Featured image by Lee South
All Continental Classic 2023 reviews linked here.
Eddie Kingston here on December 30th is not the same Eddie Kingston that started the year.
Revisiting his work through the year has brought this into stark clarity for me. This is a story that’s been very carefully and intentionally told in the ring. Commentary is very consistent about what’s going on here: a focused, clear headed Eddie Kingston might just be the most dangerous and best professional wrestler on the planet. It’s why when he rushes head on like in the Supercard of Honor title match he costs himself, but when he stands his ground as he has through his ROH World Title reign, he comes out victorious.
Combine this with the fact that wrestling Bryan Danielson changes people. We’ve seen this in effect, both within the stories of characters in AEW and just in reality. Danielson is the ultimate sink or swim wrestler, you either rise above yourself to reach for his level or you get exposed brutally. And in the most obvious sense too, both Danielson’s opponents and teammates have come to adopt several of his signature moves into their matches.
We see a bit of that here when Eddie utilizes the BCC elbows against Moxley deep in the match. I will note, however, that Eddie hits them at a more horizontal angle which actually gives it a lot more heft than many of the other Danielson imitators in the past. I can’t help but recall that in September, he told me of his philosophy when it comes to adopting the moves of others. “Anything I do, I try to add my style to it,” he said. “This is my twist on it and that’s how I keep it mine.”
Eddie took more from Danielson than just some elbows though. As he said in his post-match interview after this bout, Eddie discovered confidence through this tournament.
For over a year now, long before he spoke it on TV and slapped the phrase on a t-shirt, I have described Jon Moxley as the ace of the world. He is the perfect final boss for Eddie to get through for so many reasons. He’s discovered success all over the planet, he exudes an importance through his sheer presence, and he’s the final member of the BCC that Eddie has yet to defeat. On any other night, Jon Moxley feels like an ace when he steps in the ring.
Against Eddie Kingston, Jon Moxley feels like a challenger.
There’s such a poise to Eddie Kingston on this night. In contrast to how self-defeating he’s been in the past, one gets the distinct sense that when he steps into the ring on this night, he’s already won the match. And that extends to both the structure and physicality of the match. For one, note Eddie’s early attacks on Moxley. He’s picking Moxley apart piece by piece here, nagging at Moxley’s leg on occasion with kicks to open him up for bigger blows–a tactic that directly recalls how Danielson dismantled Eddie just the month prior. Eddie even willingly takes the match down to the ground where he not only holds his own with Mox but gets the better of him enough to force the restart on their feet.
Then when the bigger strikes and bombs start coming, Eddie never folds mentally. As he did in the Danielson match, it’s when the chops start flying that the reality of the situation comes crashing down onto Mox. One of those truly massive, heavy chops knocks Mox down to a knee and it’s clear even in that moment that Mox has folded. It’s Mox that gets frustrated in this match, going to Eddie’s eye to cut him off, running from those machinegun chops in the corner, flipping Eddie off to probe and seek for an opening on an angered Kingston.
But Eddie holds.
Even through crashing his head into the barricades on the tope or Mox falling just out of reach when he nails the Backfist, Eddie never loses his cool. On commentary, Danielson hits the point repeatedly that a part of Mox’s ideal strategy is to avoid getting into a pissing contest with Eddie Kingston. And yet repeatedly, Mox crashes head long into Eddie as the big man stands tall in the center of the ring. Yes, Mox knocks him down now and then, but he’s playing into Eddie’s match, and he pays for it in the end.
It’s perhaps not the rapturous experience that the Danielson match was, in many ways Eddie’s tournament climaxes there. But this feels more like a rather weighty and well-done denouement. The final, worthy steps towards the conclusion that we can all see. One gets the impression that there’s more to be plumbed from this pairing in the future, but for how decisive this feels in the moment, it’s a truly special moment. I certainly wouldn’t mind revisiting this match-up again and again, but for now we get what we need.
Eddie Kingston wins the American Triple Crown, and feels every bit the ace that his heroes did in the past.