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Accessibility is the new “larger than life.”
We fought it for years. We endured every out-of-character Instagram post, every instance of in-ring rivals flaunting their real-life friendship on social media, every “Hey, check out my normal life,” Snapchat story.
The fight is over. Accessibility is king. Familiarity won.
It won the second Kofi Kingston, the most likable WWE wrestler in years and maybe ever, defeated his equally relatable counterpart, Daniel Bryan, to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 35. Accessibility secured its victory when Kofi celebrated in the ring with his two young sons and when he pointed out his family on Smackdown Live two nights later.
The thing is, accessibility should have won a long time ago. It was never a fair fight to begin with. The WWE audience has been trending in this direction for several years and performers have been giving fans the peek behind the curtain that both sides seem to crave. It’s mutually beneficial attention.
This isn’t a movement; it’s not a phase. It’s reality; it feels essentially permanent. And Kofi Kingston is now the face of the business. The perfect symbol for WWE in a time when the upstart AEW and other more established promotions are reveling in fan participation, not scoffing at it the way WWE has for so long, even while verbally touting the fans as the company’s nightly focus group.
The fast, unexpected rise of Kofi into WWE Championship material may have felt like an overnight phenomenon, but it was another case of WWE not knowing what it had and the audience never being able to find out. Yes, Kofi has entertained for half a decade with The New Day. He’s thrilled with ladder match and Royal Rumble acrobatics.
He has smiled on his way to the ring for 11 years – almost every one of them spent as a good guy – and wrestling isn’t always a smiling kind of business. But after 11 years, hey, maybe the guy is just happy. Maybe that’s really him. Maybe he is a great person with a great family who is the perfect person to earn a historic win at WrestleMania.
Kofi’s win made grown men cry. It brought wrestling fans, already a fraternity, even closer together – like family. It was celebrated by African-Americans because something like it – a black man winning the WWE Championship – has never happened before (*), and celebrated by everyone else because his anointing was long overdue.
It seems like fans are all-in on Kofi. Every fan. Do you know one who isn’t? And we’re all in not because his accomplishment is fantastical, out of reach, or bigger than life. We’ve invested in Kofi – the performer and the person – because he’s one of us. A lifelong fan who loves the business and has stuck with it when it hasn’t treated him well and even when it hasn’t noticed him at all.
We’re all in on Kofi because he’s accessible. He has let us in, he has shared his story, and he has brought all of us along on the journey. The connection between fans and wrestlers is closer, tighter than ever. We see everything and we know everything and we still want more.
Kofi’s win makes anything possible. Kofi gives us more. He gives us hope.