Kofi Kingston: Pressures of Being Champion, Connecting With WWE Fans, Lookahead to Extreme Rules
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston opens up about his meteoric rise last year which saw him have his moment at WrestleMania 35.
Kofi Kingston will defend his WWE Champion belt against Samoa Joe at Extreme Rules (WWE Photo)
WWE Champion Kofi Kingston has had a meteoric rise since the start of the year 2019, from being thrown obstacle after obstacle, called 'just B-plus player' to being crowned WWE Champion at WrestleMania 35.
Since that magical night at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, the New Day member has put together an unbelievable run and stepped up to the plate when it has mattered. But the 37-year-old faces his stiffest test yet when he goes up against Samoa Joe at WWE Extreme Rules this Sunday.
News18 Sports caught up with the WWE Champion prior to the big match and spoke to him about his journey so far and what Sunday holds for him and the New Day members.
Q: It has been an extraordinary year for you. You have had to fight multiple battles for an opportunity, having your WrestleMania moment by winning the WWE Championship and now a successful title run so far. How do you sum up the first half of 2019?
Kofi: It has been amazing so far. A lot of times, with WWE, we are always on the move. Even the day after WrestleMania - the day after the best moment of my career, myself and Becky Lynch - we both had to do media at 4 am. So, we only got 2-3 hours of sleep. And then we were right back to work. So, I never really had a whole lot of time to take everything in.
I feel like I'm still working hard and trying to make this an amazing title reign. So, I haven't had a chance to sit down and think about it. The journey has been going very well, it has been an amazing 2019. Initially, 2009 was my best year in WWE, this year has certainly surpassed that.
I'm just trying to keep this going and do right by the people that wanted this so badly. I was very fortunate to have people demand that I had that title match at WrestleMania against Daniel Bryan, and now I want to make sure that the fans had taken the right decision by choosing me to be their champion.
This means a lot to me. I consciously make sure to put out the best performance that I possibly can for the people who got me here.
Q: You see someone like Brock Lesnar - a superstar from the outset and a once in a generation athlete. But the WWE Universe relate to you a lot more - having to grind your way up from the bottom, and even when you're on top, having to face massive odds. Is there a focused effort on trying to connect with the WWE Universe?
Kofi: 100 per cent! The reason why my WrestleMania movement was so big was because my story was so relatable. Everybody has had some kind of struggle. At some point in your life, you've been told you can't do something, that you're too small to do something, you're not good enough. You have a choice to make - you can either listen to what people have to say and prove them right or go out there and prove them wrong by going all out and doing what you want to do.
I love being that example for people that are going through that struggle. They can look up to you, relate to you. They can look to be and my story, take motivation and go out and achieve what they want to. Even if I wasn't a champion, I would make sure that people understand that you have to work as hard as you possibly can to achieve your dreams.
Q: Coming to Extreme Rules, let's go back four years. The New Day won their first tag team championship, beating Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. Tell us a bit about that night and when you go up against Samoa Joe this Sunday.
Kofi: Any time we get to wrestle Cesaro and Tyson Kidd, it is an honour. They are so good in the ring. You can feel how special a match is when you're in there.
We actually just watched that match back all together. Big E weighed 40 pounds more that he does now. It is funny to look back and see all of us, trying to figure it out. We're still in a stage we didn't know what our characters were. The chemistry was definitely there but we didn't have it fine-tuned. But people knew there was something special. At that time, we were able to get under the people's skin.
It is interesting to go back and look and that match and look at where we are now. It is a testament to our development and how far we have come. A lot of times, when we are trying to tell people about the New Day and the story behind it, where we came from, about the Booty O's, pancakes, the ice-creams, rainbows and unicorn horns, a lot of people don't understand and rightfully so. It is hard to truly understand what we have been through unless you were actually there.
But nonetheless, we are now doing great things now. At Extreme Rules, (Xavier) Woods and Big E are going up against Daniel Bryan and Rowan for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. So by the end of that, you might see the New Day carrying all the gold.
(WWE Extreme Rules is set to take place on July 14 at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia and will be telecast in India on the Sony Network.)
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