On Sunday, April 7, 2019, Kofi Kingston cemented himself as a legend in not only professional wrestling, but all of history.
Kofi Kingston defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35, in front of a sold-out crowd inside MetLife Stadium, of more than 82,000 people, to become the first African-born WWE champion in the company’s history. This was a moment 11-years in the making, that really picked up steam in February.
Bryan was set to defend his WWE championship inside the Elimination Chamber back in February. He had a slew of wrestlers who wanted to take the title off his hands. One of those wrestlers was Mustafa Ali (now known as Ali), but he suffered an injury.
The show must go on.
[Insert Kofi Kingston]
The WWE promoted that one member of The New Day (Kingston’s stable) would replace Ali in the match. Kingston’s running mates, Xavier Woods and Big E, petitioned for Kingston to replace Ali. In fact, Woods and Big E are constantly saying their goal is to see Kingston win the WWE Title. The New Day got their wish and Kingston showed out during a gauntlet match on SmackDown Live to determine who would enter last in the elimination chamber. Kingston won the match after lasting over an hour and entered last, yet still had a strong, memorable performance in the match.
Bryan would pin Kingston to retain the title after a back-and-forth battle that nearly saw Kingston emerge victorious, but the journey was just beginning.
The support of the crowd, as the WWE calls the “WWE Universe,” skyrocketed. The WWE, whether that was the original plan – which it couldn’t have been since Ali was slated in the role Kingston was put in – or be listening to the fans, turned their attention to building this historic encounter.
Kingston would have to go against the Authority, this time the main adversary was Mr. McMahon, in order to receive the title shot. Kingston would compete in yet another gauntlet match in which he would have to survive and advance past the likes of Sheamus, Cesaro, Rowan, Samoa Joe and Randy Orton.
The magic continued and Kingston pulled out the victory, against all odds, which granted him a WWE Championship opportunity at WrestleMania.
Or so we thought.
As Kington was celebrating with Woods and Big E, Mr. McMahon’s music blared and out strutted the chairman. He initially congratulated Kingston and said he got his shot – IF – he could defeat just one more opponent. Out comes Daniel Bryan. The two battled it out, but in the end, Kingston was just too exhausted and suffered defeat thanks to Bryan’s running knee.
This did not sit well with Woods and Big E and they demanded to fight for their brother. Mr. McMahon granted them their wish by putting them in a tag team gauntlet match. If they were victorious, Kingston would get his WrestleMania title shot.
The New Day, with Kingston barred from ringside, first took care of Gallows and Anderson. Then Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura came out and put up quite a fight before being beaten. Woods and Big E would then experience their toughest test as The Bar, Sheamus and Cesaro, came out and the duo is as hard hitting as they come. After being defeated, The Bar took out their frustrations on The New Day and put Big E through a table before leaving.
This was it, no way The New Day could sustain this.
Out next was a former archrival The Usos. Before things got underway, Jimmy and Jey acknowledged the rivalry the two teams engaged in that put on a ton of classic matches. Then the brothers said that they also know that Kingston deserves this opportunity before forfeiting the match. The crowd went wild as Woods and Big E looked on in shock and awe.
The final obstacle was Kingston’s potential opponent Bryan and his heavy, Rowan. After doing battle for a while, the finish saw Big E bury Rowan underneath the announce table, getting back in the ring and winning the match via count out. Kingston, who rushed the ring to celebrate with his teammates, was going to WrestleMania to wrestle for the WWE Championship.
When the final three count came down, MetLife Stadium erupted with joy and adulation. The 11-year dream had come true. Not only did Kingston make history, he also provided hope for many people, especially young fans who were throughout the crowd. These kids looked in the ring and saw someone that looked like them, someone of color holding up the most prestigious prize in pro wrestling. Not only that, but Kingston’s sons joined him, Woods and Big E in the ring to add an extra touch of emotion and excitement.
