Over 11 years after making his debut in WWE, Kofi Kingston is
now a world champion. In beating Daniel Bryan on Sunday night at
WrestleMania 35, Kingston not only reached a career milestone but made
WWE history as well.
The WWE championship, which the company debuted in 1963, had been around the waist of 50 different men in its history. Kingston on Sunday became just the second African American (following Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and first native African to hold WWE’s signature title.
As is occasionally the case in WWE, Kingston’s elevation to the WWE
title match at WrestleMania was a classic case of fans forcing the
company to change its plans. Kingston, a longtime fan-favorite both as a
singles competitor and member of popular tag team New Day, filled in
during a gauntlet match for an injured superstar (Mustafa Ali) and
nearly won despite starting the bout in the ring. Kingston pinned Bryan
to open that match. H then nearly won an Elimination Chamber match for
the WWE title in booking that was supposed to mirror the plan for Ali.
While Ali was reportedly supposed to main event Fastlane against
Bryan with a returning Kevin Owens planned to be Bryan’s ‘Mania
opponent, the overwhelming fan support Kingston gained during those
aforementioned matches forced the company to change its plans.
Owens and Ali (inserted as a last-minute challenger) lost to Bryan at
Fastlane with Kingston eventually earning his title shot at
In addition to Kingston’s victory being of historical importance, it
is also socially significant for WWE fans as his ascension to the top of
the company’s ranks provides much-needed representation for its