This past Friday we finally got the debut episode of WWE Smackdown on Fox. All eyes were on WWE and how they would translate to a major broadcast network. For many long-time WWE fans, the company’s decision to dethrone WWE Champion Kofi Kingston (and more so the manner in which it happened) shows that the company still has a long way to go.
A story that took 11 years to build and a six-month championship reign all went up in a flash. In less than 10 seconds, WWE took its’ best, most organic story in years and threw it away for mainstream media headlines. Kofi Kingston’s quest for the WWE championship was one of the hottest storylines heading into Wrestlemania and led to one of the biggest feel-good moments in the company’s history. The culmination of his 11-year run, his six-month championship reign was far from perfect, but it represented something much bigger than a title.
Kofi is the first African-born world champion in the history of WWE. In the company’s 67+ years of existence, it has consistently come under fire for their hesitation to make African-Americans their top champions (Triple H’s burying a red-hot Booker T comes to mind). With Kofi getting his Wrestlemania moment, he inspired millions around the world with his story of perseverance and determination. He was a consummate professional, he did his job and he did it well and for that, it seemed like the company finally revered him as its’ best.
Until it didn’t.
When Brock Lesnar returned a few weeks back to challenge Kingston to a title match on the first episode of Smackdown on Fox, fans were certainly dismayed. Lesnar is consistently booked as an absolutely unbeatable monster and it was clear to fans that WWE was going to put the belt on Lesnar in an effort to boost ratings and generate more interest in casual fans. That’s exactly what happened.
This past Friday, Lesnar did indeed defeat Kofi Kingston to capture the WWE title. Since then, fans have been up in arms. Not because Kofi lost but because of the manner with which it happened. Other WWE superstars have lost to make Lesnar look strong, but Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose & more all got a lot longer than 9 seconds. While losing may have been inevitable for all of them, they all got the chance to look good in defeat. To make fans believe even for just a second, that maybe an upset COULD happen.
This is the entire match. The entire culmination of Kofi’s 11-year story and six-month championship reign made to look like nothing in front of over 4 million TV viewers.
As the champion for the past six months, Kofi has been presented as a smart, resilient and tough champion who welcomed all challengers and always rose to the occasion. After all that, he was relegated to a 9-second squash match on the broadcast’s debut episode where he blindly ran straight into an F-5 from Lesnar. All the defining traits of his character, gone in a flash. Even this wouldn’t have been a huge issue if it was clear that he was going to get another opportunity down the line or would still matter in the main event scene. Instead, he was dispatched and quickly rolled out of the ring, so Brock Lesnar could be confronted by yet another former UFC fighter, Cain Velasquez.
Since then, WWE’s decision has been under fire and fans and fellow wrestlers have been voicing their displeasure with the company and praise for Kofi.
Wrestling fans are more aware than ever about the hierarchy and politics that exist backstage at WWE. By presenting two part-time attractions as the main event above wrestlers that spend over 300 nights a year traveling and performing, WWE is greatly handicapping their future going forward.
Last Wrestlemania, WWE gave Kofi Kingston and millions of fans a fairy tale ending. It’s just a shame that when it came time to end it, they failed them.