It would have been hard to find a dry eye in the stadium. Being there live in attendance, it is a moment this writer will never forget.
The WWE Championship has been around for 56 years and has seen 51 title holders. Kingston became the 51st champion and first African-born champion in the company’s illustrious history. The 11-year odyssey came full circle and it was rightfully earned. For 11-year, Kingston has proved he can hang with the best of them, put on classic matches, memorable moments (especially in the Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank matches), and be relied up, as he is someone who hasn’t suffered a huge injury. Kingston has also served as a great ambassador for the company.
Speaking of something 11-years in the making, Tiger Woods won the Masters, his first Major since 2008 when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. This was his first time winning the green jacket since 2005.
This marked one of, if not the very best redemption stories in the history of sports.
It is not secret that Woods did not have a favorable decade. In 2009, he crashed his Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant by his Florida Mansion. Unfortunately for Woods, this was just the beginning of a nightmare that was about to be unleashed.
It was discovered that Woods had numerous affairs with countless women, and his then-wife, Erin Nordegren, filed for divorce. There was talks that the reason Woods crashed was because he had been beaten up by Nordegren. Woods took time away from golf to try and repair his marriage.
From 2011-2013, Woods found success nine times by winning nine events. Then the slew of injuries would derail him.
Beginning in march of 2014 and spanning to December of 2015, Woods had three microdiscectomies to try and repair pinched nerves in his back. This would ultimately sideline him for the entire 2016 season.
April of 2017 was not kind to Woods either. In April, Woods had spinal fusion surgery after the previous three did nothing to help repair his ailing back. A month later, Woods was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Woods claimed it was a bad reaction to prescription medication, when in reality he had five different medications in his system. Woods even thought he was in California, when he was actually in Jupiter, Florida.
Seven months later, Woods returned to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge. He finished tied for ninth, a decent showing for not playing in over 300 days and all the surgeries.
Fast forward to September of 2018 and Woods would win for the 80th time in his iconic career when he won the Tour Championship. This opened the door for hope, the hope that Woods could potentially one day win another Major.
One week after Kingston won the WWE Championship in historic fashion, it would be Woods turn to have the whole world cheering him on, just like everyone did when Woods was in his prime.
Draped in his Sunday Red Nike polo shirt, Tiger was on the prowl. The magic he once brought to the game was back. Millions of people were glued to their televisions or smart devices with the hope Tiger would pull it out, despite the early tee time. Everything Tiger had gone through at this point was a thing of the past and he was closing in on the victory.
Tiger Woods won the 2019 Masters and when he finally sank his last put, those in attendance and all over the globe exploded with excitement, Tiger threw his arms up in the air in triumph. He did it. He overcame everything and beat all the odds and made himself champion of a Major yet again.
What a truly remarkable story this has been. From the fire hydrant crash to the sex scandal to the many surgeries, Tiger remained intent on proving he could win again. In regards to his well-documented injuries, he had to completely repair his golf game. He had to test what would work with his repaired back and it wasn’t an easy process.
Much like Kingston, Woods was able to celebrate with his son, Charlie Axel Woods, in joyous fashion. This moment was truly full circle for Woods, as his late father Earl was there with him when he won his first Masters back in 1997. Woods daughter, Sam, and his mother and now wife were also there in attendance to give him massive hugs in celebration.
So in the span of a week, Kofi Kingston became the WWE Champion and Tiger Woods won a Major for the first time in 11-years. Trials of triumph and tribulations paint the perfect picture for what these two men were able to accomplish. Both on very different 11-year voyages, kept plugging away.
Kingston’s win gives hope to people of color everywhere and shows everyone that if you fight as hard as you can for what you want and believe in, anything is possible. Woods victory gives hope in the sense that no matter what life throws your way; you can overcome it. Both athletes proved that with heart, determination, and dedication, you can do anything you set out to do. Champions of hope were crowned a week apart. Hollywood couldn’t write a better story.