While blissfully watching Monday Night's episode of RAW, a heated debate surfaced in the chat room I was in. It was during Kofi Kingston's killer assault on Randy Orton when a fellow WWE Sports Entertainment enthusiast made a very bold statement, one that could endanger his life if he were out on the street.
"Kofi sucks," he self-righteously proclaimed. "So many other wrestlers deserve a push more than he does."
Perplexed at the evil spirits that engulfed this man, I felt compelled to get to the bottom of what vexed him. "My dear chap," I said, "who in the WWE deserves the push more than our good fellow, Kofi Kingston?"
He was silent. So, I asked him again. "Good sir," I said, "please do not leave me in such an anxious state. Who deserves more of a push than Kofi?"
"Shelton Benjamin," he replied. "Touché," I said.
This got me to thinking about a few of the articles I read here on B/R. It cannot be denied that both Kofi and Shelton are incredibly gifted athletes, and both men have scores of potential to become World Heavyweight Champions and/or main-eventers some day. But, why is it that Kofi has been given the green light and the support of Titan Towers instead of our dear, underused brother, Shelton "Ain't It My Turn Yet?" Benjamin?
While I cannot offer a certified, gold plated reason as to why Shelton has been left to wade in the disease ridden waters of mid-card hell, I can offer you my honest and heart felt opinion on the matter. To put it simply, Kofi has "it," and Shelton doesn't quite have "it," even though he could eventually get "it."
I believe that we die hard fans sometimes forget that our reception of a given superstar plays a role in the push of a given superstar, but that superstar's reception from the suits that watch him on the monitors in the back of arena play a far more important role than our cheers and jeers. It takes a unique alignment of the planets, a rare chance of luck, an awesome amount of talent and acting skills, and a perfect mixture of what the crowd thinks and what the suits think for a superstar to make it to the top of the game.
At this point in his young career, Kofi has all of those things working for him. At this point in his career, Shelton doesn't.
Now, is this negating the talent and the work ethic of Shelton Benjamin? By no means am I suggesting any of that! In fact, I would mark out like a prepubescent Cena fan if Shelton got a shot at any of the major titles. However, to say that one superstar deserves a main event push over another would tacitly suggest that the other superstar is undeserving of said push.
It's one thing to say that Hogan deserves a push over "Leaping" Lanny Poffo, but it's another to say that Flair deserves one over Foley.
Thus we see the advent of the situation between Kofi and Shelton that erupted in the chat room. It cannot be argued that Shelton has earned a push, while it can be debated whether or not Kofi has earned that same push. However, to say that Shelton or Kofi deserves it over the other...that's akin to saying that one of them is a crap wrestler, and that is not the case by any stretch of the imagination.
So what's the beef? Why does Kofi get to destroy Randy Orton every Monday night, while Shelton is forced to play hand games with Zack "Woo-Woo-Woo" Ryder? I think it is because Shelton's work on the microphone has yet to dramatically improve, thus he's not able to connect with the fans outside of small pockets of people that look for the athleticism and innovation in a given wrestling superstar and match.
Unfortunately, those fans are not the ones buying the majority of merchandise, tickets to house shows, pay-per-views, or paraphernalia.
Don't believe me? Hop on over to Youtube and find some videos of Shelton when he was a superstar on RAW, and his "momma" accompanied him to the ring every night. You may not want to admit it, but the reality is that Shelton began to get way over with fans when actress and comedian Thea Vidale served as his "manager." The skits and promos may have been corny and slightly boring, but the fans connected with Shelton when he had his "momma" to feed off of.
You can go even further back to his days as a part of Team Angle. Both Shelton and Charlie Haas got major play, heat, and airtime when Kurt Angle served as their mentor. At the moment when Team Angle split, the self proclaimed "World's Greatest Tag Team" began to slowly slide down the fans' radar, and the inevitable split happened sooner than we all expected.
The nail in the coffin for Shelton's singles career, in my opinion, came one night when he was in an upper mid-card feud with a wrestler, and he did color commentary on RAW while his opponent wrestled in the squared circle.
It was terrible. God Almighty, Allah, and The Mighty Boosh couldn't resurrect the dead air that Shelton filled the commentator's table with. Not even the $500 shirt he stole from The Rock's locker could help him connect with the fans. It was reminiscent of watching a fish out of water...just flopping around gasping for air. So very sad.
Kofi on the other hand, has shown us and the suits that he has the crowd's support even before he really got on the microphone. When the WWE decided to bill him as being from his true hometown (Ghana, West Africa) and not Jamaica, the fans seemed to rally behind him even more. THEN, they allowed him to speak without that forced accent...and the fans loved him even more!
It was like a runaway train! The WWE gave Kofi the opportunity to show his aggression with one of their top superstars, and he has yet to disappoint. It reminds me of when John Cena faced Kurt Angle...pure...ruthless...aggression.
So there you have it. I do believe both men have earned top spots in the WWE, but I also feel that unless Shelton can really sharpen his mic skills - and possibly ditch his southern accent for a non-regional dialect - then we'll forever watch him flop around in the Land of Extreme...gasping for air, never really finding a sea big enough to swim in.