Kofi Kingston on Preparing to Turn WWE's 'WrestleMania 35' Into 'KofiMania'

Scott Fishman
Preview

Kofi Kingston is arguably the most pleasant surprise of 2019 in WWE. The popular superstar’s triumphant ascension takes him into Sunday's WrestleMania 35, where he challenges Daniel Bryan for the WWE championship — a position that nobody thought Kingston would be in right now.

Not that the tenured performer didn’t deserve it. But before replacing an injured Mustafa Ali in the Elimination Chamber, his recent success was teaming up with New Day members Big E and Xavier Woods. It was a gauntlet match on SmackDown Live days before the Chamber that became the catalyst for the call among fans that WrestleMania  be #KofiMania at MetLife Stadium.

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“The whole thing was crazy and shows how fast things can go zero to a hundred," Kingston recalled. "I actually found out in the gym doing cardio. And I do cardio very rarely. I got to the building and got a text saying Mustafa Ali was hurt, and I was not only going to be in the Elimination Chamber, there was going to be a gauntlet match to see who the last person going out of the pod was. They asked if I was okay going an hour. I was mad I did the cardio.”

The 37-year-old saw it as an opportunity to remind everyone what he is capable of, that he was more than a good hand and guy who can pull off incredible Royal Rumble spots. He was main-event caliber.

“I had to capitalize on it,” he said. “When it was me and AJ Styles in there, he was asking me to quit. What we do is entertainment, but it was done on a real level. Like, I’ve been waiting to be in this situation and this scenario for a very long time. To quit now, it was almost offensive.

“I think at that point, people realized what was actually happening. They have been with me for this 11-year journey, and they’ve been waiting a long time, too. It has been a whirlwind of emotions. An emotional roller-coaster for sure over the past couple of months, but I’m just trying to do my best to embrace it all and ride the wave and seize the moment.”

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Kingston was in a similar situation about a decade prior in a feud with Randy Orton. Momentum was building, with the feeling that he was destined for a run at the top. Things didn’t pan out, which he has never forgotten.

“We were doing some pretty cool things, and then it started to taper off, doing mid-card things," he said. "I was still having a great time and winning championships, but nonetheless, I had not been able to get back into the main event scene for 10 years.

“I have been very fortunate to have connected with the WWE Universe over the last 10 years. I always make an effort to embrace every single member of the WWE Universe I meet. Just shake a hand, share a smile or sign an autograph. Just be thankful for their interest in me. I think that has resonated.

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“People felt that, and I didn’t realize they would until I got on to social media. After that gauntlet match, I couldn’t get to the bottom of my timeline. The past couple of months I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of my timeline because everybody is so supportive with congratulatory messages and different scenarios. It’s one of those things where the people have come along with me on this journey. I feel like they are wanting to cash in as much as I am. It has been an awesome ride.”

Kingston cut a recent promo with company Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. The husband and father channeled all the past frustrations and sacrifices he made throughout his career, and much of his words were rooted in truth.

“When we wanted to start New Day, Woods wanted to start this and wanted E on board,” he recalled. “There was the idea to have a third person and be a group of guys who weren’t happy with their position in the company. They came to me asking if I wanted to be a part of it.

"I’m so grateful they did, because I definitely wanted to switch things up. At that point in my career I was the happy-go-lucky guy who is going to do a couple of cool moves in a match and probably end up losing the match. It was getting old for me.”

The WWE championship challenger doesn’t know if he was on the verge of quitting, per se. However, he admits having considered it at the time.

“It wasn’t as fun as it was," Kingston admitted. "When they approached me with the idea of New Day and being three guys who were disgruntled with their position in the company and wanted more, I was all in, a hundred percent. That was a turning point for me, because you’ve seen what we have been able to do with the New Day.

“I thought I was having fun before, and then I got with E and Woods. Now I know what real fun is. Having fun in the ring. Having fun on the road. We travel together every single week. We’ve been traveling for five years now, and we haven’t had one fight. We have amazing chemistry. I think that is what makes as a group stand out and makes people gravitate toward us. They see us having fun and want to have fun, too.”

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Kingston is trying to soak in all the magic of WrestleMania, thankful to have New Day brothers by his side every step of the way. And he believes Bryan is the perfect opponent.

“Daniel Bryan was in the same role as I’m in right now,” he said. “The Authority was trying to hold him down, and he had to fight, having the power of the people behind him to fight and get to the main event and win the WWE championship.

“Now, the irony that he is on the other end and calling me all the names he was called, it’s a great story. We will see what happens. The little time we spent in the ring together has been pretty special. I think we match up pretty well. I’ve been watching Daniel Bryan for years. I’m sure he has been watching my stuff. We know each other very well. It’s going to be an amazing match. I’m definitely looking forward to it and looking forward to stealing the show.”

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WrestleMania 35, Live Sunday, April 7, 7/6c, WWE Network & Pay-Per-View.

Entire Kickoff Show streams on WWE Network & WWE social network channels, including the WWE YouTube channel, beginning at 5/4c; second hour of Kickoff Show also available on USA Network beginning at 6/5c.