WWE's Kofi Kingston: On Bringing the Boom, Regaining the IC Belt & RAW's 20th Anniversary
Kofi Kingston’s WWE trophy case is busy. It houses his Tag Team Championships times three, the U.S. belt times two and his most significant achievement, the Intercontinental Championship four-times over. It’s been nearly five years since he first captured IC gold on Raw from future hall of famer Chris Jericho. Ahead of Raw’s 20th anniversary, Kofi Kingston shares with TheWellVersed his favorite Raw moments, the legends he hopes come commemorate the event and the secrets to stealing the show.
TheWellVersed.com: What’s your favorite Raw moment?
Kofi Kingston: Oh gosh, there’s been so many man. There’s been so many. As a fan, the one that comes to my mind that everybody knows is the choppy choppy incident with Val Venis and Kaientai, which was so ridiculous. I remember going to school the next day like, “Oh my god, you see what they tried to do to Val Venis?” There are so many moments. Mae Young giving birth to a hand, you know? The whole buzz with the Montreal screw job after Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had their match.
There are so many great moments with WWE Raw and it’s just a testament to how great it is and how entertaining it is that we have to be. We’re the longest running episodic television show in the history of the world! Again, it’s a testament to how entertaining you have to be on a weekly basis.
TWV: What about in-ring?
KK: When 1-2-3 Kid beat Razor Ramon, that was amazing. To me, I always wanted to be the guy that got picked out of the stands to have a wrestling match, which is an impossible dream, but the next best thing was 1-2-3 Kid, this skinny wiry kid, getting in the ring with Razor Ramon, one of the best Intercontinental Champions of all-time, one of the most prestigious championship titles, and actually beating him.
You talk about an underdog story? I always told people I wanted to be in the WWE. I told them in middle school, in high school, and they were always laughing at me because I was too small. Now, I go home like I probably can’t do it. Flip on the TV and there’s 1-2-3- Kid, beating Razor Ramon, this small, wiry kid becoming champion, you know what I mean? It was an unbelievable feeling that really provided me with that sense of motivation, well if he can do it then I can do it too.
TWV: Somewhere there’s a small, wiry kid watching Raw for the last few years. What’s his favorite Kofi Kingston moment?
KK: It’d probably be somewhere along the lines of destroying Randy Orton’s car or putting him through a table at Madison Square Garden. I know those are probably two of my highlights. One of my favorite moments is beating Chris Jericho to become Intercontinental Champion. Again, talking about [the] Intercontinental Championship is one of the most prestigious titles for me growing up, so to actually do it, hold the same title that so many greats held was pretty cool for me.
TWV: You mention Madison Square Garden and WWE is a pay-per-view product. What gives Raw those moments that are as big as a PPV or MSG show?
KK: I always tell people that Raw is like a variety show. We are so much more than just wrestling. The entertainment letter on that acronym WWE I think is the most important part. That’s what separates us from anything else on TV—the constant form of entertainment. The way we’re able to tell stories. We tell different stories in the ring. We have different twists and turns. That’s what keeps people coming back. If we weren’t able to entertain, then we definitely wouldn’t be on TV as long as we have been.
Just to be able to—again, going back to the ridiculous things like the thing with Kaientai, we’re just able to do ridiculous things that keep people talking. I think that’s the most important thing to reinvent yourself. Over time, we’re constantly just reinventing ourselves. That’s key. That’s key in keeping people coming back. You have to keep them interested.
TWV: You pulled off a handstand at Royal Rumble last year to stay in the match. Do you have another awe-inspiring moment for that match this year?
KK: Hopefully, the best way to top what happened last year is actually to win the match, you know what I mean? That’s my goal right now. I’m sure I can guarantee I’ll do something in there that you haven’t seen before. What that is, I don’t really know, but I usually don’t think about these things until about 24 or 48 hours before the match. That’s when I let the cauldron start bubbling, start thinking when my back is against the wall. Right now, I don’t know what that is, but if I were to win, I think that would be the greatest stunt of them all. That’s what I’ll be concentrating on.
TWV: When pulling off a move like that, are you ever surprise at your pops?
KK: When I think about things to do, I’m always putting myself in the fan’s shoes, you know? Just being, ‘If I was in the crowd and I saw this, I know this would make me come out of my seat.’ I think that’s the key. I’ve always been a fan. You have to have the ability to put yourself in that fans seat and ask yourself what you’d want to see. That’s what I try to deliver.
TWV: What legends do you want to see on Raw’s 20th anniversary show?
KK: There are so many people. I was always a big fan of “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. Maybe, I know he’s been back a few times now. If he and I were able to have a match together on the same team or even Ricky Steamboat, or even Shawn Michaels, it’d be like a full circle type thing because these are the guys that I used to watch growing up.
“Superfly” would be flying all around, Steamboat would be doing his marital arts and come off the top rope. I try to emulate a lot of what I saw back in the days. If we were able to go out on the same team, I think it would be kinda just like old school meets new school kind of thing. It’d be like the video game we had come out All-Stars, where you had your old school characters and your new school guys and you could actually match up a lot of the guys—Macho Man versus CM Punk, “Superfly” versus myself. That’s what I’d compare it to. We’ll see. I’m excited to see who’s going to be there. I know for the 1,000th episode we had so many people a lot of us we’re thrown back to our childhood. I’m sure for the 20th anniversary it’ll be much of the same, topping what we did last year at the 1,000th episode.
TWV: Do you have unfinished business with IC champ Wade Barrett?
KK: Hopefully. People know that I lost the rematch on Smackdown last week, but in my mind, that title still belongs to me. We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks but I’ll say it’s not over the fat lady sings and I don’t hear anyone singing.
TWV: With so much talent on the roster, how do you raise the bar for yourself as a performer?
KK: I think that’s the mentality that you have to have. No matter where you are on the card, you have to steal the show. There’s a lot of guys in that position: myself, Dolph Ziggler, Wade Barrett. You always want to go out and be the match that people are talking about. That’s what I try to do regardless of where I am on the card. I always watch every match that I have.
I look at them and I study them. I’m always a student of the game and see what I can do a little bit better. I think that’s helped going into the next match. I know what mistakes I made and what can make the match that much better. I’m always trying to become a better storyteller in the ring.
TWV: So what’s the secret to being a showstopper?
KK: Studying tape, listening to the crowd, understanding what you did well, how you can embellish what you did well and minimize what you don’t do well. It’s just like being a great author to write a great book, being a great director and being able to direct a good movie. It’s the same exact thing just in a different platform. We have to do it every single week and find out different ways to tell that good versus evil-type story. Once you can master that or at least think about mastering that, put yourself in that right frame of mind, good things will follow.
TWV: What’s the next chapter Kofi Kingston’s will write?
KK: It’s funny. We’ll have to wait and see. For me, I’m always trying to get better. I don’t know what the future holds. All I know is every time I go out there, I will be the guy that people are talking about for one reason or another. I can definitely guarantee that will continue to be the case. As far as the exact future, I wish I knew. A lot of times I’m the last one to find out what I’m even doing on the show. We’ll see. We’ll keep our eyes and our eyes open and keep trucking forward.