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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The History of the King of the Ring Tournament
January 26, 2006 by Aidan Kennedy


The WWF's King of the Ring Tournament was, to many fans, a novel creation. It had a catchy name, was a great idea, and has held many memorable matches and moments over the years. But when did this event begin"

Most wrestling fans believe that the first KOTR occurred in 1993. This is correct in that 1993 was the year of the first King of the Ring on Pay-Per-View, but the event itself originally goes all the way back to 1985; July 8th 1985 - Foxboro, Massachusetts - was the birthplace of this historical wrestling event. On this night, Don Muraco defeated the Iron Sheik to become the very first King of the Ring. The following year the tournament was once again held in Foxboro, when the legendary Harley Race defeated Pedro Morales in the final. Harley is noted for incorporating his KOTR victory into his "King of Wrestling" gimmick. Randy Savage lifted the crown and sceptre in 1987 after his KOTR finals match with the mammoth King Kong Bundy in Providence, Rhode Island. The 1988 tournament is notable for the fact that Randy Savage made it to the finals again but lost the title of "King" to Ted DiBiase. In 1989, the future El Matador was victorious in the tournament, defeating Rick Martel to earn the prestigious title. Following this, the next tournament wasn't held until 1991, when Bret Hart defeated IRS to earn the golden sceptre. This was the last KOTR that did not make it to Pay-Per-View. From 1987 to 1991, the tournament was held in the same place - Providence, Rhode Island - and would not return there until 1997.

On June 13th 1993, purchasers of the King of the Ring were given a treat. Bret Hart was to become the first and only person to become the King of the Ring twice. Yes, fans witnessed "The Excellence of Execution" wrestle - and beat - Razor Ramon in a very good match, Mr. Perfect in a technical classic and Bam Bam Bigelow in another fine match. But as Hart was giving his coronation speech, he was attacked by Jerry Lawler beginning a feud which would run until 1995.

The following year's show would see Owen Hart win the KOTR by defeating Razor Ramon in the finals to set up the feud between the two brothers, which would lead to the stunner they had at WrestleMania 10. The best match on this card would be the younger Hart's victory over the 1-2-3 Kid to advance to the final.

1995 was a terrible year for wrestling. And this year's tournament was not only the worst King of the Ring ever, but it may even be the worst WWF/E show ever. To emphasise how bad this show was, we need only to look at the winner. Okay, so Undertaker and Shawn Michaels were both in the tournament and not only did they both go out in the quarter finals, but 'Man on a Mission' Mabel ended up going home with the crown. In case you don't know, Mabel is now known as "the world's largest love machine", Viscera. Now let us never speak of this event again...

The 1996 KOTR was infinitely better than the previous year's calamity. In this event - and up until 1999 - WWF decided to only show the semi-finals and finals on the card to leave room for other storylines, feuds and matches to take place. The 1996 KOTR was the birthplace of one of wrestling's biggest phenomenons: Stone Cold Steve Austin. After beating Jake Roberts in the final, Steve delivered his now infamous speech and also gave birth to the "and that's the bottom line" catchphrase. This event was in my opinion, when the seeds of the Attitude Era were planted.

1997 was a fairly forgettable event in which Triple H defeated Mankind in the final of the tournament before assaulting him afterwards.

The 1998 tournament was also a fairly forgettable one. Ken Shamrock won this one. However, a non-tournament match would swiftly become one of the most famous matches of all time...

1999 had another winner who didn't do anything worthwhile after his victory. Following in Mabel's footsteps, Billy Gunn would become another obscure King when he defeated DX stable mate X-Pac in the final.

When the tournament entered the new millennium, Vinnie Mac picked a damn good winner. Kurt Angle would go on to defeat Rikishi in the final of this one. This tournament is interesting as it featured a lot of workers ranging from very good to outstanding. These workers were Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Val Venus and winner Kurt Angle, making this a very enjoyable wrestling event.

