Veteran wrestler Kofi Kingston has made history in his conquest of the 2019 WWE Heavyweight Champion title.
The wrestling world's newest champion has been vying for the coveted championship belt for 11 years. Kingston, whose real name is Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, is a Ghanaian American in a majority white sport.
ESPN reports the 37-year-old beat Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania 35 in the WWE Championship on Sunday. Both men gave rousing performances on a night featuring legends like The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, John Cena, Bautista and Triple H.
"It’s so emotional, I worked so hard to get here, and sometimes you work as hard as you can and things aren’t going your way… it’s paid off," the champion said in a post-match interview. "It just feels surreal, it just feels like a legitimate dream."
While Kingston made a name for himself as a solo performer on Raw and Smackdown, in recent years he formed a tag-team group to level up. "The New Day," which features fellow wrestlers Xavier Wood and Big E, was started in 2014. Big E told fans in a recent interview following their Wrestlemania victories that Kofi's victory would inspire a new generation of young wrestlers.
"Everything about [these] last two months and Kofi’s 11 years… has been so organic and raw and genuine," he said. "Not just for Kofi and for us, but for people who have taken this journey with Kofi the entire time, for kids who wanted someone who resembled them to be champion… this means so much."
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In the past, the WWE was at the center of a racial controversy involving iconic wrestler Hulk Hogan. An audiotape from the mid-2000s leaked in 2015 capturing Hogan use racial slurs against Black people. He was barred from the wrestling organization, but during last weekend's Wrestlemania, the WWE invited him back into the fold.
Kingston's victory also marks the fourth time a Black performer has reached the upper echelon. According to Forbes, Kofi joins the likes of Mark Henry, Booker T and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the four Black men to earn the title.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all.
Without your love & support, especially over the past couple months, none of this happens. You helped me achieve my childhood dream & I’m eternally grateful for each & every one of you.
Your WWE World Heavyweight Champion
— KOFI (@TrueKofi) April 8, 2019
Only time will tell how Kingston's legacy will be remembered, but all signs indicate he will be among the greats.
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