A series of matches with Shelton Benjamin – including one in Auckland and one in Christchurch – has showcased what a versatile talent Kofi Kingston is.
Kofi took time out during the WWE’s New Zealand tour of Christchurch to sit down with NZPWI Editor Kirsty Quested.
Kirsty Quested: Is this your first trip out here to New Zealand?
Kofi Kingston: This is my first trip to New Zealand.
So far we haven’t really had a chance to see the sights or anything, I kind of missed out on an opportunity today, but I decided to make some phone calls, call home and check in with everybody… but so far so good, everybody seems pretty friendly.
I saw your blog on WWE.com today…
It was good you got time to do that.
Yeah, I’m going to be doing a blog, pretty much every day that we’re down here, so here in New Zealand and Australia, for the next five days, so pretty cool to get that opportunity to kind of take notes, and let people know what’s going on.
So, what first got you interested in wrestling?
Well, I’ve always been a fan. I was actually born in Jamaica, but my family moved to the United States when I was pretty young, so I’ve been in the States for quite some time, you know. I would always watch on Saturday mornings, and I never really got a chance to see the pay-per-views or anything, but guys like the Million Dollar Man, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, I was always into the kung-fu people, the kicks and everything, so Ricky Steamboat, Orient Express, it was always something that intrigued me. I actually used to have a Bugs Bunny doll that was about 3 feet high, practice wrestling moves on him, like the figure four, and everything, and then my brother and sister grew up to be and age where I could practice on them, but before that I was practicing on Bugs.
It was good though, it was good.
You know what, to be honest, every day it changes. I am influenced by a lot of people, mainly Ricky Steamboat, I always wanted to cheer for him… and again, he was the Dragon, he had the martial arts background… there’s just, there’s so many, I wouldn’t even know where to begin… Bret Hart, Owen Hart… a lot of people, I can’t even begin… people ask me who my favourite wrestler is, I can’t really put my finger on it, because like I said, I like so many different people, and it changes every day.
You’ve spent time in all of WWE’s training territories, even the ones like OVW and DSW now that are not used anymore; what’s the experience been like getting to work in all three – FCW, OVW, DSW?
I originally got signed in December 06 to Deep South, and we trained with Bill DeMott which was more of a rigorous type deal. Bill is no longer with us, and Dr. Tom Pritchard took over, but I did have the opportunity… it’s almost like working the territories – you know, back in the day we used to have territories, now WWE kind of owns everything, the big wigs – with the different developmental territories it gave us the opportunity to learn from different styles. Al Snow up in OVW had a different philosophy than Bill DeMott in Deep South, who has a different philosophy from Dr. Tom, so we’re very fortunate to be able to learn from different people, who definitely have paid their dues in the industry, and are willing to pass that knowledge on to us. So it’s just been a great experience, to learn different styles, basically.
What do you think of WWE ditching OVW and DSW as training territories?
I’m not sure… for me, I’ll train wherever they tell me to train, I really don’t get involved in the business aspects… I know that there were probably some business reasons behind them doing that, but me, I focus on my training and what I’m doing at the time, again, it was great to learn, I’m glad I did get the opportunity to learn from them while they were still there, so as far as the different territories, again it was, they were good, it was good to have that diversity. But, FCW, Florida Championship Wrestling, we have so many people down in Florida… Gerald Brisco’s down in Florida, Batista’s down in Florida…
Dusty Rhodes, he’s down there, that’s right, so now it’s like we have everything in that facility, so it’s kind of getting a taste of everything without necessarily having to go to different places.
Yeah, everything and more, everything and more, yeah mon. ECW has been great, it’s been a lifelong dream to wrestle for WWE, and to actually… you know, we shot the promo videos, the vignettes, the introductory videos, November, December, throughout January, and I actually debuted midway through January, January 22nd of this year. So it has been most certainly a journey, and I’ve only, I haven’t even been involved, maybe about 6 months? And so much has happened, I’ve learned so much, because being on the road with WWE is a lot different than being in the developmental, and you learn so much in the developmental but it’s like – you know nothing, when you get to WWE. So it’s a whole learning experience, and I love learning, I love doing what we do as WWE athletes and superstars.
How have you found it being on the road? Especially getting to visit different countries like this?
It is a lot of travel, but at the same time it’s most certainly worth it, because if I wasn’t with WWE, I would not get the opportunity to go to places like New Zealand or Australia, or South America, Central America, Europe… and to go there and perform, in front of different types of crowds and different types of people, so it’s definitely pretty cool, living the dream.
What’s your response to fans who complain that ECW is not the way it used to be, back in the 90’s? What’s your response to that?
