Following a three-month absence, my patented Pushed to Punished series returns to Bleacher Report for the next five installments that will be posted over the course of March. For those unfamiliar with these articles, I analyze the rise and fall of past and present WWE Superstars and attempt to pinpoint where exactly they went wrong.
From Mr. Kennedy to Zack Ryder, I've tackled a number of topics over the last two years, but one notable name has always managed to avoid the list. That individual, whose controversial career will be broken down here in this piece, is none other than Kofi Kingston.
In late 2007, vignettes began to air on the ECW brand hyping the debut of Kofi Kingston. His character was portrayed as a calm and collected Jamaican who always seemed to attract trouble in paradise, which was what made him different than any other WWE Superstar who came before him.
On the Jan. 22, 2008, edition of ECW, Kingston made his in-ring debut against local athlete David Owen, whom he defeated within mere minutes. He showed true promise in the ring with his unique move set and almost immediately connected with the WWE Universe with his natural charisma.
Kingston continued to score victories over enhancement talent in subsequent weeks, but it wasn't until the month of May that he was placed in his first feud against Shelton Benjamin.
After defeating Benjamin on two separate occasions, Kingston's undefeated streak in singles competition came to an end on the May 20 edition of ECW following a loss to the Gold Standard.
The ruthless rivalry continued for another month before concluding an excellent Extreme Rules match, which Kingston won. The following day, Kingston was sent packing to the Raw brand via the 2008 WWE Supplemental Draft.
At the Night of Champions pay-per-view mere days later, Kingston answered Chris Jericho's open challenge for the Intercontinental Championship. With some help from an interfering Shawn Michaels at ringside, Kingston connected with the Trouble in Paradise onto Jericho for the three-count and his first Intercontinental title.
Although his first reign as Intercontinental Champion wasn't anything all that memorable, he retained the title against the likes of Y2J, Paul Burchill and Santino Marella during two months he held it. This was a great way to reward Kingston for getting over with the WWE Universe just mere months after debuting.
He'd later drop the strap to Marella in an inter-gender tag team match that also included Beth Phoenix and Mickie James at SummerSlam. After failing to recapture the belt, Kingston would be moved into the tag team division.
During a backstage segment at September's Unforgiven event, Randy Orton and the rest of Legacy assaulted CM Punk out of anger. Kingston came to the aid of the then-World Heavyweight Champion, but he was also beaten down by the sadistic stable.
In light of this infamous incident, Punk and Kingston joined forces and chased Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase for the World Tag Team Championships. On the Oct. 27 edition of Raw, the dynamic duo knocked off Legacy to win their first World Tag Team titles together in what was one of my favorite moments of Kingston's career.
Sure, it was a slight downgrade from being a secondary champion, but it was still gold nonetheless. Kingston had a former World Heavyweight Champion as his partner, which made them one of the most compatible tandems in all of the WWE.
Their time with the titles was rather brief, however, as they would go on to drop the straps to John Morrison and The Miz at a live event that December. With Punk entering the hunt for the Intercontinental Championship, Kingston was left directionless on the road to WrestleMania 25.
He made his initial appearance in the Royal Rumble match in January 2009, but he lasted only seven minutes before being eliminated by The Brian Kendrick. He qualified to compete in the Raw Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship at No Way Out, but he was ambushed by Edge before the bout, which prevented him from competing in the contest.
Despite his shortcomings in the first few months of 2009, Kingston defeated Chris Jericho in March to qualify for the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania 25. In his Mania debut, Kingston escalated a ladder while it was still in the hands of Mark Henry, who proceeded to deliver a World's Strongest Slam to the former Intercontinental Champion.
Following his impressive showing in the Money in the Bank match, Kingston was pushed more aggressively following the show of shows. He entered the hunt for the United States Championship that spring season and defeated MVP to win the title on the June 1 edition of Raw.
Over the course of the summer of 2009, Kingston defended the star-spangled prize almost every other week. From Triple Threats to Fatal 4 Ways to even a Six Pack Challenge, Kingston overcame every obstacle set in front of him as United States Champion.
After holding the belt for a solid four months, Kingston dropped the strap to The Miz in early October. Having dominated the mid-card and tag team divisions, there was no better time for Kingston to break into the main event scene.
As Kingston's persona became more serious as time progressed, he would drop the Jamaican accent and be billed from his true homeland of Ghana, West Africa. This was a critical step in the evolution of Kofi Kingston that only benefited him as he prepared to move up the card.
At the Bragging Rights pay-per-view, Kingston came to the aid of John Cena during the main event Iron Man match for the WWE Championship, fending off Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes. Randy Orton went on to lose the match against Cena, and blamed the loss on Kingston due to his involvement in the contest.
The next night on Raw, Orton ambushed Kingston following his victory over Chris Jericho, thus initiating a feud between the two. Later in the evening, Kingston poured paint on Orton's brand-new race car that was given to him as a gift from Ted DiBiase.
Their rivalry raged on in subsequent weeks, but the feud's most memorable highlight came only six days before the Survivor Series event. Before Orton could punt Roddy "Rowdy" Piper into next week, Kingston made the save and began to brawl with The Viper all over the Madison Square Garden arena.
After debilitating Orton, Kingston proceeded to deliver a Boom Drop to his arch-rival through the production table in what was arguably the highest point (both figuratively and literally) of Kingston's career. The reaction to Kingston's awe-inspiring stunt was thunderous, and seemed to be the moment where many saw the Ghanaian grappler as WWE's next breakout star.
That Sunday, Kingston scored yet another huge win when he eliminated both CM Punk and Randy Orton in a traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match during the bout's closing moments. Within a minute, Kingston had pinned two former World Champions, which seemed to be another indicator that Kingston was well on his way to becoming a top-tier star in WWE.
However, the rivalry didn't stop there, as Orton and Kingston continued to feud for the remainder of 2009. The two exchanged victories in subsequent weeks, which led to a rubber match at the inaugural WWE TLC event in December.
Despite a strong showing against the Apex Predator, Kingston was unsuccessful in defeating Orton. A rematch was held on the premiere episode of Raw in 2010, but the ending result was no different.
Sure, Kingston wasn't able to emerge victorious in his feud with Orton, but that didn't mean his aggressive push was over just yet. According to a number of dirt sheets, Kingston was still scheduled to win the Money in the Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 26, which was a nice consolation prize.
During a Triple Threat match in mid-January, Kingston apparently botched a spot, which angered Orton and caused him to scream, "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" during the course of the contest. Although it may seem minor, it was an accident that would put heat on Kingston from backstage officials and cost him his on-going push in the company.
From that point forward, Kingston received little to no television time on Monday Night Raw. When he did make appearances on the flagship show, he normally lost to whoever his opponent happened to be that evening.
He competed in the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber match at the Elimination Chamber event that February, but came up short of winning the gold. He was relegated to competing on WWE Superstars during the road to WrestleMania 26 and was shockingly not named one of the competitors in the Money in the Bank Ladder match.
By mid-March, fans grew suspicious of Kingston's surprising absence from the Mania card given the push he received only a few months prior. It wasn't until the week before the show of shows that Kingston secured a spot in the MITB match at the event, but it was still strange as to why WWE would wait that long to put him in the match.
Similar to the year prior, Kingston once again had an impressive showing during the bout, but was unsuccessful in capturing the opportunistic briefcase. Thankfully, Kingston was met with a change in scenery a month later, as he was sent packing to SmackDown via the 2010 WWE Draft.
There, Kingston would be able to fulfill his full potential on a show not overcrowded with top stars such as Randy Orton, John Cena, Batista and others. Upon his arrival on the blue brand, Kingston was placed in a tournament to crown a new Intercontinental Champion.
Although he defeated Christian in the finals to capture the title, the win was deemed unofficial when then-SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long rehired the former champion Drew McIntyre. However, Kingston went on to defeat McIntyre at the Over the Limit pay-per-view the following Sunday to win his second Intercontinental Championship.
Unfortunately, his second run with the title was almost as uneventful as his first. He managed to retain the title against McIntyre a number of times in the weeks that followed the pay-per-view, but he'd later drop the strap to Dolph Ziggler on the Aug. 6 edition of SmackDown.
Meanwhile, Kingston was named one of the Pros for the second season of NXT, mentoring Michael McGillicutty. Although the two worked well together over the course of the show, McGillicutty ultimately lost the competition to Kaval on the season finale in late August.
At both SummerSlam and Night of Champions, Kingston was unsuccessful in regaining the Intercontinental title from Ziggler. However, the former U.S. Champion bounced back from those back-to-back losses by being on the winning end of tag team matches at both Bragging Rights and Survivor Series respectively.
That December, Kingston reentered the hunt for the Intercontinental Championship and rekindled his feud with Ziggler. Although he was on the losing end of two Triple Threat matches over the course of the month, Kingston recaptured the gold on the first edition of SmackDown in 2011 and managed to retain the title in a rematch against Ziggler moments later.
With this win, Kingston's career seemed to have gotten back on track. He was once again a title-holder and was back to his winning ways, so the future looked bright for the the Ghanaian grappler.
Sadly, Kingston's career took a turn for the worst from that point forward. Despite holding the Intercontinental title, he lost almost every match he competed in and came up short against the likes of Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger and Sheamus.
On the March 25 episode of SmackDown, Kingston dropped the strap to Wade Barrett following interference from the Corre. He was unable to reclaim the gold the following Friday night, but scored payback over the villainous group in a eight-man tag team match at WrestleMania 27, putting an end to his lengthy losing streak.
A few weeks later, it was announced that Kingston was once again a member of the Raw roster thanks to the 2011 WWE Supplemental Draft. The move benefited Kingston, as he went on to defeat Sheamus for the United States Championship in a Tables match that Sunday at the Extreme Rules event.
Kingston would maintain possession of the star-spangled prize for a solid two months before dropping the title to Dolph Ziggler at June's Capitol Punishment pay-per-view. He participated in the Money in the Bank Ladder match that July, but was once again unsuccessful in emerging victorious.
Going into August, Kingston was left directionless on the flagship show and was mostly utilized as an enhancement to other stars such as The Miz and Alberto Del Rio. Regardless, Kingston was on the winning end of a six-man tag team match at SummerSlam with Rey Mysterio and John Morrison as his partners.
On the subsequent edition of Raw, Kingston formed an alliance with Evan Bourne and defeated the then-WWE Tag Team Champions Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga in a non-title match. The following week, they once again defeated the tandem formerly known as the New Nexus to win the WWE Tag Team titles.
Now known as Air Boom, Kingston and Bourne brought new life to the straps and the tag team division as a whole. Not only were their matches extremely entertaining, but the formation of their team helped make both guys relevant again.
However, all good things must come to an end eventually.
Due to Bourne getting himself suspended on two separate occasions, the dynamic duo was forced to drop the WWE Tag Team Championships in mid-January 2012 to Primo and Epico. Many fans figured that Kingston would be punished for Bourne's incompetence, but it was actually quite the opposite.
During the 2012 Royal Rumble match, Kingston had a memorable moment where he saved himself from elimination by performing a handstand at ringside. This scintillating spot earned him the "Tell Me I Did Not Just See That" Slammy Award at the end of the year.
At Elimination Chamber the following month, Kingston once again had a breakout performance inside the WWE Championship Elimination Chamber. Of course, he was ultimately eliminated by Chris Jericho, but he still had an impressive showing nonetheless.
Shortly thereafter, Kingston was placed in a tag team with R-Truth and put back in the tag team division. Although the newly-formed tandem was on the losing end of a multi-man tag team match at WrestleMania 28, they managed to knock off Primo and Epico on the April 30 edition of Raw to win the WWE Tag Team Championships.
During their five-month reign as champs, Kingston and Truth retained the titles against the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger as well as the Prime Time Players. At September's Night of Champions event, the former United States Champions would drop the straps to Team Hell No and would fail to recapture the belts the next night on Raw.
From there, Kingston and Truth would part ways and focus on their respective careers in singles competition. The Boom Squad set his sights on the Intercontinental Championship, which was held by The Miz at the time.
On the second-ever episode of WWE Main Event in October 2012, Kingston defeated Miz to win his fourth Intercontinental Championship. The title win came as a major shock to most people, and it was seen as the latest attempt to resurrect Kingston's career.
After having successful title defenses against the likes of The Miz and Damien Sandow in the final few months of 2012, Kingston entered a program with Wade Barrett. Kingston was pinned by the Barrett at both Survivor Series and the next night on Raw in one-on-one action, so the British brawler was entitled to a shot at the belt.
At WWE TLC, Kingston soundly defeated Barrett to maintain possession of the belt. On the New Year's Eve episode of Raw, however, Kingston would drop the title to Barrett and fail to reclaim it on that week's edition of SmackDown.
Since then, Kingston was been sparingly used on WWE television and has mainly been relegated to competing on WWE Superstars. To my knowledge, Kingston has yet to score a televised victory in the new year, which is a true shame given how big of a roll he was on just a few short months ago.
Having been pushed a number of times in the last five years, there are a handful of fans (myself included) who have simply given up on Kingston. Why bother believing that the next push will be any different if all of his past pushes have ended the same way?
While I'm not exactly sure why Kingston is being punished at the moment, it might have something to do with his heated confrontation with Orton from 2010. The multi-time Intercontinental Champion hasn't been the same since, and has yet to break out of the mid-card.
Another major factor is the fact that Kingston's character has barely evolved since his debut in 2008. Sure, he's shown his serious side on occasion, but he still has the same entrance music, ring gear and happy-go-lucky persona that he did five years ago.
Some strongly believe that Kingston is undoubtedly a future World Champion, but I think his lack of development in recent years has hindered him in a big way. Kingston definitely does have a lot of untapped potential, but it's up to WWE officials and the Dreadlocked Dynamo himself to make changes to his gimmick to prevent it from going stale.
An easy solution would be to turn Kofi Kingston heel, but it might come off as unnatural since Kingston's character is basically who he is in reality. Even still, it'd be a nice change of pace and certainly something worth toying with.
With WrestleMania 29 quickly approaching, I can't say I see Kingston securing a meaningful spot on the card with the way he's been utilized in recent months. I hope I'm wrong, as Kingston always seems to have a breakout performance on the grandest stage of them all each year.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Ezekiel Jackson and his descent over the last year. Also, include any other potential topics you'd like to see me analyze on upcoming editions of WWE Pushed to Punished.
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