November 13, 2021: Eddie Kingston loses a grudge match to CM Punk at Full Gear. Punk, his battered face veiled in blood, stretches his hand out to Eddie—offering him the respect he’s denied Kingston for so long. Eddie doesn’t take it. He turns and sulks off, so bitter at his loss he can’t even muster the energy to deliver a post-match beatdown.
March 6, 2022: Chris Jericho loses a grudge match to Eddie Kingston at Revolution. Kingston, bruised and bloody, stretches his hand out to Chris—offering respect to the man who called him a failure. Chris doesn’t take it. With a quiet, angry shake of his head, Jericho backs away and leaves the ring.
As the old saying goes: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
Shake On It
The whole match hinges on a handshake. Like so many of Eddie Kingston’s feuds, the prize at stake wasn’t gold or a shot at the big time: respect was at stake. Eddie, Yonkers’ most perpetually aggrieved son, carries a chip on his shoulder the size of the western hemisphere. It’s hard to separate Eddie the man from Eddie the character: both are so deeply defined by their years of grinding it out on the indie circuit, knocking on doors that don’t open swiftly for guys with dad bods rocking Liquid Swords shirts and I’m-walkin’-here accents. His best work in the ring is fueled by hate—more so than any other wrestler on the AEW roster, Eddie makes you believe that he cares more about making the other guy bleed than his Win/Loss record.
The hate in the ring at Revolution went both ways. Chris Jericho, one-time Le Champion and ringleader of the Inner Circle, faced a long-overdue mutiny in February when his IC brothers-in-arms Santana & Ortiz split off from the group. The IC have been together since Jericho’s inaugural run as AEW World Champion, but the glory days of A Bit of the Bubbly and bath-tubbing in jeans are behind them. After an almost neverending feud with The Pinnacle and a face turn that felt wrong for a gang of guys who are little too fond of “who’s on top” gay jokes and cracking wise about gang-banging Paige VanZant, The Inner Circle finally started to fall apart. The conflict between Proud and Powerful and Team Don’t Ask Us Where We Were On January 6th climaxed with a tag match that saw Jericho and Hager taking a loss (Sammy Guevara was too busy being the most flavorless Intercontinental Champion in AEW history to pick a side).
The source of all this in-fighting: Eddie Kingston.
Jericho and Kingston’s disdain for each other dragged the rest of the IC into their backbiting, with P’N’P standing behind their fellow New Yorker Kingston (who rightfully pointed out how being Jericho’s friends/goons have kept them from going after the tag titles). After over a year of being a face, Jericho’s heelish side came back out to play during this feud. Even though the crowd still sang “Judas” every time he entered the ring, you could hear the audience’s allegiance switching to P’N’P during their promo duels—especially when Jericho stooped low enough to call Santana and Ortiz bitter losers for failing to win their shot at the title. Don’t hate me because I’m successful; hate yourself for not being me was Jericho’s message to his personal Judases. And like an aging rock star with no new songs to play, he would serenade the same song to Eddie Kingston.
Respect Is Earned
The stakes were clear: for Eddie, who had yet to win a major feud in the company, defeating a legend like Jericho would move him from underdog to top dog status. For Jericho, a win would mean putting this thorn in his side in his place. But Jericho, ever the wily veteran, made sure to tilt the game in his favor: in promos leading up to the PPV, Jericho said that if Eddie beat him Jericho would give him his respect. “I will shake your hand and you will have Chris Jericho’s respect,” The Influencer vowed. Jericho, stung by Eddie’s legitimate barbs about him taking up too much time on the show and being a blowhard, reframed their feud as being about Eddie’s fear of success. Jericho made the prize his respect, his approval. Even if he lost, Jericho would STILL win because he’d give Eddie what he really wanted.
Jericho, like the little kid on the playground who gets shot while playing make-believe and insists the invisible bullet missed him, understands that you don’t have to lose if you keep changing the win conditions. You can never lose if everything is on your terms. He pulled off this trick during his long feud with MJF. Despite sustaining several definitive, brutal defeats at the hands of Maxwell Jacob Friedman, Jericho insisted the feud wasn’t over. He refused to end the feud before it ended to his satisfaction, which it ultimately did in a rubber match where Jericho won using the same dirty tactics that are MJF’s bread-and-Burberry. On a purely numerical level (in a promotion that claims wins and losses matter), MJF washed Jericho harder than God flooding the face of the Earth, but it didn’t matter: Jericho still claimed the spiritual victory because he won the “last” fight.
