Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castagnoli — Deeper Than Respect

When Claudio Castagnoli was revealed as the newest member of the Blackpool Combat Club at AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door on June 26, the United Center erupted.

When Castagnoli returned after the main event that night to lay waste to the Jericho Appreciation Society ahead of the anticipated Blood and Guts match on AEW Dynamite, the crowd erupted again. The other members of the BCC and their allies were thankful for the assistance of their newest brother in arms, save for one man.

Eddie Kingston stood outside the ring. The Mad King was barely moving, pondering the situation at hand. If looks could kill, Claudio Castagnoli would be in the ground—if we’re being honest, right where Eddie Kingston would prefer him.

Kingston refused to join in the post-fight revelry with his friends, and indeed used some animated language at arguably his best friend Jon Moxley before leaving. All of that because Moxley had the audacity to support Castagnoli’s arrival in AEW and joining the Blackpool Combat Club.

The events of Blood and Guts only served to exacerbate this divide. Kingston was robbed of revenge against Chris Jericho, as Castagnoli tapped out Matt Menard atop the Blood and Guts structure to win the contest for his team. Eddie won, but the victory felt hollow, as it wasn’t his doing. Once again, Claudio Castagnoli had stolen the day.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a very brief period in which the two men teamed. But to understand how we got to where we are now, one would have to turn the clock back to 2005.

Claudio and Eddie teamed exactly one time on a small indpendent show in Southwest Michigan in 2005. Throughout 2005 and 2006, the two were on opposite sides of multi-man matches, mostly for CHIKARA, the lucha-influenced independent promotion out of Philadelphia, though they did share some history in Combat Zone Wrestling as well. There, Claudio was firmly entrenched with Chris Hero, as the Kings of Wrestling, while Eddie worked with Joker and Sabian as part of BLKOUT. The Kings and BLKOUT clashed a number of times over the CZW Tag Team Championships throughout 2005 and 2006. BLKOUT would eventually defeat the Kings to win the CZW Tag Team Titles at CZW Seven Years Strong: Settling the Score, in February of 2006, and Kingston would defeat Claudio in singles action in July of that year, also for CZW. The two would also fight on the same side in CZW’s war against ROH in 2006, with Claudio defecting from the ROH side to join tag partner Chris Hero with the CZW contingent.

But most would say the real meat of their feud happened in CHIKARA.

Now, a small aside about CHIKARA: the promotion operated under a season format. The seasons would roughly correspond to a calendar year, with shows starting in late January or early February while wrapping up in late November or early December. There would usually be about a month or two in between seasons, give or take. CHIKARA borrowed heavily from things such as comic books, science-fiction, gaming and other cultural artifacts for some of its storylines and concepts. This led to storylines involving time travel, powerful ancient artifacts (we’ll get to that later) and the like popping up. Thus, if you see something that seems idiosyncratic or unconventional, simply tell yourself “It’s CHIKARA,” and move on.

Kingston and Castagnoli met on opposite sides of an eight-man tag match, a match that epitomizes CHIKARA as a promotion, the Cibernetico, in Season 4 (2005). No real fireworks yet.

They were on opposing sides of the Cibernetico again in Season 5 (2006), with Kingston leading a team against a team led by Larry Sweeney, featuring the Kings of Wrestling. Though Kingston’s feud through Season 5 was with Sweeney—leading to a strap match in the main event of the season finale. Castagnoli was right there as part of Sweeney’s entourage.

Early in Season 6 (2007), Castagnoli and Kingston met one-on-one. Just like nearly every other time before this, through multiple promotions, Castagnoli came out on top. Too strong, too fast, too technically sound and Kingston couldn’t find the right combination to put Castagnoli away. If it could be called a feud this point, it remained more or less a professional and lopsided affair. In Season 7 (2008), the combination would meet again. Once again, Castagnoli emerged victorious. It seemed as though no matter the circumstance, Kingston just can’t get past this man, and for a man as proud as Kingston, one has to think it began to take an emotional toll.

