This Is Kofi’s Year: The Underrated Career of Kofi Kingston

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On SmackDown Live tonight, New Day‘s Kofi Kingston was selected as the New Day member to represent the group in the Elimination Chamber and put on an amazing effort in a gauntlet match that featured the other five entrants in the WWE Championship match, featuring Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, Randy Orton, AJ Styles and reigning WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. Kofi eliminated Bryan, Hardy, and Joe, before tapping out to AJ Styles. But while Kofi is now part of one of the most popular stables in WWE history, he’s had one of the most prolific and decorated careers in WWE history, with very little acclaim to his credit.

A native of the Boston area, the Ghana-born wrestler started his journey training with WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski in 2005. A year later, he began his wrestling career with Massachusetts’ Chaotic Wrestling, competing on a roster that also featured future stars like NXT’s Hanson (of War Raiders), future WWE workmate Darren Young, and Ring of Honor’s Brian Milonas. His indie tenure was short-lived, as he signed with the WWE in September of that year and headed to their developmental territories such as Deep South Wrestling (DSW) and Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), before heading to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), the precursor to NXT.

Two years of developmental and main roster dark matches lead to Kofi Kingston making his WWE debut on the rebooted ECW brand. Prior to his ECW debut, he worked as tag partner for another developmental star in Tomasso Whitney from Chaotic Wrestling, who would eventually find fame in the WWE as Tommaso Ciampa in NXT. But on January 22, 2008, he made his ECW debut, defeating indie veteran Kimo (billed as David Owen) in his debut.

Originally billed from Jamaica, complete with fake accent, Kingston’s stay in ECW didn’t last long. That June, he was drafted to Raw in the 2008 Supplemental Draft, and it was there that Kofi began to shine. At WWE Night of Champions days later, he won the WWE Intercontinental Championship for the first time, defeating Chris Jericho. Later that year, he’d win his second WWE title, teaming with another WWECW alumn in CM Punk to win the WWE World Tag Team titles.

Photo: WWE

From there, Kingston became one of the vanguards of WWE’s mid-card, winning both the WWE United States and Intercontinental Championship two more times each over the next three years. Within his first four years, he was a 3x Intercontinental Champion, 2x US Champion, and World Tag Team Champion. In 2009, he entered his first Royal Rumble event, beginning a ten-year tradition of having the most incredible ways to stave off elimination.

In 2011, he formed a new tag team with another former indie high flyer in Evan Bourne (who has since been released and wrestles around the world as Matt Sydal) called Air Boom, and in August, they captured the WWE Tag Team titles for his second time. But shortly after their 146-day reign came to an end, Bourne was suspended for a wellness policy violation and Air Boom was over as soon as it started.

He was paired up with R-Truth in early 2012, and once again won tag team gold, and within the year added one more Intercontinental and US Championship reign to his resume. Five years into his WWE career, he was now a 4x IC Champion, 3x US Champion, and 3x Tag Team Champion. With 10 titles in five years, Kofi was a bonafide champion in the WWE history books on a torrid pace.

For whatever reason, the WWE failed to pull the trigger on moving Kofi to the main event. They’d tried once years previous, in 2010, when he entered a program with then 6x WWE World Champion Randy Orton. A new aggressive Kofi earned new fans, and new respect, but following the feud, Kingston was back to the mid-card.

In 2014, it seemed that Kingston was done. He was sporadically used as a place holder between feuds and the 10x champion seemed like he’d peaked too early and was destined for enhancement status for the remainder of his career. Until July of 2014, when Xavier Woods approached the ad hoc tandem of Kingston and Big E about forming a team together. And thus the New Day was born.

Since then, the New Day have won five more WWE tag team titles (giving Kofi seven for his career), pushing Kofi Kingston as the longest (combined) reigning tag team champion in WWE history, and part of the longest reigning single reign ever (483 days). He continues to dazzle at 37 years old, still breaks ground with his Royal Rumble saves, and after his performance on Tuesday on SmackDown Live, can still hang with the likes of Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, and AJ Styles. With the possibility of the New Day branching out for singles titles, it’s usually Big E that is mentioned as their World Champion contender. But perhaps maybe, in 2019, Kofi Kingston should be the one to represent the New Day in the main event, especially after the move to FOX Sports, who want an emphasis on the athleticism. I mean, come on, it’s Kofi’s year, right?