Jericho, a wrestling vet, understands that the old heel and face polarity is bullshit. All that really matters is who the crowd loves. If they love you enough, sing your song loud enough, you can get away with anything. Say that you won, even if you lost, and they will believe you. It’s a lesson his backstage protege Britt Baker has similarly taken to heart. Despite being a chickenshit cheating heel in the vein of The Miz, Baker always ends up being the “face” in every feud because the crowd loves saying D-M-D (her valet Rebel being adorably incompetent is an added bonus) is adorable. Wrestlers like Jericho and Britt possess egos so massive they exert their own gravitational pull, crushing everything within their orbit into shapes that flatter them.
Eddie Kingston may be built like a keg can but he doesn’t crush so easily.
Jericho vs. Kingston opened the Revolution PPV, following a stacked Buy-In preshow card that featured a jaw-dropping trios match between Death Triangle (with Erick Redbeard filling in for Rey) and the House of Black. The trios match was a deadly ballet, full of quick dives, fleet-footed rope work, and lightning-fast reversals. Kingston and Jericho, by contrast; was a vicious brawl. JR would use the phrase “hockey fight” to describe tussles happening outside the ring throughout Revolution, but no match deserved that title more than this fight. Kingston and Jericho looked like two drunk dads going to war because one of them made the other drop his soft pretzel.
Kingston attacked Jericho like a junkyard dog: savage, graceless, relentless. He had Jericho on the defensive, turning him beet-red with machine gun chops to the chest, and taking him to the mat with a ponytail-tugging suplex. Jericho exploited Eddie’s injured orbital bone, drawing blood as he hammered Kingston until he was dazed. The change in audience sympathies was swift and irrevocable: the arena was Team Eddie all the way. Jericho responded to the “EDDIE” chants with a middle finger, eventually flinging the heavier man out of the ring into a nasty spill on the side of the stage.
In many ways, this match mirrored Kingston’s other truly great AEW match: his failed throwdown with CM Punk at Full Gear. Respect was also at stake, and there was a similar mutual hatred that pulled these men together. The crucial difference in this match is temperament: Punk, no matter how loud the crowd chanted “EDDIE” or how much blood seeped down his face, never lost his cool. He snuffed out Eddie’s fire with ice.
Jericho, on the other hand, got overheated. The chants fuel his spite and make him impulsive, pushing him to play speed chess instead of plotting a longer game. He sows the seeds of his own destruction in the middle of the match when he exposes the top turnbuckle. He becomes so amped up that he ends up shoving referee Aubrey Edwards several times—the one AEW referee who’s always seemed to favor Chris, esp. In his many matches with MJF.
He hits Eddie with his greatest hits: The Lionsault, The Walls of Jericho, and two Codebreakers. This setlist devastates Kingston, but somehow the Mad King is able to hang tough. It’s when Jericho hits the Judas Effect that he finally reaps—Eddie dodges just in time for Jericho’s elbow to slam into Chekhov’s turnbuckle. It allows Eddie to hit two spinning backfists and lock in a stretch plum, giving him a submission victory.
Everything Hinges on a Handshake
Wrestling isn’t “real.” Only hacks point this out like it’s a bold truth. But there are moments where the artifice and truth become indistinguishable, and it’s those moments where the magic happens. The moment where Eddie, dazed and lying on the mat, is told he just won by Aubrey is one of them. We know, on a meta level, that the match’s outcome is predetermined. Eddie the performer goes into the ring knowing he’s going to win. But Kingston is such a good actor, such a believable performer, that the look of confusion on his face when he finds out he’s won is utterly convincing. At that moment, he really looks like he doesn’t believe he’s won. For Eddie the performer, who used to drive across state lines to make gas money doing shows in VFW halls for 10 people, being in a position to defeat ECW/WCW/WWF/CMLL/NWA/WWE/New Japan superstar Chris Jericho in front of a sold out audience screaming his name must be just as preposterous a circumstance as Eddie the character beating Chris Jericho. When he stands next to Aubrey to bask in his victory, arm in the air, he still looks like he’s waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under him.
And so we find ourselves at the end, where history rhymes. In loss, Jericho still has a chance to win on his terms. But Eddie beats him twice: before Jericho can be the bigger man and offer him respect, Eddie follows in Punk’s footsteps and puts his hand out first. Whether out of sincere respect for Jericho or to cut the man off from trying to (forgive me) control the narrative, the effect is the same: Jericho finally loses on somebody else’s terms.
True to its name, Revolution has profoundly upended the status quo for both these men. Perennial loser Eddie Kingston has finally brought down a Goliath; whoever feuds with him next won’t be able to accuse him of being afraid of success. Demo God Jericho has been humbled: his stable fractured, his body battered, his shine dulled. Maybe they will fight again soon, respect once again on the line, with one hand outstretched at the end waiting for someone to close the wound between them.