Cult of ROH: How to Book Eddie Kingston

Finally, a weekend not previewing ROH shows. I’d like to take this chance to give you a vision of what could be for Eddie Kingston, and in doing so, create a character ROH should have had a long time ago…

It begins outside an arena. Kingston sits on the steps, looking at the door, and describes his long journey to ROH. He hasn’t brought thugs this time and he isn’t here to kill anyone. Having already shouted down Chris Hero, he explains that he cannot abide that man. There a lot of men he cannot stand. You might have seen him elsewhere, furious that rookies, cowards and liars got opportunities to walk through ROH’s doors. But if you were expecting the same bitterness, you’re fools. He has what he wants. He is in the company of respect.

He’s already wrestled a few matches, but that night we begin to introduce his permanent personality. He walks the aisle for an undercard match, maybe even the opener, and seems kind of happy. He legitimately smiles, and he basks in the babyface love that crowds are bound to have for an indy darling. This night his opponent is a jackass. Sal Rinauro, Rhett Titus, Shane Hagadorn – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that when he offers to shake, his opponents laughs and refuses. Kingston waits to the bell, then jumps and beats the crap out of him, reverting to the sour, no-nonsense persona that’s made him so popular elsewhere. When he wins, he picks up the unconscious loser’s hand and shakes it purposefully – not insulting them, but taking what he’s owed. On an upcoming videowire you can even include a 30- or 60-second package of his sicker strikes, the handshake, and explanation of what he’s owed.

This character has been far too long coming: a guy that is so militant about the honor this company should represent that he skirts being a heel about it. If you’re familiar with Kingston, you know his ability to speak as slightly disturbed. He’s not crazy, but certainly a damaged man, worn down by a hard life and broken ideals. He trips over his own outrage and thoughts. Now imagine that guy not only complaining about how he’s treated, but how Ring of Honor should be, and how much he loathes the people who don’t live up to it. Hero, Ryan, Nana, Jacobs – ROH has set up plenty of people he should loathe.

In the ring, he continues to overreact to things like an opponent not shaking hands, a low blow or managerial interference. If you’ve seen him savage Tim Donst and Lince Dorado in Chikara, you know how he’ll treat these people. Only this time there’s more purpose to it, and he will drag a manager into the ring to publicly knock him out. His promos are about what this company stands for, and increasingly about how that essential respect is waning.

Kingston evangelizes so much that he attracts a few undercard supporters, people who listen him and are more likely to tag up with him. Erick Stevens, a long-time sucker for pride and respectful behavior, is right there with him, listening in every scene. Others are more transient. A couple of students may listen, or guys like Matt Cross and Kenny Omega, who aren’t on that many shows, but who henceforth may take the suggestion that they’re interested in these ideals. Having people actually listen to him will give these promos a different aesthetic than the average ones with guys going off alone into a camera.

Though unnecessarily brutal, Kingston is not a total hypocrite. He wrestles and loses cleanly to Bryan Danielson, caught in a technical pin. He has energy after the match and there’s a moment of obvious internal struggle, but he winds up the one offering Danielson the handshake. He doesn’t snap and attack him, though he may tease it. He is a better man than that, you see, and it would go against his morals. Backstage he explains how he respects Danielson for his attitude and ability, and what he himself did out there is what people ought to be doing when they lose.

Possibly on that same show, Kingston will do his first run-in. He’s not only against dishonor targeted at himself, you see. It begins one night when Roderick Strong comes so close to beating Jimmy Jacobs that the Age of the Fall hits the ring. They play numbers, and with Brodie Lee’s size, they are able to overcome Strong, and Erick Stevens when the younger man runs in. Kingston comes with weapon in hand, and with three guys on their side, run off the Age of the Fall. In a rematch, the moment one of Jacobs’s goons hit the apron, Kingston is out throws him into the crowd.

Jacobs blames Kingston for losing, unleashing a scathing diatribe backstage. Kingston walks in and interrupts his basement rant session. Shouting matches can ensue and we’ll get a war of words between two of the better talkers in the company. Jacobs will deliberately cost Kingston matches, and as things heat up, uses Brodie Lee as a bodyguard. The giant is Kingston’s roadblock in a feud of intense brawls that can go into hardcore territory. He’s moral, but he’s no coward. He’ll break a chair over your head – if they’re legal, and if Jacobs wants it, then let’s go.

Simultaneously we seed a longer term program with Roderick Strong. Stevens is grateful for the back-up, but Kingston’s behavior is cloying, and his attitude doesn’t mesh with Strong’s. Things are strained when Kingston begins lecturing the veteran on his great legacy, and how he should be more important around here. Here we remind audiences of just how important Strong has been (the enforcer of Generation Next, the series against Danielson, tag title run with Aries, forming the NRC and the feud that drove out Larry Sweeney), while hopefully getting some of them indignant on how Kingston is condescending to someone who he should respect. He may even antagonize Strong, for the purpose of making him show what makes him vital to the company, something that only comes out when he’s pushed. One night in a tag Strong will stop Kingston when he goes overboard attacking somebody, grabbing at his arm from behind. One errant punch has been enough to ignite feuds before.

That whole Strong storyline can drop at any time. Along the way, Erick Stevens is a mediator. He is interested in what Kingston says, but he has peace with Strong, and Strong trained him. When they feud, he may go against both of them when neither relents, or ultimately side with one, preferably Strong. Stevens showed in 2008 that he can do some great brawling and sell beatings sympathetically, so going against a Kingston-level slugger would be intense.

None of this pushes him too hard, while never allowing him to languish in pointlessness. Stevens, Strong and Jacobs have talent, and Jacobs in particular is a main-eventer, but ROH has constantly put him at the sub-World Title level. Doing something interesting in actually good matches makes all the players relevant while doing something away from the world title scene, allowing anyone who wins the feud to shoot up into contention again. We exit those programs with the Hero issue from all those other companies an older memory, now fresh for a new chapter. Elevated by time in ROH, he can challenge Danielson over conflicting visions of what the ROH icon should be. And by then we may have a heel World Champion, an instant obsession for this Eddie Kingston.

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