A plucky grappler who never thought he'd make it out of the five boroughs, let alone become a champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Kingston has a chance to make history at Grand Slam by not only becoming the 32ndt Ring of Honor Champion in the promotion's long and storied history but do so by besting a man he's hated for the better part of the last 20 years across multiple promotions.
Now, on paper, Claudio Castagnoli shouldn't have much to worry about when it comes to Kingston, as the “Swiss Superman” is built like a professional wrestler, carries himself like a professional wrestler, and has earned millions of dollars from WWE for being one of the very best men in the world at doing what he does, but the thing about Kingston is, he doesn't draw his power from having a six-pack, the money in his bank account, or the pedigree on his Cagematch page.
No, Kingston is so universally loved precisely for what he is and what he isn't: a perennial underdog who looks like the fans in the audience and will do darn near anything he can to come out on top in the ring.
Discussing Kingston's Grand Slam match and status as a fan favorite on his Extreme Life podcast, Matt Hardy compared the “Mad King” to none other than WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, as, much like Mankind, he got over with his charisma and charm, more so than his traditional professional wrestling look.
“It's huge for Eddie Kingston. It's truly in his backyard. He very much reminds me of a Mick Foley-type persona.” Matt Hardy said on his podcast via Fightful. “He's this guy that doesn't have the typical look of a pro wrestler and doesn't act or perform like a typical pro wrestler. He's really rough around the edges, but there's just a charisma about him in his personality and the way he presents himself that just draws people to him. Eddie Kingston is one of the guys who defied the odds, much like Mick Foley defied the odds. I think you've got a lot of goals Eddie Kingston wants to achieve that you're going to see him achieve in the future.”
While Kingston may not have the same hardcore pedigree as Cactus Jack, though he did attempt to set a man on fire during Anarchy in the Arena, he brings the same outside underdog status that made Foley such a compelling performer and persona for the last 30 years and counting. If Kingston can pull out the W over Castagnoli at Grand Slam, his legend, too, will grow.
Eddie Kingston vows to win the Ring Of Honor Title or die trying.
Speaking of Eddie Kingston's long-standing hatred and feud with Claudio Castagnoli, the “Mad King” sat down with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated to discuss what might just be the defining match of his professional wrestling career.
Unsurprisingly, Kingston had a lot to say about Castagnoli, and needless to say, it wasn't too kind to his long-time rival.
“I don't respect anything about Claudio. I don't even respect that Claudio is a great wrestler, even though he is. As a person, I think he's garbage. I don't give a f**k what he has to say. Talk is cheap. Let's let our actions do the talking,” Eddie Kingston told Sports Illustrated.
“This is not a business to me. I'm not wearing a fancy suit to work like him. This is not just a paycheck for me. If it was, I'd be working somewhere else as a coach. This is my life. I am a wrestler, and I'm going to fight with my heart and soul.”
So what, you may ask, does Kingston think Castagnoli would have to do to defeat him? Well, in the humble opinion of the “Mad King,” Castagnoli would have to “kill him” to come out of Grand Slam a double champion.
“If you're going to beat me in New York, you're going to have to kill me,” said Kingston. “Claudio is going to have to put me down for a lot longer than three seconds.”
In professional wrestling, feuds make fights. Sure, it'll be incredibly entertaining to see MJF get in the ring with Samoa Joe, especially after AEW expertly played up the drama from NXT: Takeover Brooklyn II, but that feud has been properly built up for about a month at most. Kingston and Castagnoli have been feuding long enough for AEW to put together a supercut of their relationship that's as long as a feature-length film, and the climax – at least for now – will finally be written at Grand Slam.