For most babyfaces, there is art in the struggle. Even a promotion like WWE, which has historically centered its product around larger-than-life superhero archetypes, understands this, which is why it has often booked those protagonists against even larger monster heels.
Few understand this the way Eddie Kingston does. As we've discussed before, the Ring of Honor World and NJPW Strong Openweight Champion has cultivated a symbiotic bond with the fans through his selling and psychology. The man knows how to pull you in; following the King's Road tenets, Kingston takes a seemingly insurmountable amount of punishment to make fans think that all is lost before pulling himself from the depths with a feverish comeback.
This has epitomized Kingston's run in the Continental Classic, as he dropped the first two bouts in the tournament before roaring back with three straight wins, including over longtime nemesis Claudio Castagnoli. In a more micro sense, Kingston's match against Bryan Danielson on the Dec. 27 episode of AEW: Dynamite showed us why he has earned this reputation.
Eddie Kingston gets a huge win over Bryan Danielson in the Continental Classic semifinals.
For Kingston, this wasn't just a chance to avenge his Dec. 2 Blue League loss to Danielson. It wasn't just about finally scoring a win over "The American Dragon" after six tries (including one in another tournament match on an October 2021 episode of AEW: Rampage). It was also about silencing the sanctimonious Danielson, who dismissed Kingston as a "bum" after their last match.
However, Kingston wore that insult as a term of endearment, declaring himself the "King of the Bums" and warning Danielson to "not miss again" when he comes at the King (people really like using that line from The Wire). That brief conversation set the stage for another war between these two all-time greats.
Much like their previous meeting, Danielson controlled most of the encounter with his trademark technical prowess and lethal strikes and used the brief moments in between (and during) the beatdown to antagonize his opponent. It's amazing to see someone as affable as Danielson seamlessly transform into such a big jerk, and that switch flip made him an excellent foil for Kingston.
The Orlando audience felt the same way, as they were 100 percent behind Kingston. Eventually, he rewarded that faith with heavy chops and brutal suplexes for Danielson. It reached a point where Danielson's chest resembled raw ground beef more than it did human flesh.
This didn't deter Bryan, and he seemingly had the match won. But as he loaded up to hit the Busaiku Knee, Kingston impeded his progress with a back fist. After two more, Kingston finished him off with a powerbomb and a matchbook cover, winning this brilliant display of professional wrestling.
In the macro, this match (and the Jon Moxley vs. Swerve Strickland vs. Jay White Gold League Final) proved that it doesn't take much to create compelling pro wrestling. Fans don't need convoluted whodunnits or random dorks in devil masks to keep them invested in the product. All promotions need to do is book matches with well-defined stakes and allow the wrestlers to build anticipation for them through their promos.
Take Kingston's arc, for example. This is a man who finally reached the top of the sport he loves more than anything (the sport he says saved his life) and did so against the bane of his existence. Then, as an homage to his idols, puts those titles on the line in a grueling tournament to prove himself. And when that goal seemed out of reach, he rose and took hold of it, and he did the same when it came time to beat a wrestler that, despite the mud-slinging, he aspires to be. It doesn't get more enthralling than that.
Now, Kingston has one more demon to slay at Worlds End, and it's another man that he has never beaten: Jon Moxley. It will likely be another epic struggle; even Mox said that he would not make it easy for Kingston on Dec. 30.
For a babyface like Kingston, he wouldn't have it any other way.