Reviews

TJR Review: WWE 24 – Kofi Kingston: The Year of Return (WWE Network Special)

“Time honestly stopped for a second. And I just couldn’t believe that it actually happened. This is what I wanted more than anything in the world.” – Kofi Kingston on winning the WWE Title at WrestleMania 35 this past April.

The documentaries on WWE Network are one of the highlights of WWE’s streaming service, in my opinion. I tweeted earlier in the week that the documentaries that WWE puts out there with WWE 24, WWE 365 and Chronicle (among others) are among the best things that WWE does. I watch all of them, but I don’t write about all of them. Sometimes I just want to lay on the couch and not write about it. However, after watching WWE 24 about Kofi Kingston, I was compelled to write because he’s a great guy and I think it’s important that WWE fans learn more about the superstars we watch in the ring.

The WWE 24 on Kofi Kingston runs 1:06:05 on WWE Network. It premiered on August 11, 2019 and it is available on demand. This is not going to be a play by play review of everything because it’s long. Instead, it’s just a collection of my thoughts going in order as I watched.

Growing up as a Wrestling Fan

Throughout the documentary, there were candid comments from Kofi’s best friends Big E and Xavier Woods of The New Day. Kofi’s wife, mom and dad also spoke on the documentary. We also heard from some friends of Kofi’s from when he was going through school. Kofi talked a lot too, but I like hearing other people’s perspective as well. The one constant that they all brought up was that Kofi grew up loving professional wrestling. It wasn’t something he just decided to do when he was bored. He genuinely loved it.

The documentary told the usual story of a wrestler’s start in the business. In Kofi’s case, he loved pro wrestling as a kid. He did amateur wrestling in school and the funny thing is, when he first went to a practice, he asked the coach where the ropes were. He didn’t realize it was freestyle wrestling with just a mat. From there, he wrestled all through high school.

They showed clips of Kofi’s tryout tape for WWE Tough Enough, which was dated on May 30, 2002 and Kofi joked that it was just awful. Kofi’s friend and his wife talked about how even though he didn’t get on Tough Enough they knew he wanted to become a wrestler.

He finished university, got a job working at Staples, but he wasn’t happy and then he pursued pro wrestling for Chaotic Wrestling in Boston. Kofi’s wife and dad both talked about how they supported him because they knew how much he wanted to do it. He got noticed by WWE’s Steve Keirn (former Skinner), signed by WWE in September 2006 and off he went to begin his career as a WWE superstar. There was a great video showing fans at Chaotic Wrestling that were cheering and genuinely happy for him when he got the news about going to WWE.

Before I get into more of his story, one of the more fascinating parts about this was how much they showed clips of his trip to the country where he was born, Ghana. The last time he was there was 26 years ago and he just turned 38 years old, so it had been since he was 12 years old. Kofi had his mom with him, he met a lot of family members that he had never seen before and he was shown talking to the President of Ghana. There was a moment in the car where he called Big E and Woods to tell them how some kids randomly chanted “New Day rocks” and it made him realize how powerful their message was. Kofi said if he gets to go to Ghana again, he wants Big E and Woods to be with him.

Making it to WWE

There were some behind the scenes footage of his Kofi Kingston vignettes on the beach with a Jamaican accent. He told a story of Vince McMahon on the headsets where Vince sounded like he wasn’t impressed with Kofi’s vignettes, but Kofi joked that he survived even after those videos.

They mentioned the fake Jamaican accent that went way on October 19, 2009 on Raw. That ended during a promo to hype Bragging Rights where Kofi told his team to focus on winning. Triple H was like: “Aren’t you supposed to be Jamaican? What happened to your accent?” It was just WWE’s way of putting an end to fake accent gimmick by making a joke about it. Kofi said that allowed him to be more of himself.

When they got into his singles career in WWE, they talked about Kofi winning titles like the IC Title, US Title and Tag Team Titles while showing highlights of all his championship victories. He always thought he could do more. His wife talked about how Kof is not a complaining type of guy, but he would have ideas and he was frustrated. It was a bit of a surprise that they didn’t touch on the Randy Orton rivalry at all, although we are seeing that play out on WWE today.

Forming The New Day

The beginning of The New Day as a group was the next topic they covered. There were a lot of funny behind the scenes clips of Kingston, Woods and Big E having fun. Woods had the idea of teaming with Big E and they wanted Kofi to join them, so that’s where it began. Big E said that the more they talked, they knew they would be great together. There were some clips that never made TV, but they kept doing promos. Eventually, Vince McMahon told them he wants them to preach positivity. That led to the New Day vignettes with a choir in the background.

They spoke about how the reaction to the group wasn’t strong as first. They didn’t say it this way, but WWE wanted them to be faces and the fans hated them. That led to New Day as heels, which led to Vince McMahon giving the group more freedom to do some fun stuff. At WrestleMania 32 in 2016, they were a babyface team (that entered the stadium in a giant cereal box) and that’s what they have been for over three years.

Kofi on New Day: “It’s been the wildest ride ever. To get to where we are as a group. I thought that I was having fun and then I met them (Big E and Woods)…and I went oh…hold on, this is the way it’s supposed to be.”

