John Cena is an all-time wrestling great. He’s also a huge fucking dork.
He usually does the right thing. He is a white guy who sometimes raps. He’s beloved by children. Despite it happening to him dozens of times previously, he is always distracted by outside interference. Like many good guys in wrestling, his character is stupid. But, mainly, he’s a big dork because he wears jorts.
Captain Highpants is a 16-time world champion, but he dresses like a 16-year-old in 1996. On The Late Late Show earlier this year, Cena claimed he chose to wrestle in jorts because one time, when he wrestled in cargo shorts, the crotch ripped and his dick popped out. (This isn’t entirely true; Cena has wrestled in cargo shorts plenty of times. See, he is a good storyteller.)
Cena is now a WWE part-timer. But there’s another pro wrestling show that’s bringing viewers weekly jorts content now. AEW Dynamite has Eddie Kingston.
Kingston has been a wrestler about as long as John Cena. He has won only smaller championships—the biggest one was probably in Combat Zone Wrestling, a hardcore wrestling promotion. He had a long run in Ring of Honor, the standard-bearer for American workrate-based wrestling. He is a regular indie wrestler stereotype from the early 2000s: A guy playing an outsized version of himself—in Kingston’s case, a straight-talking badass from Yonkers who talks trash and tries to back it up by throwing himself around the ring. Honestly, John Cena might be a knockoff of Eddie Kingston.
Most of these guys are actually kind of a throwback to the late 1990s and early 2000s: Cool tweeners who maybe have real-sounding names and wrestle in jeans and a t-shirt. Looks have differentiated since then. They’ve become more stylized. Tights and costumes are back in. Even AEW champ Jon Moxley/Dean Ambrose, who sometimes wrestles in jeans or military-looking pants, is pretty stylized. Everyone in WWE wears their own merch with a big WWE logo on it. Most of the designs on Eddie Kingston’s merch store could be from a Geocities site.
Kingston goes further than jeans—he wears jorts. They are not tailored like Cena’s. It looks like he picked them up at Ross Dress for Less on the way to the Flyers Skate Zone for a CZW show. They reach to his calves. NXT manager Malcolm Bivens (formerly known as Stokely Hathaway) once tweeted that Kingston dresses like “Eddie Kingston at a BBQ in the Bronx.”
Wednesday night Kingston came to the ring dressed basically like John Cena. He wore a baseball cap, a t-shirt, and jorts. He even had on a pair of Air Max 270s; Cena used to wear Air Maxes to the ring. Kingston accompanied the Lucha Brothers to the ring. After they lost, partners Fenix and Penta el Zero M squabbled. Their pals—a tag team known as The Butcher and the Blade—ran down to the ring. Then Kingston jumped in the ring and ranted about the loss. He told Fenix and Penta to shake hands. He asked the Blade about his real-life wife, who once accompanied the team to the ring as The Bunny. He asked the Lucha Bros about their ally Pac, stuck in England and off AEW TV since the COVID-19 outbreak. He ended by noting that he had not been officially eliminated in the battle royal at AEW’s All Out pay-per-view over the weekend.
It was kind of a mess. It was great. On a rewatch while I grabbed a screenshot of Kingston in his giant jorts, it was even better—an example of what has been great about AEW since its TV debut last year.
The show, while a big-time wrestling promotion with decent production values on a major cable channel, still has the feel of indie wrestling. Kingston appeared first as a one-off, challenging then-TNT Champion Cody in an open challenge in July. He signed a few days later. By September he was ranting to his allies after the opening match on the show.
WWE has its own style. It is polished. AEW is not. Sometimes the stunts seem out of hand; Matt Hardy’s scary head bump last Saturday, and the decision to continue the match, was disturbing. But that indie, go-for-it-all, hardcore wrestling spirit travels throughout AEW. And when it doesn’t devolve into dangerousness, it makes for a refreshing watch.
WWE’s production levels and the polished athleticism of its wrestlers are impressive. But wrestling can also be great when it’s sloppy. There is a place in the industry for some sweaty guys in casual clothes to throw down, or grab a mic and order two bros to shake hands. When he comes into the ring holding up a little “Never Give Up” workout towel, wearing jorts and saluting the troops, John Cena looks like a bigger nerd than anyone in the audience. It comes off as fake. But Eddie Kingston pulls it off. AEW allows him to be the character he’s been for two decades. He’s earned the right to wear those jorts.