Here’s why Kofi Kingston should win the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber
First, consider the man himself — and if you’ve never met him, we can help with that.
It’s a little bit of unofficial tradition here at WWE Digital to get Kofi Kingston on the phone whenever he breaks some sort of record. It’s been happening a lot lately, both because he’s had the kind of longevity and success that eventually leads you to start breaking records, and because Kofi Kingston’s most immediate characteristic is that he’s willing to do whatever he’s asked, no matter when it is asked of him. Sliding into a Gauntlet Match on about 45 minutes’ notice is just the most immediate, visible example of this; the man has seemingly fielded the most difficult, or at least random, details that this industry has to offer and turned them into something must-see.
Need somebody to wrestle Brock Lesnar in Japan? Sure, why not. Seeking a post-match comment for the YouTube channel? He and his boys will talk for ten minutes straight and it’ll be so funny you’ll have no choice but to publish the whole thing. Looking for his thoughts on how it feels to break some arcane tag team record? It’s his day off, but sure, just give him a minute to put the baby down. (That last one really happened, by the way.)
If he’s Mr. Reliable in front of the camera, he’s even better behind it, always willing and eager to pose for pictures, answer silly questions for a silly feature, and never fails to give you something good out of it — like, for instance, a very entertaining aside during his 10-year retrospective about how he’s still kind of peeved Vladimir Kozlov beat him out for Rookie of the Year at the Slammys. Let’s put it another way: This place has been likened (accurately) to both a machine and a beast that need to be fed. If it is a beast, Kofi Kingston is its vital organ. If it is a machine, he is the cog in the center. WWE without Kofi Kingston is like a car without an engine: You could technically make it move, but then it wouldn’t be a car, would it?
Consider the timing as well. This Sunday, Kofi will step into the Elimination Chamber and challenge for the WWE Championship held by the PETA-endorsed honey badger we’ve taken to calling “The New” Daniel Bryan. He should win. It will be his first WWE Championship opportunity since the 2016 Royal Rumble Match. He should have won that, too. Before that it was the 2012 Elimination Chamber, and if Kofi had won that and faced CM Punk at WrestleMania nobody would have complained much. Saying Kofi Kingston should be WWE Champion is not a new or novel take, though there are certainly new and novel ideas at play should he prevail in Sunday’s contest. (Can The New Day Freebird a World Title? They want to know; we want to know; and they know that we want to know.) What’s different now is that this seems to be his time. That’s a strange thing to say for an 11-year veteran but there’s an air of destiny about him all the same; he’s in that weird place where it just feels like he should be the guy to win, regardless of how he got there.
As to that, yes, Kofi is technically a pinch-hitter. He’s in the match to replace Mustafa Ali, a profanely talented Cruiserweight with a ceiling so high that the wrestling gods probably had to clear his creation with the Chicago zoning board. (A long shot sentimental favorite in the Chamber, Ali was beset by injuries and sent to the bench; his time will surely come.) But Kingston’s performance on SmackDown LIVE this past Tuesday was not one of those happy-to-be-here deals where the replacement shows up, puts in a few minutes to remind the crowd how good he is (or was) and makes it known that he could win it all if he had more time to prepare. Instead, he gave a marathon performance by any measure; it was a night in which Kofi seemingly brought every single lesson of his decade-plus to bear in the ring. He was fighting, fighting to prove that he could win this match; that he could win the next match; that it was an insane oversight to assume he shouldn’t have been in either match in the first place. He may have gotten his point across. The audience was justifiably on its feet when Kingston finally hit the AJ Styles-shaped wall that sent him to the showers; if the WWE Universe is, in fact, the ultimate arbiter of who rises and falls, they appeared to have cast their vote.
Randy Orton won the match with one of his patented outta-nowhere RKOs, but it’s Kofi — who pinned a current and former WWE Champion, as well as a two-time NXT Champion, before he could go no further — who seems to have all the momentum. It’s too soon to tell if the Gauntlet run will change Kofi’s reputation the way it did for Seth Rollins last year, but it has certainly boosted his odds for Sunday. Cliché as it is to say, sometimes, that’s all a good veteran needs.
Consider, also, the résumé. There’s a sort of unstated logic that a WWE Champion must be built, not anointed — that you have to win a few on the way up. Kofi’s won ’em all. Four Intercontinental Titles. Three United States Titles. Seven Tag Team Titles and a couple lines in the history books to go with them. A Slammy, even: the “Tell Me I Didn’t Just See That” trophy in 2012 for the first of his many, many, Royal Rumble close calls. It’s not Rookie of the Year, but it’s still something.
There are also the accomplishments you can’t put in a trophy case, the ones that fly just below the radar, or maybe a teensy bit behind the curtain. If a champion must be marketable, here’s your reminder that The New Day sold enough merch at WrestleMania 32 to float the Texas state budget. If a champion must have integrity, Kofi has deftly defused many a Twitter kerfuffle and proven a thoughtful contributor to difficult discussions. If a champion must crush his enemies when warranted, head on over to UpUpDownDown, where Kofi can be seen coolly driving some of the most competitive people in the world to literal fits as he dissects them in Madden. (There is lingering beef with Seth Rollins over such an instance, and it is a salty cut indeed.)
And if a champion must have the respect of his peers, Rollins told a revealing story on Edge & Christian’s podcast this past week about how he was hesitant, even at his most opportunistic, to simply destroy Kofi Kingston in the ring when the opportunity presented itself. The opponent was too credible, too accomplished to be made a meal of. Kofi, he reasoned, is a man to be lifted up even in defeat. It should never look like he’s just grateful to be there because the opposite, really, is true.
There’s a bit of a grassroots campaign going on right now in the form of a fan-created graphic placing the WWE Title over Kingston’s shoulder, with the floating heads of Big E and Xavier Woods looking on from above. “It is time,” the image reads, “for Kofi Kingston to shine.” It’s a worthy sentiment, yet the statement is inaccurate. The man has been shining. He could have gone an hour in the ring at any point in his career, the only difference is that if he does it again Sunday he won’t be the underdog anymore. He’s been running the gauntlet, and he just needs his last and most elusive gem. He’s a WWE Champion in all but name, and it’s long past due he makes it official.
When he does, tell him to stand by his phone. We want to give him a call for a few minutes.