SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Kofi Kingston: “I’m a Guy Who Struggled to Get to Where He Is”
Kofi Kingston is still working to achieve his defining moment as WWE champion.
Kingston defends his title against Randy Orton this Sunday at SummerSlam, which is an opportunity for both men to have a program that resonates throughout wrestling. Orton is a 13-time world champ in WWE, but his storylines have lacked a certain flair since a bust of a title win over Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33.
The history of SummerSlam includes a remarkable legacy of world title matches, from the Ultimate Warrior successfully defending the belt against “Ravishing” Rick Rude in 1990 to Bret Hart defeating The Undertaker in 1997 with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee, all the way to Brock Lesnar obliterating John Cena at the 2014 edition to become the new champion.
Kingston has been champ since April’s WrestleMania 35, but has yet to enjoy a signature moment with the belt. His ’Mania win over Daniel Bryan was iconic, but subsequent storylines with Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Dolph Ziggler, and Samoa Joe lacked chemistry and believability, as no one has been a legitimate threat to end Kingston’s run. He continues to seek a match that will enhance both the legacy of the title as well as elevate his run with the belt, which could be accomplished against Orton.
Kingston and Orton have a storyline that dates back to 2009, and there is plenty of potential for greatness in this match. Orton accidentally injured Mustafa Ali in February, which created a space for Kingston in the Elimination Chamber match that ultimately began his WrestleMania push.
Orton also has something to prove in this encounter. Despite his status as surefire Hall of Famer, he hasn’t had a truly great match since a triple-threat against Batista and Daniel Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania 30. Kingston’s last great match took place four months ago at WrestleMania when he won the title from Bryan.
“Bryan is the unsung hero,” said Kingston. “And he’s done a lot for guys who are undersized but showed they can still be cast in this top guy spot. He’s done it so well for a very, very long time.”
Reflecting back on their WrestleMania 35 encounter, which is arguably the best match in WWE thus far in 2019, Kingston was grateful his eleven-year journey to the belt culminated in a moment against Bryan. Neither was destined to be in the WWE title match at WrestleMania, but both worked tirelessly to earn that spot.
“And Bryan went through that identical journey I did to get to WrestleMania,” said Kingston. “He was badgered and blocked by The Authority and called a B-plus player, that was his story, and it became mine, too. We don’t get a lot of shine in main events, we’re not 6'8" and 300 pounds, so the fact that he was my opponent was poetic. I have a whole lot of respect for Bryan and the boundaries he’s been able to break.”
Oftentimes there is a turning point in a match that propels the performance into a magical experience for both those watching and the wrestlers in the ring. For Kingston at WrestleMania, that moment took place as soon as his opponent stepped foot in the ring.
“Right from the beginning, I could feel the excitement the crowd had for that match,” said Kingston. “Then Daniel Bryan came to the ring. We met eyes, and he said, ‘You don’t deserve to be here.’ That’s the moment I knew, ‘Yes, I do.’”
The match ended after Kingston broke free of Bryan’s Lebell Lock, then delivered his signature Trouble in Paradise for the win as thousands of fans at MetLife Stadium erupted, reaffirming Kingston’s belief that he most certainly belonged among WWE’s most elite stars.
“I was in complete disbelief when the ref’s hand hit the mat for the third time,” said Kingston. “So many things have to line up for that moment to happen. If I don’t meet Big E and Xavier, then I never get to this point. So I was hit with all of those thoughts. When I got to the back, Vince was smiling. Tyler Breeze was there waiting for me, The Usos were there, there were so many people there waiting for me.”
Kingston’s title reign has significance beyond wrestling. There is a lack of diversity in the lineage of WWE champions, and Kingston’s run—which has been entertaining despite the lack of a perfect antagonist—has been especially meaningful in terms of representation.
“From a representation standpoint, this means the world,” said Kingston. “I can be the guy to motivate people from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life. I’m a guy who struggled to get to where he is, and only through hard work and dedication have I been able to find my success. That’s the message I want to send to anyone struggling or fighting to overcome an obstacle.”
