The pro wrestling world was polarized today by a day-long exchange on Twitter today between Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey and her on-again-off-again challenger Becky Lynch, that broke the fourth wall as Rousey “exposed the business” with several remarks, some using off-color language that was decidedly not the PG language WWE usually employs these days. But amidst all the Rousey and Lynch escapades, another voice entered the WWE Universe. It just didn’t get the same attention. On Thursday evening, Kofi Kingston released a statement on the actions of Tuesday night’s SmackDown LIVE where Kofi had his WWE Championship match at this month’s WWE Fastlane against WWE Champion Daniel Bryan – a match set up by Shane McMahon – overturned at the last minute and moments before a contract signing, when WWE Chairman Vince McMahon replaced him last minute with a returning Kevin Owens. Today Kofi released this statement on Social Media:
— KOFI (@TrueKofi) February 28, 2019
Kofi Kingston Plans His Ascension
My entire career, has been a series of ups and downs, starts and stops. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but this one hurt. We came so close. And I say ‘we’ because this journey has been bigger than just me. It’s Woods’ journey, it’s E’s journey, it’s every one of you who has followed and supported my career for the past 11 years.
To have it all stripped away so suddenly is painful, to put it mildly. I appreciate you all more than you know and I thank you all for your love and support. Mark my words: We wll be back. The journey does not end here.
It had been reported for weeks now that Daniel Bryan’s opponent at WrestleMania 35 was set to be a Superstar returning to the company, and all signs seemed to lead towards Kevin Owens. Owens had been having a series of vignettes air over the past few weeks, showing a content family man enjoying the comforts of capitalism, including one of Daniel Bryan’s ires, fast food, and his “common man” character seemed to be the perfect foil for Bryan’s overly health and eco friendly heel persona.
But then a funny thing happened en route to KO’s return. A Kofi happened.
A rather ill-timed injury to rising Superstar Mustafa Ali pulled him out of a projected push into WrestleMania season and he was replaced last minute by New Day‘s Kofi Kingston in a Gauntlet Match for all the entrants in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship. New Day was awarded the replacement spot, and they chose Kofi – which proved to be the spark needed to start a revolution from the stands. Kofi had an outstanding run in the gauntlet, pinning WWE Champion Bryan, Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe, until finally being eliminated by AJ Styles. Kofi lasted an astounding 60 minutes in the match and put on the performance of a lifetime.
At first, everyone just assumed it was a one-off push, as the spot had originally been slated to be Ali’s. But then the Elimination Chamber arrived. Once again, Kofi put on a show, and with the Houston crowd firmly behind him, he eliminated his arch-rival, Randy Orton, clean and lasted nearly 40 minutes, before losing to WWE Champion Daniel Bryan as one of the last two men left standing.
The following week, the same six competitors were split into teams – Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and Samoa Joe against the team of AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Kingston – and Kingston picked up the win from his team in another spectacular match. Much like Elimination Chamber, the crowd in New Orleans had caught #KofiMania fever, with chants of “Kofi! Kofi!” echoing throughout the Smoothie King Center. Following the victory, Shane McMahon came out and declared that after three back-to-back-to-back show-stealing performances, Kofi would be the one facing WWE Champion Daniel Bryan for the title.
But then this past Tuesday, as Kofi was about to put pen to paper to make the Championship match official, “No Chance in Hell” made its presence known over the loudspeakers and Vince McMahon strutted his way out to drop the bombshell: he was yanking Kofi from the match and giving it to someone with more credentials – former WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens. That night, Kofi and Owens teamed up to face (and defeat) the duo of Bryan and his enforcer, former Wyatt Family running mate Erick Rowan. But no matter the result, Kofi was now out of the WWE Championship match.
The sudden switch in reported plans has lead many to believe that Vince McMahon is opting to do something he doesn’t do very often. Run with the crowds “hot pick” early instead of waiting too long to pull the trigger. It’s no secret that Daniel Bryan will veto any match in Saudi Arabia, and with the next event set for May of this year, it would mean that if they wanted to have a WWE Championship match at that event, it would need to be without Daniel Bryan holding the belt. With rumors that Mustafa Ali was meant to win the title at WrestleMania 35 at walk into Saudi Arabia (Ali is Muslim) as a conquering hero. But with Ali’s injury, they’ve had to change the plans.
With Kofi no longer getting the title match opportunity at Fastlane, one would assume that Vince has decided to move the hotter matchup of a red hot Kofi vs Daniel Bryan to a larger audience. After all, Fastlane is widely considered a throwaway PPV due to it falling so close to WrestleMania and the potential for revenue off of the buzz right now is far greater if they push it to New York instead of Cleveland, Ohio. After all, as part of the New Day, Kofi is part of one of the biggest merchandise juggernauts in the WWE right now (and possibly the past two decades). Add a WWE Championship to that group, and the possibilities just increased exponentially.
But there’s a bigger angle at play. Should Kofi win the WWE Championship on the Grandest Stage of Them All, all eyes will be on the WWE. It’s the one time of the year that every mainstream media pays attention to the WWE Universe. For the WWE to finally put the WWE Championship around the waist of a 100% African-American performer is huge in today’s political climate – it will be seen as a major step forward for the publicly traded company (instead of the reality that African-Americans have largely been neglected in the World title scene unless your name is The Rock, Mark Henry, or Booker T). While Dwayne Johnson was the first African-American to win the WWE Championship during the Attitude Era, there’s still a vocal minority in the internet fan base that considers it an asterisk at best due to the Rock being half-Samoan. Those same fans will also consider the World Heavyweight Championship that Booker and Henry held slightly lesser than the WWE Championship (despite the WWE treating them equally with white Superstars, such as Edge, The Undertaker, Triple H, or in John Cena‘s total World titles count).
And on April 8, 2019, the morning after WrestleMania 35, there will be more TV talk shows and magazines looking to talk to the first full African-American WWE World Champion than either Daniel Bryan or Kevin Owens, and that’s the kind of publicity that the WWE craves.