Celebrating Kofi Kingston's Greatest WWE Moments on 39th Birthday
Kofi Kingston has done it all in WWE.
He has won the most prestigious prize on wrestling's most historic night, found success in nearly every role he has been placed and proved to be one of the most enduring performers of the past 15 years.
Kingston has traveled the world, hoisted gold overhead in momentous celebrations and performed for millions of fans over the course of his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Friday, he celebrates his 39th birthday with the very real possibility that he will add to both his resume and legacy in the years to come.
In celebration of everything the Ghanaian-born performer has accomplished since his arrival in the rebooted ECW on January 22, 2008, relive these eight moments have helped to define the explosive competitor and make up his Cinderella story.
8. Winning the Intercontinental Championship from Chris Jericho
More important than his ECW debut just months earlier was Kingston's first taste of WWE gold.
At the Night of Champions pay-per-view in 2008, he emerged from the shadows to challenge the hottest heel in the industry, Chris Jericho, for the Intercontinental Championship. The coveted midcard title had long been an indicator of the company's plans to elevate a young star, and winning it would surely be monumental for someone like Kingston, who was still finding his feet in McMahonland.
Things were not necessarily promising early as he absorbed a beating from the despicable Jericho. However, Kofi's resilience kept him in the match long enough to capitalize on interference from Shawn Michaels and capture the title.
Regardless of how that particular reign played out, there is no denying the significance of being trusted to carry WWE gold that early in one's career. It was proof that, whether he was necessarily ready for it at that point or not, management had faith in Kingston as one of the young faces of the company's bright future.
7. Eliminating CM Punk and Randy Orton Back to Back
The 2009 Survivor Series came right as Kingston was in the midst of a rivalry with Randy Orton over on Raw, a huge spot for a relatively unproven star to be in at that point in his career. Kingston had made the most of it, showing increased intensity as he confronted one of the top stars in the industry on a weekly basis.
Late in a traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match, though, it appeared as though Kingston was doomed to pain and punishment.
Facing a two-on-one numbers disadvantage against Orton and CM Punk, Kingston was in an unenviable position.
The match, though, was very much a microcosm of what Kingston's career would become. When presented with seemingly insurmountable odds, he dug deep down within himself and endured.
He eliminated the Straight Edge Savior and then the former WWE champion en route to the biggest and most meaningful win of his career to that point.
Over the course of his career, Kingston has faced odds the likes of which others would have failed miserably under. And like he did against Punk and Orton on that night in November 2009, he dug in his heels, presented resistance and emerged better for it.
6. Dropping the Accent
Remember that time Kofi Kingston was this hot new upstart fresh outta Jamaica?
Triple H remembered and called out Kingston on it on the October 19, 2009, episode of Raw.
As teammates The Big Show, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, Triple H and Shawn Michaels bickered over their upcoming Bragging Rights match, pitting Team Raw against Team SmackDown, Kingston stepped in and defused the situation.
He did so without the trademark Jamaican accent that he had arrived to the company with more than a year earlier.
"Aren't you supposed to be Jamaican?" The Game asked, disregarding everything Kingston had just said and focusing on the subtle loss of continuity.
Dropping the accent was purposeful, an attempt at broader marketing and merchandising for Kingston and a moment that, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, allowed Kingston to break free of the restraints of the undercard and begin building momentum for himself as a potential headliner in time for his feud with Orton.
5. Running the Gauntlet
There were no plans for Kofi Kingston to be involved in the WWE Championship match at Elimination Chamber in February 2019.
He had been doing his thing with The New Day while hot newcomer Mustafa Ali had made waves after jumping from the cruiserweight division to SmackDown Live. It was he who was to benefit from the pay-per-view main event exposure and maybe even shattering the glass ceiling to inject some much-needed freshness in the main event scene.
An injury forced Ali out of the match, opening up an opportunity for someone else. Kingston seized it and began a magical run that culminated in the greatest moment of his career and one of the most meaningful in WWE history.
The February 12, 2019, episode of SmackDown featured a Gauntlet match to determine which Superstar would enter the vaunted Elimination Chamber at the No. 6 spot, giving them a decided advantage in the physically grueling match.
Kingston entered and defeated WWE champion Daniel Bryan with Trouble in Paradise. He pinned Jeff Hardy with SOS and then countered Samoa Joe's Coquina Clutch into a rollup for another elimination. His magical run came to an end at the hands of the great AJ Styles, but not before Kingston had turned in a nearly hour-long performance that won over the crowd and had them audibly cheering for the veteran competitor's new-found life at the top of the card.
They would continue their passionate support for Kingston through the Elimination Chamber PPV, and though he did not win on that night, he had built undeniable momentum for himself.
Momentum that would culminate at The Showcase of the Immortals.
More on that in a bit.
4. Dropping the Boom on Randy Orton
Remember that feud with Randy Orton that intensified with Kingston's victory over The Viper at the 2009 Survivor Series?
