King of the Ring was always one of my favorite PPVs on the WWE calendar. Often, a young star would get a major push and we were usually treated to a big-time title match in the main event. Why WWE got rid of the PPV? I don’t know, but it’s a shame they did.
During our countdown of the ALL-TIME BEST 10 KING OF THE RING PPVs, we’re going to be look at exactly that…the PPVs. Many of you know that King of the Ring was held before 1993 and after 2002, but they were not singular PPVs, but were a part of some other event like Raw or something.
During the height of the Attitude Era, everyone expected King of the Ring 1999 to be a stellar show, especially consider 1998’s masterpiece. Well, they were really freaking wrong! Much of the show was plagued by having all three rounds of the King of the Ring tournament on the PPV itself. This created quick matches with little storytelling, as participants might have had to wrestle three times in one night. A lot of people knock Mr. Ass (Billy Gunn) winning the thing, but he was incredibly over at the time. He had the look and could go in the ring. While the main event, pitting Shane & Vince McMahon against Steve Austin was decent, the major letdown was the title match between The Rock and The Undertaker.
King of the Ring 1995 was a booking disaster. Going in, you had the potential for either Shawn Michaels or The Undertaker to win the tournament, but they decided to give it to Mabel. Most of the matches weren’t terrible, but the tournament really took the air out of the event. Jerry Lawler/Bret Hart was halfway decent, showing Lawler could play a great heel in any era. The main event though, was a disaster, putting Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow against Sid and Tatanka.
2000 was arguably the best year in the history of the WWE, but both Wrestlemania 2000 and King of the Ring 2000 were pretty disappointing. The tournament was hit-or-miss, with some good (Val Venis vs. Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle vs. Crash Holly) and some extremely disappointing (how is Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho not amazing?) The final between Angle and Rikishi was also pretty bad. The tag-team undercard matches were solid and the Patterson/Brisco “Evening Gown” match was surprisingly entertaining. The six man tag main event though (Rock, Undertaker, & Kane vs. HHH & Shane/Vince McMahon), was pretty crappy. Like Wrestlemania 2000, King of the Ring 2000 was not terrible, but not a stand-out either.
As the Attitude Era was ending, the WWE was looking to make new stars. They did just that with Brock Lesnar, who won the 2002 King of the Ring. The problem was, in an effort to make Lesnar look strong, he squashed his opponents in the tournament, turning even a great potential final against RVD into a rout. That and the main event (Undertaker vs. HHH) are the bad though. The rest of card was pretty solid. The opener between RVD and Chris Jericho was excellent. The cruiserweight title match and Ric Flair/Eddie Guerrero were pretty good as well. Even Kurt Angle vs. Hulk Hogan was not bad. This was a good, but not great PPV that needed its namesake tournament and main event to come through a little better.
Throughout its first half, King of the Ring 1997 was shaping up to be an all-time stinker. But then, the last three matches delivered big time. HHH vs. Mankind for the King of the Ring title was very good and would propel them towards an even better match at Summerslam that year. The main event title match between The Undertaker and Faarooq was pretty solid, but not great. The real showstopper (pun intended) was the match between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The future Wrestlemania 14 main event would be a clinic in ring psychology, as the former tag-team partners looked to bash each others heads in. King of the Ring 1997 was a microcosm of the whole year for WWE: stared out very poorly, but rebounded to produce some of their best material to date. A rebound that would ultimately turn the tide of “The Monday Night Wars.”
King of the Ring 1994 was a showcase for the uber-talented Owen Hart. Hart put on three good to great matches with solid opponents throughout the event. His brother’s title match with Diesel was also very good, as for whatever reason, Hart and Diesel seemed to have good chemistry in the ring. The major drawbacks to the event were a really bad tag-team title match and a ridiculous Roddy Piper/Jerry Lawler main event, which was about as good as you could expect at that point in their respective careers.
The title match main event between Shawn Michaels and the British Bulldog was one of the best matches of 1996. The Undertaker/Mankind encounter was also top-notch. What could have overshadowed those two? Well, just the birth of Stone Cold Steve Austin and one of the most important promos in WWE history (Austin 3:16). The tournament was largely crap, sans the Austin/Marc Mero semifinal. Also, who thought The Ultimate Warrior vs. Jerry Lawler was PPV material? Screw the bad though, this was the launching pad for one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time!
The inaugural King of the Ring PPV was a Hart showcase. Like his brother Owen a year later, Bret Hart stole the show with three incredible matches, winning the King of the Ring tournament. Even though rest of the card was disappointing, especially the ridiculous finish of Hogan/Yokozuna, Hart’s matches saved the event. The best of which, was the classic semifinal encounter between Bret and Mr. Perfect.
2001 was probably the best King of the Ring tournament. Both semifinal matches and the final between Kurt Angle and Edge were high quality. The rest of the card was pretty solid as well. The main event triple-threat title match between Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Chris Benoit was outstanding. Nobody remembers those though, because Angle and Shane McMahon handily stole the show with their epic street fight. Angle, who lost his bid to repeat as King of the Ring because of Shane, systematically dismantled his opponent. The climax of the match, and one of the most brutal moments in wrestling history, occurred when Angle repeatedly tried to belly-to-belly suplex Shane through giant panes of glass on the stage. Each attempt resulted in Shane being flung onto the panes head first and then hitting his head on the stage, as the glass would not break. Finally, it did, but the damage had been done. 2001 was probably the most consistent King of the Ring PPV, so it would take something truly special to knock it off its throne…
…enter King of the Ring 1998. The 1998 edition started out as pretty standard affair for PPVs that year. Some good, some bad…but always entertaining. The King of the Ring final between Ken Shamrock and The Rock was excellent, one of the best in the event’s 10-year history. The main event title match between Steve Austin and Kane was brutally physical and supremely entertaining. How come nobody remembers those? Well, ask Mick Foley. See the first Hell-in-a-Cell match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker was, in my opinion, the greatest match of all-time. So, there were pretty big expectations for Undertaker/Mankind. Nothing could prepare us though, for what we saw. I don’t think I even need to recount the proceedings, it’s just maybe the most famous match in wrestling history. If you haven’t seen it, watch it immediately!!!!!!
On Monday, the ALL-TIME BEST 10 BASEBALL MOVIES!
Happy Father’s Day!