To millions of US wrestling fans, Kofi Kingston is the first Jamaican wrestler in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). But his real identity is very different - because to his family and friends, he is Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah from Ghana. Kofi Kingston in action in the WWE Sarkodie-Mensah 'competes' under the flag of Jamaica
Most wrestling fans have never heard of the West African country, so the wrestling body decided fight fans would be more likely to embrace a wrestler from the land of Bob Marley and reggae music.
And so desperate is Sarkodie-Mensah to become wrestling's next superstar, he is willing to deny who he is.
"I was actually born in Jamaica - to be honest with a name like Kofi a lot of people assume I was born in Ghana," he says with a bad Jamaican accent, but doing his best to stay in character.
But though he denies it, his mother Elizabeth - the head of a Ghanaian-American organisation in the US - confirms that he was indeed born in Ghana, and not in Jamaica. The family only moved to the US in 1982.
"I told him: 'Kofi, your cousins watch you on TV in Ghana and want to know why you don't say you're from Ghana,'" she says.
"He said: 'Tell them it is business.'"
It certainly is business.
After he discovered his mother had revealed his secret identity to the press, Sarkodie-Mensah banned her and the rest of his family from speaking to the media, for fear of compromising his career.
KOFI KINGSTON Kofi Kingston Real name Kofi Sarkodie-Mensah Born 1982 in Ghana Fight debut in 2005 Moves include 'Trouble in Paradise' - a spinning kick to the head - and the 'Soul Shakedown' - a double-leg drop straight to the midsection followed by a shake of the hips over the fallen opponent. Has so far lost only one match-up, to Shelton Benjamin "She's very happy I am doing what I want to do," he says of his mother. "But I don't think she knows how big wrestling really is."
Spinning people around by their necks and slamming their heads into the ground is not how Sarkodie-Mensah, who is the only African in big-time wrestling in the United States, thought he would earn his living.
A member of a family of intellectuals from near Kumasi in Ghana, he was expected to become a revered teacher like his grandfather.
But he first went into the corporate world - and almost immediately regretted it.
"My first day at work I sat in my cubicle and looked at the empty walls and it was very depressing," he recalls.
The 27-year-old soon decided to swap his business suit for bright yellow wrestler's trunks.
"The first day I walked into the wrestling school, I knew I was in the right place," he says.
So far, Sarkodie-Mensah has made all the right moves.
Since his debut in January, he has "won" all but one of his 100 matches on the Extreme Championship Wrestling circuit, an offshoot of WWE which launched the careers of the likes of Hulk Hogan and The Rock.
WWE is convinced Sarkodie-Mensah has what it takes to make it to the top in the scripted world of US professional wrestling - dismissed by some as more soap opera than sport.
'Concussion in the face'
But although professional wrestling has its detractors, Sarkodie-Mensah's father, Kwasi, is not one of them.
Mr Sarkodie-Mensah, a lecturer at Boston College in the US, says though many of his friends in Ghana were disappointed that his son became a wrestler rather than an academic like his parents, he is happy his son has found contentment in his career.
"I know it is a very anti-intellectual thing, but I think everybody should get up in the morning and be excited about what they do," he says.
But Mr Sarkodie-Mensah's friends in Ghanaian academia, like Raymond Osei-Boadu of the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, are horrified.
"I cannot bring myself to understand," says a disconsolate Mr Osei-Boadu.
"Why would a person who is very capable of going to graduate school decide to jettison all that for concussion in the face?"
You know, for a company that's constantly looking for good publicity, you'd think they'd shine a spotlight on a guy from a third-world African nation living the American dream and becoming a WWE Superstar. Instead, they turn him into the Jamaican stereotype. Lovely. At least they haven't turned him into a caricature, though, so that's something.
Originally posted by John OrquiolaKofi Kingston isn't really Jamaican?! I haven't been this crushed since I found out Nikita Koloff wasn't really Russian.
Lies. Damn lies. Nikita was sent by the Soviet Ministry of Sports. I could see Tony Schiavone lying, perhaps David Crockett stretching the truth, but not Bob Caudle. Definitely not Bob Caudle. I guess the writer missed Kofi doing the job to Bradshaw on RAW's draft show. Well, when he eventually turns heel, the fans can now chant 'You're Ghana Lose'.
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This is almost as shocking as the time that I discovered that Gail Kim wasn't really from Korea. I suppose the fact that there hasn't been a country named Korea for over 60 years should have been a tip off, but Asian women do tend to age fairly well.
Besides, most fans would have trouble believing that Kofi was really from Africa. I mean, look at past wrestlers who were billed from Africa. Kamala. Abdullah the Butcher. Akeem. Saba Simba. Who's going to believe that a twig like Kofi hails from the land of such giants?
You know, I would expect this from some tabloid trying to make a name for themselves, but the BBC? They're usually above doing reporting like this. Next thing they'll tell me is that Yokozuna wasn't a Japanese sumo wrestler but a Samoan- American. It would just DEVASTATE me if I found out that Rodney Anoa'i wasn't a Nippon-based name.
P.S.- I got to agree with Alex, Kofi's entrance music is the best new theme I have heard in a long time.
OMG! Now I'm second guessing the whole Paul Bearer buried in cement thing. What is going on? I mean his name is Kofi Kingston, sounds Jamaican to me. What do they know? Seems like the BBC thinks they own Jamaica and had to rush out and squeal to protect their image.
However, on the plus side this is probably the single greatest wrestling news story that made mainstream media in a long time. I'd rather hear about this craziness than what we've had to hear over the past 10-12 years.
SmackDown is coming to the Breslin Center for a house show in February, and then RAW to Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo for another house show. Yeah, I ain't hitting either of 'em. Pretty soon, they'll be running TV tapings from those places.