Randy Orton Has Turned into Kofi Kingston's Defining Feud as WWE SmackDown Champ

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2019

Randy Orton is solely responsible for making Kofi Kingston the most interesting he's been as WWE Champion yet.
Randy Orton is solely responsible for making Kofi Kingston the most interesting he's been as WWE Champion yet.Credit: WWE.com

From high-profile title defenses to an impressive win-loss record, WWE has done everything imaginable to convince viewers Kofi Kingston is WWE Championship material, though it feels as if his reign has lacked the luster necessary to solidify him as a true main event player.

His monumental title victory at WrestleMania 35 already ranks high among 2019's finest moments. Everything about his chase for the title to the payoff was perfect, except the aftermath hasn't been nearly as compelling.

To Kingston's credit, he has played his role exceptionally well over the past four months and remains incredibly popular alongside the rest of The New Day. Although he's been booked better than anyone could have expected, he didn't really start to click as champion until his recent rivalry with Randy Orton came along.

The careers of the two men have been intertwined since they first feuded nearly a decade ago. Kingston was a star on the rise in WWE at the time and making an enemy out of Orton helped him get to the next level.

Unfortunately, the storyline didn't end well for the New Day member, and as the story goes, Orton's influence had a lot to do with that. It was no coincidence that Kingston went from wrestling in Raw main events to losing almost every week following his feud with The Viper.

Despite winning countless championships in the year that followed, Kingston wasn't able to shake the stigma that he was a perennial midcarder until earlier this year. His performance in a Gauntlet match on SmackDown Live was the catalyst behind his push to the top, which was originally meant for Ali.

As Orton has mentioned on WWE TV before, he was responsible for injuring Ali in storyline, so if it wasn't for him and his heinous actions, there's a decent chance Kingston would have never become WWE champion.

Between their bad blood in 2009 and that little factoid, these two were always primed to have an outstanding rivalry over the WWE Championship. The timing couldn't have been better with SummerSlam right around the corner, and it's bound to be one of the more exciting outings on the card.

Regardless of the result of Sunday's encounter, this rivalry has been the best thing to happen to Kingston as WWE champion. They should continue to wage war through the next few months at least, as there isn't anyone remotely as interesting as a rival for Kingston than Orton.

Kingston has been cutting quality promos throughout his entire WWE Championship run, but many of them haven't packed much of a punch due to how difficult it is to take his challengers seriously.

Before Orton entered the championship hunt, the Ghana-born champ was busy with the likes of Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler and Samoa Joe. None of them were treated like legitimate threats to the title, causing most of Kingston's pay-per-views matches to fall flat.

Orton will be a completely different story, though. He hasn't held the prestigious prize in over two years and owns a pinfall win over Kingston from last month on SmackDown, so The Apex Predator picking up his 15th world title in Toronto is a very real possibility.

For a while, WWE was content running with how cool it was for fans to see Kingston as the face of SmackDown as his main motivation, but we are well past that point. Everyone is aware he belongs in the spot he finds himself in, and this feud with Orton has allowed him to evolve his character to ensure he isn't looked at as a transitional champ.

Aside from Roman Reigns, Orton is perhaps the most notable name on the blue brand, so Kingston beating him to retain his title would send the message WWE is serious about keeping him in the SmackDown spotlight for the long term.

Speaking of SmackDown, Kingston and Orton have given the blue brand some of its strongest content in many months. In fact, if their feud lasts long enough, we could see them re-enact their unforgettable Madison Square Garden interaction from 2009 when WWE returns to the famous arena in September.

Had it not been for a reinvigorated Viper, Kingston's WWE Championship likely wouldn't have been remembered as anything special, and unlike 10 years ago, he will emerge from this feud a bigger star and an even more credible champion.


Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.