Kofi Kingston's long journey to becoming world was finally completed on Sunday night when he defeated Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35 to become the WWE Champion. Kingston won the match after hitting Bryan with his Trouble in Paradise finisher and scoring the pin.
Kingston's ascension to the WWE Championship match was one of the most emotional feuds in recent memory. Back in February Bryan was booked to face five other opponents inside the Elimination Chamber at the Elimnation Chamber pay-per-view. But within weeks of the match (Mustafa) Ali had to be pulled from the bout due to a number of injuries, and The New Day was granted the opportunity to pick one of their members to fill his spot. Xavier Woods and Big E both agreed that it would be Kingston, given they've stated over and over that their goal is to see the 11-year veteran become world champion. Kingston won over the crowd the week of the show by lasting a full hour in a gauntlet match on SmackDown Live while pinning three opponents, including Bryan.
Kingston made it all the way to the final two in the chamber match before being pinned by Bryan but the fans' support for him didn't waver. He was initially granted a WWE Championship match at Fastlane against Bryan, but the bout was scrapped when Vince McMahon came out and claimed Kingston wasn't a big enough box office draw. On the night of the show The New Day stormed McMahon's office and pleaded Kingston's case to be added into the title match. McMahon initially agreed and told Kingston to run out to the ring for the match to start. But it was quickly revealed to be a lie as Kingston was put in a handicap match against The Bar where Woods and E were banned from ringside.
McMahon continued to toy with Kingston's emotions leading up to WrestleMania when he put him in a five-man guantlet match with a WrestleMania title shot on the line. Kingston miraculously defeated Sheamus, Cesaro, Rowan, Samoa Joe and Randy Orton in the match, only for McMahon to add in Bryan as his final opponent. The 11-year veteran lost due to exhaustion from the hour-long match.
The following week Kingston, Woods and E all threatened to quit the WWE, saying that McMahon was clearly showing that "people like us" would be allowed to only get so far in the company. McMahon didn't buy their quitting threat, but gave Kingston one more chance if Woods and E could win a tag team gauntlet match while he was forced to stay backstage. The pair managed to pull it off by burying Rowan under a tipped announcer's table and winning via count-out.
Throughout the build Bryan claimed Kingston wasn't worthy of a title shot because he was a "B+ player," the same insult that was hurled at Bryan by The Authority leading up to Wrestlemania XXX. The match marked Kingston's first one-on-one shot for a world championship in his 11 years with the company.
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