It’s no secret WWE regularly comes under fire for non-sensical, overbooked stories that seem to hinder wrestlers rather than enhance them. We’ve been asked to turn our brains off and forget years of context, or established narratives to allow the mind of an aging Vince McMahon to run wild. However, the sudden rise of Kofi Kingston is perhaps one of the most challenging and daring storylines WWE has dared to approach; workplace racism.
As Cameron Hawkins so wonderfully wrote on PWTorch.com, to many fans, Kofi Kingston’s story is about the Black everyman. He’s a regular sized great athlete, in the vein of Shawn Michaels. He’s not 6’5, or an import from another sport. Millions of us across the country are talented in our own ways, but we’re not celebrities or pro athletes. We grind away at jobs like anyone else hoping for appreciation and opportunity, but often we have to achieve twice as much for half the results; sometimes settling for less because it doesn’t really seem worth it. Often, that can break someone’s spirit. After all, it feels not designed for us to win.
— WWE (@WWE) March 20, 2019
Until recently, Kofi Kingston as a viable top-level star never even seemed like something I could give legitimate energy to. He’s been an incredible wrestler forever, but I just always figured WWE had him slotted for various reasons, including the obvious. If he feels like the last one from his generation to get a sniff at the top level, it’s because he is. The late 00’s era of WWE is a minefield for disappointing careers and wasted potential. That era’s top product is probably Sheamus, a guy with a trophy case that feels nothing like his actual reputation among most fans.
But for all the chances given to guys Kofi Kingston has watched pass him by Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger and such, Kofi Kingston’s 11 years have felt like a journey we didn’t even know he was on, because it never seemed like the end or mountaintop of the story existed. We were almost content in Kofi being this super talented utility player that extended his career with one of the greatest 3 man units the sport has ever had.
That time has compressed into just over 1 month, as Kofi captured the feeling that I watch professional wrestling for between the first gauntlet and his tear-inducing performance at Elimination Chamber. I had more than one of my friends share with me that they were moved to tears by the final sequence. Kofi’s last jump off the chamber felt like my Jimmy Snuka in Madison Square Garden moment, and like Snuka, Kofi lost but that jump will forever live on to those that tell the stories about this medium.
The New Day has gone to a deadly serious tone with their personas in a matter of weeks while asking ”WHAT MORE DO WE HAVE TO PROVE?” Their WWE.COM interviews and Twitter videos have been some of the greatest displays of character I’ve ever seen in Wrestling. Xavier and Big E have been revelations as supporting characters as they’ve played the background and added much of the fire needed. While Kofi has been the one on the brink of breaking through, eventually the conversation will swing to Xavier and Big E with the sentiment of, “Well has this same thing been happening to them too?”
Ronda Rousey couldn’t dream of kicking it this real.
— Florida Man (@WWEBigE) March 20, 2019
This is clearly in character, but it has enough realness to pass the smell test. They’ve given me this story and acted it out so well, I’ve since given them my emotion on a level I haven’t done to something in WWE in at least five years ironically against the man he’ll eventually square off against Daniel Bryan. However, THIS IS NOT THE DANIEL BRYAN STORY, despite the B+ player rhetoric with the inversion of Bryan pushing that line. Aligning it squarely to that is a lazy exercise for beginners. On the surface, it may seem like that, but Kofi and Daniel Bryan faced entirely different challenges even being on the same side of the coin. Kofi is the author of his own story.
They are known top-level merch sellers, overwhelming fan favorites, special speakers and wrestlers in their own right. The thing is, The New Day knows Kofi Kingston doesn’t have to prove anything else, instead it is an earnest cry for Vince McMahon to tell them the uncomfortable truth that they don’t want to be true. After doing it all “the right way” at this point, they’d rather be hit with honesty than continue to stay at a level they’ve far outgrown.
Even if you don’t see it from the perspective of race, which to me feels nearly impossible with Kofi Kingston saying things like “You don’t even allow people like me to challenge for the championship,” I believe you can feel this story in your own way if you think about someone that’s just been overlooked to the point where they’ve been forgotten.
Last night, Kofi Kingston successfully ran the gauntlet and was defeated by his sixth opponent of the night Daniel Bryan, and it felt like the rug had been pulled from an almost sure thing scenario where Kofi would easily stroll into MetLife Stadium as the challenger for Vince McMahon’s Daddy’s World Title. However, easy wouldn’t be the story of Kofi Kingston. Easy wouldn’t be the story for anyone that looks like Kofi Kingston in their everyday lives. WWE has literally found gold with a story that is by far the most challenging and engaging going into Wrestlemania, and possibly one of the best ever should it end up with the desired ending.
This is destroying Lesnar-Rollins and Ronda-Becky-Charlotte. When Wrestlemania 35 comes, there’s only 1 match that is driving something that connects on a deeper level than wrestling at this moment.
Kofi wins or we leave, maybe forever.
Check our Sir Sam’s column that called for this a little while back.