WWE Champ Kofi Kingston Reflects on 'Powerful' Trip Home to Ghana After 26 Years
Kofi Kingston ventured to his homeland of Ghana for the first time in 26 years as a conquering hero and the reigning WWE champion. The timing for the visit post-WrestleMania glow coincided perfectly with the West African country's President Nana Akufo-Addo declaring 2019 the “Year of Return.” He recalled past chances to travel back with either his mom or dad, who took service trips with students from Boston College. The driven performer never found the time since 1993.
“With WWE I miss a lot of things, miss a lot of birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, holidays,” he said. “Actually, my wife and I haven’t been on vacation since our honeymoon about 10 years ago. Going to Ghana for a recreational trip wasn’t in the cards.”
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Then filming began for a future episode of WWE 24 featuring Kingston’s ascension to the top. Producers thought it was a great idea to chronicle the SmackDown Live superstar’s experience in Ghana. He credits his mom for helping develop the itinerary including appearances, transportation, food and other details for a jam-packed four days. Kingstone presented Akufo-Addo his own WWE championship, reconnected with family, met countless residents, visited his late sister’s memorial and got reacquainted with the culture.
“It was incredible,” Kingston said. “I feel like it was very powerful for me to go back to the place I was born as the WWE champion, as somebody who has accomplished everything they’ve wanted to accomplish in life. This has always been my dream to become a WWE superstar and WWE champion. I have always been one to motivate and inspire others. What better way of doing that than going back to my homeland and visiting with kids and people just like me, living in the same villages, same towns, and kids who might have a dream.
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“I wanted to go back as living, breathing, tangible proof that these dreams are possible if you believe in yourself and keep on striving toward your goals. It was very powerful to have me in the flesh. It means so much more to shake somebody’s hand, a child’s hand and motivate them in that way and a true sense of belief.”
Even in rural towns, Kingston observed those who were taking video on their iPhones and sharing activity on social media. Much of the surroundings may have changed compared to what the 37-year-old remembers, but the heart and spirit of the people remained.
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“Everybody is so welcoming,” Kingston said. “Even when I was in seventh grade, everyone wanted to welcome me in and let me experience what a family is supposed to be like. Everybody is family when you are there. I felt that 20-fold when I came back. There was dancing everywhere we went and a band playing drums, trumpets. That to me is the most heartwarming thing. I can be gone for such a long time and be welcomed as if I never left.”
Thanks to WWE programming on SuperSport, fans there were familiar with Kingston. He even witnessed someone at the airport checking out WWE Network. It was another example of the reach of the sports entertainment juggernaut.
“Everywhere we went my mom made sure every bus we were on had my picture plastered on the side of the windows, so everyone knew we were coming,” he said. “You see people looking at the bus and saying, ‘Kofi Kingston!’ It was refreshing to see how much knowledge of WWE they had. My uncle said Roman Reigns is one of his favorite characters and people to cheer for. They are very versed in the product.”
Kingston hopes one day WWE runs an event in Ghana since getting a sense of the energy and excitement fans would bring. His fingers are crossed. In the meantime, Kingston is currently enjoying the ride with top WWE gold.
“I want to pay it forward in a sense,” Kingston said. “It’s so fulfilling that all the hard work I’ve put in [over] the years and so many aspects have finally paid off. I want people to experience a fifth of what I’ve experienced as far as happiness and joy,” he said. “Anything I can do to inspire or push someone in the direction of their dreams — that I feel is my responsibility as champion. Things have definitely picked up, but it’s busy in the best way possible.”
Next on the schedule is Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for Super ShowDown with the champ defending the title against a familiar foe in Dolph Ziggler. Fans following WWE know the history as they had a series of matches between 2010 and 2012.
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“Dolph is one of my favorite opponents of all-time, if not my favorite,” Kingston said. “Not to toot my own horn or our horn, our matches have always been off the chain. We have really good chemistry. I’m looking forward to facing him again. We’ve had a very similar journey of two guys who have been underrated in a sense, not been given their due, having to fight and claw and scratch our way to the main event scene. Now our careers have gone separately but here we are meeting again at Super ShowDown. We’re both looking to steal the show.”
If Kingston can get past Ziggler, the question is who would be next to step up to the plate. Perhaps future challengers could be within the New Day?
“You, sir, are a wedge driver,” Kingston said, when the very idea of Xavier Woods and Big E as possible contenders is brought up. “You are trying to drive a wedge between us. With New Day, our goal has always been meant to lift each other. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. When one of us [is the] champion, we are all champion[s]. It’s not just me.
“I might be wearing the title around my waist, but I couldn’t have done this by myself. We are the three guys who are the best of friends. A lot of people say, ‘Well, you got to break up at some point. All factions do.’ Not us. We take things one day at a time and see what happens, but if E or Woods was champion, I’d would be equally excited as they are for me.”
Along with peers and fans, Kingston was able to celebrate his WWE championship run alongside family. One of the more heartwarming visuals form WrestleMania was the popular underdog holding his children in the ring with the title to mark the historic moment.
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“It was kind of a moment where they could go in there and feel this glory and elation and the result of all the hard work I’ve had to put in and sacrifice and why I’m gone,” Kingston said. “At the end of the day when they become adults and become old enough to pursue dreams, I hope they keep that in mind. I’m trying to set the example you have to work hard to achieve these dreams.
“They are embracing this, especially my oldest son. If someone wants to come up to take a picture with me, he’ll be upset he can’t be in the photo with me. He’ll be there making a face. He has really been bitten by the WWE bug as of late. My younger one gets a kick out of calling me Kofi Kingston. It’s really what it’s all about. Give the foundation they need to become whatever they want to be.”
WWE Super ShowDown streams live June 7, 2/1c, WWE Network
WWE SmackDown Live airs Tuesdays, 8/7c, USA Network