Exclusive interview: Kofi Kingston reflects on his 10-year anniversary
Ten years ago on Jan. 22, 2008, the WWE Universe met Kofi Kingston for the very first time. An affable, hard-working Superstar with complete and utter disregard for Newton’s first law, Kingston has been an ever-evolving fixture in the WWE Universe. The Dreadlocked Dynamo has been a Boom Droppin’ Jamaican Sensation, Royal Rumble daredevil, one-man racecar wrecking crew, record-setting Tag Team Champion and, most recently, a member of the world conquering New Day alongside Big E and Xavier Woods.
It’s generally Kofi’s policy to look forward and not to talk too much about his past accomplishments (although we're more than happy to), but 10 years is a biggie, so he sat down to chat about his weird “time warp” career, the one thing he still hasn’t quite gotten over and which match he’d save against his most frequent opponent. Here comes the boom.
WWE.COM: How does it feel to be a 10-year veteran?
KOFI KINGSTON: It’s really, really cool. Ten years is a long time. I always tell people when you’re with WWE for a while, it starts to become the thing you’ve done the longest. It used to be, high school was four years, then college was four years, you worked at a certain job for two years and another job for another two years, then all of a sudden, you’re here … for 10 years? It’s a really weird feeling. I remember when I debuted; it feels like just yesterday, but at the same time, it feels forever ago. It’s like this bizarre time warp. But I’m grateful to be one of the guys that’s been here for that long.
WWE.COM: You’ve said before that you would rather focus on the future than look back on the past. Coming up on 10 years, however, do you find yourself reflecting on specific moments or achievements despite that mindset?
KOFI: Not necessarily specific moments, just the amount of time. Like I said, 10 years is a long time to do anything. Some of the things I think about are some of the guys I’ve been co-workers with who are no longer here. Take Shelton Benjamin for example. He was the guy who I started having my rivalries with when I first debuted, and then he left. And then I started doing stuff with a whole bunch of other people, and now he’s back. I’ve been here that whole time. I feel like I’ve actually been employed with the company longer than Shelton Benjamin as a whole, and that’s weird because I still look to Shelton as this veteran. Obviously, he’s been doing this for longer than I have, but it’s strange that I’ve been in the company longer than he has. The whole thing is really bizarre to me.
WWE.COM: Did you have any specific goals in mind when you started out?
KOFI: I think my goal has always been to remain entertaining. Above all else, remain entertaining. You have to have the ability to adapt. That’s probably the single most important quality you need to have as a WWE Superstar. There are people who have come and gone who were really hot for a good while, and then all of a sudden, they’re not hot for whatever reason. I’ve always found it in my best interest to keep adapting. You look at when I first debuted and you look at me now? Completely different.
WWE.COM: What have been some of the biggest changes for you?
KOFI: Being allowed to speak. My first, what, five, six years I was never given a microphone. Now we have this New Day thing where we talk pretty much every single week. It allows me to open up a whole different side, so I just think it’s really important to be able to adapt. That was the main goal. Even now it’s the main goal in The New Day. We’re always thinking of different things to be on the cutting edge of what’s entertaining or what’s hot on Twitter or social media or even society in general. I’ve had little goals here and there. But that’s the main goal. Always changing, always be prepared to adapt.
WWE.COM: You’ve had plenty of successes in the past 10 years. Have there been any disappointments?
KOFI: So, okay. Okay. The Slammys. My first year. People have the right to vote however they want to vote, but I still have a little grudge with the fact that I was not named Rookie of the Year. In my first year I was Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion. I may have won the United States Championship that year as well — I’m not sure; if not, then very soon after — and they gave it to Vladimir Kozlov. Back then I was like, “How can this be? I’ve done all these things!” And you know, to each their own, and Vladimir is a great guy. I love him, and we actually got a chance to see him overseas a few weeks ago, and he’s doing very well. But there’s still a little part of me that’s a little salty with the WWE Universe for choosing him over me as Rookie of the Year.
WWE.COM: Preparing these questions, we noticed you had a lot of matches against one opponent in particular, and that’s Dolph Ziggler.
WWE.COM: He’s actually the guy you’ve wrestled the most. If you had to save one Kofi vs. Dolph match from the WWE archives, which would it be?
KOFI: Can’t do it. Can’t pick a single match. All of them that I remember were so good, so fun and so competitive. At that time, we were two guys who were really trying to take it to the next level in our singles careers and we always wanted to outdo each other. The one that I can think of right now was Capitol Punishment in Washington, D.C., and I think it was me and Dolph for the United States Championship. I think Vickie was there too. We had so many matches, and I’m probably getting all the details wrong, but that one I remember being really, really proud of. I think we opened up the show, and we just made it a hard match to follow. He’s one of my favorite opponents for sure. It’s always fun, it’s always competitive and it’s always a great match. I hope the Zig Man comes back to the company! I don’t want to see him go out the way he did.
WWE.COM: You’re coming off of one of New Day’s best years yet. What’s next for you guys?
KOFI: The next step is to keep climbing the ladder. Every year. I think it’s been four years — which is crazy to even think about; it’s been four years or almost four years that I’ve been with The New Day. That, legitimately, feels like yesterday that we were trying so hard and desperately fighting for our jobs to get on television. And now here we are with pancakes and unicorn horns and “who” chants. But we’re always just looking forward.
WWE.COM: Staying relevant for 10 years, reinventing yourself and fighting to get The New Day on TV are all these major achievements that a lot of Superstars aren’t able to pull off. What’s the secret?
KOFI: There is no secret. It’s just grind. Relentless grind. I’m so lucky to have jibed so well with Woods and E, and I’m so grateful for them. They were the ones who actually came to me with the idea of getting together. I knew I needed to make a change in my career at that point. I had a bunch of ideas that weren’t being allowed to get off the ground. Luckily, with the whole New Day scenario, we’re allowed to travel together, we were together on Live Events, we still have not had, to this day, a fight between all of us. That’s crazy. What was the question again?
WWE.COM: What’s the secret?
KOFI: Oh! Yeah, the secret is just having that grind. That’s really it. You need a little bit of luck too, and you need people to believe in you. Vince McMahon believed in our idea, and we [still] went back and forth with him for about six to eight months before he allowed us to be on television. A lot of people don’t necessarily have that grind. Some people have that grind, and for whatever reason, they just aren’t given the opportunity. So, having the grind, having the opportunity and being able to capitalize on that opportunity as well, because some people get the chance and they don’t deliver. Luckily, we’ve been able to have all of those things.