It has been a very good week for The New Day, probably the best week they have had in a long, long time. After nearly a year of borderline irrelevance the beloved trio, spearheaded by a career best performance from Kofi Kingston, have launched themselves into the Smackdown Live main event scene and out of nowhere have asserted themselves as one of the best possible opponents for Daniel Bryan’s WWE Championship at Wrestlemania.
As recently as a week ago I would have thought that last sentence was silliness but the more I have pondered it since Tuesday, the more sense it seems to make.
Without a doubt one of the biggest missed opportunities in 2018 was the near paralysis of the New Day’s career progression. Through 2015 and 2016, off the back of some of the most colourful and genuinely fun character work in recent memory, The New Day made themselves a beloved staple of the WWE roster, they breathed fresh life into a stagnant tag division and were rewarded with two feature Wrestlemania positions against The League of Nations at Mania 32 and as hosts of 33.
They followed this up the year after by truly showing off their in-ring chops and developing a more serious side in LOP’s 2017 Feud of the Year against The Usos. Heading into 2018 they could have gone anywhere but to say they have just stagnated over the last twelve months would be an understatement. Instead of taking the momentum they generated into a midcard singles run for the group or even just another set of high profile tag team matches, they lost any creative focus and their schtick slowly degenerated to the point of parody. What had once made them such a fresh addition to the roster became frustrating and more a reminder of what could have been.
And yet through a strange set of circumstances with Mustafa Ali’s unexpected injury, The New Day have suddenly ended up where they probably should have been all along, on the verge of breaking into the Smackdown Live main event scene. On Tuesday night Kofi Kingston busted down that door.
Every now and again in wrestling an act will assert themselves in a way that is just undeniable. The Wrestlemania championship match against Daniel Bryan was Mustafa Ali’s for the taking, he had the right story, the right character and the right hype for it. However in the Smackdown gauntlet match this week, Kofi Kingston ripped that idea up and put himself at the front of the que. A guy whose character has too often demanded he brush off his countless missed opportunities as just another punchline found a sense of passion and urgency that have been lacking since he Boom Dropped Randy Orton through a table at MSG in 2009. When he stood across from AJ Styles, screaming in the former WWE Champ’s face, he reminded everyone of his legacy and showed us for the first time how much that legacy actually means to him.
A Wrestlemania Championship match would be a logical progression of this story and in The New Day and Kofi’s favour are a few things.
Firstly the Smackdown roster is ridiculously heel heavy at the top. Unless they are going to go down the heel v heel road for Wrestlemania then Daniel Bryan’s potential challengers (assuming he keeps the belt) are AJ Styles who he has already faced one too many times, Mustafa Ali who is out injured with no known return date, Jeff Hardy who has been anchoring the midcard and Rey Mysterio who arguably also has a decent shot but seems to be tied up with other stories at the moment. The New Day are a proven commodity, a group that can carry segments on the microphone and in the ring and have characters popular with both young and old fans. Online, fans have long wondered when The New Day would be given the chance to have a sustained program on the singles roster, so there is undoubtedly an audience for any of the trio to make a proper singles run towards the WWE Title.
Secondly if Mustafa Ali is injured then The New Day are the perfect character foils of The New Daniel Bryan. There isn’t much about The New Day that doesn’t seemed tailor made to provoke the wrath of this eco-warrior version of Bryan, be it the innumerable lines of gimmicky merch, the video game Youtube show or even just the happy go lucky attitude the trio constantly sport. If it wasn’t such an unlikely proposition only a week ago, you’d think they had planned this whole things right down to the names.
Thirdly a New Day championship win at Wrestlemania, specifically a Kofi Kingston championship win, would be a double barrel shot of a deserved reward for a long serving veteran performer and a powerful social statement for the WWE to make. The story of a journeyman fighter suddenly putting everything together and asserting themselves as a championship contender is a celebrated tale as old as time, from The Cinderella Man James Braddock beating Max Baer to Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. That kind of Wrestlemania 20 celebration of a beloved performer is there for the taking if the WWE want it.
Add to that the crazy statistic that there has only been one African American WWE Champion, The Rock. In such a divided society, a proud and truly deserving black wrestler winning the company’s most hallowed title on its biggest stage would be a long overdue representation for an often marginalised community.
The post-Mania possibilities with The New Day as champions are very interesting too. Could they reign as WWE Champions under The Freebird Rule? All three men have quite different styles, strengths and weaknesses so would offer up a really fun dynamic for Smackdown’s heels to puzzle over. Just for a second can you imagine a feud between Samoa Joe and The New Day? How has that not been booked already? They have also shown, particularly opposite The Usos and The Shield in 2017 that when they are given a more serious tone to work with they can pull it off as well as they can comedy.
Setting this up would be a simple process too if Rowan is able to save Bryan from a surging Kingston at The Elimination Chamber then Kofi or another New Day member could win a Number 1 Contenders match three weeks later at Fastlane.
Don’t get me wrong, this sucks for Mustafa Ali, he is one of my favourite wrestlers and is just as much a natural foil for Bryan as The New Day. However even if he misses out on a championship match at Wrestlemania this year, he has a long career on the main roster ahead of him. The New Day have reached a point where they need to be used now or a slide into irrelevance will only be accelerated.
As unlikely as it would have been to say it just a week ago, it is time to go all Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society for this year’s WWE Championship match: stand up on your figurative desk, raise your voice and seize The New Day.
Thanks for reading LOP. Let me know if you think Kofi Kingston should face Daniel Bryan at Wrestlemania in the comments below, on Twitter @Sir_Samuel or you can even write about it yourself on the LOP Columns Forum, it is where every columnist on this site started and will make you both a better writer and a more engaged wrestling fan. You can sign up here.