Former WWE Champion Kofi Kingston was on a recent episode of Table Talk, where he talked about the fan reaction to him becoming WWE Champion at WrestleMania 35. Kingston acknowledged how sentimental the moment was for everyone, but pointed out that a wrestler like The Rock should also count in the records of being a black WWE Champion.
"I agree with you too, [D-Von]," Kingston said. "I think it's sometimes kind of silly that people try to not count The Rock in that category because, regardless of what you look like, you are what you are, you know what I'm saying? Like, he's black. Whether he is half-black or black, he's black.
"So, I definitely take a lot of pride and sentiment. Like you said, I think you know for a long time that people of color, especially African-Americans, have been waiting for someone who looks exactly like them to hold that championship title. I mention it all the time on Twitter and social media. The moment that that happened, I got so many different messages and people in tears. And there's a video actually of Shad and MVP crying, you know what I'm saying?"
Kingston spoke more about the fan reactions that he saw on social media. He talked about how important it was for people across all generations to see someone that looks like them be WWE Champion.
"What's important to me in this business is to be somebody that inspires other people to go out and do great things," Kingston expressed. "Like winning championships is cool and everything like that. I think when I was a kid, that's what I wanted to do. The more seasoned I become, the more I realize that it's really all about just paying it forward and being able to motivate people to go and follow their dreams.
"So, for me to be someone that young African-Americans can look to and say that anything is possible because I saw it happen, it's a bigger difference than saying it's possible in theory, right? You think anything is possible in theory, but to say it's possible and believe that it's possible because it has happened is entirely different.
"So because you've seen it and there were just so many people on social media who would send messages, like I said, and adults who never thought they would see the day that they saw someone who looks like them become WWE Champion, and they got to see that! And little kids in the same way, the parents of the kids looking at their children watch this moment, it's so powerful. My kids as well, being able to do that and in front of them, and to have them be in the ring with me while all of that was happening in front of 85,000 people. [It was] just amazing."
Kingston also discussed the historical lack of African-American champions in wrestling. While many of WWE's current champions are African-American, Kingston notes that a lot more work needs to be done.
"Just amazing when you think about the gravity of the situation, because you think about where we were in wrestling like 100 years ago, or even like 50 years ago, you just didn't see a lot of African-American people in positions of championships. Or position of, I guess, substance, for lack of better term," Kingston explained. "Last month, the majority of the champions in the company were African American. And it's not like 'oh yeah we did it!' But at the same time, it's like, yeah, like, we've come a long way as a society to be in this.
"So we take a lot of pride in that. We take a lot of pride in being able to say we have come a long way. I think, obviously, with the climate of where we are in society today, we definitely have a long way to go. But there are little pieces that happen and tell us that we are kind of marching one step at a time to be where we want to be ultimately in society. So, the fact that wrestling and WWE can add a little small piece in the grand scope of things is pretty awesome, and for me to be the center of it all is pretty amazing and pretty humbling in a lot of ways."
The start of "KofiMania" was when Kingston was chosen as a replacement at Elimination Chamber after Ali had to step out due to injury. Kingston contemplates whether his big push to win the WWE Championship would have happened if Ali never had gotten inured.
"It's just amazing because my goal was to become WWE Champion at some point, but I never sat back and said, 'I want to be the first African-American or African-born WWE Champion'. That part of it, never," Kingston admitted. "It just kind of started happening, you know what I mean? And then again, I think about the fact that if Ali doesn't get hurt before Elimination Chamber, does this happen? You know, are we even talking about this moment? Because this wasn't part of the plan."
Kingston discussed what made his big run so special. He explained how it wasn't just the black community that was behind him but all people of different races who were inspired by his story of someone who's worked hard for 11 years for their moment.
"It wasn't like someone came up to me years ago and said, 'you know what Kofi for 11 years we're not even going to let you sniff the WWE Championship. We're not even going to let you have a match on the 11th year,' like this wasn't written," Kingston stated. "You know what I'm saying? Like, this just happened organically, like, why it was so special because it was out of nowhere.
"Then the people started demanding it, and it wasn't just African-Americans. It was people of all different races. And I think, to me, that's the best part, because my story is one of struggle, right? Anybody who has been through anything or has wanted something is at a point in that journey where you think, 'Hey, can I do this? I don't know, the cards don't look like they're lining up! I don't know!' But then they can look to my story, and somebody who has stuck with it, and fought for 11 years, and tried to control what he can control, and just gave it his all for 11 hard years, and finally! You know the opportunity came and I was ready to like capitalize on that opportunity because of all the preparation."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Table Talk with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.