I recently had the extreme pleasure to speak with WWE Champion Kofi Kingston about his life as a wrestler and dad. To say that I was excited for this interview is an understatement. Add in the fact that he is also my son’s favorite wrestler, it was the day before my son’s birthday, and he was home to hear the interview, all made me feel like one cool momma!
Have you always wanted to be a professional wrestler?
K: A lot of people say they have moments when they realize, this moment happened and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a wrestler. For me, I don’t have a moment like that. I feel like it’s always been a part of me. I used to watch Saturday morning SuperStars religiously, every week without fail then go to my karate class. It’s something I always wanted to do. I was enamoured by the spectacle of it with the music and fireworks, the storylines, the battle of good and evil.
How did you get started?
K: I was actually in high school and my best friend asked if I wanted to try out for the wrestling team at school. I tried out for the team thinking it was like WWE-style wrestling, which it was not. It’s something that actually allowed me to learn how to be disciplined. I still use a lot of the tricks and tips I learned, now and throughout life; how to be a team player, work as hard as you can to get what you want.
When you’re a kid, everyone tells you that you can be whatever you want to be but as you grow older, the closer you get to being an adult, when you tell people you want to do things that are outside of the box, all of a sudden people are like, “Oh, I don’t know if he can do that.” Especially with me, I was told, you’re not 6 '6, you’re not 300 lbs, or you don’t look like you have a lot of muscular physique. You can’t be a wrestler. So all of a sudden, people are telling me that I can’t. So I just went down the stereotypical path of graduating from high school, graduating from college, getting a job and working up the corporate ladder. I ended up working for the Staples Corporation in a cubicle, which works for some people, but it didn’t work for me! I wasn’t fulfilled in my little cubicle and my big computer. So one day, I decided that I was going to just follow my wrestling dream, and if it happens, it will be the greatest thing that’s ever happened in the world, and if it doesn’t, I can always go back to the cubicle.
What do you love most about being a wrestler?
K: It’s the greatest thing in the world. I get to travel the world, meet so many cool people, influence kids, set a great example and inspire other people to go out and follow their dreams. It is everything I have ever hoped it to be and more, all because I made the decision to actually pursue my dream. I always tell everyone out there who has a dream to go out and at least try.
Tell me about your children.
K: I have two boys, ages three and six in April. They don’t think they’re little anymore. The three year old thinks he’s all grown. He doesn’t want me to help him do things anymore. It’s bittersweet because you want to see them grow up and be independent, but you also want to be able to help them. My oldest is a social butterfly. Everywhere we go he’s always making friends with kids and adults.
What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?
K: I think just watching the kids grow and develop, have interests, gain confidence. Knowing that I had a hand in creating them. Human life is the most incredible thing. People tell you all about it, but it’s legitimately the best feeling in the world.
What do they say they want to be when they grow up?
K: As of now, it’s always changing. After I won at Wrestlemania, they got to get in the ring to celebrate with me in front of 85,000 people. My oldest son grabbed a t-shirt and just embraced it. As of now, he wants to be a wrestler. They are both great at a lot of things and they have a lot of time ahead of them. I won’t pressure them into doing something they don’t want to do. I’m just along for the ride on whatever direction they choose to go. I’ll be 100 percent supportive of them.
What life lessons do you teach them?
K: I think the greatest life lesson is how hard it is for me to be away from home, especially since having kids and them being at an age where they realize what is happening when I have to leave. Like, the first thing my son says to me when I get home is, “Daddy, how long are you here for?” Then he wants to know when I’m leaving, how many weeks will I be gone for. The thing I want them to learn, especially when they got to experience the pinnacle of my career with me in the ring, how much joy that brought, how historic that was with all the time I had to sacrifice away from them, that’s what it was for, so that they can live the life they live. I want them to know that whatever it is they want to do that they are going to have to work hard at it if they want to be successful. There’s going to be sacrifice, ups and downs. I try to do that by leading by example.
What do you like to do together as a family?
K: My wife loves nature. We live outside of Austin, TX so there’s a lot of nature hiking trails, greenery, lakes. We like to get out and spend time together in nature and enjoy each other’s company. We try to maximize the time we spend together and do as much as we can do in that period of time.
What’s the best parenting advice that you have ever received?
K: To be flexible. We are always trying to be on time, but there is always something that will come up with the kids. It’s time to leave the house and someone has to poop or there’s problems with getting buckled in the seat belt. We miss about 70 percent of the flights we take. I’m at the point where we go to the airport and I’m expecting that we will be missing the flight, and if we make it, that’s great. If not, then we’ll just have to catch the next one.
What advice do you have for aspiring wrestlers?
K: To never give up and never quit. As stereotypical as that sounds, you have to keep going. It took me 11 years to win the WWE Championship. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be here. For anyone out there who has a dream and wants to be a WWE superstar, you have to understand that nothing is guaranteed, even if you’re the best. It doesn’t always mean that you’re going to get the shot, but you keep on grinding and you keep at it. It can be a long, hard road but if you keep grinding then great things can happen, and I’m living proof of that.
WWE Smackdown returns to Raising Cane’s River Center on Tuesday, August 27 at 6:45 p.m. Don’t miss this Double Main Event. See Kofi Kingston take on Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship. Tickets start at $20 and are available at ticketmaster.com and the venue box office.