The next challenge is to create a new moment with Orton. It is also possible that the best move is to have Kingston drop the title on Sunday, then resume the time-tested role of the babyface chasing the heel for the belt.
One certainty for this Sunday is that Kingston will deliver an authentic, genuine version of himself in the ring, representing the fans and giving all he can to make this title match memorable.
“Making people believe they can do great things, that’s an instant motivator,” said Kingston. “I’m the guy at the center of that, and I’ve been so lucky and fortunate to achieve so many great things and have so many moments in WWE. I always want people to experience the feelings I am experiencing.
“Anything I can do to get you to feel, that’s an honor and a duty that I take very seriously. I’m going to go out there, go all out, and go get that dream.”
The Miz on Miz and Mrs., His Father, and a Return Date With Shane McMahon
The Miz has worked his entire career to create moments in WWE that will stand the test of time, especially at WrestleMania.
He headlined WrestleMania 27 against John Cena, defended his Intercontinental title at WrestleMania 34 in a memorable opener against Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, and had a vastly underrated match against Shane McMahon at this past ’Mania.
During that match against McMahon, Miz watched in awe as his father—Mr. Miz—stole the show in only a brief few moments.
“My dad got a WrestleMania moment,” said Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. “Some people work their entire life for a WrestleMania moment and never get it. My dad worked in WWE for one day and got his WrestleMania moment.”
The Miz’s dad, George Mizanin, jumped into the ring to defend his son against McMahon before receiving a beatdown. But he was in the ring long enough for his moment to go viral.
“My dad became a really huge sensation on the internet when that meme went viral, and he hasn’t stopped talking to me about it,” said Mizanin. “My dad is also the type of person who takes his 15 minutes of fame and turns it into 45 years, and that’s exactly what he’s doing now.
“After WrestleMania, my dad did an appearance for a local college and he was advertised as ‘WWE’s Mr. Miz.’ He has eight-by-tens and T-shirts that he sells. Every Monday before WrestleMania, he’d call me and tell me everything that I was doing wrong on Raw. Now he says I should listen to him because the only time he was on the air, he went viral.”
Miz also promised that his storyline with Shane McMahon, who has continually got the better of their encounters, will have a final chapter.
“My story with Shane isn’t finished,” said Mizanin. “Any time Shane McMahon is on a show, I’m going to come after him. When I get at him, it’s only going to take a split-second to demolish him. There will be a conclusion, a time when I get my hands on him where it will be the last period in any sentence.”
The Miz is also on television with his wife Maryse in The Miz & Mrs. show, which returned this week to its normal 10 p.m. ET timeslot on the USA Network.
“Maryse and I knew if we had control of this show that we would make something that we’d love and we’re proud of it, and it’s really been a lot of fun,” said Mizanin. “We find things we want to do and then we go film them.
“I’m in a house full of women, and I’m doing a lot of listening, but I’m enjoying it. I was on The Real World and The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and I had great experiences with that, but I wanted to do something different with this reality show. I consider it hybrid reality. We’re not the Kardashians, Real Housewives, or even the Chrisleys. I look at it more as Modern Family with a reality spin to it.”
This is the continuation of season one, wrapping up the 20-episode first season of the show.
“If you think I’m loud and obnoxious, just wait,” said Mizanin. “You’re going to see more. You’ll get to see family, friends, and you’re going to laugh.”
Plenty on the Menu This Weekend
A loaded wrestling weekend is about to begin.
WWE presents “NXT TakeOver: Toronto” on Saturday and then “SummerSlam” on Sunday, while New Japan builds to the conclusion of its G1 Climax with shows on Saturday and Sunday before Monday’s finals.
The build for SummerSlam has not been overwhelming, but the talent on the card will ensure that the matches exceed expectations. And with the exception of Goldberg seemingly returning to squash Dolph Ziggler, and the presence of Universal champion Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam is almost entirely focused on full-time talent.
The most intriguing storyline in WWE is the building feud between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, which needs to be addressed at SummerSlam. The card will also mark the in-ring return for Bray Wyatt, and we will see if “The Fiend” wears his mask during the match.
