Kofi Kingston loves the Souths energy and passion as WWE 'SmackDown returns to Alabama
Posted Nov 28, 2019 By Ben Flanagan | email@example.com
Who had a bigger year in pro wrestling than Kofi Kingston?
After debuting in World Wrestling Entertainment in 2008 and grinding for 10 straight years as one of the industrys most electrifying in-ring performers, he rode a wave of fan support to a WWE championship match and win at WrestleMania 35.
Born in Ghana, Kingstons remains a fixture in the company where he is currently in his record fifth reign as SmackDown Tag Team Champion as a member of the popular group The New Day (with partners Big E and Xavier Woods).WWEs Friday Night SmackDown returns to Birmingham this Friday night, where Fox will broadcast live from Legacy Arena. Currently on the bill, which is subject to change, are matches between Daniel Bryant and Universal Champion The Fiend Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns and King Corbin, plus appearances from SmacDown Womens Champion Bayley, Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Braun Strowman, The Miz and SmackDown Tag Team Champions The New Day.
Tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster and the Legacy Arena box office, and cost $15, $25, $35, $50, $70, $95 and $100.
We spoke to Kingston via phone about when he knew New Day caught on for good, why Big E would be great as a singles competitor and which young WWE superstar will take the next step in 2020.
Listen to the entire conversation, or read below.
What do you think was the turning point that really told you New Day had caught on with people?
Kofi Kingston: Its hard to pinpoint it. I think when we first came out, no one really knew what to expect from us or what we were supposed to be, but it wasnt long before they decided they didnt like us. We always point to Detroit and Philadelphia when the crowd was chanting how bad we were so loudly that we decided that we could actually be bad guys.
It was really when people started to feel for us -- we always say in the wrestling business it doesnt matter if you cheer or boo, as long as you do something, you always want to have some emotion attached to whats happening in the ring. People were definitely emotional when we were in the ring. I think that was the turning point when we knew we were a solid group, and then over time we became so good at being bad guys that people started to cheer for us, and here we are. We always knew we had a strong connection, and regardless of what we were given, we were going to be able to turn it and do something special with it. We didnt know that it would end up being pancakes, unicorn horns, Booty-Os and ice cream and the other ridiculous things that we do, but here are entertaining people, and people like it.
You guys are masters of the meta moment. There was obviously the country music moment where you said This is not my character, this is me. The rap battle in 2017. How do you pick your spots to use that? And how does it get the OK from the top?
KK: A lot of times, it doesnt get the OK. But weve earned our long leash. Vince [McMahon] knows that when were out there, people are entertained. When were talking about what were going to do and Vince has to approve it, hell say I dont get it, but if they want to do it, then let them do it, because he has the faith that were going to be entertaining with our delivery. We just kind of do whatever is entertaining to us and what we think might be funny, and most of the time it is. Weve earned a long leash, sold a lot of merchandise and weve got a lot of support from people, so more or less, we kind of do whatever we want.
You guys have to be up there with the funniest people in wrestling history. Whom do you personally consider the funniest WWE superstars, commentators, managers? Who made you laugh or makes you laugh the most from WWE?
KK: I think before I got signed, I would definitely say Booker T, specifically King Booker was hilarious to me. It was such a departure from anything he had done at that point. Him portraying this elegant character and being the opposite of elegant, rugged in the ring and on the mic, it was one of the more entertaining thing. Since being on the roster, Santino Marella, without a shadow of a doubt, he is the funniest in-ring competitor...Anytime he was in the ring, people gathered around the monitor and wanted to see what he would do, whether he was going to the top rope and being afraid of heights and then jumping off the bottom rope and missing. It was really just a joy to see him out there and do his thing.
SmackDown comes to Birmingham on Friday. You were a part of Deep South Wrestling early in your career. What did that experience in the South teach you about that part of the country, and what do you like about performing in the South today?
