Kofi Kingston is currently enjoying a renewed wave of support from the WWE Universe, with millions of SmackDown Live viewers hoping that the scintillating high-flyer from Ghana will finally get a fair shot at the WWE Championship on April 7 when he squares off against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35.
The top of the mountain may finally be in sight for Kofi, but his career in the turbulent world of pro wrestling has been anything but an easy ride since joining the company 12 years ago. The first obstacle on the road to wrestling stardom was dealing with people that still clung on to an archaic view of what a sports entertainer should look like.
Silencing the detractors, he signed with the WWE in 2006 and impressed critics with his stellar work ethic, while training in Deep South Wrestling, which was a developmental territory at the time. Once added to the main roster, Kingston shined on the big stage when he defeated Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship in 2008, then gave us a stirring performance during the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania 25. “There were people who told me that I wasn’t big enough, or strong enough,” Kingston told us. “I may not have been the biggest, or the strongest, but no one is faster than me."
Ready to Rumble
Despite consistent popularity with fans and innovative performances in Royal Rumble matches—where he would escape elimination with elements of parkour using the ringside barriers and steps to avoid having his feet touch the floor—Kingston often found himself lost in the shuffle. A 2009 feud with Randy Orton highlighted a more intense side to Kofi, and critics began to feel that a World Championship could not be far away, but the feud was abruptly scrapped and Kingston had to once again rely on his exciting performances just to stay in the mix.
As a kid, Kingston had looked up to the smaller athletes, and clung on to the examples that his predecessors set. “I’d see Rey Mysterio, he was very influential and inspiring for me,” said Kingston. Mysterio eventually broke through the preconceived notions of the "small guy" and went on to win gold at WrestleMania 22.
The New Day
It was in a backstage conversation that Kingston connected with Big E Langston and Xavier Woods, two fellow competitors that were also rarely being used on TV, and The New Day was soon formed. After a shaky start, The New Day found their footing when they were allowed to let their natural humor and charisma come through. As one third of The New Day, Kofi reignited his career. The popular team hosted WrestleMania 33 and made an unforgettable entrance on a flying carpet at the Crown Jewel event. They’re more than just flash, though: Professionally, The New Day holds a WWE record by defending the Tag Team Championship for a whopping 483 days—the longest run in history.
Having found his groove with The New Day, Kingston seemed happy to have transitioned to tag team wrestling, but that also meant that a World Championship reign as a singles competitor seemed to be further away than ever. That notion was given an about-turn in February when he was brought into a gauntlet match as a last-minute replacement for the injured Mustafa Ali.
At 37 years of age, Kingston not only impressed in the gauntlet, but he almost won the whole thing, wrestling for more than an hour and only falling to a fresh AJ Styles. Following this history-making performance, the WWE Universe, and his New Day partners, campaigned passionately for Kofi to get a World title opportunity. While a Kofi/Bryan title match hasn’t been officially announced for ‘Mania just yet, it’s only a matter of time before this WWE veteran is giving his time in the spotlight.
School of Hard Knocks
So how has Kingston managed to maintain his health and hold on to his status as a regular performer in WWE for more than 12 years?
“There’s no real secret," Kingston said. "I think it’s a mindset. People are always looking for the next big diet, like let me get on this diet, or let me get on that diet. I think you have to have a mindset where it’s not about being on a diet. You just need to make changes in your life to where you are always thinking about what you are putting into your body, you know?" He added, "For me, I’ve been pretty consistent about the things that I put into my body."
“The main thing with my training is that I have a personal trainer, Rob McIntyre, from Hard Knocks Gym," Kingston said. It doesn’t hurt that McIntyre is also the man who trains John Cena, another decade-plus WWE veteran who has only gotten better as the years have gone by.
"He comes up with all the workouts that I do and over the past, like, eight years or so he’s always switching things up," he said. "I’ve done Olympic lifts and I’ve done power lifts. I’ve done high rep stuff, and then I’ll do heavy, low rep stuff."
As Kingston has matured, he’s been keen to avoid the latest trends and fads, instead opting for traditional routines, but rotating them to keep things fresh. “I think the key for me has always been to switch it up, because then our bodies are always guessing," he said. "You don’t want your body to get used to one particular program. Otherwise you will find yourself getting into a plateau."
He added, “Direct your workouts towards whatever your goal is, at that point in time. For me, that’s been key in terms of being able to maintain a level of fitness and athleticism, it’s the fact that my body is always guessing because of the different workouts that I do.”
This focused and sensible approach to health and fitness is why, after 12 years on the road, taking thousands of bumps along the way, Kingston may be in the best shape of his life as he strives to finally lift the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35 on April 7.
Watch WrestleMania 35 on the WWE Network. For more information, and to get your first month FREE, visit wwe.com
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