10 Years Later, Kofi Kingston Finds Perfect SummerSlam Opponent in Randy Orton

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Kofi Kingston vs Randy Orton
Credit: WWE

In WWE‘s history at Madison Square Garden, there has been no shortage of iconic moments, including the last such one, that took place on November 16, 2009, when the company aired what would be the last episode of Raw (WWE returns to MSG for TV for the first time in a decade in September 2019) from the hallowed arena. Randy Orton was set to punt WWE legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper when Kofi Kingston made the save and had a career-defining moment as he sent the WWE Champion crashing through the production area after a brawl between the two rivals ensued throughout the MSG arena.

It should have been the start of a star-making moment. Kofi Kingston had steadily climbed WWE’s mid-card ranks, winning the tag team, Intercontinental and United States championships in his first two full years with the company. He was positioned for something big and that something seemed to be taking the title off of Randy Orton. But unfortunately for Kingston, that never came to pass. Before it could even really kick into high gear, Kingston’s push was ended, nearly as soon as it began. And all because he made a mistake against the wrong guy.

It took 10 years for WWE to finally capitalize on Kingston’s MSG moment, to finally bring him back to the precipice and forefront of the world title scene. But even then, there was something missing. There was a pay off that was still waiting to happen, one that was 10 years in the making. At SummerSlam, Kofi Kingston will get his long-awaited revenge and a chance to have the biggest match of his title reign as he’ll take on Randy Orton in one of the most personal feuds WWE has run in quite some time.

Orange is the New Black

Excluding house shows, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston first met at Survivor Series in 2008 with Orton pinning and eliminating Kingston en route to being the sole survivor for his team. The two men would meet sporadically over the next few months, with Kingston finding various partners to go against Orton and Legacy mates, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes on the show house circuit and a few episodes of Raw. It wasn’t until October 25th, 2009, however, that the real and very heated rivalry between the two future grand slam champions, kicked off in a big way.

Making an appearance in the main event at the first-ever Bragging Rights PPV in 2009, Kofi Kingston showed up during John Cena and Randy Orton’s iron man title match, neutralizing interference from Legacy, who he had a prior history with and even won the tag team titles against alongside partner CM Punk. Kingston chased DiBiase and Rhodes off with a steel chair, leaving the odds even between the champion and the challenger. In the end, Cena won the match and the title when he countered a punt kick and forced Orton to tap out to the STF with just six seconds left.

Needless to say, Kofi Kingston had officially garnered the Viper’s attention and more importantly his ire. The following night on Raw, Kingston defeated Chris Jericho but was brutally attacked by Orton afterward as he threw Kingston head-first off the ramp and into the side of the stage. In a backstage interview, Randy Orton told Josh Matthews if not for Kofi Kingston he would still be WWE Champion. His attack wasn’t an attack at all, in Orton’s version of events, it was simply justice and it had only just begun. In the same segment, Rhodes and DiBiase gifted Orton with his own NASCAR, complete with an image of Orton on the hood, in gratitude for all he had done for them.

Randy Orton was mesmerized by the car. It was a shame he didn’t have long to enjoy is as when Orton was in the ring attempting to get a rematch with Cena, Kofi Kingston was in the back, keying, destroying and spilling a bucket of orange paint on the Viper’s prized possession. The following week, it was Kingston who explained his actions, telling Matthews he refused to be bullied by anyone and that’s why he took a stand against Orton. Kingston made sure to note that he while he destroyed the entire car, he left the mirror intact so that Orton could see why he was no longer WWE Champion. Kofi Kingston said he had no regrets about his actions.

Here Comes the Boom

This led to a match between the two, their first-ever singles match, on the November 2nd episode of Raw. It didn’t last long as when Legacy made their way to the ring, the guest hosts, Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne made it a six-man match with MVP and Mark Henry as Kingston’s partners. Orton and Legacy seemed like they were going to win but Kingston interrupted an RKO attempt, allowing Henry to drop Rhodes for the three-count. The following week, Kingston was named the captain of a Survivor Series team that would go against Orton’s own. And the week after that, came Kingston’s MSG moment as he jumped from a guard rail onto Orton placed on top a storage box in the production area.

Matt Striker called it a historic moment and as it turns out, it was. Not only was it Kingston’s career-defining moment at that time, but it would also be the last time Raw would take place at MSG. That is all set to change this September, as WWE returns to MSG for Raw and SmackDown for the first time in a decade. And while cards are of course, subject to change, early venue advertisements list Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston in a WWE Championship main event.

