Kofi Kingston and Samoa Joe will have a WWE Championship match at Extreme Rules and this instant classic could become an all-time classic if it’s a ladder match.
There’s no doubt that Kofi Kingston is in the midst of one of the greatest WWE Title reigns in recent memory. He’s taken full advantage of the “Wild Card” rule, too, bringing the Power of Positivity to both Raw and SmackDown Live each and every week. Kingston has always been one of WWE’s most important workhorses in The New Day and all of those same qualities have translated into an engaging title reign.
But that reign could potentially come to a close at Extreme Rules on July 14 against Samoa Joe, another legend of the wrestling business. Joe has come agonizingly close to winning the WWE Championship, too, creating a memorable rivalry with AJ Styles last summer.
A summer-long feud between Kofi and Joe could be just as good, given the in-ring skills and promos chops that both seasoned veterans possess.
We got to see a glimpse of their head-to-head work in six-man tag action on Raw, as Joe interrupted to bait Kofi into turning the scheduled Viking Raiders vs. Xavier Woods and Big E match into something more. Joe took full advantage of his opportunity to gain #momentum, choking Kingston out with the Coquina Clutch, which remains one of WWE’s most devastating maneuvers.
However, there was something that occurred during that match that was more interesting than the match itself. On commentary, heel announcer and “unbiased journalist” (he seems to be a parody of wrestling news sites) Corey Graves stated a “rumor” that the Kingston vs. Joe match at Extreme Rules will be a ladder match.
Now, this could be Graves planting a false seed and playing into his unreliability as a journalistic character in WWE canon, but that’s not really how WWE have used Graves. Despite being a heel announcer, he is credible and insightful even in kayfabe, so it’s more likely that this could be a way of Paul Heyman subtly dropping news items during matches to keep the audience engaged, rewarding them for watching the show each week instead of just waiting for social media highlights or updates.
If the latter is the case, then this is great news for WWE fans. A ladder match between Kofi and Joe would be an absolute barnburner. Kingston’s exploits in ladder matches are well-known, as he’s one of the best wrestlers in history at these matches. Kofi’s sharpness and creativity in the ring allow him to craft thoughts nobody could have imagined, and Joe’s similar level of experience would ensure a layered story in the context of the exciting, brutal, and dramatic ladder match.
There’s also the matter of the Coquina Clutch. In ladder matches, submission holds cannot lead to finishes, so Joe can’t put away Kofi by passing him out in the Coquina Clutch. (We already know that Kofi would NEVER tap out to lose his first WWE Championship after working so hard to get to this point in his career.)
But while a submission like the Coquina Clutch can’t directly lead to a victory, it can still play a critical role in the story. A move like the Coquina Clutch is so brutal that the hypoxia an opponent suffers when in the rear naked choke can lead to irreversible damage, fatiguing the opponent physically and mentally to a point where they may be a shell of their former shelf in the ring.
It takes a Superstar with a special amount of resolve to overcome this damage, and, well, if anyone has the resiliency to do exactly that, it’s Kingston. He’s dug down deep time after time again to achieve the impossible, and there’s something about the visual of a battered Kofi slowly climbing the ladder that already gets a visceral, emotional reaction out of me.
Kingston is one of the best babyfaces to hold the WWE Championship that I can think of off the top of my head, and Joe is one of the best heels in history to NEVER hold the WWE Title. That dynamic alone makes for a thrilling story, without even considering the individual qualities of both wrestlers. There’s an immense amount of hunger here, and it can only be truly displayed in the context of a match that is among the most brutal and physically demanding stipulation matches in pro wrestling.
Furthermore, because the ladder match takes out the element of the Coquina Clutch directly leading to a victory, it leaves the door open for an even more brutal, wrestling-focused final encounter between both men at, say, SummerSlam.
Now, SummerSlam is a long way off until then and the Extreme Rules stipulation match should be the final blow-off, but that last “What if this isn’t over?” is one more layer of suspense that makes the ladder match an incredibly intriguing option for Joe’s and Kofi’s big title match in two weeks.