Well, again it’s something different. If they’re expecting the ECW of old, you know they might not get that, but if they tune into us they will get something that is worth watching, you know it’s definitely a different product, but it’s still a very good product. We have several very good athletes, and a lot of new up-and-comers – Evan Bourne, he just debuted a couple of weeks ago, he’s a phenomenal athlete and you’ll be able to see a lot of him in the future. We have Kane, Chavo, CM Punk, a lot of different people and different styles, and everyone’s trying to struggle to get to the same place, so they will like what they see, even though it’s not exactly what it used to be.
Had you ever been a fan of that hardcore style, is it something you’d want to give a go yourself?
You know, I never really got… I was never a hardcore fan, if that makes sense, back in the days, but I have got the opportunity to learn from some of the people, the ECW Originals, Tommy Dreamer, he’s a big help, definitely a good guy to have in the locker room in terms of, you can always go to him with any kinds of questions or concerns that you have and he’s always willing to help out, the youths and the people who are up-and-comers, so I wasn’t involved with ECW back then, but the ECW Originals now, we’re able to take that knowledge from guys like Tommy Dreamer, Stevie Richards, guys who built the old ECW and are kind of passing the torch on to us.
And I imagine that since Tommy Dreamer had been working as a trainer in OVW, that must help to have him there in the locker room.
Yeah, absolutely, and again, he knows a lot that goes on behind the scenes, things that you as a rookie would not necessarily know. He’s always looking out for us, he’s definitely a good person to have around.
So, what’s it been like working with Shelton Benjamin?
Well, Shelton Benjamin, he’s been a thorn in my side to be honest. I think he’s starved for attention. He doesn’t like the fact that new, young, up-and-comers are coming in, and that’s what ECW is doing, bringing in new guys. And you know, Shelton’s been around for quite some time, maybe he feels that he hasn’t gotten the respect that he deserves, or whatever. I will say that I do enjoy working with him, I feel like he’s very competitive, and he’s very competitive, so we kind of feed off each other, you know what I’m saying? So, Shelton wants to be the best, he tries to do something, I want to be the best, so I try to do something, so we’re kinda, we’re always trying to top each other. So it’s been good, it’ll be a good experience for me to further my career.
I’m looking forward to working with CM Punk, to be honest.
He’s got a great style.
He has a great style, a unique style, I also have a unique style, so I think we would match up pretty well. Hopefully, let him cash in that Money in the Bank, and become champion, then let me get my shot at him, you know what I’m saying. So, we’ll see.
What’s been your most memorable match so far, in ECW?
Um… most memorable match… well, I would have to say my first match. Coming out…
How did it feel, stepping out there in front of the crowd?
Oh, it was incredible, it was almost overwhelming, because again this is something that I have wanted for so long… you go through developmental and you know where you want to be, and sometimes, it takes a while for it to happen, but when it does happen, everything happens so fast. All of a sudden you get a call, and it’s time for you to come up and you have to be ready. Even throughout the day, things change so much, you don’t know exactly what’s going on, and I try not to count my chickens before they hatch, you know what I’m saying? I don’t get excited until things actually happen, so when I actually walk through the curtain, I definitely… I’m getting goosebumps right now thinking about it… I came out, and kind of sighed, and exhaled, and realised that this is it, it’s going, it’s happened, and it’s going to be a wild ride.
What’s something that fans would be surprised to learn about Kofi Kingston?
Something that fans would be surprised… um, well, in terms of diet, I eat whatever I want to eat.
Lucky for some.
[laughs] And here I am complaining, but my metabolism is very fast, so if I don’t eat a lot of calories and whatnot, and I get really skinny, and I’m already one of the smaller guys on the roster, you know what I mean? So I’m just trying to stay big and trying to stay presentable you know what I’m saying? And a lot of people are stronger than I am so I really have to stay on my A-game, as far as being up to weight and just being bigger I guess.
So, what’s the future hold? Where are you looking to go from here? You’ve just started, so what’s the big plan?
Well again, me, I don’t look too far in the future, I don’t count my chickens before they hatch, right now, I want for me and Shelton to be settled, because every time I get involved in a match, he always seems to want to poke his head in, and interfere, so I’m having trouble focusing on what’s going on, I feel like him and me need to… you know what I’m saying, finish up, finish business you know, because quite frankly he’s a thorn in my side, I’m getting kind of tired of him to be honest. But ultimately you know, I think everyone’s goal in WWE is to be champion, right now I’m in ECW so my goal is to be ECW Champion for sure, and it’s just a matter of getting there I think, I’ve had a pretty solid start, so just try to keep it going.
Well Kofi thanks very much for your time today, and all the best for that, and we’re really looking forward to seeing you in action here tonight.
All right, I appreciate that, nice to meet you.