KK: I love wrestling in the South because everyone does what theyre supposed to do. I feel like when you go to the North, people want to be cool and cheer for the bad guys, you know what I mean? Not that it makes it difficult, its just a different environment. But the people the South are passionate, and youre going to let people know when you dont like them. When someones going out there and doing the right thing, you guys cheer for them with all your hearts, so I always love going down South. The energy is awesome. Theres been a lot of wrestling history in the South. Its something thats been passed down through generations, and we definitely feel that. Were looking forward to coming to Birmingham. Its one of my favorite places to perform for those reasons I mentioned. Everyones always been very welcoming to me. Over the years, Ive always felt the love in Birmingham. We love being there and cant wait to come back.
A couple of weeks ago on his podcast After the Bell, Corey Graves made the case for a Big E singles breakout run right now. Youve obviously had an incredible run of your own, including that incredible WrestleMania moment, and each of the men in New Day clearly has the talent to break out as a singles competitor. What do you think Big E could bring with that opportunity?
KK: He could bring the world. Big E is a phenomenal competitor and just a really, really funny dude on so many different levels, easily the funniest one out of all three of us. Me and Woods say all the time, its not fair. He can just kind of look at you and have people dying laughing. He has his finger on the pulse of what is good in wrestling. He knows how to make things unique. I agree 100 percent that he would have an amazing singles run. I think a lot of people think a lot of people think that would mean the New Day would have to break up, and thats not the case. Weve always looked at ourselves as a faction. Weve never looked at ourselves as just a tag team. Weve never put ourselves in a box as far as being one thing. One of the possibilities that weve discussed is all of us having singles titles and still being a group and doing it because we are brothers. Its a very real friendship and bond. We push each other and want everyone to achieve the most they can achieve.
I say it all the time, with me being the WWE champion, I was the one wearing the title, but it was all three of us that were the champions because without Woods and E, I would not have been in that situation. We all support each other to the fullest. We push for the best for all of us. Hopefully that does come to fruition in some way, shape or form, but I guess well all kind of just wait and see what happens. We show up to work and try to work with the scraps that were given and make the best of the opportunities we have. Everybody knows Big E would be an amazing singles competitor. If that were to happen, it would be with the New Day behind him 100 percent. We push each other to the fullest and want to achieve the most they can possibly achieve in this business and in life.
The athleticism on display right now is at an all-time high thanks to guys like you, Seth Rollins, Ricochet, AJ Styles and so on. You can see an evolution of athleticism throughout pro wrestling history, but what kind of pressure do you feel to keep upping the ante and coming up with new ways to entertain using that athleticism? Where else can it go?
KK: I mean, you just kind of do what you can. You put different twists on things. It gets harder and harder to stand out. For myself in particular, Ive always been akin to standing out in the Royal Rumble, and its even hard to do that now because you have people like...Ricochet and Ember Moon last year doing incredible things in the Royal Rumble as well. I think everyone can do their own thing.
The thing about WWE is you have different athletes and styles, and theres always something to grasp on to. All of us want to be the best, and what that provides is the best product possible for the people. I wouldnt call it a pressure or anything. Im not trying to outdo anybody because no one holds me to a higher standard than I hold myself to, so Im always trying to stay two steps ahead of myself. In doing that, were able to put the best product out. Well see. You take it one day at a time.
Whats the best WWE match youve seen in 2019?
KK: Oh wow, jeez. Uh...Theres a lot. Its hard to put a finger on that one. I mean, Seth and Bray had an interesting one recently. Even Rey Mysterio and Brock just had a really good one, too. I dont know, dude, theres way too many good matches, especially with NXT. Theres so many guys out there capable of having amazing matches. Its a cop-out answer, but I just cant put a finger on one.
Who is someone in WWE you think will take a big step in 2020?
KK: So Adam Cole has already taken a huge step this year being on Raw, SmackDown, NXT, even this past weekend with Survivor Series. Tommaso Ciampa, a guy who I trained with on the come-up whos been kinda held down by injuries. He has the heart of a lion, so I think its only a matter of time. Hes been knocking at the door of doing something special, had an amazing performance at Survivor Series this year. Keith Lee killed it this year, being in there with Roman Reigns and going toe-to-toe with Braun Strowman. He has a bright future. The list could go on and on and on, man. Theres so much amazing talent out there right now, and its a really, really special time in wrestling right now, and I guess well all find out together.