Sonny Kiss: “The Concrete Rose” Finally Blossoms in AEW

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Photo: AEW

On Wednesday night, Sonny Kiss had his highest-profile match since becoming All Elite in early 2019 and signing with All Elite Wrestling (AEW). It was Sonny’s first match on AEW Dynamite since May 27, 2020’s #1 Contendership for the TNT Championship Battle Royal and first singles match ever – Kiss has normally been relegated to AEW DARK and in recent weeks has begun a tag team pairing with Joey Janela. But despite losing in his challenge for Cody Rhodes‘ TNT title, Sonny Kiss put on a display of his full potential and showed that he was signed by AEW on talent and not some kind of agenda.

Sonny Kiss, a native of Jersey City, New Jersey, began wrestling in 2015. Essentially born into the hardcore epicenter of professional wrestling these days, he came a charismatic superstar early, who rose through the tough New Jersey/New York indie scene to become a flamboyant ass-kicker who earned everyone’s respect. And thus The Concrete Rose (named after Ashanti’s 2004 album of the same name) was born. “‘The Concrete Rose’ sums up me as a person,” Sonny Kiss told Sports Illustrated‘s Justin Barrasso on Wednesday. “Ashanti’s version of that was infusing her soulful vocals over a hip-hop beat. With me, it’s very similar. I’m a very unconventional, avant-garde person, so it’s a mantra I came up with as a teenager. It’s when two things that aren’t necessarily similar come together to make one awesome product. It’s not exuding a masculine or feminine quality exclusively. I’m a little rough around the edges, but I’m also bubbly. I’m a fan of a lot of things, and that comes together like different qualities in concrete and a rose. It’s basically two opposites coming together.”

It didn’t take long for Sonny Kiss to become a star with Warriors of Wrestling (WOW) in New York City, and he quickly had an EVOLVE Wrestling tryout in a dark match for EVOLVE 50 in Deer Park, New York. Soon he was working with the likes of New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC) and New Jersey’s American Championship Entertainment (ACE), where he won the ACE Fight for Flight Championship. But initially, promoters were hesitant about how to book Sonny. “When I first started wrestling, people didn’t know what to make of me,” Sonny Kiss told SI. “They wanted to make me like Adrian Adonis or even Goldust. But I wouldn’t have thrived doing that. It wouldn’t have been real, and people can see through fakeness. For me, I was either going to the top as myself or I wasn’t. I’m not a gimmick, I’m myself. I don’t want to do anything that isn’t real. LGBTQ+ people are more than what you’ve seen in the past as ‘gimmicks.’”

Over the next few years, Sonny Kiss would thrive in the rough and tumble New York/New Jersey, adding more promotions to his workloads such as BriiCombination Wrestling (BCW), 2KW Pro Wrestling and 5 Boroughs Wrestling, as well as helping to push the LGBTQ community in wrestling with A Matter of Pride. In 2016, he debuted with the New Jersey deathmatch promotion, Hardcore Hustle Organization (H2O). Sonny Kiss was determined to make sure his flamboyant persona could be represented in even the most hardcore promotions. He opened the doors for other stars like EFFY to enter a more violent scene of pro wrestling.

In 2017, Sonny Kiss went international, debuting in Canada with Toronto’s Lucha in the 6 and Greektown Wrestling and Ottawa’s Capital City Championship Combat (C4), continuing to build a cult following in the New York/New Jersey area and becoming a pioneer in the ever-growing LGBTQ+ wrestling community. No longer where wrestlers from the gay community going to sit back and have out of touch promoters dictate what was “over” for their culture, and it was time to sink or swim on their own terms. “People need authenticity, and I’m that for them,” Kiss told SI. “If you’re not authentic, how can people relate to you? I won’t change, I’ll always be me.”

In 2018, Sonny Kiss gained his first national exposure when he joined Lucha Underground as the character XO Lishus. He formed an alliance with Ivelisse and the duo competed several times together throughout the fourth and final season (including in trios action alongside AEW’s Sammy Guevara). He continued to work in Canada and the US indies, adding New Jersey’s Pro Wrestling Magic to the mix.

In 2019, Sonny Kiss stunned the world by being one of the first recruits for AEW, and since then has continued to build his resume in the US indies. In January, he won the WOW Heavyweight Championship and made debuts with Beyond Wrestling (facing Chris Dickinson), Tommy Dreamer‘s House of Hardcore, Bar Wrestling, Chicago’s hard-hitting Freelance Wrestling, and the Pacific Northwest with 3-2-1 BATTLE!

But while he worked his way through AEW, he was also a full-time student in college, working on his degree in fitness training, fitness science, and kinesiology. But he takes each opportunity with grace and an appetite to learn, and it’s come in mentors Dustin Rhodes and Billy Gunn. “Him [Dustin Rhodes] and Billy [Gunn] are definitely like my mentors,” Kiss told Post Wrestling’s Andrew Thompson this past January. They’ve been very instrumental in my career since I met them, especially Billy since maybe four years ago [when] I met him. Yeah, it’s a legit relationship. They’re definitely helping me a lot.”

“I think what has impressed me the most with Sonny is that he is very coachable, listens, and soaks up all suggestions,” Dustin Rhodes told SI in the same interview. “It’s my job to teach him reasons behind something he does in the ring. Besides that, he’s hungry, passionate, lovable, and very charismatic.” Sonny Kiss has finally arrived in All Elite Wrestling and while he didn’t win the gold from Cody this time, he showed all the ability and promise in the world to show that it’s only a matter of time.

Stay tuned to Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TNT and AEW DARK Tuesday nights at 7 PM ET on YouTube.

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