But that’s getting ahead of the timeline here. The following week after the MSG moment and one night after Kingston was the sole survivor last pinning Punk and Orton to win the match for his team, Raw guest host Jesse Ventura announced a special battle royale involving only wrestlers who had never gotten a chance at the world title before. In a qualifying match, Kofi Kingston defeated Dolph Ziggler. Randy Orton, who attacked Primo Colon before declaring himself to be in the battle royale, defeated Evan Bourne to officially qualify. After defeating Cryme Tyme (JTG and Shad), Rhodes and DiBiase also qualified. As could be expected, Legacy targeted Kingston while Orton hung back and watched. Randy Orton almost eliminated Kofi Kingston, but it was, after all, a battle royale, and the man known for his Royal Rumble epic saves, got one here as well and eliminated Orton instead. Sheamus, however, took advantage and eliminated Kingston.

The following week, Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston wrestled just their second-ever singles match, which saw both Rhodes and DiBiase attack Kingston before the bell rang. Fighting hurt, Kingston was easy prey for the Viper, who got the victory in a little over three minutes flat. In the first Raw in December, Orton again demanded the guest host, Mark Cuban, lift the ban on him not getting his world title rematch. Cuban refused and instead booked Randy Orton a different kind of rematch, one with Kofi Kingston, where the Dallas Mavericks’ owner served as the referee. Cuban cheated, allowing Kingston the victory on a fast count, getting revenge on Orton from six years prior when Orton RKO’ed Cuban. With Orton’s feud with Kingston tied 1-1, Cuban made the rubber match official for TLC.

Randy Orton picked up the victory at the PPV but he couldn’t shake Kofi Kingston just yet. During the Slammys the next night, Kingston was set for a match with Rhodes, but DiBiase interfered, leading to the match being made a tag team encounter, which was won by Legacy. The following week, Kingston, Henry and Bourne defeated Legacy in a six-man match. With Orton ready to break up Legacy after the loss, he tested Rhodes and DiBiase to win their matches the next week. Both did and continuing his vicious feud with Kingston, Orton prevented him from defeating the Miz to become new United States Champion, attacking Kingston during the match.

In an interview that night, Randy Orton remarked that while Kofi Kingston had moved on from their issues, Orton hadn’t and that their feud wouldn’t be over until he deemed it over, something he claimed would happen to kick off the new year.

“Stupid, Stupid!”

By the time January 4, 2010, rolled around, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton had been working together for a little over three months and their feud had managed to stay hot throughout. Of course, everything came to a head the following week on the January 11th episode of Raw. With Sheamus still champion and both Cena and Orton wanting a shot at reclaiming the title they once held, Kingston stepped into the title picture. Despite his loss the prior week, Kingston declared he had never received even a world title match whereas both Cena and Orton had lost theirs. Kingston said he wasn’t taking no for an answer so that night, guest host Mike Tyson declared it would be Kingston vs Orton vs Cena for a right to challenge Sheamus at the Royal Rumble.

For the early part of the match, Cena and Kingston double-teamed Orton. As they were about to lock up, Sheamus came onto the ramp, providing a momentary distraction and allowing Orton to attack both men. Kingston was the first to pick up a near fall, then Cena and finally Orton. In the closing moments of the match, the action intensified. Kingston knocked Cena out of the ring with Trouble in Paradise, leaving just him and Orton. Before he could capitalize, however, Legacy made their presence known, allowing DiBiase to attack Kingston. Orton delivered the RKO, but he was incensed afterward. Before aggressively pinning Kingston, he yelled at him, “stupid, stupid!”

It would be revealed later that Kofi Kingston botched the finish, getting up too quickly not allowing Randy Orton to deliver his patented punt kick. Orton was furious and made sure to let Kingston know he severely messed up. Reports had suggested that Kingston, while booked to lose this match, was going to win the Money in the Bank briefcase for the WWE Championship and perhaps even cash in on Orton. Instead, Kingston was perhaps not so coincidentally moved to SmackDown a few months later, placed in the blue brand’s version of Money in the Bank that summer, lost, and began to receive less and less TV time over the coming months. When he was featured, he was often booked to lose.

Orton and Kingston still worked together for the remainder of January on the live event circuit but it wasn’t until Elimination Chamber 2010 that they shared a ring again on TV/PPV. Shortly after, they were involved in a six-man match on Raw, but that was pretty much it for the rivalry. Not counting battle royales, the two would actually team up three times, before facing each other in singles competition again in 2013.

Returning to the Top

It took Kofi Kingston nine years to recover from that incident and finally propel himself back into the main event scene, following a long and successful midcard and tag team career. An incredibly decorated grand slam champion, Kingston has won 16 titles in his career. At 113 days, Kingston has now held the world title longer than all but one of his singles titles, the United States Championship he won in May 2009 and held until October of that year, likely dropping it to prepare for his world title program with Orton. Kingston held that title for 126 days, a mark he will soon pass with his first WWE world championship reign.

Kingston’s title push, which began earlier this year, came with it a fair amount of art imitating life. It has been well-documented how few African American world champions WWE has had and in the storyline, Vince McMahon was making Kingston jump through hoops just to get his opportunity. It all started with an injury to Mustafa Ali which set things in motion as it opened up a spot in the Elimination Chamber match which Kingston filled. It was Kingston’s fourth chamber match in his career and first since he took part in the inaugural tag team elimination chamber in 2015. It was his first singles appearance in the match since 2012.

