WWE surprised everyone on Monday when they announced the King of The Ring tournament was back. Since 2015 and the crowning of Bad News Barrett, the legendary tournament had disappeared from our screens. Although the King of the Ring tournament was not made into a pay-per-view event until 1993, the original King of the Ring tournament was held in 1985. Don Muraco won the tournament last defeating The Iron Sheik The King of the Ring pay-per-view was considered one of the WWE’s “Big Five” events of the year, along with the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series, up until its disestablishment after the 2002 event. Being King of The Ring has nothing to do with winning a title match, it’s an honour only the best wrestlers have the chance to proudly have bestowed upon them.
In tribute to all the Kings who were Kings before the new King is crowned, we here at SteelChair Mag thought we’d tell you about our personal favourites.
James Truepenny – Harley Race (1986)
Harley Race and Vince McMahon, you could write a book, but I’ve got 200 words so let’s crack on. A few nights before the first Starrcade, Vince offered to pay Harley a generous sum to no show the event. Harley declined, Vince wasn’t happy but had to acquiesce. In the coming years McMahon went into different territories including Race’s own Kansas City which resulted in Race reportedly trying to set fire to the WWF ring and pulling a 9mm on Hulk Hogan, but here is the thing, Vince needed Harley so when he did sign the trouble was how to relay to North Eastern wrestling fans how great Harley was after years of being told that the NWA was inferior.
As a result, Harley was pushed to the moon in the second King of the Ring. Race beat perennial favourite George The Animal Steele in the first round, took a bye in the second, beat red hot babyface Billy Jack Haynes in the semi-final and the WWF’s first Triple Crown winner Pedro Morales in the final winning with a Superplex. Race was now King Race with Bobby Heenan and his Queen The Fabulous Moolah, they would be an imperious package. However, Race laid the foundation for the Kings to come like Booker T and King Mabel, as always Harley set the tone.
Steph Franchomme – Bret Hart (1991 & 1993)
Bret Hart is the only wrestler in the history of the tournament to have been crowned King of the Ring twice, and 2 years in a row (it was put on hold in 1992). In 1991, The Hart Foundation was still one of the most popular tag teams in WWF but it was clear that Bret “Hitman” Hart was ready to move onto singles competition. A month earlier, he won his first WWF Intercontinental Championship from Mr Perfect at SummerSlam. He defeated Irwin R. Shyster in the finals to become King of the Ring.
In 1993, Hart was more popular than ever as a singles competitor, he was the fans’ favourite, the perfect babyface, and he had just come off his first reign as WWF World Heavyweight Champion. At the PPV, he defeated Razor Ramon, Mr Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow, all in one night, to win back to back King Of The Ring tournaments.
Macho Man ran into the ring to hug Bret Hart and celebrate with him instantly. They discussed how he’s won the WWF, Intercontinental and Tag Team Titles and now this. Jerry Lawler interrupted to say he’s the only real King and laid him out with the sceptre. That night, a feud was starting but the legacy of a man was being cemented in the sentence “The Best there is, The Best there was, The Best there ever will be.”
Bradley Tiernan – Stone Cold Steve Austin (1996)
Although the win itself was arguably not as impressive given the level of competition in the tournament – Steve Austin beat Sparky Plug, Savio Vega and Marc Mero en route to Jake Roberts in the final – it was what followed the win which makes Austin’s victory at the 1996 King of the Ring tournament so memorable. The biblical “Austin 3:16” victory speech not only signified Stone Cold’s potential within the company but also gave birth to one of the most popular catchphrases in WWE history.
Up until this point Austin had flirted with success at WCW, but within a year at the WWF, he rose to stardom thanks to this promo… and Hunter Hearst Helmsley being punished for his part in the infamous Curtain Call incident. It is regarded by some to be one of the catalysts for the start of the Attitude Era, but we won’t say that with absolute certainty as that’s a whole different discussion for another article.
Humza Hussain – Owen Hart (1994)
“Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart has literally given this coveted King of the Ring crown to the ‘Rocket’ Owen Hart.” The keyword of Gorilla Monsoon’s immediate reaction to Owen Hart capturing the King of the Ring crown in 1994 was “coveted.” Winning the tournament had a lot of prestige in the early nineties. It made the winner come across as one of the top stars in the company. Owen’s victory is not only a great example of how effective this tournament can be but also shows how you can incorporate the crown into your character.
Owen winning the tournament came in the middle of his rivalry with then WWE champion Bret Hart, and by winning the same tournament Bret won a year earlier, Owen came across as Bret’s equal without having to win the world title. Also, his nickname “King of Harts” came from the 1994 King of the Ring, a nickname people still affectionately use to this day when talking about Owen Hart. He had some strong in-ring performances during that tournament, but the after-effects of his victory are what stand out most when thinking back to 1994.
John Dinsdale – William Regal (2008)
What can be said about William Regal? The man is a legend in wrestling and is still incredibly popular through his work as the GM of NXT. His King of the Ring was in 2008 when he was serving as an interim RAW General Manager and being a top heel. He entered the King of the Ring tournament and defeated Hornswoggle, Finlay and CM Punk via submission earning him the accolade as the first man to submit CM Punk in WWE.
He wasn’t allowed a proper coronation as it was interrupted by Mr Kennedy returning. That being said, Regal had a strong showing in the tournament and we can probably all agree that he never really needed the crown to elevate himself at that point. Regal is still one of the most beloved faces on WWE network television and one of the genius’ behind NXT and it’s successful TakeOvers.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE