Kofi Kingston had a fairytale 2019 right up until Brock Lesnar defeated him for his WWE title in seven seconds on SmackDown’s first episode on FOX.
The New Day man spent 11 years grinding his way to the top of WWE and finally won the top prize in the industry at WrestleMania 35.
Kingston is now over in the UK with the rest of the WWE roster as they embark on their second UK tour of the year and before you know it, WrestleMania season will begin building once again.
talkSPORT was lucky enough to catch up with Kofi at the WWE’s first pitstop on their tour, Brighton. You can watch the full video at the top of the article, the best bits are below:
Hi Kofi! Laying all the cards on the table, I didn’t love how you lost the WWE title to Brock Lesnar so quickly and I think that speaks for a lot of fans. Was it disappointing for you that you couldn’t even go out there and give the people a proper match?
For me especially and anyone in this position as a WWE performer, I think we want to be the best and put on the best product we can and, yeah, it was a bit of a disappointment to go out there and have it go so quickly on the biggest night of SmackDown. You know, we’ve been talking about this deal with FOX and I’ve been lucky to have been at the forefront of it all since the beginning. So, to have it end like that was a little bit disheartening but it is what it is what it is, it’s not like I can really do anything about it!
You show up to work one day and it’s like ‘this is what’s going to happen and it’s like ‘OK’. This is our job. The thing about it though, they talk about Ric Flair being a 16-time champion, but you can’t be a 16-time world champion without losing it 15 times. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. Hopefully there’s more reigns to come and for what the experience was, it was almost six months to the day and like you said, one of the longest reigns in recent history. SO I’m just real fortunate to have done that and to have had so many great matches with such great competition, so I’m just glad to have experienced that.
A lot of people had an opinion on you at the beginning of your reign – guys like Jim Ross, Superstar Billy Graham – and it was mostly about your size and having too much fun. I think you showed intensity at the right times during your run, do you feel like you proved some people wrong?
The funny thing is, I don’t really care about anyone’s opinion, but everybody wants to have an opinion. It’s my job to go out.. and people talk about ‘Oh, he’s not big enough to be the champion’ – well, I’m the champ. So I am big enough to be the champ. I’m the one setting the mould of what a champion looks like and that’s always been the goal. So, it’s fine. I don’t normally go on Twitter and read stuff and start getting mad, because it’s a situation where, especially when you’re at the top, where everyone is going to have something to say. I’d rather have you saying something that not saying anything at all. Whether your opinion is positive or negative, it doesn’t affect me. I’m always going to stay positive, I’m always going to be climbing the mountain doing what I need to do to get to the top. So, it’s fine… talk. Go ahead! It’s all good.
I’ve always wondered what Vince McMahon is like after you lose a world title in WWE. Does he thank you for the run after you come through the curtai? Is it just business as usual and carry on? What’s it like?
We definitely had some words. It was positive because it was very special for both of us. You saw the documentary, when I came through gorilla after winning, he had tears in his eyes and we’re all hugging, myself, Woods and [Big] E. Because, it’s been a wild ride, man. Vince has been on the ride with us and he was actually one of the only people to support the New Day when we were first coming up. Granted, we didn’t want to be three preachers [laughs], but he was the one that actually gave us a chance to go out there and be a unit. So it’s been a journey and a journey for all of us.
Just going through the ups and downs and him thinking we were going to be this widely accepted thing and we’re going to go out there and preach positivity and then all of a sudden, people turn and the jaded universe didn’t like being positive?! You know what I’m saying? But we were talking to him and he was like ‘Yeah, I thought this was going to be positive and you guys were right, so let’s see what we can do’ and he gave us the opportunity to be bad guys. It was an emotional journey for all of us, but he’s seen a lot of things in this business and it’s his job to make sure things keep progressing forward and he wanted to go in a different direction right then. So, like I said, I’m just fortunate to have had the experience.
Let’s touch on the role Daniel Bryan played in making your moment at WrestleMania. He seemed to take pride in putting you over and he did the same for Adam Cole just this week! How much do you appreciate him and his contribution to your moment?
He’s honestly one of the best on planet and when it’s all said and done he’ll go down as being one of the greatest of all-time from so many different aspects. He can do it all in the ring, on the mic.. he can make you hate veganism, right?! [laughs]. Then the next week he makes you chant ‘YES!’ so he’s a guy that has a very special connection with the crowd and as far as him being my opponent, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
A few years earlier, he was in the exact same position where the people are the ones who are driving this force and are demanding that Daniel Bryan be in the main event of WrestleMania and now here I am, a few years later in the exact same position where the people are driving that desire for me to be there and Daniel Bryan, ironically enough, is the one trying to stifle it. Now he’s calling me a B-plus player. So you talk about storytelling and I talked about serendipity at the beginning of the interview – it had to happen exactly the way it happened. There couldn’t have been a more perfect opponent than Daniel Bryan for me and not to mention – well, I did mention it but I’m going to say it again – he’s one of the greatest in the ring, always wanting to do new things and taking people on an emotional journey. He’s good, he’s real good.
What wrestler ever made you starstruck?
Probably Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat. For a while he was producing for us and he was like a coach. So oftentimes he was telling us what we were supposed to be doing or the stories we should be telling in our match and I’d be just sitting there like ‘you’re Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, man. Oh my god’. Then I’d be like oh my god, I didn’t hear what he said! [laughs].
There’s been a lot of those. Ricky Steamboat, Shawn Michaels obviously. Rey Mysterio another one. We talk about sneakers, we’re both sneaker-heads. We’ll be sitting there talking about sneakers and I’ll be like man, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be sitting here talking about Balenciaga sneakers with Rey Mysterio – there’s way too many.
What’s the worst bump you’ve ever taken?
It wasn’t technically a bump, but when I had the gauntlet match earlier this year – I can’t remember if it was the first or second one, I don’t know – but Erick Rowan came out and messed me up! At the end of it, he hit me so hard in the back with a chair and I mean literally, my eyes are welling up and I’m like ‘I can’t cry. Is it OK to cry? It’s probably OK to cry’. Like, that really hurt. And then I’m thinking ‘I’ve still got another half-an-hour to go!’ Without a doubt, the most painful strike, the most pain I’ve ever felt in a ring. I wanted to die!
What’s the worst thing Vince McMahon has ever said to you?
When I first debuted and I was [puts on Jamaican accent] ‘Kofi Kingston from Jamaica, man!’ I had these vignettes of me on the beach foiling these bad guys who were doing all these dastardly things and I’d say [puts on Jamaican accent] ‘Looks like there’s trouble… in paradise’ [laughs].
Terrible vignettes! Awful. It makes me cringe to watch them to this day. At the time, I’d go to the shows and I’d be able to listen to them on the headset while it was going on. And as my vignette comes on, I can hear Vince on the headset and he goes [puts on Vince’s voice] ‘Oh, these are barely, barely passable’.
I’m like ‘Oh my god! We still have five left! What am I going to do? My careers over before it even starts!’ And then I convince myself like you know what? He probably knows I’m on the headset, he’s ribbing me. It’s going to be fine. It wasn’t until six months later after I debuted when I realised how crazy things are and there’s no way he knows who is listening on the headset at any one time. So he had no idea that I was there and he had a legitimate concern over my vignettes and I’m like ‘Oh my god’.
Thank god I realise that six months later otherwise I would have been nervous and I would have felt the pressure to perform extra like ‘it wasn’t a waste of money, Vince! I’m really good, please! Don’t fire me!’