In a piece for the Players Tribune, AEW's Eddie Kingston opened up about his upbringing, how he almost quit the wrestling business, dealing with both mental health issues and alcohol and drug issues, his big break, and coming to terms with where he's at in the wrestling business.
Kingston started by talking about his upbringing in Yonkers, New York, and getting the wrestling bug through watching tapes and eating Chinese food -- his Friday reward if he stayed out of trouble in school that week.
"Watching wrestling was always my escape. It was like my little sanctuary, man. It was probably the only thing that kept me out of jail. In high school, my friends used to be calling me up at night to come out and get up to who knows what, and I’d stay at home by myself to watch Raw or watch the Super J-Cup or ECW," he wrote, later saying wrestling and fighting in his neighborhood were the only things that kept him from getting depressed.
After being kicked out of school due to a fight, he took an ironworkers job with relatives until he decided one day that he wanted to pursue pro wrestling as a career. He detailed the struggles to make ends meet and a night in which only eight fans were in a building for a show but the reactions of one particular fan helped keep him going.
He then detailed how he turned to alcohol and painkillers to help him cope, eventually leaving the pills behind because they were too costly.
"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.," he wrote.
He then described a story where he disappeared into an alcoholic binge, missing dates, breaking his cell phone and causing concerns with friends. He said he woke up one day and went to his mailbox and there was a letter from Larry Sweeney who was worried about him and said he felt like he lost his best friend. Kingston then turned things around and said that if he hadn't got that letter, he probably would have drank himself to death.
Kingston said he nearly quit the business, but his brother talked him out of it, saying he didn't want to tell his son that his Uncle Eddie was a quitter. He then kept going but the pandemic hit and he had to sell his gear to even make a mortgage payment. He then got a call to do an outdoor show in New Jersey where he decided to cut a promo on several wrestlers. That caught the attention of AEW and he was brought in for the TNT title open challenge against then-champion Cody Rhodes.
He described how Brodie Lee fired him up before the match and how both Lee and Jon Moxley were there afterward to give their stamp of approval on his performance. Several weeks later while on vacation with his girlfriend after he was under contract, the realization of the point he was at in his career finally hit him.
"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," he wrote.
Even with the success, Kingston said he still needs to take Zoloft and still has panic attacks, including one after his challenge of then-TNT Champion Miro at All Out when he began to get overwhelmed with all the positive praise. He worked his way through it, crediting everything he learned in therapy in teaching him what to do.
"I know how to live with my anxiety and depression. And I’m not afraid to talk about it. I don’t care what the old-school guys in the business have to say about it. It ain’t 1987 no more," he wrote.
After the column came out, Kingston took to Twitter with a note about the story:
Please take away from the article that yes mistakes are made and things get dark mentally and emotionally but please move forward please. I know I will make more mistakes because life is life but I will move forward. So just move forward.
— Eddie Kingston #BlackLivesMatter (@MadKing1981) November 9, 2021
Kingston will face CM Punk at Saturday's Full Gear pay-per-view.