Claudio Castagnoli vs. Eddie Kingston (AEW Dynamite Grand Slam 9/20/23)

Match Reviews

Featured image by Lee South

First reviewed here.

When I first wrote about this, I emphasized how much this ties into Eddie’s favorite King’s Road stuff. That’s not hard to do when you know Kingston’s work well enough, especially with how open he is about his love for Japanese wrestling. Back then, I meant it mostly as a criticism, and I think many people took it that way too. This match certainly looks like it might be drowning in the history of something else entirely. Even before the bell rings, all the little visual nods to All Japan can be seen here already. Claudio in Misawa’s green and silver, Eddie in Kawada’s yellow and black, the cameras following them from the backstage area as if they were filming within the depths of the Nippon Budokan. It’s all very intentional, and it sort of mentally primes those aware enough of the references for the finish to come: Kingston getting the victory with Kawada’s folding powerbomb.

It’s intentional too when in the midst of a vicious strike exchange, these two stop to take stock of each other, where they are and how far they’ve come, knowing that the only way out is through. It pulls directly from a similar moment in a 1993 Triple Crown Title match between Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada.

AEW, GIF-ed by Joseph Montecillo

All these elements pull from a history that Claudio and Eddie both have love for, but they are just elements. They’re superficial tools being used to a greater purpose here, and that’s what makes this match so great. Beneath all the nods to 90s All Japan, this match remains true to who these men are and what they need from this bout to survive. Take the moment depicted above, when Eddie and Claudio call back to Misawa and Kawada in 93. While they use the same surface level element–a prolonged staredown–the emotional content of each moment is vastly different. In 1993, Misawa and Kawada stare each other down and seem to acknowledge something lost: their friendship perhaps. Thirty years later, Eddie Kingston uses this moment to convey something gained. In this case, the presence of mind to pause. Not to rush in but just to hold his ground and take it from there.

That’s what makes this match so great, it is the transformation Eddie needed happening in real time. Shedding the anger and the spite, replacing it with a clearheaded focus instead.

Remember, when Eddie Kingston went to Japan, he didn’t say he learned how to do a powerbomb over there. He said he found peace.

Rating: ****1/4

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