Monday, November 29, 2010

Is King of the Ring still relevant?

Yesterday on Formspring, I was asked if King of the Ring even matters anymore or is it just a gimmick to pop ratings? Well for one, what isn't a gimmick to pop ratings and two, did it ever really matter?

Looking back over the history of King of the Ring since it became a PPV event in 1993, how many Superstars did it really make? By my count, two, Owen Hart and Steve Austin. Owen Hart's KOTR victory was arguably the biggest moment of his career, allowing him to establish his own identity away from Bret Hart, and it gave us the greatest cage match in WWE history at SummerSlam 1994. I don't think I need to say anything about Stone Cold's KOTR victory aside from "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass," which is the most important moment in the history of the industry aside from Hogan slamming Andre.

Sure, some guys got a nice boost out of winning King of the Ring, but in most cases, it wasn't necessary. Bret Hart was already a former WWE Champion when he won, and while the 1993 event was a nice showcase for his abilities, putting on three excellent matches with three vastly different wrestlers, he didn't need it. It helped guys like Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar easily move into the WWE Title scene as well, but those guys were future champions from day one anyway. Triple H saw his career re-established after winning it in 97, but his gimmick was so drastically overhauled a few months later, you have to wonder if he even needed the big win.

And those are the King of the Ring success stories. For every Angle, Lesnar and Triple H, there's a guy like Mabel, whose KOTR victory led to one of the worst PPV main events in WWE history. Or Ken Shamrock, whose reign as King was forgotten as soon as he won it. Or Edge, who didn't go onto achieve main event success for another four years. And of course, who can forget Billy Gunn, whose KOTR victory was such a disaster, it gave us the phrase "Billy Gunning" to describe a failed reign.

But fast-forward to 2006 when King of the Ring returned from a four year hiatus and gave us King Booker. It completely revamped Booker T's stale character and gave him his first, and I believe only, World Title reign during his WWE stint. Oh, and we also got the greatest PPV poster WWE's ever produced:

King Bookah: The Dragon Slayer

And when King of the Ring 2008 gave us King Regal, it looked like the Blackpool native was well on his way to the most successful run of his career. Of course, an unfortunate turn of events put a halt to that, which might be the biggest disappointment of the last five years. Regal killed in the role, I was convinced he was going to get a run with the WWE Title out of the deal, but sometimes things don't work out as planned. Bad luck and bad timing aside, you can't deny the impact the KOTR victory had on Regal's momentum.

Now that King of the Ring has presumably become a bi-annual event, it's arguably more important and helpful than it ever was a WWE's lowest drawing PPV. Granted, we haven't had any breakouts quite like Stone Cold (I also have never seen a unicorn in the wild), but at least KOTR is now more of a special attraction than just another PPV. Perhaps this year will buck the trend of the last two tournaments and won't revitalize or instantly make someone's career, but looking at the eight participants, I don't see anyone who couldn't use the royal treatment.

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