Six days earlier, in historic Madison Square Garden, Kingston sent another emphatic message to his rival in the form of a Boom Drop through a table.
After an intense brawl that spilled into the stands in wrestling's most storied arena, Kingston left Orton sprawled on a table. He climbed into the stands and launched himself off, driving The Viper through the table in a spot that ranks as one of the best and most memorable in an otherwise forgettable year.
It was a moment that probably should have catapulted Kingston to the top of the industry, making him the hottest babyface this side of John Cena.
And it did.
Kingston recreated the moment a decade later on the September 3, 2019, episode of SmackDown, avenging what was an unsatisfactory conclusion to his original feud with Orton.
3. Handstand Save at the 2012 Royal Rumble
Anyone who has ever watched a Kofi Kingston match understands how gifted an athlete he is.
His athleticism and, more importantly, creativity have become trademarks of his Royal Rumble appearances over the years. While he has continuously wowed fans with his ability to stave off elimination in the chaotic 30-person contests, no one moment is more memorable or jaw-dropping than his 2012 effort.
Seemingly eliminated by former WWE champion The Miz, Kingston performed a handstand, thus preventing his feet from hitting the floor. From there, he walked on his hands, over to the safety of the ring steps, thus remaining an active combatant in the match.
While the night would not end as Kingston had hoped, it was a trademark moment in his career and one that served as further proof of his determination to do whatever was necessary to remain relevant, exciting and over with the masses.
But he has never shied away from giving credit where credit is due, tipping his cap to the former cruiserweight champion who helped him brainstorm those creative saves in an interview with Tony Maglio of The Wrap. "Hornswoggle is usually is the guy who I go back and forth and brainstorm with. "[He's] my brainstorming buddy. We used to room together and travel together on the road when he was here."
2. New Day Strikes Gold for the 1st Time
One cannot simplify how important the formation of The New Day was, not only to Big E and Xavier Woods but to Kingston as well. Sure, he had already amassed an impressive resume prior to teaming with those two, but New Day reinvigorated a career that appeared stuck in the deep, dark abyss that was the WWE midcard.
There was no upward momentum—no sign of an impending push. Those performers found themselves at a time when they had to in order to continue their sports-entertainment dreams. When handed a preacher gimmick that simply was not them, they toyed with it, retooled it and presented a uniquely fresh team that emphasized rainbows and unicorns in the name of positivity.
While they had not quite introduced the world to Booty-Os or pancakes yet, they rolled into Extreme Rules 2015 as heels, with the fans rejecting the forced initial incarnation of the trio. On that night in Chicago, Kingston teamed with Big E to defeat the great Tyson Kidd and Cesaro to win the WWE Tag Team Championship for the first time.
While they would have better and longer reigns, it was that victory that sparked a run that continues to this day.
It was the genesis of The New Day, that first taste of momentum after a frustrating start.
By the time the next year's Extreme Rules rolled around, they were in the midst of the longest reign any tag team in WWE has ever enjoyed (483 days, to be exact).
1. Historic WrestleMania Victory
One-hundred and sixty-one.
That is the number of days in Kofi Kingston's career that a black man had reigned as WWE or world heavyweight champion by the time he entered WrestleMania 35 for his career-defining match against Daniel Bryan.
Wrestlers who looked like him hadn't historically received the opportunities to be the top star in the company, which had become a theme both on and off screen in the weeks ahead of the contest.
"I think it would be awesome for kids who look like me to be able to look on screen, on television, and see that somebody who looks like them is on TV as their champion," he told Martenzie Johnson of The Undefeated. "That, in and of itself, is a motivator."
With his own aspirations and the dreams of an entire, underserved race behind him, Kingston entered the Showcase of the Immortals for his showdown with Bryan and did not disappoint.
In the best match of his career, and one of the most emotional in WWE history, Kingston overcame the focused attack of his opponent and unleashed every ounce of frustration and anger en route to the Trouble in Paradise that captured him the title.
If you don't think the moment was bigger than WWE and the storied underdog overcoming the odds to win the title, check out the emotion on Xavier Woods' face as he embraced his friend and partner. Look at the tears in the eyes of MVP and the late Shad Gaspard in this video.
"Fifteen years from now, there might be another two or three black wrestlers that come into the industry, and they were inspired by Kofi Kingston," former world champion Mark Henry told TMZ Sports. "It's a powerful thing to have representation, and it's also a powerful thing to be able to see somebody that looks like you, and have them tell you first hand the struggle and what it took for them to get there."
For Kingston, the moment also represented the culmination of his journey. It was the payoff for a decade spent traveling around the globe, missing milestone moments like family birthdays while entertaining the masses. For every setback, for every tease of advancement only to be sent back to the undercard, his win at WrestleMania 35 was the fulfillment of his dreams and goals.
It is a moment that will never be replicated or replaced, at least professionally.
And for those who watched it, lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes, it is one that will never be forgotten.