It was just about one year ago when KofiMania officially ran wild. It was April 7, 2019, when Kofi Kingston, a 15-year veteran who had long been viewed as a “good hand” in WWE but was never elevated to the top of the card, finally broke through the glass ceiling and became the first African WWE Champion after pinning Daniel Bryan. In the year since, Kingston had a 180-day championship run, defeating the likes of Randy Orton, Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler along the way, putting him in the top 20 longest reigns in modern WWE history.
Since losing the championship to Brock Lesnar, Kingston has stayed at or near the top of Smackdown’s tag team division alongside his New Day stablemate Big E. The pair will be competing this weekend at WrestleMania 36 in a tag team triple threat match for the Smackdown tag championships against the Usos and John Morrison and the Miz — well, maybe. Speculation has been running rampant online that this match was changed during the pre-taping of Smackdown and WrestleMania, which we ask Kingston about, among many other topics (such as just who is WWE’s Joe Exotic). Read on, and feel the power!
UPROXX: You’ve competed at nearly every WrestleMania since 24 — you even competed twice at Mania 31. Besides the obvious answer of Daniel Bryan, what’s been your favorite Mania match?
KOFI KINGSTON: You took away the easy answer for me! There’s a couple. My first time really being on the WrestleMania card was the Money In The Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 25. That was really special to me. The standard was set so high with ladder matches, so for us to be able to go and put on a ladder match, and for me to do some things that had never been seen before, I thought was great. It was one of the first times I came back through the curtain and everyone had a standing ovation. It was because we were able to do so many cool things. I take a lot of pride in that.
The first WrestleMania the New Day actually got to compete in was great, because everyone told us we sucked, and here we are, on WrestleMania. We fought so hard to get on TV as a group, and for us to actually be on WrestleMania, it was such a crowning achievement. We made moves because we believed in ourselves, and eventually people came around and started believing in us.
Even this year’s WrestleMania is so unique. You would never plan to have WrestleMania in this way, shape or form, but this is the situation we’re in. When we all get past this whole Coronavirus situation, we’re all gonna look back and be like, “Hey, remember that WrestleMania when we went to Orlando and taped in front of no people at WrestleMania?” It’s gonna be something that’s historic.
When you’re thinking about your old WrestleMania matches, how often do you watch tape of yourself? And when you do, are you looking for mistakes you made as ways to improve yourself, or just as a way to reminisce?
To be honest, I don’t really watch a whole lot of old footage these days. On Twitter, there’s a couple of people who do, “On this day, this happened,” and the day will come up where I wrestled so-and-so, and sometimes I’ll have no recollection of the actual match. But every WrestleMania is so different. I’ve never been in the same kind of match year to year. If I ever go back to watch any kind of footage, it might be, “Okay, we have a ladder match coming up,” and I’ll go back and watch different ladder matches we’ve done just to get the juices flowing — and that’s even rare too. I usually have a pretty good memory as far as what we did. I go a lot more on feeling and how I felt at this WrestleMania or at this ladder match, let’s try to emulate that feeling in this match, or go that route.
I don’t really have a whole lot of time, especially being at home with my family most of the time — my time is very limited. Unfortunately I don’t spend a whole lot of time watching older stuff I’ve done. If I watch older stuff, it’s older stuff other people have done to see how I can emulate the greatness that came before me.
Given that WrestleMania was pre-taped this year, this will be the first time you’ll be able to watch it with your family on your couch in your own home, which is probably pretty surreal. When the show was taping, did you purposely go out of your way to avoid the other matches as to not be spoiled of the outcome?
It was a crazy scene. We didn’t really get to sit around and watch what was going on. Any WrestleMania, before you wrestle, you don’t really watch everybody else’s match because you’re so worried about getting your own match together. It was kind of the same thing this year, because we didn’t know what was being taped from the arena. We were concentrating on our own stuff. I’m excited to see how the other matches went. There’s a lot of results that I don’t know. It’ll be really, really cool to sit down with the family and watch it, because it’s something that’s never happened before, and it probably won’t happen again until I retire.
You’re in Austin right now, which has an amazing food scene. Where are you getting your WrestleMania spread from?
Reports came out last week that your scheduled WrestleMania match — a triple threat tag title match against the Usos and the Miz and John Morrison — was turned into a ladder match that you were not listed as being involved with. Can you comment on that?
