Kofi Kingston is currently experiencing the best years of his career, though this isn’t the first time he was on the verge of receiving main event status. In 2010, he was heavily favored to win the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 26. WWE was pushing him massively during this time, and it all seemed to be coming together for him until a botched spot in a match had a livid Randy Orton put an end to all that.
Kofi Kingston – Early Years
After graduating from Boston College in 2005, Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah began pursuing his dream to become a professional wrestler. He began training at the tail-end of 2005, and by 2006, he was making independent wrestling appearances in the New England area. He made a big splash in a short period of time, and by September of that year, with less than a year of wrestling under his belt, he signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Originally wrestling under the name Kofi Nahaje Kingston, he would drop his middle name and arrive on the WWE scene in December of 2007.
Vignettes started airing on the ECW brand hyping his debut. During this introduction phase, his videos, the official website, and commentators noted he would be the first Jamaican to wrestle for WWE. In actuality, he doesn’t have any Jamaican ancestry, nor any connection to Jamaica. However, he is the first African-born performer in WWE history, having been born in Kumasi, Ghana.
Kingston was very different from the many rising stars of the time. Alongside his good look and persona, he had amazing charisma that attracted the audience with his high flying move-set.
Wrestling undefeated for many months under the ECW brand, Kofi suffered his first loss as a single’s competitor by Shelton Benjamin in May of 2008. A month later, as part of WWE’s Supplemental Draft, Kingston was drafted to the Raw brand.
Becoming the First African-Born Wrestler to Hold a Championship in WWE
In his first match as a member of the Raw roster and first championship match in WWE, Kofi Kingston defeated Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship at Night of Champions after some outside interference by Shawn Michaels. This win made him the first African-born wrestler to hold a championship in World Wrestling Entertainment.
Fast-forwarding to 2009, Kofi made his first of many appearances in the Royal Rumble. He only lasted seven minutes, being eliminated by The Brian Kendrick, but he made a strong impact. He qualified to compete in the Raw Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Championship at the No Way Out pay-per-view on February 15, 2009. E
dge, however, had other plans to win the World Heavyweight Championship that night and viciously attacked Kofi before the match, taking away his rightfully earned place in the match. As a consolation prize, Kofi was able to capture the United States Championship for his efforts.
Kofi had an amazing summer of 2009 defending his US Championship with dignity and honor, something that Legacy (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Ted Dibiase) knew nothing about in storyline. During this period, Kofi dropped his Jamaican accent and started evolving his character into a more serious role.
On October 25, 2009, at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view, Randy Orton was defending his WWE Championship against John Cena in a 60-minute Iron Man match.
Kofi, sick and tired of Legacy’s selfish ways and constant defiance of the rules, decided to come to Cena’s aid. In doing so, Kofi cost Orton the championship, and Cena prevailed and won the match. Orton blamed Kofi for the loss and was hell-bent on revenge.
On the next night on Raw, Orton was seething and completely upset with Kofi and immediately attacked him after his match with Chris Jericho. This kickstarted a hot feud with Orton for the remainder of 2009.
Later that night in a backstage segment, Kofi boldly poured paint on Orton’s brand new car, a gift from DiBiase. This ultimately took Orton’s rage to a breaking point, culminating when Hall of Famer Roddy "Rowdy" Piper came to Raw six days before 2009’s Survivor Series pay-per-view.
Orton took this opportunity to punt Piper’s skull, but before the “Viper” could strike and let out his frustrations on a hapless Piper, Kofi came to the rescue.
In what has been hailed as Kofi’s shining moment, Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton brawled all over the MSG arena in a match on November 16, 2009. Kofi delivered his signature "Boom Drop" from the rafters onto Orton through a production table! This was the moment WWE officials finally looked at Kofi as their next huge star.
Watch Kofi Kingston Create a Career-Defining Moment against Randy Orton on November 16, 2009’s Edition of Monday Night Raw:
At Survivor Series that year, Kofi shocked the world when he eliminated both Punk and Orton in the closing moments of their 5-on-5 elimination match.
Within the span of a minute, Kofi had defeated two former world champions, making a huge name for himself in the process. This win catapulted his career, and the sky was the limit for Kofi– or so we thought?
The heated rivalry between Kofi and Orton wasn’t finished by a long shot. For the remainder of 2009, they bested each other by picking up subsequent wins. Their rubber match would take place during December 13, 2009’s TLC pay-per-view in a show-stealing performance by Kofi.
Orton eventually won the match, and a rematch was issued for the next night on Raw. Even though Kofi didn’t topple his adversary, his strong push wasn’t completely over yet.
Kofi was penciled in to win the Money in the Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 26. But on Monday Night Raw during a triple threat match against John Cena and Randy Orton in January 2010, all of that changed.
Orton gave Kofi the RKO to earn the pinfall, but something seemed off after delivering the move. Randy was noticeably upset and kept on screaming at Kofi, "Stupid! Stupid!"
We would later learn that Kofi botched the finish of the match, which angered Orton. Kofi was supposed to stay down, and Orton was to deliver his patented "punt" kick to Kingston’s head. However, Kofi got up too soon, and Orton had to improvise. While Orton was pounding his fists in a coiled position for his RKO finisher, you can audibly hear him yelling, "You fucked up!" to Kofi. This highly insulted Orton and led to real-life heat between the two.
This marked the end of Kofi’s push to the main event.
Kofi was nowhere to be seen in the Money in the Bank ladder match, and in the weeks and months that followed, Kofi saw very little television time and was consistently booked to lose.
The Rise of Kofi Kingston
2019 would mark the first time Kofi would be given a shot at the WWE Championship since having that opportunity taken away from him in 2010. In a fitting nod to the past, Kofi’s current rise to the top coincided with him conquering the man that once ended his push in the first place.
There was a moment during a match on SmackDown that took place on February 19, 2019, where Kofi referenced back to Orton’s mini-meltdown in 2010 by calling Orton, "Stupid! Stupid!" It was a poetic callback and payback nine years in the making!
Many roadblocks to the championship have been put in Kofi’s way in storyline (and in real life), and getting to this point has not been easy. So while Kofi battles his way to championship gold this coming Sunday (at the time of this writing) at WrestleMania 35, we look back and remember the hardships he had to face along the way. Every dog has its day, and Kofi Kingston has proven his worth to shine at the top.
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