In Season 8 (2009), Kingston participated in CHIKARA’s annual King of Trios tournament, a three-night extravaganza where teams of three from CHIKARA and across the wrestling world converge for a massive tournament. In the first round, Kingston, teaming with Brodie Lee and Grizzly Redwood as The Roughnecks, lost to Team Uppercut, featuring Dave Taylor, Bryan Danielson and the aforementioned Castagnoli. Team Uppercut advanced to the finals. Kingston, meanwhile, would not be booked on the second night of the tournament, and would defeat Austin Aries on night three. Two months later, the two clashed at the Anniversario Yang event. It was here, finally, that Kingston was able to defeat Castagnoli. Castagnoli returned the favor via count-out during the Young Lion’s Cup weekend in August, necessitating a rubber match. Each performer had one win over the other in Season 8. At the Season Finale, Three Fisted Tales, the rubber match commanded respect. The two met in a ‘Respect Match.’ The premise is simple: loser would be forced to get on the microphone after the match and tell the winner he respects him.

The two titans went to war for a quarter hour, with each man unloading their arsenal on the other. Unfortunately for Eddie, it was once again Claudio Castagnoli that stood tall. Each man hit their finish on the other in the first minute of the match for a near fall, while the action continued to ramp up from there. Along the way though, something interesting happened. Throughout most of their professional rivalry, Castagnoli had generally been the tecnico, while Kingston had generally been the rudo. In Lucha Libre terms, they generally relate to one’s proclivities to break the rules, regardless of actual character alignment. More often than not, tecnicos are babyfaces, but not always. In this match, we see Castagnoli undertake some rudo tactics of his own, like interrupting a flurry of Kingston offense on the floor by throwing a ringside attendant at him. The distraction works, as Castagnoli takes control. Ultimately, despite the crowd coming around to his side, Kingston falls once again to his rival. But when he’s handed the microphone, he just can’t do it. He emphatically exclaims that he does not respect Castagnoli, and that while Castagnoli may have the fans fooled, he hasn’t fooled Kingston, and he doesn’t deserve respect. When Castagnoli tries to stop him, Kingston drops him with his backfist, and walks off, saying “I know you.”

Just hours later, Kingston was proven right. At the end of the Season 8 finale, Claudio Castagnoli was revealed as one of eight members of the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (translated to Brotherhood of the Cross), who had arrived in CHIKARA to recover an ancient artifact known as the Eye of Tyr from its holder, the devious Ultramantis Black and to take over the promotion themselves.

At this point, the two went their separate ways somewhat.

As CHIKARA ushered in Season 9 and the Bruderschaft spread their influence throughout CHIKARA, Castagnoli tended to focus more on tag team endeavors as CHIKARA did not have a top singles championship at the time, and the Campeonatos de Parejas (Tag Team Titles) were a major focus. In March of 2010, at Season 9’s “Wit, Verve and a Bit O’ Nerve,” Castagnoli and longtime partner Ares defeated The Colony, Fire Ant & Soldier Ant to claim the prizes. But lest you think the feud has been forgotten, the next night, at “Dead Men Don’t Laugh,” Kingston laid a beating on Bruderschaft member Lince Dorado, announcing that from here on out, every match he has is a message to Castagnoli. In April, the Bruderschaft would capture the King of Trios tournament, with the team of Castagnoli, Ares, and the massive Tursas. For the remainder of Season 9, Kingston and Claudio would continue to send messages to one another, interfering in matches, stopping interference, and so on. The two would meet as part of a tag match at July’s Chikarasaurus Rex event, with Kingston teaming with Tommy Dreamer to battle Castagnoli and Ares, but it again ended with Castagnoli victorious, pinning Dreamer after a Ricola Bomb. The two were also on opposite sides of the annual Cibernetico match, which pitted Team CHIKARA against the BDK. In the course of the match, Kingston was able to survive a Ricola Bomb, and the ensuing brawl frustrated and flustered Castagnoli so much so that he got himself disqualified following a low blow on Kingston. Kingston would go on to win the Cibernetico, last eliminating the BDK monster Tursas. In the process, Kingston also became the first to knock Tursas off his feet. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. Kingston is the single biggest threat to the dominance of the BDK.