Taking on the likes of AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, defending WWE Champion Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston performed exceptionally well. He didn’t win the match, but much like the gauntlet a few nights before, Kingston emerged as the star. Facing all of his chamber opponents, Kingston led off the hour-plus gauntlet match picking up victories over Bryan, Hardy and Joe before lasting another eight-plus minutes in a gutsy loss to Styles. Prior to his match with Styles, Kingston had been attacked by Joe who was furious at losing. Styles tried to tell Kingston he didn’t have to wrestle, but determination won out and in that moment, if fans hadn’t rallied to his cause yet, they certainly did then. Chants for Kofi Kingston overwhelmed the Huntington Center in Ohio. And while there was no Occupy Raw, this was the start of Kingston’s movement. In all, Kingston lasted just over an hour in the match and afterward received so much praise from both his colleagues and fans alike, that people were calling for him to be the one to take the title off of Bryan.

That moment didn’t happen at the chamber, though another one did. Kofi Kingston, who didn’t get the opportunity to face Randy Orton in the gauntlet, picked up the elimination of his old foe, before Bryan took him out to win the match. In a way, it was poetic justice. Aside from sharing the ring for each of the past three royal rumbles as well as 2019’s Greatest Royal Rumble, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton had last faced each other on an episode of Raw in 2015, as Orton teamed with Dean Ambrose to face New Day (Kingston and Big E). A redeeming moment for Kingston, it wasn’t quite the payoff this decades-old feud needed. Though that too would come, as leading up to his WrestleMania match with Bryan, Kofi Kingston was forced into another gauntlet where he defeated Randy Orton. A month prior, Kingston’s trio of himself, Styles and Hardy defeated Orton, Bryan and Joe, allowing Kingston one more special payoff.

A full-time WWE roster member since 2008, Kingston’s first WWE Heavyweight Championship match came in the 2010 Elimination Chamber. His first contendership (excluding battle royales) for it came on that fateful January 11th Raw against Orton and Cena. Much like in 2019, Kofi Kingston didn’t win the chamber match in 2010, though, had he not messed up against Randy Orton and his push continued as it was expected, he very well could have. In 2010, the chamber marked the effective end of Kingston’s feud with Orton as well as his last world title shot (again, excluding battle royales), in the next two years, when he again, competed for the belt inside the unforgiving structure.

After 2012’s chamber match, Kingston had to wait seven years for another non-battle royale world title match. Fittingly enough, it came in this year’s Elimination Chamber, only this time, for Kingston, the chamber was the beginning not the end of a hard-earned and well-deserved push. Years after being back-burnered by Randy Orton for one small mistake in the ring, Kofi Kingston had finally risen above. He entered into a feud with Bryan where this time it was the new champ who was calling someone else a “B+ Player.” In his first-ever career one-on-one singles match for the world title, Kofi Kingston prevailed, defeating Bryan to enjoy his own WrestleMania moment.

SummerSlam 2019: Kingston vs Orton

Kingston’s title run hasn’t been as hot as it was when he was chasing the belt and his destiny leading up to WrestleMania, but that’s all about to change. After defeating Bryan in a Raw rematch, Kevin Owens at MITB, Dolph Ziggler at Stomping Grounds and Samoa Joe at Extreme Rules, Kingston received the opportunity to choose his next challenger and there was only one name in mind, one person who he needed to close the book on, 10 years after it first opened.

Kofi Kingston called out Randy Orton and challenged him to a title match, but not before getting a few things out in the open. Kingston noted that all those years ago, his moment was robbed from him because Orton used his influence to squash Kingston’s push and his dream of being a world champion. In a moment that should remind fans of just how good Orton can be when he wants to, the 13-time champion finally said the words Kingston had been waiting for. He admitted to being responsible for Kingston losing his push but went even further saying he was protecting Kingston from a moment he wasn’t ready for. Orton added that Kingston should thank him as it was Orton who injured Ali making it even possible for Kingston to be in the chamber match that led to his stock rising to world championship level.

Orton stayed ringside to watch Kingston’s match with Samoa Joe but when he tried to pull a fast one on his SummerSlam opponent, Kingston was ready, leaving Orton to RKO Joe instead.

It’s been a long time since WWE has run a feud that has personal heat behind it. Sure, both guys seem to have moved on, but the callbacks to this moment are still there. Prior to their title match being announced, Kofi Kingston himself paid tribute to the moment in a match with Randy Orton, shouting “stupid, stupid” into the air.

For Kofi Kingston, it is this feud with Randy Orton that will be the defining one of his title reign and perhaps, one of the most defining of his entire career. And no matter who wins, it seems that this chapter of the story, much as Randy Orton said 10 years ago when he executed his act of justice on Kofi Kingston for interfering in his match with John Cena, could be only just beginning.

Stay tuned to the 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.

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