The Night That Made Kofi Kingston

Just a few hours ago, the WWE Elimination Chamber pay-per-view went off the air and as I write this, there’s a tremendous buzz on social media toward the main event of an otherwise lackluster show. Too often in the modern era, the global machine of the WWE churns out countless hours of content to satisfy its TV contract (it will see record numbers toward the end of this year) and serve the stock price. To keep that revenue machine moving forward, a strictly regimented formula is usually followed. Without any credible competition for the sports entertainment dollar since the WCW shutdown, a level of unintended complacency surfaces within the WWE product.

If the general public wants to watch pro wrestling then they watch WWE, and instead of demand, corporate agenda dictated the direction of the product. Truth be told, even a month and a half away from Wrestlemania, the biggest show of the year, there wasn’t anything particularly buzz worthy around the product. Sure, Seth Rollins won the Rumble this year and will get a match with Brock Lesnar, but the 50/50 booking aspect of the current landscape created a certain level of mediocrity in terms of star power. Granted, Rollins is a bigger star than Mojo Rawley, but as far as the ability to sell tickets, would more tickets be sold if Finn Balor was in that spot instead of Rollins? It appears that the WWE model puts the brand over ahead of any particular star. The advantage of that is when a competitor gets injured or leaves the company, there isn’t usually a noticeable dip in numbers. On the other hand, when the talent become more or less interchangeable, there’s no always a way to boost business either, which leads to an eventual plateau of the company.

Again, Balor and Rollins are stars within the WWE stage, but will they be noticed by the general public? They certainly have the talent, but the presentation of a talent has much to do with the perception of the main stream audience. In fact, how many currently on the roster are legitimate money-drawing competitors? Brock Lesnar’s run was stale two years ago an a lot of his shine has worn off at this point so even his ability to draw is contained to the fan base that already follows the product. Maybe it’s because his involvement the past few years was designed to get Roman Reigns over and it didn’t work, but the whole Brock experiment has a “been there, done that” atmosphere to it.

Perhaps the reason for that is that management determined the agenda they wanted to push and continued to try to tell the audience what they should want to watch, which is essentially the basis of the Charlotte/Becky Lynch angle right now. The problem is, Becky is supposed to be the rebel, but last week on Raw, she apologized to the authority figures, which is totally illogical for her character. Thankfully, the crutch-swinging Lynch redeemed some of that credibility at the pay-per-view, but it appears that WWE brass has the plan to include Charlotte even if it would be more effective to give Becky the spotlight. Charlotte is very talented, but why shoehorn her into this spot? Becky spontaneously and organically got over so why not make the most of that to make her the biggest star possible, which will make her a bigger asset for the company?

The organic aspect can be a key to how a star is made, and the best example of it is probably the Austin 3:16 promo that put Stone Cold on the path to become the biggest star in the history of the business. Kofi Kingston, who signed a developmental deal in 2006, debuted on the infamous ECW brand in 2008. Always a tremendous athlete, Kofi was regularly featured during his initial years on WWE TV, but didn’t seem to have the promo skills to get further up the card than the IC title. In some ways, he was almost typecast as a “good hand” and that would’ve doomed him to the mid-card for the rest of his WWE career.

When the New Day was assembled in 2014, it spontaneously got over with the crowd, and three individuals that floundered became one of the most popular acts in the company. Nearly five years later, The New Day maintains that popularity and it works so well that they should remain a stable for their entire run, which is a credit to their ability to portray their characters.

When Mustafi Ali, who was elevated recently using the simple formula of being booked competitively against bigger stars, was replaced in the WWE title Elimination Chamber match because of an injury, Kofi was added to the match. The story that Kofi and Daniel Bryan told in that match is one of the things that makes pro wrestling such a great sport. Kofi performed to a main event level and the match was structured to showcase him on that level. Kofi always puts in the effort and has dedicated more than a decade to his WWE career. The organic scenario saw the fans rally behind Kingston, hoping to see him get the surprise win. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a long term plan the writing team crafted, but rather a recent replacement because for an injury. Kingston’s performance had the audience cheering for him to be rewarded after a decade of work toward the title.

It was the first time in probably five years that there was a legitimate emotional investment toward the result of a WWE main event. Too often, the feedback of WWE shows are based on what the audience doesn’t want to see and management discards it. This time, the audience was genuinely thrilled that Kofi got a chance to prove himself. Make no mistake about it, Kofi Kingston made himself a main event star at the Elimination Chamber. Honestly, the best part of this scenario is that the defeat did nothing to take away from the moment, this pay-per-view will not only be known as Kofi’s night, and the WWE title match should be set for Wrestlemania. This allows for a build up to the moment that Kofi finally claims the title at the biggest show of the year.

In my opinion, the biggest takeaway from this entire scenario should be that it doesn’t take a room of 24 TV writers to make a main event star. It doesn’t take 50/50 booking or lame segments either. An over baby face and an over heel that are given the chance to present a compelling story can be enough to get an audience emotionally invested in a match. That emotional investment is what ultimately draws major money in sports entertainment. Daniel Bryan and Kofi Kingston delivered one of the most compelling performances in the WWE in the past few years and it should be booked as the WWE title match at Wrestlemania this year.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta