When WWE Champion Kofi Kingston challenged The Viper, Randy Orton, to be his opponent at SummerSlam, it brought memories of a feud they shared years ago when they were both early in their WWE careers. More specifically, a brawl, not an actual match, that took place between the two in 2009 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. in what would be a signature moment in his very young career, Kofi Kingston delivered a massive Boom Drop to Randy Orton, who had been laid out on a table.
Kopi claimed that after that particular moment, Randy Orton used his backstage influence to quell any kind of upward momentum for him. There was some level of truth in Kofi’s statement because as we all know, Randy Orton went on to become a multiple-time champion while Kofi lingered in and around the mid-card level, never winning any championships bigger than the Intercontinental or United States titles.
That Madison Square Garden brawl between the two was indeed a signature moment for Kofi Kingston, but his next signature moment would have to wait 10 years, until WrestleMania where he captured his first WWE championship by defeating Daniel Bryan. Now as Champion, he seeks to right a wrong perpetrated upon him by Randy Orton from ten years prior.
While researching their rivalry throughout the years, I found two matches between Orton and Kingston that demonstrated exactly where they both were in terms top guys versus midcard guys. The matches took place almost five years after their Madison Square Garden brawl. It’s easy for viewers to see between the two who was really the guy. It lent great credibility to Kofi’s claim that Randy used his influence to hold him back.
The first match took place on an episode of Monday Night Raw on October 7, 2013. Randy was a heel and working alongside The Authority (Stephanie and HHH) in a feud against Daniel Bryan and a reluctant Big Show. Show got involved in WWE Championship match at the previous night’s Battleground pay per view, knocking out Daniel, the ref, and Randy.
The match began with Randy working on top as he jumped on Kofi from the beginning and throws him out of the ring and up against the barricade several times. The announce team of Cole, JBL and Lawler are paying very little attention to the actual match. The way its unfolding and its presentation tells you everything you need to know about the definite pecking order in terms of top superstars. Randy was on top for most of the match and would never let Kofi build any kind of momentum.
The match wasn’t a piece of a major storyline, so it was basically a throwaway match for a Monday Night Raw after a pay per view. They go to commercial as Kofi misses a top rope dive and ends up rolling out of the ring. Back from commercial and Cole says Randy is in “viper mode” as he’s doing his signature (or Ron Garvin’s if you’re old school) body part stomp. They then cut to a clip on the WWE App that showed Randy dropping Kofi back first onto the outside barricade. Cole says a victory over Randy Orton would be huge for Kofi if he could somehow pull it off and no sooner than he can finish the sentence, Randy nails Kofi with a dropkick. This is a glorified extended squash match.
JBL says how bad it would be for Randy having not won the championship the night before and then losing to Kofi on Monday Night Raw. Kofi’s biggest spot was a top rope cross-body block that netted him a two count. Even after he countered the Vintage DDT and flipped Orton outside, Orton sidestepped him and threw him into the barricade again before delivering his Vintage DDT on the floor. Mercifully, Orton throws him back in and hits an RKO for the win. Lawler called the win “pretty impressive.” Every highlight was a Randy highlight. They didn’t even mention Kofi and called Randy “the face of the company.” After the match, Daniel Bryan attacked Randy Orton.
Note Kofi’s placement within that situation, he’s basically an afterthought at this point because it’s all about Randy and Daniel. Years later he first becomes champion by defeating Daniel Bryan and on Sunday at SummerSlam he’ll defend his WWE Championship against Randy Orton. However, in that match, Kofi basically looked like an enhancement guy for a WCW house show.
The second match between the two took place 6 months later on an episode of Monday Night Raw on January 13, 2014. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton (with two belts). storms into the locker room with Director of Operations, Kane and begins venting about how he isn’t being protected and several superstars want a piece of him; Stephanie and Hunter aren’t there. Kane tells him he can only control what happens tonight and then offers Randy a match with Kofi Kingston to take out his frustrations. Randy Orton graciously accepts.
So before this match even gets underway we see already Kofi’s value within the company. He’s being offered as a sacrifice to a frustrated WWE Champion in Randy Orton. Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler makes mention of how happy Randy Orton was to be able to face Kofi. The match starts and Randy Orton instantly kicks Kofi in the stomach and tosses him outside of the ring. The beginning of the match looks almost identical to the match they had in October, with Randy jumping on top early and throwing Kofi into the barricade outside of the ring. JBL, Michael Cole and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler make zero mention of the actual match once again.
At one point during the match, Randy stops to admire his handiwork and saunters around the ring while dusting off his hands overtop a fallen Kofi Kingston. Kofi gets about the same amount of offense in this match as he did in the previous one; he rammed Randy’s head into the announcer’s table three times before having his comeback snuffed out by The Viper.
Immediately afterward Randy Orton set Kofi up and delivered a top rope superplex and then immediately yelled at him, “Kick out of that!” once again, you can tell where Kofi stands in terms of superstars during this match because none of the conversations are about him. They casually mention that Randy Orton is allowing Kofi to stick around which might not bode well for the champion, but Orton continues to beat Kofi down.
Kofi missed a Boom Drop and Orton jumped on him once again. Orton went to set Kofi up for his Vintage DDT only to have it countered into an S.O.S. and the 1-2-3! A huge upset win for Kofi Kingston and a surprising loss for an already reeling WWE Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton! Michael Cole calls it one of the biggest upsets in recent Monday Night Raw history. After the match, Randy Orton threw a fit on his way out of the ring and jump over the barricade to attack John Cena’s father. There is zero investment in Kofi Kingston here and it’s obvious, despite his upset win over the face of the company. Imagine pinning the WWE Champion on Monday Night Raw and it meant nothing.
It all comes to a head this Sunday at SummerSlam as WWE Champion Kofi Kingston looks to vanquish Randy Orton and avenge the wrongs he claims were perpetrated upon him by The Viper.