Eddie Kingston Opens Up About His Pro Wrestling Journey, Mental Health, AEW

Eddie Kingston is trending on social media today for a new lengthy piece he wrote for The Players' Tribune, just days before he locks up with CM Punk at the AEW Full Gear pay-per-view.

Kingston wrote about how he got into pro wrestling, what it was like tape trading in New York City years ago, watching the original ECW on "the religious channel" as a teenager, working the indies in front of just a few fans, and more. Kingston also talked about his mental health issues and wrote about how the late Larry Sweeney pulled him out of a dark period.

So I drank. Christ, did I drink. I became a bouncer just so I could drink more. On the weekends I'd start drinking at 1 p.m. on Saturday, bounce at the bar until 7, go and wrestle somewhere, then come back to the bar after and drink til 7 in the morning. Then I'd wake up the next day and it was football Sunday, so I'd drink from noon till 2 a.m.

I was sick. I hated myself. I would sit at home drinking whiskey, watching guys who I'd come up with in the indies wrestling on national TV in the big promotions, and I'd just sit and stew until I blew up. I'd punch holes in the walls. I'd smash bottles. I was a danger to myself and others. One week, I ended up going on a bender that was so bad that I just kind of disappeared. I was supposed to be doing shows and I just didn't show up. I smashed my cell phone and no one could get ahold of me. People were scared that I was dead. I woke up one afternoon and there were just beer bottles smashed everywhere in my apartment. For some reason, I checked my mailbox, probably looking for a miracle check or something, and I had a letter. I'm like, "A letter? The last person that ever wrote me a letter was my grandma."

I opened this letter, and it was from my friend Alex Whybrow, aka Larry Sweeney. Longtime indie wrestler, amazing dude. He wrote me a letter as a last resort. He said everyone was really worried about me and he begged me to reach out. And I'll never forget, this one line at the end, it said....

"I feel like I've lost my best friend. Please call me."

For some reason, that woke me up. I called Alex and I crawled up out of my hole. I just always felt like nobody ever cared about me. I felt like a failure, a loser, a bad friend. It's something that's been with me since I was a kid. If Alex hadn't sent me that letter, I don't think I would be here today. I probably would have drank myself to death. He saved my life.

And the saddest part about it is that those words that he said to me must have come from a very deep place within himself ... because he ended up taking his own life just a few years later. I think he knew the pain that I was going through. He knew that darkness.

And that's why I'm telling this story, and I'm not pulling any punches, and all the old-school guys who don't want to hear this stuff, and think that we shouldn't talk about it, those guys can respectfully kiss my ass. If I wasn't on Zoloft, if I wasn't getting help for my mental health, if I was too afraid to talk about this stuff, I'd end up killing myself. Period. I've lost too many friends in this business to shut my mouth and bury all of these emotions with pills and booze.

In memory of Alex, I'm telling this story. He saved me. But he couldn't save himself. So many days, I just didn't wanna be here anymore. I had so much guilt and anger and shame. After Alex's death, I slowly started to get help and clean myself up a bit, but I looked up one day and I was 37 years old, and I realized that it was just never going to happen for me. The big boys were never going to give me a shot. I'd burned too many bridges. Told too many promoters to go to hell. Had too much of a reputation.

I was done. One day my brother was over at my house, and I told him that I was thinking of moving to Alaska. Work with my hands. Start a new life. I wasn't married. Didn't have any kids. I'd given my whole life to the business, and I was a failure, and it was time to call it a day.

He just looked at me, like only a brother can look at you, and then he took a sip of whiskey and he paused. Then he said, "Alright. Hey, you do you. It's your life. What am I gonna tell my son, though?"

My nephew had just been born.

I said, "What the hell are you talking about?"

He said, "How am I gonna tell my son not to be a quitter when his uncle quit on his dream?"

And I just looked at him like: "You son of a bitch. How dare you help me? How dare you."

I had this vision of my nephew in the first grade, talking to his friends at school, like, "My uncle's a wrestler!"

And you know how little kids are: "What??? No he's not!!! Your uncle's not a wrestler!!!"

I decided in that moment that I couldn't quit. I had to keep going for a few more years, just so that my nephew could be old enough to pull up YouTube on his phone at school and show that kid a clip of his old Uncle Eddie suplexing some dude in the middle of the ring. I knew it wasn't going to be in the WWE or AEW or anything like that. But I didn't care. As long as it was in a bingo hall or a VFW — as long as his uncle was really a wrestler, I didn't care.

Kingston continued and wrote about how he kept wrestling, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit when he was working in the UK. He had to spend his last $2,000 to get home when the borders were closing, and while the indies in the United States were also closing down, he was faced with more financial issues. He talked about selling some of his wrestling boots to make his mortgage payment. He was faced with losing his house, and having to move back in with his parents if something didn't happen. He continued and talked about working an indie show in New Jersey, which went viral, and led to the phone call from AEW, to make his debut against then-TNT Champion Cody Rhodes on the July 22, 2020 edition of AEW Dynamite.

Then I got this call to do an outdoor match in New Jersey. They got permission to set up a ring in the middle of a parking lot and to have people watching from their cars. I couldn't say no. I went up to Jersey to do the show thinking that it could be the last match I ever did. I was about to lose my house. I was desperate.