Saturday’s TakeOver is headlined by Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano wrestling in a two-out-of-three falls match for the NXT title. In addition to Shayna Baszler defending the women’s title against Mia Yim and the Street Profits defending their tag titles against the Undisputed Era’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, a match destined to steal the show is the triple-threat match between Pete Dunne, Velveteen Dream, and Roderick Strong for the North American Championship.
New Japan is also on the precipice of crowning the 2019 G1 Climax winner.
Jon Moxley still leads the B Block with 10 points, but four others—Tetsuya Naito, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, and “Switchblade” Jay White—trail with eight points. Moxley lost twice in the past week, first by count-out to Toru Yano and then by pin fall—his first since leaving WWE—to White.
The G1 remains IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada’s to lose. He is leading the A Block with 12 points while Kota Ibushi trails with 10. Okada and Ibushi meet this weekend in the match that will decide the winner of the block.
Okada’s title run, which began at Madison Square Garden, has included wins over Chris Jericho and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Winning this year’s G1 would make Okada even more iconic.
Since Okada is champion, if he wins the G1, he can choose his opponent for January’s Wrestle Kingdom. Choosing to defend his IWGP heavyweight championship against AEW star Kenny Omega would be a match to grab the attention of wrestling fans across the world.
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• Matt Riddle continues his verbal assault on some of WCW’s former stars, with the latest being top AEW performer Chris Jericho.
Jericho’s response was funny without being too hurtful
• Scott Steiner does not collect toys.
• Always good to hear Kevin Nash is feeling better.
• ESPN’s Fan Stories newest short film, “All Hail the Queen,” offers a unique way in which pro wrestling can resonate with fans.
• Big Cass looks in as good of shape as he did during the height of his run in WWE.
• A classy move by WWE.
Conrad Thompson previews “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
Conrad Thompson delivers new episodes of podcasts this week with Bruce Prichard and Jim Ross.
“Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” returns this Friday and explores the 20-year anniversary of Chris Jericho’s WWE debut, with a specific look at Vince McMahon’s plans for a star that WWE acquired after Jericho’s underrated run with WCW.
“We’re ready to cover ‘Twenty Years of Jericho,’ which is appropriate because the twentieth anniversary of Chris Jericho debuting in WWE is this Friday,” said Thompson. “We’ll cover Jericho’s debut, which was obviously a big deal, and we’ll take it all the way through the night he beat The Rock and Stone Cold at “Vengeance” in 2001. We’ll cover the second half of ‘99 and all of 2000 and 2001, which included a lot of starting and stopping, as well as one of the biggest nights in the history of professional wrestling.”
Jericho’s run as the undisputed champion only lasted from December to WrestleMania 18 that March, where he lost the title to Triple H in a main event that was overshadowed by the match between Hulk Hogan and The Rock.
“That was supposed to be the coronation of Jericho being ‘The Guy,’ but I want to know from Bruce if it was already decided that they were putting Jericho with Triple H at WrestleMania 18,” said Thompson. “Was the plan to make the show all about Triple H and put Jericho in that Ronnie Garvin position?”
Thompson and Prichard just celebrated the three-year anniversary of their successful podcast, which has redefined an entire genre of shows and even led to a run on the WWE Network.
“Monday was the three-year anniversary of our first episode, and it’s also the three-year anniversary of the first date with the woman who is now my wife,” said Thompson. “Two of the biggest events of my life happened on the same day.”
Thompson’s newest edition of “Grilling JR” with Jim Ross posts on Thursday, with a show dedicated to the memory of Harley Race.
“Jim will share some interesting stories about growing up in the business at a time when Harley was the elder statesman,” said Thompson. “We’ll talk about his in-ring career, as well as his managerial career, managing Lex Luger and Vader in WCW during a time when Jim was with the company. We’ll also break the format and invite some other voices to celebrate the life and memory of Harley. We’re doing our best to pull out all the stops for the ‘King of Wrestling.’”
Tweet of the Week
Nakamura joining the club would add an entirely new electricity to the group.