Well that is the greatness of WrestleMania, all the rumors that have been going around. That’s why we watch. We got two special days of jam-packed WrestleMania action, and we’ll all have to watch and see how things unfold and we’ll all find out together. But I’m enjoying all the rumors and the buzz that’s going around, as far as what’s happening and what’s not happening. The one thing about taping these shows in advance is that you do have these rumors. It’s interesting to see just what is true and what is not. Like I said, it’s a long-winded non-answer, but you gotta stay tuned and watch. Smackdown is tonight, and WrestleMania is the next couple of days.
This is by far the most time you’ve had at home in years. How has it been readjusting to not only being home all day, but being a full-time dad with your kids also at home all day?
It’s great! I love it, man. My son is whispering in my ear, “I wanna FaceTime, lemme Facetime!” I literally have one kid on my lap and the other one over my shoulder. I did an episode of [Fox Sports’] First Things First — I woke up real early in the morning and I warned them that my kids would probably come bursting in, and sure enough, three minutes later, my son came bursting in and he was a part of the interview. This is just the life I live.
But I’m loving it. I’m getting to spend so much time, quality time and quantity time, with my kids that I wouldn’t normally get to do. For all the uncertainty and the weirdness that’s going on with everybody being at home, it’s actually giving me a sense of normalcy because I get to be at home like a normal dad spending a lot of time with kids. It’s kind of been a blessing to be able to spend all this time with my family. I love it.
I have to imagine the New Day‘s podcast, Feel The Power, has been a huge help keeping the three of you connected in a physical sense since Xavier Woods has been off the road due to injury. But now the three of you are once again scattered because of the COVID outbreak. How are you handling being apart from your two stablemates?
It definitely helps to see their faces. We’ve been recording the podcast remotely. It’s strange to not see and feel and touch my amigos, but I did see them just last week — it feels like an eternity that we’ve been home for so long.
Being able to have this podcast has been great not only for us but there’s a lot of people who say that listening to the podcast has provided a sense of levity for them throughout these difficult times. That’s really what it’s all about for us, entertaining and putting smiles on peoples’ faces. We’re lucky to be experiencing this chemistry on a different platform, and it’s been successful. I think about what I’m going to do post-WWE, and this podcast has legs.
I loved the two-part episode about the TV show March Madness. So I have to ask you: What is your all-time favorite episode of Nip/Tuck?
Oh my gosh. I thought you were gonna say Dragon Ball Z! How dare you? How dare you? Nip/Tuck?!? I am flabbergasted that you could leave the fate of Game Of Thrones to a coin toss. Are you kidding me? Are you joking? March Madness, indeed.
It made for great entertainment on the podcast, though.
For you guys! I was hot!
Speaking of Game Of Thrones, who was your favorite character? Who did you identify with the most?
I think I identified the most with Jon Snow, but my favorite character was undoubtedly Khaleesi. You were rooting for her, then you were rooting against her. Her frustration in the way her hands were tied and the power she got, and the effort she took to not be like her father but then ended up being just like her father… I thought it was a beautiful story arc for her in particular.
Last question: Have you watched Tiger King yet?
My wife and I just finished the finale yesterday.
Great! I’m going to give you a person from the show, and you tell me who from the WWE locker room best represents that person.
First up: Joe Exotic.
I gotta say Michael Hayes. One hundred percent. The outfits, the blonde hair, the attitude, don’t give a care about nothin’ in the world. Gotta be Michael Hayes.
Woo-hoo, oh boy. I don’t know. Is there a Carol Baskin on our roster? I don’t know. That’s a real accusation to throw at someone.
Oh boy. Doc Antle has got to be… maybe Baron Corbin? He’s a little slimy, you know.
How about Joe Exotic’s first husband, John Finlay?
These are difficult, man! Everybody has all their teeth, you know?
Cesaro lost a few.
I was gonna say Cesaro, because he’s got the buzz cut like him too, but he doesn’t have any tattoos. You know what? I’ll say Jamie Noble. They got the same accent.
Last but not least, Jeff Lowe, the guy who stole Joe Exotic’s zoo. Who’s the heel?
I probably should’ve saved Corbin for this one! Maybe Kevin Owens? I know he’s a good guy now, but you can’t forget that Kevin Owens turned on his best friend, Sami Zayn. We welcomed Kevin Owens to be an honorary member of the New Day at one point and he turned on us. Maybe KO.
WrestleMania 36 airs Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network and via pay-per-view.