How much of Kofi Kingston’s story has to do with Kingston and how much has to do with WWE stumbling into playing the fans’ heartstrings?
By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor
There’s a lesson to be learned from the February 12 edition of SmackDown. And it has very little to do with Kofi Kingston.
Let’s jog some memories. That was the night Kingston went nearly an hour in the gauntlet match featuring the six guys who would compete five days later in the Elimination Chamber for the WWE World Championship.
The night that wrestling fans remembered Kofi Kingston existed.
Since the Elimination Chamber – where Kofi played the part of Ricky Morton like he was challenging Ric Flair for the NWA World title – the wrestling world has been rooting for him.
WWE isn’t dumb to it. Even Mr. McMahon has gotten involved for no good reason other than to
rekindle the Attitude-era days of him being the “big bad” put more momentum behind Kingston leading to the underdog overcoming all the odds at WrestleMania. Hell, we’re even going to see a re-do of the gauntlet match next Tuesday to get him there.
How much of this had to do with Kingston and how much had to do with WWE stumbling onto something and going with the fans instead of resisting them for once?
Don’t take this wrong. Not saying Kofi isn’t with the attention or doesn’t deserve this. He absolutely does after being a journeyman for WWE for 11 years, and a damn-near comedy act for the last four. But those are also the reasons why no one thought of Kingston before all this happened.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. No one was clamoring for that monster Kofi Kingston push before that fateful SmackDown. No one was complaining on Twitter or writing long screeds in Reddit about how Kingston has been overlooked, stagnant, underutilized, insert-your-choice-of-”insider”-term-here. Kingston may as well have been a Dr. Dre song, because everyone forgot about him.
All it took was an hour of telling a classic wrestling story. That the underdog, against all odds, might just pull it off. All it took was doing that again under slightly different circumstances to remake a star.
WWE wants us to believe that they’re exploring a new creative direction just because they told us they were.
Yet, when you have Bobby Lashley beat the hell out of Lio Rush because he lost the Intercontinental title, then put them back together like nothing happened?
When you have Baron Corbin, Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre triple-team Braun Strowman then forget each other exist the next night, only to magically reunite in time to fight the Shield?
It becomes a Talking Heads song. “Same as it ever was.”
In Kofi’s case, the company has given the fans something unexpected that actually made some sense. Pulled out a wrestling truism (which is a surprise in and of itself because that company loves to ignore the middle part of its name so they can concentrate on the last part) and gave the unexpected underdog a fighting chance.
And the fans bought it hook, line and sinker. So much so that “Mr. McMahon” felt the need to needlessly insert himself into Kingston’s story. He’s more preoccupied with Kingston than he is the women’s match that will probably serve to be the first to headline WrestleMania, ever!
See? The company is making the fans “The Authority” after all! And the fans clamored for Kingston to get his shot because the company served it up to them on a silver platter.
Half the time, WWE flat-out does not know what it’s doing with its stories. There are so many swerves and “shocking developments” week after week that it feels sometimes like Vince Russo was hired back as a consultant instead of Bruce Prichard.
But then there a moments that they seem to be playing their “loyal” audience – the ones that can’t stay off the internet for fear they may miss the latest rumor – and using those fans’ “insider knowledge” to its advantage.
It’s been happening for years now and WWE still likes doing it on occasion. If they were smarter, they’d do it on a regular basis to keep people engaged instead of putting on the most boring 3 hours of television every week.
Alas, expecting that to be a regular pattern is a lost cause. But they managed to do it since before Fastlane.
Now we get to see if they can keep up the momentum with Kingston and rebuild him as a bigger star in spite of themselves.