It’s all coming full circle. On SmackDown Live on July 16th, Kofi Kingston was finished for only the second time since WrestleMania 35 as Randy Orton pinned him in a six-man tag team match. By pinning the reigning WWE Champion, Randy Orton has instantly been inserted into title contention.
While 2018’s WWE title rivalry between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was undoubtedly exciting, this is actually a bit more exciting thanks to the history behind it. So far, Kofi Kingston has had a magnificent WWE Championship reign, with his challengers including the likes of Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler and Samoa Joe. He has been true to his word and has been a true fighting champion.
When Kofi Kingston did win the WWE Championship, many expected that he would simply get a token title reign as a “thanks” for his years of service, but he has proven to be so much more than just a placeholder. He’s raised his game to a whole new level in 2019 and there probably isn’t anyone better to hold the title right now.
What his reign has needed is a solid story and with Randy Orton, he has a story that goes back a full decade. Ten years ago, Kofi Kingston was in a very different place. He was the bubbly up-and-coming superstar with less than two years under his belt. He had let go of the Jamaican persona that he had and people realized that Kingston had serious main event potential.
Late 2009 was Kingston’s time to shine as he had began a feud against Randy Orton – a multi-time World Champion, an established top star and the man who main evented WrestleMania that year. It was a major litmus test for Kofi Kingston. Their feud began around late October and Kingston’s momentum increased with a huge Survivor Series win, as he eliminated Randy Orton and became the sole survivor of his team.
They would have a win apiece in two rather quick but bizarre matches and their main match happened at TLC. Unfortunately for Kofi Kingston, one main botch would essentially make him fail this litmus test and cancel his push. He did take a step down in the card and never really reached that level, but that doesn’t mean his career up until 2019 was unsuccessful. If anything, it was the opposite.
Kofi Kingston’s years following that would see him be a constant feature of WWE’s midcard, winning the United States Championship, the Intercontinental Championship and most importantly – the tag team championship. He even won it with multiple different partners. Kingston was always a reliable workhorse for the company and in 2014, his career would change forever with the formation of The New Day.
Here, he would rack up tag team title reigns left and right, including one record-breaking title reign of 483 days, surpassing the previous record-holders Demolition. Despite being together for so long, there were never any traces of a split, never any seeds planted for another member to turn on another.
Some way or the other, they ended up becoming the longest-standing faction in WWE history. Through all of that success, whether it was on RAW or SmackDown Live, the questions began re-emerging about Kofi Kingston’s potential to be a World Champion. Xavier Woods had stated on many occasions over the years that his and Big E‘s ultimate objective was to make sure that Kofi Kingston became champion of the world.
It didn’t even seem remotely realistic in the start of 2019, but one gauntlet match changed everything and today, we have Kofi Kingston as a strong and solid WWE Champion. The honeymoon phase of his run is over and he now needs to prove that he’s competent enough to carry the title for a long time.
Randy Orton presents a fresh challenge for him and one that would instantly boost his WWE title reign if he gets a win. Orton and Kingston have had little throwbacks to their rivalry earlier this year, with Kingston shouting “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” to Orton, a throwback from their rivalry a decade ago.
The fact that it would be for the WWE Championship makes it even more surreal and just goes to show how amazing a thing time can be in pro wrestling. It would be the ultimate ribbon on Kingston’s impressive WWE title reign. He needs this match and he needs this win.