WWE’s Monday Night Raw is in dire need of a shot of adrenaline. Crowds are set to return in July, which will add considerable energy to the show, so the item on the agenda becomes finding the right talent to build the show around. And Kofi Kingston is perfect for that role.
So let the “Summer of Kofi” begin.
A former WWE champion, Kingston was immediately moved out of the main event when he dropped the title to Brock Lesnar in October 2019. Despite crafting one of the most spectacular, gripping and organic runs in WrestleMania history with “KofiMania,” WWE brass decided that Lesnar would be better suited in a program against former UFC foe Cain Velasquez. That program had very little payoff, though, and it was a missed opportunity not to build a story around Lesnar, Paul Heyman and The New Day.
Since dropping the title, Kingston has yet to receive a legitimate shot to thrive in the main event. Even after six months holding the company’s most prestigious title, he was not afforded the opportunity to cut promos about the title loss or vow to avenge his loss. While there was a quick standoff against Lesnar during the Royal Rumble match in 2020, that was more happenstance than grand scheme. Yet, remarkably, all of this may help Vince McMahon find his next big hit, even if it is by use of the backdoor, as there are still legions of fans who want to see Kingston have another shot at the title. And the wait would make it even more memorable.
“Nothing worthwhile ever came without hard work, so I think that makes this even more special,” Kingston says. “I don’t mind fighting for what I earn. So here we go again, looking for one more shot.”
For the majority of the year, the WWE title has been in a tug-of-war between reigning champ Bobby Lashley and former champ Drew McIntyre. While other performers, like Braun Strowman and The Miz, have been added into the scene for brief stretches, Kingston brings an entirely different skill set to complement Lashley and McIntyre. And the matchups leave plenty to be explored, as, surprisingly, Kingston has limited history with both Lashley and McIntyre.
“It feels really fresh,” Kingston says. “And we’re all underdogs. Look at Bobby’s journey to the title. Bobby’s grinded for so long to get to this point. He stepped away from WWE, came back with a vengeance and he found his way to the WWE championship. I know how hard he’s worked to get to this point, and I have a lot of respect for him. Bobby is a phenomenal champion, and I’m looking forward to mixing it up with him.”
If this does become a summer when Kingston is cast in a lead role, it would also behoove WWE to showcase generous doses of The New Day on its programming. After a successful run with the intercontinental title, Big E is in a new feud with Aleister Black, and he is the perfect candidate to win July’s Money in the Bank ladder match and then challenge Roman Reigns for the universal title at SummerSlam.
“If E gets thrust into that role, going toe-to-toe with the universal champion, if that happens, [Xavier] Woods and me are going to lose our minds,” Kingston says. “I’m not big on looking too far ahead, but if that were to happen, E will exceed every expectation.
“He can talk, can make you laugh, he can gyrate his hips and he can beat you up. I’m so happy to see his success with the intercontinental championship, being able to continue the legacy of the workhorse title. His way with words is unmatched, and his ability to connect with the crowd is very special. E is ready to be at the top of this industry.”
Kingston also shared his enthusiasm for Woods’s success in and out of the ring. Woods was recently hired as a host for the gaming network G4 and has built his UpUpDownDown show into a legitimate force while delivering some of his best work in the ring.
“Xavier’s level of grind, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kingston says. “He’s gone from not having a YouTube channel to having two million subscribers. And it’s more than that. He makes people feel heard, he is a problem-solver. He was the visionary behind all of The New Day. All these special moments we’ve been able to give, the spark for all of them is from Woods. He thinks on such a different level.
“Woods and E, they’re such high-quality human beings. I occasionally text them and say, ‘Thank you for being in my life.’ They’re two people I consider brothers, and I also get to work with them. So this wasn’t a breakup with E on SmackDown and us on Raw, it’s more of a diversification. We’re conquering one end of the world, as well as the other end.”
If this is truly going to be a monumental summer for Kingston, he will need the support of the crowd behind him. And the timing is fortuitous. In fewer than two months, WWE will exit the controlled environment of the ThunderDome to welcome back the unpredictability of live crowds.
“I’ve been clamoring for a live crowd,” Kingston says. “That’s what makes WWE so special. We got a taste of it at WrestleMania, so I’ve been clamoring for a live crowd.”
The “KofiMania” run can never be duplicated, but that is not Kingston’s objective. He wants a chance to again show he is a main-event star, to showcase that he is a multidimensional talent unlike anyone else on the roster. More than a one-hit wonder as world champ, Kingston is ready to show the world another gear if given the chance to be a two-time WWE champion.
“Last week, I defeated a future Hall of Famer, Randy Orton, pinning his shoulders to the mat, and then I pinned Bobby Lashley, the WWE champion, so you know this Monday is going to be a celebration,” Kingston says. “Top to bottom, it’s going to be a great show. I know I’m going to bring it, and, as the kids say, it’s going to be dope.”
Whether WWE agrees that a “Summer of Kofi” is a priority remains to be seen. No matter the plan behind the scenes, Kingston plans on controlling what he can control, and that is making every one of his segments can’t-miss television.
“You never know how much time you’re going to get, so you have to maximize what you’re given in a way that is unique, entertaining and memorable,” Kingston says. “That’s what I will keep working to do.”
More Wrestling Coverage:
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- Salvador: New AEW Show ‘Rampage’ Coming to TNT on Friday Nights
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.