Another Humble Offering for Miro’s Vengeful God

How the wrestler formerly known as Rusev reinvented himself in AEW from humorous supporting character to terrifying champion

“I receive preferential treatment and I have special privileges
I am God’s favorite child
No good thing will he withhold from me
Because of God’s favor my enemies cannot triumph over me”
— DMX, “The Prayer V” (2003)

The man born as Miroslav Barnyashev recently said he only lives to serve his angry god and his double-jointed wife. For the past heavy handful of weeks, AEW fans have witnessed the pride of Bulgaria, who in a past artistic life was given a medal by his country for his valor and bravery (and also rode a tank down the WrestleMania aisle), collect the proverbial skulls of his opponents. With a few exceptions—precious few—Miro has not only dominated the ranks of All Elite Wrestling, he has bludgeoned them. His matches indulge the part of the human brain which craves hand-to-hand violence; the part of us who can’t help but watch when somebody is getting fucked up.

We’ve all seen the cowboy movies with the outlaws and the lawman obsessed with the Old Testament, the branch of literature’s most enduring texts, the Bible, where God was relentlessly abusive to his creations. But rarely have we seen the presence of a truly frightening professional combat artist adopt the fire and brimstone philosophy of religious fervor.

When Miro was introduced introduced to the AEW audience, he emerged as “The Best Man,” a bleach blonde, streetwear obsessed Twitch streamer and impending groom’s party member of the nuptials of Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford. With the benefit of hindsight, the alliance between Sabian and Miro was only a friendship by name; Miro was used as a bodyguard and Sabian only as a meal ticket to get Miro’s foot in Tony Khan’s office door.

More AEW All Out 2021 Coverage

But even (or maybe especially) as the stone-faced enforcer of his trio, Miro’s sense of humor shined through.  As dry as the cheapest vermouth, his quips and asides were often the most hysterical things said on Dynamite from week to week. Even as something as barely perceptible as Miro referring to the tag team of Chuck Taylor and Trent as “Good Friends” had a special kind of comedic power (and a sly callback to his WWE rivalry with “Bob Roode”).

Part of why Miro has such a passionate cult fanbase is because as a performer he can make anything work. He turned an angle where Taylor was his butler—a hokey wrestling trope even when it was a new idea—into compelling television, allowing the Kentucky Gentleman to show an emotional depth not previously seen on AEW television. Miro gave the Arcade Anarchy match versus Taylor and Orange Cassidy a needed sense of weight to counterbalance the surprise return of Kris Statlander and all the general tomfoolery.

And when Sabian went down with an injury, Miro not only transitioned into a new persona seamlessly, he tied up the loose ends and reached a new level of menace by taunting and calling out Sabian repeatedly—and even threatening Ford in the guise of protecting her.

Miro followed the newfound shift by embarking on a reign of terror which saw him defeat Darby Allin pretty brutally for the TNT Championship, beat Fuego del Sol and Lee Johnson within an inch of their lives to defend it, and offer praise to his vengeful God and his hot wife who can do the splits. When he began to refer to himself as “God’s Favorite Champion,” his single-minded devotion to giving his Lord and his double-jointed spouse offerings in the form of borderline murderous victory rendered him a truly terrifying character. Miro is the physical embodiment of the Christian God: a bully, a narcissist, a sociopath.

“And when I get goin’, I’m not lookin’ back for nothin’
‘Cause I will know where I’m headed, ’cause I’m so tired of the sufferin’
I stand before you, a weakened version of, your reflection
Beggin’ for direction, for my soul needs resurrection”   

— DMX, “Prayer III” (1999)

AEW

Eddie Kingston kisses his rosary every time he takes it off after entering the ring. Much like Job—the long-suffering servant of a God who took everything from him—it can be interpreted that Kingston was a product of the Lord’s punishment. He grew up in Yonkers, New York (the same neighborhood as another flawed but brilliant artist, DMX) in a tumultuous environment littered with drug dealers and junkies and killers. Pro wrestling, one of his greatest loves, nearly caused him to sell his gear in order to pay his mortgage. Kingston has crawled through glass and been choked out with barbed wire to get here.

