I’m going to start a new series here, along with my Top 5 lists that you already see. “From The Vault” will feature memories from various superstars and events over the last 20 years. There are plenty of items to choose from so strap in and get ready. The first Vault item will feature a tournament that defined the summer for World Wrestling Entertainment.
From the forgotten vault of WWE’s library, comes an event that was annual tradition and I looked forward to it every single year. It was supposed to be the passing of the torch to the next great superstar of the company. That event was known as the King Of The Ring.
Several qualifying matches took place in the weeks leading up to the annual King of The Ring tournament, and took place on Monday Night Raw and the weekly syndated Superstars program over the weekend. All of that led up to a one-night 8-man tournament to declare the WWF King Of The Ring.
It became a yearly event in 1993 with Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart defeating Bam Bam Bigelow in the finals of a tournament that also included Mr. Perfect and Lex Luger. Also during the event, the 500-pound Yokozuna (led by Mr. Fuji) captured the WWF Championship, sending then-champion Hulk Hogan packing for WCW.
The next year in 1994, the Hart family ruled supreme yet again. The youngest of the Hart brothers, Owen Hart, would take the crown and also aligned himself with brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. The Anvil had helped Owen win the event with a defeat of crowd favorite Razor Ramon. This was the night that “The Rocket” would forever be known as “The King Of Harts” in the WWF.
Future winners of the tournament would be Mabel (who later went on to be known as Viscera and Big Daddy V), Triple H, Kurt Angle, Booker T, and William Regal. However, maybe the biggest winner of all the King of the Ring events is the Texas Rattlesnake, “StoneCold” Steve Austin. In 1996, Austin laid possibly the most prophetic verse in WWF history, with the unveiling of Austin 3:16. A religious take on the Bible verse of John 3:16, Austin made his own version and it was on t-shirts across the country the very next night on Monday Night Raw.
These were the best tournaments in my opinion, because of one aspect. To become King Of The Ring, that meant you had to compete three times in the same night. The only difference was 1995, when Savio Vega had to qualify less than an hour before the event started, and made his way all the way into the finals against Mabel. Vega would compete an unprecedented FOUR times in one night, although he would be unsuccessful in the finals and King Mabel would rule the summer of 1995 in the World Wrestling Federation.
In later years, the event became less prominent. It became where only the semifinal matches and the final match would be held at the event, along with other matches that were seemingly just thrown onto the card. The 2006 tournament would be held on Raw and SmackDown! shows, with the final match between Booker T and current StrikeForce star Bobby Lashley taking place at the Judgement Day pay-per-view.
William Regal brought some heritage back to the event in 2008 when he won the event. The tournament was held over one night on Raw, and he defeated CM Punk in the finals. However by this point, the event had lost its shine and was not enough to really make noise. In previous years, the winner of the King of the Ring would normally face the WWF/WWE Champion at SummerSlam. However the last two events ended that tradition.
Personally, what I would like to see is a reprise of the original King of the Ring. Have your qualifying matches on Monday and Friday nights. And then have the actual tournament take place on pay-per-view. It was the true test to see who the top star in the company was, and to see who could provide quality competition for the current champion. The King of the Ring event was one of several pay-per-view events that disappeared for one reason or another, but I think if it was promoted and built right, it could bring back the old-school feeling and would be enjoyable for the WWE Universe to watch. All links used here are courtesy of Wikipedia and the official WWE website.