disciplinary suspension, followed by even more difficult losses both professionally and personally. Kingston’s friendship with Ortiz disintegrated, the mental taunting from the House of Black basically drove them apart, and that led to Kingston leaving AEW temporarily.

And what’s Eddie’s first order of business after all this turmoil? Rehashing an old, unresolved grudge. Eddie’s running from his demons in AEW by crashing straight into a demon from his past.

Note Eddie’s physicality before the bell here too. He’s seething, almost jumpy with how much pent up frustration he feels being across the ring from Claudio again. When the bell does ring, there’s hardly a moment of composure from Eddie there. It’s straight on, charging right for Claudio, smacking up his longtime enemy. It actually takes a few minutes for Eddie to develop a potential game plan, first by slowing down the action with a headlock, then by kicking out Claudio’s leg to create a target on the champion’s body.

It seems like the perfect opening for Kingston. He may not be a famous grappler, but with enough focus, he can at least smash up a leg bad enough to potentially defeat a champion. It’s a smart approach too against a wrestler as powerful as Castagnoli, eliminating his base to neutralize his strength. But Claudio knows how to push Eddie Kingston’s buttons. Claudio doesn’t mind engaging in a fire fight if it means that it throws Eddie off mentally.

It doesn’t take much pushing from Claudio to get Eddie there. When Eddie gets mad, he only sees red and it’s a full on, constant charge forward, consequences be damned. Similar to Kawada in his ’93 title challenge against Misawa, Eddie loses all focus on his initial game plan and fails to return to Claudio’s leg despite making such a big deal of opening up that target on him in the first act of the match. The match becomes less about beating Claudio and more about beating up Claudio. Once Claudio gets Eddie there, then he’s already won the match from a mental standpoint.

Eddie getting too involved in his own anger leaves him vulnerable to massive attacks from Claudio. There’s a big one early on where Claudio deadlifts Eddie through the ropes, out of the ring, and then suplexes him right onto the floor. Much like Kzy in 2021, it’s the kind of early bump that telegraphs the direction of the entire match. It’s at this point that Eddie begins to lose the match from a physical standpoint. After this big suplex, there’s no point in which Eddie Kingston asserts full control of the match ever again. He will be constantly on the backfoot, always playing catch up and never actively moving towards a victory, only scrapping for survival.

I think the match just barely starts to drift after this segment. It never gets bad by any means, especially because Claudio’s work in control here is the finest that he’s done perhaps ever. In a truly excellent year for Claudio Castagnoli, there’s an argument to be made that this may just be a career peak for him in terms of individual performance. Watching him deadlift and just hoof Eddie Kingston around the ring with reckless abandon is an absolute sight to behold. That being said, the control is so stifling that I think the crowd’s attention does begin to drift a little, and perhaps even starts to side with Claudio just from the sheer awe-inspiring nature of his brutality.

But Eddie Kingston is a master of this game, and few people are quite as adept at winning a crowd back.

On this night though, it’s a final rally. Watch Eddie’s physicality. That’s not a man in control of himself, but rather someone who’s barely clinging on to the last vestiges of hope in a losing battle. He’s throwing desperation shots here–a few kicks from the ground to Claudio, a backfist to stop the latter in his tracks. Many will point to the kick out at 1 for the Neutralizer as Eddie’s display of fighting spirit, but Eddie’s body checks out of this match long before that, I’d argue. Before Claudio ever even nails that move, Eddie’s already been dropped onto the concrete multiple times, has been smashed with the guardrail, and if we believe interviews he gave after, is suffering a hernia through all of this.

That Eddie’s so beaten down makes it all the sweeter that he shows us as much as he does in those final moments. The spirit and the heart, yes, but that’s always been true about Eddie Kingston. It’s the brains and finesse that shine brightest though, that final attempted counter of escaping the Ricola Bomb through a rana attempt. A heartbreaking example of too little, too late–he gave up finesse in the first five minutes, one glimmer of it won’t save the day now.

Why does Eddie Kingston lose matches?

Because his anger overshadows his skill, and from there he’s easy to pick apart.

IS IT BETTER THAN 6/3/94? The Budokan crowd in 1994 might just be a more invested audience, and they certainly rise and escalate with the match a little better than Claudio and Eddie do on this night. But there’s a scrappier element to the action on display here, especially from Eddie’s side. It has a lot more in-ring momentum than the King’s Road classic, probably because it comes from a more heated place emotionally. This is a little bit more than a championship epic too, it’s an emotional reckoning, and a heartbreaker at that. Similarly crushing defeats in the end, but the way Eddie’s defeat here stems from his own self-defeating nature just feels more compelling than Kawada simply getting outclassed (yet again).

Rating: ****1/2

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