It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot

Somehow, Miro’s path converged with Kingston’s, a man born in a place seemingly forsaken by the Lord, seeking a championship belt to show his mother as justification for why he never presented her with a grandchild. Miro, seemingly aware that aside from Lance Archer, his defenses of the TNT Championship were heavy on decisive wins against young stars, called out Kingston, coming up on his 19-year anniversary of becoming a pro wrestler, week after week. “My name is my name,” Kingston would later say about Miro’s shit-talk, quoting The Wire‘s Marlo Stanfield to prove a point about his reputation.

As Miro proceeded to give Fuego del Sol another biblical beatdown, Kingston came out to the Rampage stage with a microphone in his hand. In a measure of both hometown pride and deep symbolism, Kingston was draped in his trademark rosary and clad in a t-shirt with the cover of DMX’s debut album It’s Dark and Hell is Hot printed on it. When arguably the greatest orator of a generation of wrestlers decides to drop the mic and come straight at you to throw hands, it nearly speaks more volumes than an articulate diatribe. This is how Kingston decided to handle matters in his first face-to-face confrontation with Miro. Kingston would later threaten to drag Miro through hell and give him the opportunity to perhaps walk through his God’s heaven, also noting Miro’s weak neck for posterity; a game plan, a wink that he knows what Miro knows about himself.

On the following episode of Rampage, Miro spoke about his upcoming All Out match against Kingston, saying Kingston used the gifts God gave him (“the toughness, the talents, that loud mouth of yours”) to take the easy way out for a charity AEW contract. (The man known as the Redeemer glossed over the nearly two decades’ worth of disappointment, middling card placement, and the kind of cult stardom that barely pays the bills.) A furious Kingston stormed out and said Miro’s ugly, stupid God sent him to punish Miro, along with the words emblazoned on his new bestselling t-shirt, “Redeem deez nuts.”

That balmy night in Chicago, Kingston walked down to the All Out ring, suburban Chicago shouting their lungs out so loud people in the Loop could probably hear them, his intense and sincere blue eyes alight with a laser-like focus. After saying a prayer and holding out the TNT Championship as a presentation to his Lord, Miro stared down Kingston as his challenger grinned maniacally.

AEW

In its opening moments, the match revealed itself as a struggle for Miro to avoid being dropped on his neck—only to catch an exploder suplex. Both men wore the signs of battle on their faces after only a couple minutes into the match, gasping and gritting their teeth and spacing out in the moments between physical contact. Kingston continued to focus his attack on Miro’s neck, nearly hitting pay dirt on a Saito suplex and later his ace in the hole, the spinning backfist followed by a DDT. In the closing minutes of the match, Kingston either inadvertently or slyly pulled off the turnbuckle pad, which would cost him the match twice. The first came when referee (and Kingston’s friend of many years in AEW canon and real life) Bryce Remsburg tried putting the pad back on after Kingston hit the DDT on Miro, the second came when Remsburg physically stopped Kingston from running Miro into the exposed turnbuckle. Miro nailed a low blow mule kick, hit another on the side of Kingston’s face, and pinned him for the victory.

Miro has since pledged to offer Kingston’s broken bones to God after being accused of cheating to win, implying the conflict between God’s chosen champion and the gifted fighter who stayed faithful no matter how many times the Lord tests his will. But the bottom line remains: Miro’s undefeated streak, his reign with the TNT Championship, and his status as a reflection of God’s wrath are all still intact.

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Martin Douglas

A proud adopted son of the Pacific Northwest, Martin Douglas is an essayist, critic, and journalist specializing in the fields of music (KEXP.org, Bandcamp Daily, Pitchfork) and pro wrestling (Seattle Weekly, quite a few online zines). He's also a hip-hop beatmaker, fiction writer, disposable camera photographer, and all-around renaissance man.

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