ACH vs Eddie Kingston
115 Bourbon Street, Merrionette Park, Illinois, United States
(reviewed 01/08/2019) Thankfully, after two grudge matches throughout the back half of 2018, these two finally land on something that I like. It’s far from perfect but it hits the right notes without leaning too heavily on anything I dislike. Back over the summer these two longtime friends first blew up, with Kingston’s WRSTLING crew urging him to take the then-AAW Champion out and Kingston gleefully acquiescing. See, Kingston thought his pal was weak, that he lacked the sort of killer instinct it takes to succeed in wrestling, that losing the AAW title to a guy like Brody King was evidence of that above all. While ACH was able to beat his former friend in a pair of matches throughout the fall, Kingston still wasn’t convinced the kid had it in him. So, in the lead up to this match, Kingston begged ACH to put him out of his misery. After nearly two decades in wrestling, Kingston’s done, just broken and tired, ready to go out on his shield. If ACH is supposedly so good, if he doesn’t need to stoop to Kingston’s level to get ahead, then he could give his old friend the end he desires.
That story is real hyperdramatic and self-important, so I totally understand being turned off by it. What these men do in the match itself doesn’t help to pare that down much either, but I do think they—and especially Kingston—do a lot to make that zealousness meaningful and interesting.
First things first, this is mechanically the best match these two have had yet. Their first two meetings in 2018 felt off either due to a clash of styles or entirely too much focus given to the local Austin crowd. Here they’re keyed in on a straightforward brawl, which works so much better with ACH’s deceptively heavy hands and Kingston’s general skillset. Kingston does everything he can to spur ACH into knocking his head off and ACH tries to push past him without stooping to his level. What results is one of the better slobberknockers of the year, where these two go shaky at the knees after every chop but refuse to go down. The thing that separates this from your Kobashi/Sasaki matches or late stage Tomohiro Ishii stuff is both how gradual these two ease into it and how these big exchanges of strikes are used. These two aren’t throwing dozens and dozens of chops back and forth 15, 20 minutes into a match but rather they’re testing each other in the opening moments for short spurts of time. What’s more, each exchange ends with Kingston, who stubbornly clings to his perceived superiority despite dropping two falls to his opponent already, playing dirty to get the upper hand. He slaps at the man’s liver or goes after his eyes to take control, tactics he returns to and utilizes to dominate essentially this whole match. Stoicism has its place but this sort of underhanded aggression born of pride is so much better to me.
That, I think, is a big part of why I enjoy this so much despite the inherent silliness of its drama. The emotion of this match doesn’t overwhelm or undermine its action, but rather enhances it.
You boil it down and it’s about pride and what results of it. ACH wants to beat Kingston to prove that he is indeed great. Kingston’s pride prevents him from taking the easy road out on retirement and he instead wants to go down swinging. Both of these men aren’t exactly trying to win here but unlike other recent examples of matches where friends face off, this doesn’t stop them from being competitive or lead them to outright blubbering. Lovers/Bucks features a lot of quality interpersonal drama but gets hung up on braindead acting divorced from human emotion. Ronda/Nattie fails to read the room and its action suffers for it. This match manages to deliver on the promise of a mean-spirited blowoff while also remaining fairly grounded emotionally, largely because Kingston is one of the best actors wrestling’s ever seen. He’s still in tears by the end of this but his blubbering is couched in rage and frustration as opposed to posing for the camera. What’s more his reluctant victory here carries so much more weight than either of those two earlier matches did. Lovers/Bucks and Ronda/Nattie end with a simple “oh no I hurt my friend” sentiment but this match ends with Kingston realizing that, since ACH couldn’t send him off, he alienated one of the last friends he has left for no real reason. That sort of tragic ending stands out to me in a great way, especially when these other matches eventually end with reconciliation. We’re not getting that here. ACH is gonna go off to the fed and live his dream while Kingston rots away with the knowledge that he once again drove off anyone he once cared about.