It is rare to see an African wrestler at the top of the chain in professional wrestling entertainment.
Although Africans are generally well-built with good physique and muscles; you rarely find any African wrestler in WWE, TNA, or AEW.
To headline any of WWE’s big events like the ‘WrestleMania’, ‘Royal Rumble’, ‘backlash’, ‘survivor series’, and the likes is the dream of every professional wrestler.
A dream that takes years of dedication, sacrifice, determination and courage to achieve.
The story of Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah is an interesting one of grit, determination and the ‘never say never spirit’ of Africans in sports. Kofi is a man of many ‘firsts’. The African has won all major belts in the WWE. Including the Intercontinental title, the United States title, the tag-team titles, and the WWE Championship. Winning his illustrious championship on the grandest stages of them all- WRESTLEMANIA in 2019.
Kofi Kingston is the first African-born world champion in WWE history. On top of that, he’s the 30th Triple Crown Champion and 20th overall Grand Slam Champion.
Against All Odds – Kofi Kingston’s Inspirational Story
Kofi Kingston’s rise to the top of the ladder in WWE was not an easy one. The Ghanian wrestler who had to overcome many challenges and obstacles on his arduous rise to stardom.
In fact, perhaps to get more attention and acceptance, he first ignored his African roots and settled for a Jamaican billing.
Compare the six-foot Ghanian wrestler to the likes of John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, and Triple H; it’s clear Kingston did not receive the same recognition throughout his career.
Between 2008 and 2019, Kingston collected titles including Intercontinental champion, United States champion, and a tag team champion. Despite what seemed like an already successful career in Wrestling, one thing was missing; a WWE Championship. Without that, Kingston was perceived as a B-plus wrestler and not the A-plus performer that he genuinely was.
WWE boss, Vince Mcmahon, and WWE star Triple H needed more convincing of Kofi Kingston’s abilities.
But as an African, Kofi never gave up and continued to surmount every obstacle that came his way.
The Way To The Top is Never Easy
Kingston’s first break came as the replacement for the injured Mustapha Ali to the gauntlet match at the elimination chamber. There, he eliminated Daniel Bryan, Jeff Hardy, and Samoa Joe sending him to the elimination chamber proper. He secured that title by defeating Randy Orton. Next, he was onto another gauntlet match where he defeated Sheamus, Cesaro, Rowan, Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton before losing to Daniel Bryan; who was not initially part of the plan.
WWE boss McMahon gave Kingston one more chance; but this time around, his fate was not solely in his own hands as Mcmahon. The WWE announced a gauntlet match for Big E and Xavier Woods ( Kofi’s tag team partners.) The duo was able to defeat five other teams, including Bryan and Rowan, to give Kingston his championship match against Bryan at WrestleMania 35.
It took the Ghanaian wrestler 11 years to achieve his dream moment and win his dream title in the WWE.
In April 2019, Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35 to win the WWE Championship.
The championship bout between Bryan and Kofi was voted Match of the Year. It was a match Kingston could have lost as Daniel Bryan proved himself a worthy opponent.
Daniel Bryan locked Kingston into the ‘LeBell Lock’ for what was the third time in the match, but somehow Kingston would not just give up. He refused to tap out or submit.
Kingston then stomped on Bryan repeatedly in the head. As Bryan got to his feet, he was on the receiving end of ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and BOOM, the referee counted 1, 2, and 3, and an African champion emerged.
Re-connecting With His Roots
In 2019, Kofi returned home to Ghana for the first time in 26 years; but this time, as a WWE Champion.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kofi said, “My journey to this point has been a big struggle. But after all these years that WWE’s been around, for me to be the first Africa-born champion is awesome.”
“To go back and reconnect with my roots is important. And now to go back as WWE champion, it means so much more … to be able to go and talk to kids and provide a sense of motivation and inspiration is so powerful”
– Kofi Kingston.
Africans are generally winners, and many have made a mark on various sports all over the world. Kingston is an entertainer with class, prestige, and a high level of dedication and love for Professional Wrestling. He is also highly charismatic and charitable.
Combat sports are not new to Africans. With the continued success of Kofi Kingston on the WWE landscape, in a few years’ time, one can expect to see more wrestlers of African origin taking to the ring. Performing flips, kicks & tricks, winning the Royal Rumble and headlining big Wrestling events be it in WWE or any other major Wrestling franchise.
Is the WWE the next major sports league to be concurred by Africans?