The penultimate tournament was another one which helped set up a feud. This time it was the mid-card feud between Edge and Christian when Edge won the tournament and Christian became jealous. Kurt Angle also wrestled not only in the semi finals and finals but against Shane McMahon in an outstanding street fight which showed just how good Kurt is.

2002 marked the end of the King of the Ring Tournament. Brock Lesnar won this one as part of his monster push which had begun upon his arrival in WWE. Brock beat Rob Van Dam in the final. And so died the King of the Ring...

As well as the tournaments, this legendary event has also featured many memorable non-tournament matches. While WrestleMania has many memorable moments to boast about, the King of the Ring gave us a lot of things that fans will always remember. 1993 saw the final WWE match of Hulk Hogan for nine years. 1996 gave us Stone Cold. 1998 gave us the most famous Hell in a Cell in history. 2001 gave us an awesome Street fight and 2002 presented us with the first major accomplishment of Brock Lesnar. These are just a few great moments that the King of the Ring has given us

So should the King of the Ring be brought back today" Would it ruin the prestige of the event" I think if the King of the Ring was reborn, it would be more intriguing than it has ever been. Four superstars from RAW and four from SmackDown! could enter, giving us a variety of mixed brand match ups. But even if we have indeed seen the death of the King of the Ring, it has left us with so many great moments, who can complain" This is an often forgotten event that is a real part of Federation history and the fact that the events have been forgotten apart from maybe the Hell in a Cell, is perhaps the greatest shame of all.

by Aidan Kennedy..


Steven P. wrote:
I find it very ironic that the start of Brock Lesnar's push was the end of mt third favorite pay per view of all time. The King Of The Ring tournament was special because everybody, with the exception of Billy Gunn and Mabel have had reasonable success and a fan following. I would put Edge in that category if he wasn't the WWE Champion. I believ that you're accurate in that the 2000 KOR tournament was probably the best roster that the WWE ever had in a KOR tourney. Kurt Angle, Crash Holly, Bull Buchanan, Val Venis, Eddie Guerrero, Rikishi, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. It should be brought back because it symbolizes that, mor often than not, a new star or two can be made to the fans delight.
Jesse Lee wrote:
Nice column! The only thing I disagree with, is the fact about the 1998 King of the Ring. Reason I say fact is because it truly is a forgettable win. However, I've been a fan of Ken Shamrock since before he entered WWE (F at the time) so I really marked out when he won it. Can't deny the fact that he had a fairly successful run after that. Sure it wasn't anything big, but it kept my interest-----which really isn't all that hard to do.
C. M. Latsha wrote:
One major reason that the King of the Ring tournament has fallen from favor is that it doesn't serve any purpose. After 1993, the Royal Rumble set up a title shot for the winner. This sets up an opportunity for title match on the biggest stage of them all without having to create a huge storyline. The King of the Rings wins a tournament, so what" If the WWE were to bring back the King of the Ring, there would need to be a reason to win it. Owen Hart and Mabel tried to parley their wins into their character names, but it just seemed silly. Therefore, I would like to make the KOTR a tournament for midcarders allowing them to gain a I-C or US Title shot at Summer Slam. Then, the major stars would could have their own important matches, while the midcarders could shine iin a tournament mode, building one or two into potential headliner status in the future. It would also mean that the stupid thing would not be so predictable, which is what the thing turned into at the end. I don't see KOTR coming back as a PPV in the future, but I could see a place for it, in a different fashion.
Sus Stubbings wrote:
The history of the King of the Ring is interesting, nice column. Viscera and Billy Gunn winning the tournament was boring and stupid, but some, such as Austins win, were stepping stones to stardom. I wish they would bring back King of the Ring. Also, Austins 'thats the bottom line' catchphrase was said a couple of times in ECW, it was the 3:16 phrase that was born in the interview after Austins win over Jake. This was the time when Jake was running that religious gimmick.
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