As Season 9 wraps up, the BDK is losing its grip. At the season finale, not only does Kingston pins Tursas again in a one-on-one match—proving his victory at the Cibernetico was no fluke—but Castagnoli and Ares lose the Campeonatos de Parejas to Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw. Their attempts to insert BDK official Derek Sabato as referee for important matches keep getting undermined. There are cracks in the foundation.

As to Kingston and Castagnoli specifically, their feud would come to a head in Brooklyn at Creatures from the Tar Swamp in March of 2011. In the main event, fans finally got the contest that they had been clamoring for, a match that brewed for nearly a year and a half. Eddie Kingston vs. Claudio Castagnoli. One-on-one.

Right from the get-go something is wrong. Derek Sabato is the official. BDK members Sara Del Rey, Pinkie Sanchez and Tim Donst interfere at will. But despite everything, Kingston manages to turn the tide. Every time it looks like he’s done for, Kingston answers the bell, again and again. He’s even able to catch Castagnoli with a uranage suplex that might have gotten the win were it not for the slow counting of Sabato. Kingston resolved the predicament by headbutting Sabato, allowing CHIKARA senior official Bryce Remsburg to hit the ring and take over. The two men start throwing bombs at each other, but neither can put down the other. Finally, Kingston hits the right combination. He blocks the Ricola Bomb, he hits the backfist, and he hits his backdrop driver…only for Derek Sabato to pull out Remsburg at two and throw him to the guardrail. Ultimately, the BDK is too much. Donst tosses a chain to Castagnoli who wraps it around his forearm and plants Kingston with a European uppercut for the three count. The BDK has won the day again.

Subsequently, Castagnoli removes Kingston’s belt and begins to whip him with it, doing so with such ferocity that even some of the BDK seem concerned. Finally satisfied, Castagnoli spits in Kingston’s face and the BDK leaves him laying. It would be two months before Castagnoli returned to action in CHIKARA, and Kingston would never get his revenge.

Kingston was back in action on the undercard at the King of Trios tournament in 2011, but real life intervened, as days before the King of Trios tournament was set to begin, news broke of the death by suicide of “Sweet & Sour” Larry Sweeney, a mainstay of the North American independents, and longtime CHIKARA and ROH talent. The incident understandably cast a pall over the proceedings at King of Trios, and in the wake of his death, the summer of 2011 was dedicated to the 12 Large Summit, a round robin tournament which culminated at High Noon in November, the tournament winner being crowned the first CHIKARA Grand Champion. Castagnoli and Kingston paired in opposite blocks for the tournament, and before it could be completed, Castagnoli inked a pact with WWE, forfeiting his last match as part of the tournament.

Kingston defeated Mike Quackenbush in the finals at High Noon, becoming the first Grand Champion. He was distinguished as Grand Champion for an unfathomable 924 day reign, with 14 successful title defenses before losing the title to Icarus in May of 2014. Without getting into too much detail here, this was a tumultuous time for CHIKARA, as the promotion temporarily ceased operation as part of a storyline between June of 2013 and May of 2014.

Kingston continued to appear for CHIKARA as a top babyface for the promotion until 2016, with his last appearance coming at “No One’s First and You’re Next.” The promotion itself halted operations in the summer of 2020, in the wake of owner/founder Mike Quackenbush’s implication in the wider Speaking Out scandals.

Kingston spent the better part of the next three years with Impact Wrestling and transiently surface in the NWA prior to his debut for All Elite Wrestling in 2020. Castagnoli enjoyed 11 years in WWE, capturing the United States Championship and a combined seven Tag Team Championships, before debuting in AEW at Forbidden Door in June of 2022.

But if the end of Forbidden Door and the look on Kingston’s face at the end of Blood and Guts is any indication, their long history may not be done just yet.

Editor’s note: Be sure to listen to the Code of Honor Podcast on all Bodyslam platforms, including a forthcoming edition on July 4th at 3 P.M. EST, where Kyle discusses the history between Castagnoli and Kingston.

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