Kofi Kingston has been fighting his whole career, but at one point he had to actually try to fight Vince McMahon
Early in his WWE run, Kingston was struggling to find his footing. Still, he was a charismatic prospect who had already made his presence felt on WWE TV. As recalled in Chris Jericho's 2014 book "Best In The World (At What I Have No Idea)," the two, Vince McMahon, and others were on a plane to a press conference to promote WrestleMania 26. Upon exiting the plane, Vince McMahon quipped "Kofi, maybe one day you'll be over."
Jericho, who had already secured a Hall of Fame career by March 2010 when all of this took place, had some advice for Kingston -- he had to fight Vince McMahon. Or at least try to. It was the only way. Kofi not only did it, but Vince physically fought back!
"It's one of my vivid memories in sports because it's the wild world of wrestling. You know what I mean?," Kingston told Fightful in an exclusive interview. "We were on the way to a press conference. As we were getting off, Vince started trying me a little bit. He's like, 'You wanna fight an old man?' I'm like, 'Whoa, what is going on? What's happening?' I got kicked off the plane because I wouldn't fight him. 'Uhhhh, okay.' Jericho did come down and he said I had to go back up there, because in this weird world of wrestling, this is how you had to get respect. I'm like, 'Uhhh, okay, I guess I'll go up there and try to fight my boss.' We get up there and we start going back and forth. All of a sudden, I got double legged on the plane. I'm like, 'Oh my God, we're really fighting.' This is crazy.
Vince McMahon, then 64, was trying the 28-year old Kofi Kingston. The fight wasn't one out of aggression, as much as the aforementioned respect. Kingston himself is adamant that he was in no danger of being taken down.
"I had the whizzer in. The ref probably wouldn't have given him the two points. But you've got to keep in mind, the aisle in the plane was three or four feet long. All of a sudden, he started laughing, 'Ah, if I'd have known that you want it.' I'm thankful that Jericho told me to go back on there because who knows, in this weird world of wrestling, if I don't go on there, all of a sudden, 'he doesn't have what it takes.' I don't know if I would have had the career that I would have had. A very different time, back then. It was a wild night, for sure. Anyone who is an amateur wrestling aficionado, if you have that whizzer in, they can't award control. Who knows what would have happened. I'm pretty sure I might have been able to get my legs out and get a sprawl on. It didn't have to go that far. I don't think it was about the actual takedown. Who knows," Kofi said.
The moment could very well have been pivotal for Kingston, though he isn't sure if that helped instill faith. Though he didn't have his full, main event run until 2010, he held championships galore, and was given spots on WrestleMania as a host, in ladder matches, in title matches, and with WWE legends.
"We were still kind of in the early state of our relationship, so I don't know if there was a shift or anything," Kofi clarified. "I've been real lucky to have a really really good relationship with Vince over the years. I've been really lucky to have experience so much in my career. Obviously, Vince is the one making those decisions at the end of the day. I've taken a lot of pride in being able to deliver over the years and maximize the opportunities I've been given. I'm always thankful to Vince for giving me those opportunities for the past decade plus. I just keep trying to knock them out of the park every single time."
Needless to say, everything worked out for Kofi in the end.
Ten years later, Kofi is set for another opportunity, as he's in a triple threat ladder match for the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at WrestleMania. WWE WrestleMania takes place this weekend on the WWE Network and pay-per-view, and is a two night event on Saturday and Sunday. Fightful will have full, live coverage of the show, as well as a live post-show podcast.