My man Cain A. Knight posted the full video of CM Punk and Eddie Kingston’s brilliant back-and-forth from AEW Rampage this past Friday night already but I’m going to post it again because you really can’t watch it too many times and because it’s going to help illustrate the point I’m about to make:
THAT is what pro wrestling is supposed to be.
It’s supposed to make you suspend your disbelief, sure, but more than that it’s supposed to make you genuinely believe in what you’re seeing. What it cannot do in 2021 and beyond is make you believe the fighting is legitimate, because, of course, we all know it’s not. They’ve admitted as much. That cat has been out of the bag forever.
But they absolutely can make you want to watch a match between two people who strongly dislike each other. That’s all you have to convince me of.
These two put on a masterclass in that regard.
It’s not just the pointed barbs they’re throwing at each other, though there were plenty, all of them deeply personal. It hit pretty damn hard when Punk called Kingston “a bum” after the latter when on about their history. When Eddie got in his face and told him “nobody wants you here, they never wanted you here. That whole locker room is afraid to say it, but not me” it hit heavy as hell. That’s really effective because of what we know about the man he’s saying it to, or at least what we think we know.
But I want you to really go back and just watch Punk right at the moment Eddie gets up to his face and confronts him with those words. Punk’s eyes look glossy, his head is moving a lot, he almost looks twitchy. He’s making it appear as though Kingston’s words legitimately hurt him but he’s trying to hide that fact with a half smirk. He also looks like he’s swelling with the kind of adrenaline rush you get when you’re entering into a situation where you’re reasonably certain you’re about to throw hands. He only really appears to relax when Kingston backs away.
Every time they get in each other’s face, there’s this palpable sense of impending violence. It’s almost uncomfortable, that’s how much you can feel it.
Later still, Kingston, who does so well playing the part of the guy who wants to beat the ever loving shit out of Punk because he thinks he’s better than Eddie and to hell with him for that, delivers the verbal coup dé grace. He gets right up to his face and tells him “after I’m done beating you up, do me a favor — quit again and leave for seven years and don’t come...”
He never got to finish because Punk stops him with a headbutt. I especially liked this because it was as though that adrenaline really was fully pumping through his body at this point and Kingston said something so utterly unacceptable to him that he didn’t even want to wait the amount of time it would take to lift his arm up to throw a punch. He just used the part of his body closest to Kingston’s face as a weapon, which so happened to be his head, because that’s how much he wanted to physically assault this son of a bitch in front of him.
The ensuing pull apart never really got off the ground because AEW went with the “have referees and company officials rush the ring to keep them away from each other” bit and I’m good with it because it gave us some damn good visuals of two dudes post scuffle full of hate for each other that didn’t dissipate one bit despite the physicality.
I mean, look at Punk:
For his part, Kingston, who at one point appeared as though he was trying to bite Punk’s face off, never stopped antagonizing, fully embracing the madness of the moment:
I bought it all.
Hook, line, and sinker.
This is what pro wrestling is supposed to be. Nothing about “opportunities” or “brand warfare” or demos or whatever else. Just two people convincing us they hate each other and having a good ol’ fashioned brawl over it.