On Saturday night, House of Hardcore will make its first stop in Maryland as it comes to the MCW Arena in Joppa. There are many names you will recognize: Tommy Dreamer, John Hennigan (Morrison), Moose. If you watch Lucha Underground you will know Fenix and Brian Cage. One person that you may have recently discovered though is Eddie Kingston.
Eddie Kingston is a 15-year veteran of the independent scene. Probably most well-known for being one of the cornerstones of CHIKARA, he has competed in companies from Ring of Honor to CZW to PWG and beyond.
Recently though, his career changed in a big way. He took part in a WWE tryout at the end of September. While he didn't end up signing with WWE, just days later TNA called him and asked him to be part of the DCC, the Death Crew Council, alongside James Storm and Bram.
He debuted with a mask, but when he took off the mask, it sent waves through the wrestling community who had watched him for the past decade-plus. For Kingston, a man known for his grounded character and brawling in-ring style, getting signed was an important, and as I found out, essential, step in his career.
I had a chance to talk to him about what went into his decision to sign with TNA, thinking about retirement, feuding with the Broken Hardys, his view of the independent scene, and what he thinks House of Hardcore could become.
What have been the past couple of months been like for you?
It's been a wild two months, but a great learning experience. Being on the independents for 15 years and trying to get that style down, and then having to learn a different way of doing things for other companies, it's been different.
What about the time made it feel right for you to finally make this jump?
When they offered me a contract, that's what made it feel right (laughs). It was a crazy week for me. To me, it was whoever offered first, at this point in time in my, not just my career, but my life. I knew I had to go with the first opportunity that was there.
You had taken part in the WWE tryout shortly before showing up on TNA. Was the decision to go to TNA simply because they offered first?
I had the tryout, and then TNA called me right after the tryout, and told me to show up the next Monday. I weighed all the options and talked to a lot of people. I talked to my best friend, Homicide, and a few other people. I just turned 35, and after 15 years on the road, I just decided that I couldn't wait any longer. It was whoever came up first at the time, I would have taken it. It was never anything personal against any company, I just felt that it was now or never. At the beginning of 2016, I said to myself that if I didn't have a contract somewhere by the end of the year, I was going to leave in December. So it was already in my head that I had a goal, and that this is where I had to be by the end of the year.
So you would have left wrestling entirely if you had not received a contract? Or just toned it down?
At the time I was thinking that I would have been totally done, but wrestling is so addictive that once you're part of it, it's hard to get off of it right away. Just like any other drug, I would have weaned myself off it. Instead of taking every single booking I could take, I would have just taken a couple of places.
When you jumped to TNA, that was right in the middle of all their highly-publicized financial and legal problems. Did that factor in at all to your decision process?
To be honest with you, I try to stay out of all that stuff. I'm not a legal guy, and all that political stuff, I try to stay out of because I don't handle it all that well. The street kid in me comes out a lot of times. Before I signed the contract, I definitely had questions and concerns, but they reassured me what was going on, and I felt comfortable enough talking to the people who I had to talk to. Plus, I visited that locker room a few times, and that locker room is amazing. There's good people there. Not just good wrestlers, but good human beings in that locker room.
When you signed, did you know that the DCC was what they had in mind for you?
James Storm first pitched it to me before I was even under contract. He was telling me about the idea, and said that Bram was also going to be part of it, and I'm real cool with Bram. When they pitched it to me, it was a no-brainer for me to be part of it. They explained certain things to me about it, and I was just like, “Look, I'm here. I get to be with Storm, who I like, and Bram, who I've known for a few years. I'm all about it.” I felt like I was in a good spot.
Your first feud in TNA was with the Broken Hardys. How was that as a first feud, and what's it like working with that character right now?
[Broken Matt] is the best thing on TV right now, and I'm not saying that just because I'm there. A funny story is that me and Bram were standing in the ring waiting for the Hardys to come out for a match. For a split-second, 15 or 16-year old me came out where I remembered seeing them at Wrestlemania 2000 against the Dudleys and Edge and Christian. Then I had to snap out of it and be a pro. But it was an honor and it was really cool.
You are one of a growing number of long-time indy guys who are finally getting their shot on a bigger stage this year. How have you seen the indy scene change over the past year or two?
I gotta tell you, I wish I would have been breaking in now, 19 or 20 years old now. To be part of the indies now, you have more opportunities. When I broke in, WCW had been closed for a couple of years, ECW was closed. The only way you were going to make any type of money was if you went overseas. WWE was not hiring anybody from the indies at the time. I just remember that it was very very rough to make a living, at least in the states, at the time. TNA had just started, I think I had only been training for a few months when TNA ran their first show. You only had one place to go. Now? It's a great time to be an independent wrestler.
It's also a great time to learn. There are a lot of guys out there who can you train you well. I feel like it's coming back around. When I first broke in, I had guys like Tracy Smothers and other guys who had been everywhere and done everything. Jerry Lynn was another one. They would teach to the younger guys. As time went on, you didn't have that a lot in the locker room.
Now, it's coming around again, where guys get their shot, and then they come back down and teach the younger guys who they do it there. This is how you draw money. That's the most important thing you can learn. Some of the older guys would tell me, “Hey Eddie, that's a cool move. But how does that draw money?” I think they'll learn it faster now.
