In just a few short days, we’ll be saying goodbye to another year as 2019 makes way for 2020. A brand new decade with brand new expectations waits on the horizon but first, its time to look back at the year that was. In terms of WWE, 2019, much like the years before it, was filled with both ups and downs, pros and cons. But instead of focusing on the negative, we wanted to end the year on a positive note by naming WWE’s Wrestler of the Year (for the purposes of this article, NXT is excluded). It came down to two choices, Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston.
Honorable Mention: Becky Lynch
There is a good chance that most people would have picked Becky Lynch as the Wrestler of the Year for the WWE and rightfully so. In one year’s time, she established herself as the top dog in the entire company, man or woman. “The Man” started her year off by winning the women’s Royal Rumble and going to the WrestleMania main event where she pinned Ronda Rousey to win both the SmackDown and Raw Women’s Championships. Since then, she has seen limited defeat to the point that she is still Raw Women’s Champion, the longest-reigning, in fact. It was a year almost no woman could have imagined just five years ago, but here we are now and Becky Lynch stands above Raw and the WWE as one of the faces of the company. Her year was incredible but it was only topped by another wrestler, one who rode a storybook type journey to the victory of a lifetime.
WWE Wrestler of the Year 2019: Kofi Kingston
Something happened in 2019 that many believed would not be possible. And it was by no means planned from the start. Instead, like plenty of the best stories in professional wrestling, it happened organically and grew legs of its own. It was the story of Kofi Kingston, a man who after 11 years of being in the company and not once getting a WWE Championship singles match, attained one on the biggest stage of them all, WrestleMania.
Kofi Kingston started off 2019 much like he did the previous years as a member of the New Day and really nothing more. He was going to have his incredible save in the Royal Rumble and probably be apart of a tag title match or something at WrestleMania. But then injury came about for one person, opening the door for Kingston.
Opportunity Arises: Ali Out, Kofi In
Mustafa Ali was injured by Randy Orton just two weeks before Elimination Chamber, a show where Ali would be competing in the WWE Championship Chamber match. With an injury, he was removed and it was a member of The New Day that was given a chance to shine. Big E and Xavier Woods saw no problem in who to choose, as they had made clear for years that their one goal was to see Kofi as the WWE Champion. That being said, he stepped into an opportunity. The first shot was in the gauntlet match, a gauntlet match where he showed out and made the fans believers.
Those believers are what helped Kingston come the closest he had ever been to the WWE Championship. He got down to the final two with the champ Daniel Bryan inside the Elimination Chamber. Kingston took the shot of a lifetime by jumping from the top of a pod and diving down. Bryan met him with a running knee and his hopes were diminished. Fans believed that despite this failure, it was by no means the end for Kofi Kingston and the WWE Championship chase. They made that known loudly.
The New Day Fight Together For A Dream
“KofiMania” was becoming a real movement within the WWE Universe. Vince McMahon and Daniel Bryan teamed up to deny Kofi in any way possible from getting his shot at WrestleMania for the WWE Championship. Roadblock after roadblock was put in the way for Kingston, who had to compete in yet another gauntlet. Kingston was near victory so many times. But even when it seemed he had accomplished it Bryan was added and pinned him in the middle of the ring. All hope was gone. Or so we thought.
One more shot. One more opportunity to get the match at WrestleMania. But it would not be Kofi’s to gain alone. Or at all. It was instead Big E and Xavier Woods putting their careers on the line essentially, all to give Kingston a shot. That is all they had striven for in their careers. The risk to them was absolutely worth taking. E and Woods would go through team after team until they managed to win and gain the shot for Kingston to go chase his dream. Kofi wasn’t alone along the way and that’s what made this journey so great.
Moment Of The Year: Kofi Kingston Wins WWE Championship At WrestleMania
Moments. Moments are what people want in pro wrestling. Something to hold onto, sometime to stand the test of time. Something where years later people are still talking about it. At WrestleMania 35, that is exactly what Kofi Kingston achieved, not just for himself but for the thousands of fans who found in Kingston’s journey, a new “Yes” Movement. The antagonist was Daniel Bryan, who had seen himself go from hero to villain. Kingston was the protagonist, the so-called “B+ Player,” in a turn of phrase that one couldn’t help but see as ironic. The stage was set and the moment was years in the making.
Kofi hit the Trouble in Paradise in the center of the ring and became the WWE Champion. Kofi held the title high above his head as Big E and Xavier Woods put him on their shoulders and celebrated. The new champion went outside of the ring and got his kids inside the ring to celebrate with him. A moment where time stood still and fans could for once not worry about how stories were built, but instead how it paid off in the end. Perfection.
Dominance As Champion
With Kingston holding the title, WWE went on to give him a top-level run at the top, one that included facing some of the biggest names SmackDown had to offer. Kingston’s reign featured wins over Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Samoa Joe. All of these men had something in common. They fell at the hand of Kofi Kingston when it came to defending his championship, clean in the middle of the ring. Kofi was dominant and was on the hottest streak of his career and one of the hottest in the entire WWE at the time. But one thing was still missing. Redemption for a moment that changed his career 10 years prior.
In Randy Orton, Kofi Kingston had found the perfect opponent to put an exclamation point on his title reign. 10 years prior, a botch by Kingston in a match with Orton led to the man’s downfall in some ways. Kingston, while going on to become one of the most decorated champions in WWE with reigns in the midcard and tag team divisions, never received a world title match after that incident. And at the time, Kingston was being pushed to that very pinnacle. But Orton shut it down and now, a decade later, seemed poised to do it again. Many believed this would be the fall of Kingston, but it instead was the crowning achievement of his championship reign. Kingston and Orton went head to head at two straight PPVs, including Clash of Champions where Kofi pinned his longstanding rival in the middle of the ring after 20 minutes of back and forth. Kingston voided his past demons to the point where he did all he possibly could.
Wrongful Ending To A Storybook Journey
Not every book has a fairytale ending and no reign goes on forever as Kingston’s came to an end in an instant. Brock Lesnar showed up on SmackDown to lay down the challenge for Kingston to defend his WWE Championship against him at SmackDown’s debut on FOX. The champion accepted, which led to the unfortunate, sudden end. Eight seconds. That is all it took for Brock Lesnar to dethrone the champion and end the storybook journey. All because WWE wanted a moment of a different kind, fit for a mainstream television audience.
Tag Team Champion Again
They did it for Woods, who has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. Big E and Kofi Kingston teamed up to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championships. In doing so, they will end the decade that they dominated as tag champions. It was this reign where Kofi eclipsed 1,000 total days as a tag team champion in the WWE, the most ever.
In Review: A Banner Year
If there was anything wrong about Kofi Kingston’s 2019, it was only the way he lost the WWE Championship. Otherwise, it was pure perfection in a career year for one of the longest-tenured active wrestlers in the company.
Taking advantage of a chance.
Winning the title he deserved for years.
And having a respectable run that any wrestler would hope for. And as it just so happens, Kingston will close the year as a champion anyway, even if its not the world title he spent a decade chasing. He is the WWE Wrestler of the Year as 2019 was undoubtedly, the year of Kofi Kingston.
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. We provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? Check out the WWE Network to fulfill all of your WWE needs.