In the world of professional wrestling, sometimes things just happen so organically that fans just have to get behind a certain wrestler. This year, the WWE Championship picture was a bit blurry after Seth Rollins won the Royal Rumble and chose Brock Lesnar for his opponent at the WrestleMania 35 pay-per-view. SmackDown Live scheduled a gauntlet match to determine the last entrant in the Elimination Chamber WWE Championship match against Daniel Bryan. Although Randy Orton won, Kofi Kingston was undoubtedly the star of the show, defeating Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe.
Kofi continued to gain the adulation of the fans after his effort in the Elimination Chamber match, replacing an injured Mustafa Ali. However, this match was won by Daniel Bryan, who retained his title. Kingston was the final participant in the match before getting eliminated by Bryan. On the road to WrestleMania, it was still uncertain as to who was going to be Bryan’s opponent. On the March 19 edition of WWE SmackDown Live, Kofi was able to defeat Sheamus, Cesaro, Rowan, Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton, celebrating his seemingly official spot as the number one contender for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35. However, Vince McMahon had other plans and sent Daniel Bryan out to squelch Kofi’s hopes.
By this point, the fans were well behind the organic storyline of Kofi, and he was getting the biggest chants on the WWE roster. Big E and Xavier Woods of The New Day had one more opportunity to insert Kofi Kingston in the WrestleMania WWE Championship match, if they were able to successfully run through the gauntlet tag team match. By the end of the gauntlet, The New Day was able to defeat Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Shinsuke Nakamura & Rusev, The Bar, The Usos (who decided to forfeit out of respect to Kofi Kingston), and Daniel Bryan & Rowan to lock Kofi’s spot for WrestleMania.
Interestingly, five years earlier, Daniel Bryan was in the same position of defying the odds to prove himself to be a main event superstar. Leading up to WrestleMania 30, Bryan was in a heated feud with The Authority’s Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, who both categorized Bryan as a “B-plus player.” However, the WWE Universe adamantly supported Bryan, and he was able to get an opportunity to be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between Randy Orton and Batista if he defeated Triple H at WrestleMania. Bryan defeated Triple H to start off WrestleMania, then he outlasted Orton and Batista to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
WrestleMania 35: Kofi Kingston vs. Daniel Bryan
This year, Daniel Bryan was on the villainous end of the storyline, with Kofi being the person who was not considered main event material by Daniel Bryan and Vince McMahon. However, Kofi defeated Bryan at WrestleMania 35, winning the WWE Championship for the first time in 11 years with the company.
While the current era of pro wrestling is filled with gray areas, namely a lesser distinction between as babyface (good guy) and heel (bad guy), the storyline of WWE Champion Kofi Kingston proved that the core of pro wrestling fandom still revolves around the babyface getting the comeuppance against the heel. Kingston has retained the WWE title by continuing to defy odds, defeating competition such as Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Sami Zayn.
The title reign of Kofi Kingston has been the first time in many years that a storyline has pulled on the heartstrings of the WWE Universe. The WWE superstar from Ghana, West Africa used an opportunity on SmackDown to propel into one of the best WrestleMania storylines in WWE history.
At WWE Extreme Rules, Kofi defeated Samoa Joe using his Trouble in Paradise finishing move. Earlier in the evening, Big E and Xavier Woods defeated Daniel Bryan & Rowan and Heavy Machinery in a triple threat match to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championship for the fourth time, making it six overall WWE tag team title reigns.
With the momentum of Kofi Kingston, he could very well be heading into SummerSlam as WWE Champion, with names such as Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, and Roman Reigns looming in the shadows for a title match.
Also, at Extreme Rules, Paul Heyman stated that Brock Lesnar was going to cash in the Money in the Bank contract on either Kofi or Seth Rollins. At the end of the mixed tag match of Rollins and Becky Lynch against Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans, Lesnar cashed the contract in on Rollins to become Universal Champion for the third time.
With reigns with the WWE Championship, United States Championship, Intercontinental Championship, and Tag Team Championship, Kofi Kingston is one of the most decorated WWE superstars ever. Since his win at WrestleMania, he has been a fighting WWE Champion, and the fans continue to support this emotional journey. While this journey will eventually come to an end, this title run has certainly established Kofi Kingston as a main event superstar.