This Sunday, Kofi Kingston will face his biggest test yet, as he puts his WWE Championship on the line against Randy Orton. 10 years ago, this would seem like a highly unlikely event once yo put the history of these two superstars into the proper context. Both Randy and Kofi have had interesting journeys ever since Kofi first started to get white hot as a singles competitor. So how have these two fared for themselves since their feud 10 years ago?
What I appreciate is that Kofi and Randy acknowledge the fact that these two do have history together. That is what makes this feud so interesting. Back in 2009, Kofi Kingston was still getting his feet wet as a singles competitor. He had primarily been in the mid-card as an Intercontinental Champion and a tag team champion. Randy Orton had constantly been in the main event scene, feuding over the WWE Championship with some of the top faces on the RAW brand such as John Cena and Triple H. However, enter Kofi.
Orton lost the WWE Championship in an Iron Man match against John Cena at Bragging Rights 2009. At one point in the match, his Legacy stablemates, Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes, interfered on his behalf before Kofi came out to even the score with a chair. Randy believed that is what cost him the title, and thus, a feud began. This led to Survivor Series, where each man would captain their own Survivor Series teams. Kofi would pick up the biggest win of his career up to that point where he pinned CM Punk and Randy Orton in rapid succession in what proved to be a major upset.
Then, you had their famous brawl at Madison Square Garden, where Kofi went absolutely insane and destroyed Orton to protect his honor.
Of course, who could also forget that moment when Kofi Kingston destroyed the car Randy was given by Legacy in an act of straight up provocation? This act would only stoke the flames of their future feud and would carry it into the late winter months.
Kofi had been getting the better of Orton not only in matches, but in actions out of the ring. However, when they had a one on one encounter at TLC in 2009, Orton would get the better of Kingston in an encounter with Legacy banned.
However, in spite of all of the events I just told, perhaps the most memorable portion of their feud up to this point came from a moment that wasn’t intended to happen. It’s actually something to this day that is still subtly referenced by Orton himself. It came on the January 11th, 2010 edition of Monday Night RAW in a triple threat match featuring Orton, Kofi and Cena to determine who would face Sheamus at the Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship.
Orton was scripted to win, but there was a specific manner in which he was supposed to win. Orton was supposed to hit Kofi Kingston with his signature punt kick. Therefore, Kofi was supposed to stay on the ground to take the bump. However, Kofi kept getting up. Some may say it was an act of symbolism in his career that he wouldn’t stay down, but in that moment, he was supposed to. Instead, he kept getting up as if he was supposed to take an RKO. Orton tried to keep pushing Kofi back into the ground, but when it became clear Kofi wasn’t staying down, a frustrated Orton hit a more ferocious RKO than he usually hits to pick up the win. Afterwards, Orton would yell the now famous “STUPID! STUPID!” line at Kofi’s direction before going for the pin.
In their feud towards Summerslam, Kofi kept mentioning that Orton “used his influence” to prevent him from reaching the top. This was the moment he was referencing. Kofi Kingston was actually booked to win the Money In The Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 26, but because of the heat Kofi received from Orton for this one mistake, that changed everything. He was consistently booked to lose, all the heat he had generated in late 2009 didn’t spark so much as a single ember and he would be relegated to mid-card status for basically the next decade. He would also miss out on TV time and be relegated to WWE Superstars frequently.
While Kofi wouldn’t reach main event status, he still achieved success holding the Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship and Tag Team Championships. However, it was starting to get abundantly clear that would be his ceiling. Kofi and Orton would cross paths again in 2014 on an episode of RAW. During this time, Orton was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and he faced off against Kofi Kingston. There was no buildup, no incentives, just an ordinary match between two competitors. Thing is, Kofi Kingston won, and he won cleanly. Kofi pinned the WWE Champion!
One would think that this would lead to a push for Kofi, or at least getting him a title shot since he, you know, pinned the champion. But no, nothing came out of this. This was one of many instances that Kofi was talking about on his road to WrestleMania 35. He would pin superstars while they were champions and pick up big wins, but he would never get any major opportunities that he felt he deserved. It was as if that one mistake four years prior had kept coming back to haunt him.
It was at this point in Kofi’s career where he actually said it wasn’t fun for him anymore. He treated WWE like any normal day job, where he would just come in, collect a paycheck and be on his way. Before the end of 2014, however, somewhat of a change in fortune came for Kofi although he didn’t know it. Big E and Xavier Woods created the now legendary faction called The New Day with Kofi, and it indeed was the dawning of a new day for Kofi. As we all know, however, New Day got off to a rocky start with the crowd. They were originally a face faction and people started chanting that they sucked. However, they used that to gain even more heat and become a heel faction. They became entertaining, some of the best parts of RAW on a weekly basis and turned dirt into gold.
Kofi would win six tag team championships with The New Day and enjoyed prosperity. Even if Kofi had ended his career just as the third member of a trio, he’d still lock up a future WWE Hall of Fame induction as a member of the New Day. However, the opportunity of a lifetime for Kofi came. On the road to WrestleMania, Daniel Bryan was set to defend the WWE Championship in an Elimination Chamber match against Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Ali. However, the last competitor wasn’t able to compete because of who? Randy Orton. Therefore, Kofi was granted an opportunity to replace him and this led to the biggest push of his entire career. The push that seemed to have eluded him his entire career was here. Countless boundaries was put in front of him in the form of gauntlet matches.