Kofi told the story about being the replacement for (Mustafa) Ali at Elimination Chamber in February. Ali suffered an eye injury (and I believe a concussion) during a match, so he was out. He got a call from Road Dogg, who was a lead Smackdown writer at the time (now he’s in NXT), who told Kofi that he was replacing Ali and asked if Kofi would be ready. Kofi said he would be. That led to a Gauntlet Match on Smackdown where Kofi had an impressive showing for nearly one hour before tapping out to AJ Styles.

Living His Dream at WrestleMania 35

At Elimination Chamber 2019, when Kofi got inside the chamber, that’s when he really felt the support of the WWE fans that wanted him to become the WWE Champion. Kofi talked about how when he pinned Randy Orton, people believed that this could happen. The reaction to Kingston that night was tremendous and even though WWE Champion Daniel Bryan pinned Kofi that night, you could tell that Kofi was going to get that WWE Championship push.

When Kofi was backstage at WrestleMania 35 this year, you could see numerous former WWE superstars and legends walking by wishing Kofi good luck. One of those guys that wished him well was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, who Kofi talked about as an inspiration to him. Ricky is one of the best babyface wrestlers ever and Kofi is known for being a babyface for the majority of his career, so it’s easy to see why he was inspired by Steamboat. Kofi took a moment to talk about how cool it was to have that moment with Steamboat.

I also liked how they showed clips of Kofi in the backstage area at WrestleMania in this huge waiting area along with other wrestlers, staff and loved ones. Kofi talked to his two sons while making sure his parents, brother and other family were ready. At one point, his youngest son asked if he got to go to ringside to watch the match, Kofi said yes and then he asked his dad if they could go in the ring, Kofi wasn’t sure…but as we all know, they did go in the ring. It was a good clip because it was a reminder that Kofi’s a hard-working dad that’s doing this because he loves it, but more importantly than that, he wants to provide for his family just like all of us would want to do.

The way they showed the highlights of Kingston vs. Bryan really captured the magic around what was a special match. I praised it a lot when it happened and watching this again, made me love it even more. The New Day trio all talked about how incredible it was for an African American like Kofi to win the WWE Title at WrestleMania this way. It was fun to watch Kofi’s sons in the rings with him and how much his oldest son enjoyed the moment.

One of the highlights of these documentaries is what happens backstage. The New Day trio got a big hug from Vince McMahon as you can see above. It’s been reported many times that Vince is a huge fan of the trio and it showed in his face. You could tell how proud he was. Kofi was also greeted by legends like Edge, Road Dogg and Shawn Michaels (who said it was terrific). A lot of current stars like Rusev (who told Kofi he brought tears to his eyes) and The IIconics were shown as well.

Kofi: “If one thing doesn’t happen in this story then the story is not complete and it doesn’t end like this.”

The last few minutes featured Kofi talking about the reactions to his WWE Title win at WrestleMania. They showed fan videos as well as former WWE Superstars like MVP, Shad Gaspard and JTG celebrating Kofi’s moment because they know how important it was to Kofi as well as the next generation of black wrestlers. MVP and Shad even had tears in their eyes. It was a genuine moment worth celebrating.

Xavier Woods talked about how Kofi was the first African born WWE Champion ever and it’s a ripple effect that will last until the end of time because Kofi will be who they talk about as the first. Kofi was at a loss for words when Woods put it like that. Kofi isn’t the first black World Champion in WWE, but he is the first WWE Champion born in Africa and as Woods said, that’s pretty special.

Kofi’s final words for the fans went like this: “Thank you for your support, for believing in me and thank you for everything you have done. I am forever indebted to you because without the fans, none of this happens. I can’t thank you enough. It took 11 years to get here, but I’m glad I stuck it out and kept on going because the support you guys have shown me has made it all worth, so thank you guys. I appreciate you guys, man. Thank you.”

TJR Thoughts: I thought it was a fantastic documentary profile on Kofi, who is one of my favorite WWE superstars. They did a nice job of not only telling his life story about how he wanted to be a wrestler and he’s living his dream, but they also covered how influential he is going to be because he was the first African born WWE Champion. Xavier Woods said it best when he talked about how this was going to have an effect on people for as long as there is professional wrestling and Kofi will be remembered as a trailblazer. I believe that to be true too.

Kofi is one of those guys in wrestling that you don’t hear bad things about. I’ve probably written reviews of hundreds of his matches. He’s always been very good, but until he broke through this year, he was seen as a midcard wrestler or a tag team wrestler. As we all know, it’s hard to break through. The WWE roster has 200 people on it these days, so to be one of the few that truly gets that WrestleMania push is pretty remarkable. If Ali didn’t suffer that injury prior to Elimination Chamber, none of this was likely going to happen. It’s crazy how things turn out. To me, Kofi beating Daniel Bryan for the WWE Title was the best moment on WWE TV this year. It was tremendous and the fans reacted to it as a special moment because it was. It was fun to relive that again on this documentary.

The only thing I felt that this documentary was missing were some comments from an executive in WWE whether it was Vince McMahon (he rarely talks on these documentaries), Triple H, Michael Hayes or somebody that could give us another perspective of what they saw in Kofi. Obviously, Kofi has had a strong connection with the fans for many years, especially as part of New Day, but I would have liked to hear somebody from “the office” talk about it a bit.

Check out this documentary if you’re a WWE fan and want behind the scenes access to what his journey was like to becoming WWE Champion. It’s very well done.

Here are some extra clips that weren’t shown on WWE Network, but they are interesting to watch too.