So, after my match, for some reason, I just grabbed the microphone, and I just started doing what I do best. I started talking trash. I called out all the champions of the big-time promotions. And I didn't even think anything of it. I was just being me. I was doing what I love to do. But then, somehow, someone captured my rant and posted the clip on social media, and it made it all the way to Cody Rhodes and AEW. I guess they thought it was funny or crazy or I don't know what — but I got a call out of the blue from AEW talent relations, and they said, "Hey, we saw your clip. We want you to come in and wrestle Cody."

And I'm so depressed and down on myself at this point that the first thing out of my mouth was, "How much does it pay?"

I didn't think it was a tryout. I didn't think it was a miracle. I didn't think about anything except, I need to pay my mortgage. To me, it was just a booking. A paycheck. I'm 38 years old. They're not going to sign me. This is just some bullshit stunt. I swear to you, when I got to the show and I was backstage, I was just numb. I wasn't talking to anybody. I wasn't excited.

There was no 8 Mile moment with me in front of the mirror. I was literally thinking, Let me just get this over with so I can get my check. I remember Cody was so great about everything — and he actually asked me what I wanted for my walk-out music and I told him the truth: I said, "Why would I have music? I don't work here. I wouldn't have music. I should just run out and start beating the shit out of you, like I'm some guy. Because I am just some guy."

And he said, "Alright, but let's give you a microphone then."

I said, "A mic?"

He said, "Yeah, just come out with the mic and start tearing into me."

I mean, this is Cody Rhodes. This is the guy. And he's telling me to come out and shit on him. I think about that now and I get goose bumps. I didn't even deserve it, but he let me have that moment, and it changed my life.

Another guy who changed my life in that moment ... and damn, I am going to get emotional just thinking about this, because he's not with us anymore....

But another guy who changed my life was Brodie Lee. (Rest in peace.) I had known Brodie for years from the indie circuit. Just the best guy. A true pro. He was standing backstage right before I was about to go out through the curtain, and he could see that I was just numb. He walked up to me all serious, and he goes, "Hey, where's the Eddie Kingston I know?"

He shoved me hard. I stumbled back. And it's like he woke up the beast.

I looked him right in the eyes and I shoved him back.

He stumbled back a couple of steps and then he looked at me and said, "There he is."

We just started cracking up.

I walked out through that curtain that night a very broken man. Thirty-eight years old. Bitter. Self-destructive. About to move back in with his mother.

I cannot explain to you what happened next. I still don't understand it. I am still waiting for someone to wake me up from the dream.

I wrestled Cody, like I've wrestled 10,000 guys, 10,000 times before. I did my job. I beat him up. He beat me up. I powerbombed him onto some thumbtacks. I tried to tell a story. I tried to make somebody out there watching feel something. Even if it was just one person who was having a shitty day who was using our match as an escape.

I just did my job, and he pinned me, and then I walked back through the curtain.

And that's when I saw Brodie Lee and Jon Moxley. They weren't jumping around. They weren't clapping. They weren't telling me that I was the man. That's not them. I just noticed that they were smiling.

I said, "Was it alright?"

Mox said, "You did good. You beat him up good."

And that's when I realized, Oh man. Hey, you were just on national television. That's pretty cool. If I'm done, then at least I have this.

When the match aired on TV, something weird started happening with my phone. Twitter, social media, all that stuff — I still don't really get how it works. It's not my thing. So I saw all this shit start popping up on my phone with that little bird, but I was confused. Then I started getting all these text messages, and then someone from AEW texted me, "Eddie, you're trending."

And I said, "Trending? What is that? Does that mean I get paid more?"

She hit me back, "No, this is a big deal. They're tweeting #SIGNEDDIEKINGSTON. It's everywhere. There's thousands of people. They're begging AEW to sign you."

It's still so weird to me, even now, because I have such a hard time accepting love. I'm a hard-ass New York guy. I don't trust it. I'm suspicious. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So when all these random people were standing up for me, I was just numb. I was uncomfortable. I didn't get it. Even when AEW called me and told me that they wanted to offer me a contract, it just didn't sink in. It was too surreal for a guy like me.

It wasn't until two weeks later — I was on vacation out in Montana with my girlfriend, and we were just sitting in the car, about to go inside her friend's house, and I paused for a second and I turned to her and said, "Hey wait."

She said, "What's wrong?"

I said, "You know I'm signed right? I'm on national television. My nephew can watch his uncle on TV. Like, I'm really signed. I mean, 20 f*cking years in this. I was about to lose my house. I was about to...."

And I just started crying. This wave came over me, and I finally understood what was happening, and I started bawling right there in the car.

I have been everything in this life. I have been an angry kid. I've been a depressed teenager. I've been an addict. I've seen so many holding cells it would make your head spin. I've messed up and self-destructed and burned bridges. I've been down to my last dollar.

The only reason I'm still doing this, and really the only reason I'm still on this earth is because of all the friends who never stop having my back.

I'm so lucky to have had a friend like Larry Sweeney.

I'm so lucky to have had a friend like Brodie.

I'm so lucky to still have a friend like Mox. (And I'm so proud of him for showing real courage right now. I got you, brother. Keep your head up.)

You know what's crazy? Back in the day, me and Mox used to wrestle each other at the Elks Lodge in Brooklyn in front of 85 people. It was so surreal to walk through that curtain with him in Jacksonville at AEW's first big live show after COVID, in front of 5,000 screaming people, wrestling against the Young Bucks on national television. I remember right before Mox kicked open the door and we walked down the aisle, he looked at me and he said, "Hey, get ready to be a f*cking star. Now let's go kick these guys' asses."

Kingston wrote more about AEW, his struggles, and making his nephew proud, among other topics. The full piece is a really great read and can be found at this link.