clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Eleven years comes down to one night

WWE Championship Match

Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston

WWE was in a tough spot after an injury to Mustafa Ali. And then...lightning struck.

The Road to WrestleMania

It started with an injury to an all-around good dude: Mustafa Ali.

Ali, fresh off a call up from 205 Live to the main roster in December, was riding a wave of momentum. He’d even pinned the WWE Champion Daniel Bryan in a tag team match. But on the road to Elimination Chamber, he took a shot to the eye during a match with Randy Orton, and the injury was reportedly worsened during a house show in the week that followed. WWE needed to find a person to replace him in the Elimination Chamber match. They advertised that a member of the New Day would get the final Elimination Chamber spot, with the story being that New Day would get to choose who represented the group.

That man was Kofi Kingston.

On the SmackDown Live before Elimination Chamber, WWE held a Gauntlet Match to promote the event. And in that match, Kofi went off. He pinned the WWE Champion Bryan in the first leg, before also defeating Jeff Hardy and Samoa Joe. He screamed in AJ Styles’ face when Styles tried to talk sense into Kingston. But no, Kofi had been waiting eleven years for this opportunity. And he damn near beat Styles too.

That’s all it took. KofiMania was born. Kingston was the overwhelming fan favorite at Elimination Chamber and his desperation to become champion was palpable, going so far as to kick out of Bryan’s Busaiku Knee. Unfortunately, Kofi took one risk too many and was eliminated last in the match; Bryan crushed Kofi’s dream.

It would have been so easy for Kofi to feel dejected and slink back into the shadows. However, Xavier Woods and Big E were in his corner, helping him to keep his head up and seize upon another opportunity. By pinning the champion again on SmackDown Live, he was in line for a singles match against Bryan for the WWE Championship at Fastlane. And just as Kofi was ready to put pin to paper, Vince McMahon reared his pompous head. Citing competitive reasons and “the box office,” he pulled Kofi from the match and replaced him with Kevin Owens.

Kofi was once again ready to hang his head in resignation, but Woods and E were furious on his behalf. They urged him to confront McMahon at Fastlane, but Vince screwed the group over again by forcing Kofi to wrestle The Bar in a handicap match with the New Day banned from ringside. And this is where the racial undertones have factored into the story: three black men have been forced to go above and beyond – to truly ridiculous levels – to secure Kofi Kingston his singles match against Bryan.

When Kofi asked for a shot, Vince said no. When he asked for a straight answer, Vince misdirected. When Kofi won a damn Gauntlet Match with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Vince happily kept throwing weight on him until he failed.

In the end, Woods and E were the heroes. The group opened SmackDown asking for a straight answer at last before threatening to leave the company, and that seemed to be the ticket to end Vince’s charade. Vince booked them into a tag team Gauntlet Match. If they won, Kofi would get his match at WrestleMania.

The Power of Positivity won.

What’s at stake?

Ohhhh, you know. The WWE Championship. The fans’ enjoyment of the show. The company’s reputation. No biggie.

And credit WWE for how wonderfully this has all come together. They took a really inopportune injury, rolled with the fans’ reaction to a wrestler, and told the perfect story up until this point. I want to make that clear before I bring up my next point.

Here’s the thing: we’ve had very, very few black WWE Champions over the years. That’s extremely unfortunate, and a loss for Kofi at WrestleMania would not only lead to some serious backlash from the fans, but it would also bring some very awkward questions to WWE’s doorstep. And when you consider the ardent support Kofi has and how well this story’s been told up until this point...c’mon. Let’s stick the landing.


Who will win?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Kofi Kingston
    (385 votes)
  • 13%
    Daniel Bryan
    (58 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats