Eddie Kingston almost retired before AEW debut against Cody Rhodes

Hamish Woodward

Eddie Kingston debuted for AEW in 2020 during the pandemic era as a surprise challenger to Cody Rhodes.

He was part of the TNT Championship open challenge, which saw new wrestlers debuting weekly to take their chance against The American Nightmare.

Wrestler’s like Warhorse and Ricky Starks made their debuts in losses to Cody Rhodes, but the most memorable of these matches was the debut of “The Mad King” Eddie Kingston.

Eddie Kingston made his AEW debut against Cody Rhodes

He made his debut by interrupting Cody Rhodes on AEW Dynamite, cutting a fantastic promo to challenge him for his TNT Championship.

Kingston also goaded Rhodes into battling him in a no-disqualification match, to give himself an advantage over the 2023 Royal Rumble winner.

“The Mad King” threatened Rhodes, saying he’d “put him in the ground” before threatening to gouge out Arn Anderson’s eyes (The WCW Legend was Cody’s manager at the time).

As a veteran of the ring, this looked to be a one off to pop the fans at home and to give Kingston a payday.

It was never meant to lead to anything more and the match would have just been something to tide Cody Rhodes along until Brodie Lee took the TNT Champion off him.

Luckily for Kingston, his immense talent and passion won over the fans and Tony Khan. His promo was one of AEW’s best at the time and the fans were immediately drawn to him.

The pair had a great match, with Kingston playing a great heel, although the crowd soon get behind the 800-match veteran on his AEW debut.

Cody Rhodes picked up the win in the match, but backstage Eddie Kingston was the real victor after his AEW debut.

Kingston nearly retired after his match against Cody Rhodes

Kingston was offered an AEW contract after the match. It was something he never expected at all.

This was supposed to be his final match in wrestling after the COVID pandemic nearly cost him his house and livelihood.

He had to sell his wrestling gear to help pay for his mortgage and was facing the very real possibility that he simply was not good enough to be a professional wrestling.

In an interview with Fightful, Eddie Kingston says that he made his “AEW debut without any expectations and had sold his gear a couple of days before that.” although the person that bought the gear did return it to him soon after as a gesture of goodwill.

While he had come out of nowhere on his AEW debut, Eddie Kingston quickly rose up the ranks to work in main events in the company.

He quickly aligned himself with The Lucha Bros and began a feud with his friend and rival, AEW Champion Jon Moxley. The pair engaged in one of the most heated and personal feuds in AEW history, with some incredible promos that made Kingston a fan favourite to the AEW fanbase.

The duo battled across 2020, main eventing Full Gear 2020 in a match that saw him unsuccessfully challenge for the AEW Championship.

The pair also teamed up together in 2021, challenging the Young Bucks for the AEW Tag Team Championships.

Kingston became one of the most popular wrestlers in AEW, which his everyman character and heartfelt, personal promos getting people to identify with the Mad King.

He used his real life struggles and failures in wrestling to form his character, and brought real-life issues into his feuds without breaking Kayfabe.

Kingston was perhaps CM Punk’s greatest rival in AEW, bringing up the pair’s real-life behind the scene controversy to move their rivalry forward.

Their match at Full Gear 2021 also saw Punk’s best match in the company, in their short but compelling match that saw the Chicago native pin Kingston.

Since then, Kingston has come on leaps and bounds, picking up huge wins against big stars like Chris Jericho, Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley.

At Worlds End 2023 he became the first ever AEW Triple Crown Champion, showing just how much faith the AEW brass have in “The Mad King”.

Not bad for Eddie Kingston, who nearly retired before his AEW debut.

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