Kofi Kingston first appeared on WWE television as a happy Jamaican with a very thick accent. For years fans have wondered why the accent was dropped, but that question has never been totally addressed.
While speaking to Chasing Glory, Kofi Kingston revealed exactly why they made up the character and then later dropped the Jamaican aspect of his persona.
“Oh my god. So here’s the thing, like when I was training, the big deal was that you needed a character, right? That was the big thing, you’ve gotta have a character. ‘Vince is liking characters right now.’ So I remember being on the way to promo class, and I was listening to the Damian Marley CD. And I was like, ‘Huh. Okay, this is an amazing CD.’”
“I say this every single time, top to bottom it still holds up. So one day I just came in and they were like, ‘Okay well, you’ve gotta go up there and cut a promo.’ And I was just like, [affects Jamaican accent] ‘Kofi Kingston from Kingston, Jamaica.’ I cut a promo on Ric Flair for stealing my Jamaican beef patty, or you know, giving him one that he threw in the trash, something like that. Something dumb. And everybody was just like, ‘Oh, man! You’ve gotta do that! Whoa!’”
“So that was it, trying to find a way to stand out is so important. And I didn’t go with the Ghanian character, because at the time Prince Nana who worked for ROH — I think he still does — was like, the Ghanian Prince. So for me to come out and be like, ‘Oh, I’m from Ghana too!’ Everyone would be like, ‘Oh, Prince Nana,’ you know what I mean? I just wanted to do something that would stand out. So I went the Jamaican route, never having been to the country. Knowing very few people of Jamaican descent. But I did listen to that Damian Marley CD several times, so I figured it qualified me to pose as a Jamaican character.”
Kofi Kingston never expected his Jamaican accent to cause such a stir. However, his accent “was garbage” as he put it and it also started to cause a bit of a problem with people in Ghana as well.
“Number one, and I say all the time. It’s hard enough to remember what you have to say, let alone how you have to say it. My Jamaican accent was garbage. It was horrible, and people on MySpace from Jamaica let me know every day with their messages, like ‘Oh, you’re not from Jamaica! Kofi’s not even a Jamaican name!’”
“But then, people from Ghana would be like, ‘Oh, you want to claim Jamaica, then you go be from Jamaica!’ So now I’m getting it from both ends. I’m like, ‘Guys, you don’t hold Samuel L. Jackson to the standard of being Nick Fury, you know what I’m saying? What is happening here?’ It was just a character, guys! It’s wrestling, entertainment, World Wrestling Entertainment! I’m just trying to entertain. ‘No! No!’ I’m like, ‘Oh my god, it’s not that serious.’”
Finally, after keeping the persona for so long (even during print interviews), the issues finally came to a head. This is when Vince McMahon finally decided to pull the plug on the entire gimmick.
“So we kept on doing the Jamaican thing, and it wasn’t until about like four or five months later. I think it was Bragging Rights, the PPV. And before we go out, they’re like ‘Yeah, I think we’re gonna drop the accent.’ I’m like ‘Oh, how we gonna do this?’ ‘Well, we’ll just have you start talking normal.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’”
“So if you go back and watch it, it’s Triple H in the you know, we’re going back and forth and our team is getting all catty and I’m the guy that has to calm everybody down. And I just start talking like ‘Guys, guys, we gotta get on the same page. If not, they’re gonna obliterate us, man come on. What are we doing? Does anyone have any questions?’ And Triple H is like ‘Well yeah, I’ve got a question. Aren’t you supposed to be Jamaican?’ And that was it, I wasn’t Jamaican anymore.”
Newer fans of WWE might not remember Kofi Kingston throwing out a Jamaican accent, but it totally happened. He kept it up for a while, but in the end, it was better for Kofi to just be himself. It might have taken some time, but Kingston representing who he actually is ended up paying off in a big way.
Thanks to 411 Mania for the quote