Is there at all a concern that with WWE snapping up guys like they did for the cruiserweights, or now that they're doing the UK show, and with how they're expanding, that it could have negative effects on the independent scene?
First off, I'm so happy for the guys in the UK who get to be part of that. I know a bunch of guys who are participating and I'm over-the-moon happy and proud of them. About the other thing, I've never been concerned about that at all. This is the ego in me coming out, as long as I'm able to do the independents, the independents won't be dead.
Plus, there are a lot of great schools right now. There are more than just the hole in the wall places with a guy who doesn't know how to train kids and just take moneys. You have schools like CHIKARA and AIW's wreslting school. You have House of Glory in New York, Team 3D Academy, so many legitimate schools.
In addition to WWE and TNA signing more guys from the indies, it seems like there's more exposure for the independent scene, especially with things like FloSlam popping up, which you'll be on for House of Hardcore this weekend. What does that do for independent wrestling?
It gets more eyes on it. Back in the day, you didn't really know about the indies unless you were truly a hardcore wrestling fan. Unless you went to the newsstands and bought the magazines. I remember seeing Mike Quackenbush in the magazines, guys like Ace Darling and Reckless Youth. I was a hardcore wrestling fan, I wanted to see everything. But if you weren't like me, you wouldn't see the indies at all. Now, with FloSlam and other streaming services, House of Hardcore doing big things, it's way easier to see the indies.
You hear House of Hardcore and Tommy Dreamer you think of the old ECW guys, and that style. But you look at this show, and it has so many different types of wrestlers, and some fantastic matches. What attracted you to work HOH and what do you think the organization can become as it's evolving?
First off, Tommy Dreamer is one of my mentors. I was a teenager and I was done watching wrestling because I thought it was for kids, and then I saw ECW, and it really sucked me back into wrestling. As far as House of Hardcore goes, Tommy has a vision for it. It's not ECW. It's not WWE. It's not TNA. It's its own thing. It's HOH.
It does have some of the nostalgia factor, but you also have the young guys coming up. You have some great matchups, and all sorts of different matchups. If you're going to trust anyone to run a company like that, you're going to trust Tommy Dreamer. He's always for the fan. Every show I've been on, if there's a problem or a cancellation or something happens that's out of anybody's control, it's always made up. There's always a surprise or something for the fans. That's why fans of HOH are lucky. You have someone like Dreamer who is able to do that for the fans, and nine out of ten times, it's better than the original plan.
So as a kid who grew up watching ECW, and connecting with that product, how does that kid become one of the cornerstones of the family-friendly lucha show, CHIKARA?
It's pretty simple really. I was iron-working in New York City when I was 19. I looked around, and saw a bunch of pushed-down old men smoking, and drinking on the job site. I thought that there had to be something more than this, so I went to a wrestling school down in Jersey. Surprise, surprise, I got in trouble there and got kicked out. I was looking up schools with my tag partner, and we were both fans of Mike Quackenbush and Reckless Youth, so we just went for it. Then we started hearing about how they ran the shows.
My whole thing with CHIKARA is that I love that it's PG, sometimes G even. It's for kids. The characters are for kids. You can see how much the kids love wearing ant masks or Dasher Hatfield masks. They love it. Me? I just bring my own style. When I'm into the Eddie Kingston character, which is pretty much me at 17, I do push the envelope a little bit. It's what separates me. One time Mike Quackenbush compared me to The Punisher, and said I was The Punisher of CHIKARA. I'll take that.
You said that you were considering walking away at the beginning of this year. Have these last few months revitalized you, and what do you see for your future in the next couple of years?
After every show during this past year, I would get that shot of life again. It was the Monday through Thursday, waiting for the shows, that I'd wonder if it was time to call it. But it's changed. I feel like I have to do it, I want to do it now. I have more passion, and I'm learning more now as time goes on. For myself? I just want to get my stock out. I would love to see House of Hardcore do bigger and better things as well.
Of course I'm very loyal to Dreamer, and I'd love to see it explode with me as part of it. I'm just taking it day by day to be honest with you. This is a whole new world to me, not being just an independent guy anymore. It's a whole new world, and I'm happy about it. But I'm not content.
So will you keep doing these independent shows even as you work with TNA? Obviously you are working with House of Hardcore, but what about CHIKARA and some of the others that you were a regular on?
Yep, I can still work with all of them, and I plan on doing it.
For people who are thinking about coming out to the show in Joppa on Saturday, and who haven't seen Eddie Kingston before, what can they expect to see when you come to the ring?
Man, what you see is what you get with me. This character is not made up. It's not a gimmick that wasn't given to me. It's me when I was 17, just turned up a thousand notches in a professional wrestling manner. That's what you'll see with me. I always give 100 percent, even if I'm not 100 percent mentally or physically. I feel like if a person pays money to come to the show, whether it's to see me or not, then I have to give them everything I have. When I was a kid, if a guy didn't give 100 percent, I know I felt knowing that I had spent money, or my dad had spent money, to see these guys. Plus, you have so many great guys at this show that there's no way that you won't come away a fan of someone at this show, and there's no way that you'll go and not become a fan of House of Hardcore.
House of Hardcore 23 will take place at the MCW Arena in Joppa, MD on Saturday. Bell time is 7 p.m. For more information, and to buy tickets, you can go to: https://www.houseofhardcore.net/event/house-of-hardcore-23/
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout