Kofi Kingston picked up a huge victory on last week’s Raw by defeating Antonio Cesaro to become the United States Champion.
Well, that actually depends on what your definition of a “huge victory” is.
Although there are many fans who think that Kingston’s surprising US title victory will take him back to prominence in the WWE, there are just as many, if not more, fans who think that it ultimately won’t mean much for him in the long run. It may be too early to tell right now, but not if you look back at Kingston’s history in the WWE.
Kingston made his debut in January 2008 and has been one of the company’s most popular babyfaces ever since then, but his career has been one that’s been defined by very little progression and a whole lot of lateral movement. In fact, lateral movement has been perhaps the biggest detriment to what once looked like a very promising career for Kingston.
This isn’t to say that he hasn’t had any success. After all, Kingston has racked up 10 total championship reigns so far in the WWE and has almost always had a safe spot as a popular midcard babyface.
But what’s more telling than his double-digit title reigns is what those reigns have, or have not, done for Kingston.
When you examine just what he’s done throughout his five-plus years in the WWE, you’ve probably noticed that Kingston’s “progress” has essentially been nothing more than a mirage. It appears to be there, but really, we can all see that it isn’t.
Other than his late 2009 feud with Randy Orton, Kingston has never risen above the upper midcard for a substantial period of time. Instead, he’s remained firmly entrenched as one of the few midcard babyfaces who can consistently put on good matches, stay pretty over with the crowd and pop up in the title scene from time to time without anyone really questioning it.
Many, however, will question whether or not another midcard title win—like his United States Championship victory—is really a step in the right direction or another false sign of hope for Kingston.
With the way Kingston’s career has played out for the last five years, there’s nothing that should suggest that his most recent title win will elevate him when none of the previous ones really have.
Kingston is a four-time Intercontinental, three-time Tag Team and three-time (and current) United States Champion, which—at least on paper—is a pretty impressive resume. But a superstar could have dozens upon dozens of midcard title victories, and it would mean absolutely nothing if those reigns did, well, nothing for the superstar involved.
Unfortunately, that’s been the case for Kingston.
Because the value of the WWE’s midcard titles has been lower in recent years than at perhaps any point in recent memory, Kingston’s championship reigns simply haven’t equated to an ascension up the card. Rather, they’ve served as a means that has kept the WWE complacent with his character.
It seems as if the WWE realizes that Kingston is a reliable midcarder who can carry the division’s title whenever the creative team doesn’t have anyone else it wants to give the title to. Therefore, Kingston gets stuck in a role that—although it isn’t a terrible one to be in—stifles him.
He’s almost too reliable in the sense that the WWE knows exactly what the company is going to get out of him—entertaining matches, high spots, decent crowd reactions, etc.—when it can’t say that about a big chunk of the roster.
As a result, Kingston finds himself holding a midcard title every now and again without it every ultimately leading to something bigger. He’s become the definition of a placeholder and/or transitional champion, and he’s been in that role for so long now that that seems to be the only thing many fans view him as.
In a way, it’s a true testament to Kingston’s abilities to perform well and consistently do so. At the same time, it’s a bit of a slap in the face—as if it’s the WWE’s way of saying, “You’re great, but not great enough to get more than we’ve been giving you.”
And now, the WWE has given Kingston another run with the United States Championship, but just like all of his other midcard title reigns, it won’t prove to benefit him much. He’s holding the title again because the WWE doesn’t know who else to put it on—not because he’s getting a major push.
Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!