The season premiere of Friday Night Smackdown brought with it some new beginnings but also a somber ending. It was on this night that Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E wrestled what is for now their last match together as a trio. They went with a win over Cesaro, Sheamus, and Shinsuke Nakamura (as was noted by the commentary team Cesaro is their longest singular rival having faced them with various partners going back to their inception) and embraced one more time together in the ring before Kofi and Woods head off to Monday Night Raw. While it’s the beginning of a new era for Big E on Smackdown it truly is the end of an era for them as a trio. While thankfully the temptation was resisted to do some hokey heel turn, the moment still hurt to see. But what a journey it has been.
From a kayfabe/booking standpoint factions exist for the purpose of elevating, enhancing, or entrenching their members. The Four Horsemen made Tully Blanchard an d Arn Anderson a Hall of Famers. Evolution put Randy Orton and Batista on solid footing to launch their own Hall of Fame careers. The Shield gave all three of it members a mutual starting point that showcased their strengths and hid their weaknesses while they matured as performers into the future Hall of Famers they are. The NWO gave Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash second acts to their careers after their first ones failed or were bringing in diminishing returns. The list goes on and on. These factions often begin with the end in mind, where one or more members move on to singles stardom after the inevitable split.
But the New Day was a different breed. They were not brought together to prepare anyone for future stardom but to give three guys something to do to eat up minutes on TV, three guys whose careers had stalled and were in need of salvaging. They were not born with the intent of strapping a rocket to anyone’s back, but in that somewhat less important space came room to grow and become more than what was initially believed they could be. The lack of a predetermined push presented an opportunity to forge their own path were they willing to fight for it, and they did. And even this hopefully temporary split hasn’t happened like other groups; no betrayals but an emotional pair of draft picks that sent Big E to Smackdown while Kofi and Woods went to Raw.
And in doing so they gave us great matches, great feuds, and great moments. Without the New Day forming there is no Kofimania. Without the New Day to feud with the Usos don’t reach the heights they did. They broke new ground in merchandising, in representing a major wrestling company, and for what black people can achieve in the business. Without them forming as a group it’s very possible that all three men would be gone by now from WWE and maybe the business entirely. As far as factions go in wrestling history go they’re in the conversation for the best ever. They were together for roughly six years, a tenure second only to the original incarnation of the Freebirds, and have been one of the main attractions on the card most of that time while racking up multiple tag team championships and a World Title for Kofi Kingston.
But for some of us New Day is way more than a great wrestling act. As a Black wrestling fan, New Day has been the pinnacle of what representation means. At any point during their run they could be funny or dead serious, clever enough to do a rap battle with the Usos and tough enough to go in one of the best cell matches ever with them as well. Black wrestling acts are often forced to pick one thing and stick to it but the New Day repped everything from hip hop culture to gaming to anime to Black Lives Matter all at once while delivering every time in the ring. They didn’t get stuck talking like Shaft or in dated hip hop vernacular. They got to be their full authentic selves in all facets every week. That we got the all members as champions run from a factions of Black wrestlers, who got to run the gamut of looks, personality and character, means everything.
And if you’ve listened to their podcast, New Day Feel the Power, you’ve heard them talk in depth about how they’ve fought for what they needed to be the performers they are today, how they brought their own creativity to the world of professional wrestling, and how they’ve used their space to spread their own message to fans of all ages. These three men truly are something special as performers and human beings.
Unicorn horns, Booty Os cereal, Xavier playing the trombone on the way to the ring, pancakes, Up Up Down Down, these guys showed a million ways to be entertaining while kicking major ass in the ring and telling great stories. The lead up to Kofimania may be the best wrestling story I’ve ever watched and they covered all bases from ring work to mic work along the way and the big payoff with Kofi winning the World title at WrestleMania 35 had a stadium full of cynical, hard to please wrestling fans in tears.
As for ending like this, I’m torn. I hate that it was done at all but looking at the big picture I understand. After six years it’s now or never to try Big E as a solo act, Kofi Kingston is on the career clock and Xavier Woods has his feet in enough other interests that he may be gone before we think it. And it’s better to do this now while there’s still gas in the tank and the possibility of a reunion that will make money than to drag it out until there’s nothing left to gain. That doesn’t make it not hurt, but at the end of the day I get it.
That they could be together for six years with no breakups and still have us sad at this one is a testament to how great an act they are and how far they came. For a lot of us they provided some of the best moments ever of our fandom and our lives. At 44 years old with over 30 years as a wrestling fan under my belt and thinking I’d seen everything those three men had me on the verge of tears over the ending of a match. That’s how great a job they did. And at 46 and having seen every kind of wrestling breakup there is I was in the same state after what is for now their final match together.
So to close this out, thanks for everything. We know the story isn’t over but this is a new chapter. If any of you happen see this please know that you brought joy not just to kids but to us older folks also. You didn’t just entertain us, you inspired us also. For six years New Day rocked and may they continue to do so down the road. We’ll enjoy you on separate nights but we’ll always cherish the times we saw you in one place. Much love and all the respect, brothers.