King of the Ring and the Curse of the Crown

The King of the Ring was once a tournament featuring the best of the best, battling their way through several opponents in one-on-one matches to determine a true King of the squared circle. One ruler of the ring.

From the inaugural winner Don Muraco, to the biggest stars of the late 80’s into the early 90’s like Macho Man Randy Savage to Bret and Owen Hart, the event either made already established stars into larger than life superstars, or young up-and-comers a household name to be reckoned with.

The tournament also provided historic moments that transcend time and created icons, like Stone Cold Steve Austin‘s infamous Austin 3:16 promo following his 1994 King of the Ring victory, defeating Jake the Snake Roberts in the finals and mocking his religious views. Or who could forget Ken Shamrock‘s 1998 KOTR victory during the peak of his popularity? The most dangerous man alive soon went on to win both the Intercontinental Championship and Tag Team Championships (together with The Big Boss Man) as a member of The Corporation.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all Stunners and Championships. King of the Ring has also throned a few blunders in its day. Like in 1995, when Mabel was crowned as the KOTR winner, he was expected to receive a big push. Part of that push was a feud with The Undertaker, a program that would propel King Mabel’s career. A botched clothesline that ended up actually clubbing Undertaker to the side of the face resulted in Undertaker having to wear the Phantom of the Opera style mask due to a crushed cheekbone and damaged eye-socket. Mabel’s push was abruptly ended.

Or of course there’s Billy Gunn, who won in 1999 as part of his singles career push. That, too, was short-lived, as he and Chyna feuded against X-Pac and Road Dogg over the right to the D-Generation X name, a program that he was on the losing end of. After a failed attempt to humiliate The Rock, ultimately losing in a Kiss My Ass match, and another failed attempt at capturing the Intercontinental Championship, Gunn’s singles push was placed on hold and he and Road Dogg re-united to re-capture the Tag Team Championships for a fourth time.

Since 2002, there have been a total of five King of the Ring tournaments.

Brock Lesnar won the tournament in 2002, defeating fan favorite Rob Van Dam in the finals. With the whole crown, cape and scepter gimmick, the winner also received an Undisputed Championship title shot at the 2002 edition of Summerslam. Lesnar would be featured in the main event against the champion at the time, The Rock. Defeating the People’s Champion, Brock Lesnar became the youngest WWE Champion, at the age of 25, a record previously owned by The Rock himself. Lesnar also became the 2nd quickest to capture the WWE Championship since his debut, doing so in just 126 days. The then-Next Big Thing then went on to feud with The Undertaker, defending his WWE Championship, before losing it to Big Show thanks to Paul Heyman turning on Lesnar. This would put an end to Lesnar’s six-month reign as champion and would also be the first time Lesnar had suffered a pinfall loss.

Then, four years later in 2006, Booker T won the tournament, becoming the 17th King of the Ring winner. After accepting the crown and cape, Booker T demanded that he would be referred to as King Booker from that point on, fully adopting the King gimmick. He was guaranteed a title shot at the World Heavyweight Championship, but didn’t cash it in right away as he had his hands full with Bobby Lashley, the superstar he defeated in the finals. After the program between he and Lashley came to an end, Booker T captured the World Heavyweight Championship at The Great American Bash, defeating Rey Mysterio. His reign as champion would last four months, losing to Batista at Survivor Series in November. Later in 2007, both Booker T and Sharmell would request, and get granted, their release from the company after a dispute with a wellness policy violation.

That was the last time the King of the Ring tournament held any relevancy. The two last winners went on to become WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion, but there are still three more winners to get to, which leads us to the title of this article.

The Curse of the Crown

In 2008, William Regal won the tournament to become the 18th winner. Unlike previous tournaments, this one was held on an episode of Monday Night Raw and featured participants from all three brands; Raw, Smackdown and ECW. Regal defeated Hornswoggle, Finley and CM Punk, en route to capturing the crown. During his ceremony to coronate Regal, he was interrupted by Mr. Kennedy. Fast forward a few weeks later and Regal would lose a Loser Gets Fired match to Mr. Kennedy. Behind the scenes, Regal had failed a wellness policy test, his second infraction, forcing him to undergo a 60-day suspension. Upon his return, Regal feuded with Jamie Noble and the two exchanged wins before Regal put Noble away in the rubber match to capture the heart of Nidia. From King to romantically involved with a woman portraying a trailer park gal. Classy.

Then there was Sheamus, winner of the 2010 KOTR. Dawning a green cape, Irish scepter and a Celtic crown, Sheamus was on the rise in terms if becoming a bigger star and certainly a King of the Ring victory would propel him in the right direction. Things took a giant swerve when Sheamus started a series of losses to John Morrison, the guy he beat in the finals of KOTR, starting with their ladder match at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs. Sheamus continued to lose in both singles matches and tag team matches. Eventually, Sheamus moved on to face Daniel Bryan for the United States Championship. He then put his career on the line for a rematch and subsequently won it, capturing the US title for the first time. However the 2011 Supplemental Draft saw Sheamus move over to Smackdown and at the Extreme Rules PPV, Sheamus lost the championship to Kofi Kingston, returning the championship back to Raw.

Now, five years removed from a second consecutive failed attempt at using the King of the Ring tournament, the WWE revived the tournament. Holding the first series of matches on Monday Night Raw, the remainder of the tournament was held, rather uneventfully, on the WWE Network. In the finals, Wade Barrett defeated NXT up-and-comer Adrian Neville, utilizing the Bullhammer to put down the high-flying superstar.

We fell right back into the trap of 2008 and 2010 of putting the crown on someone that could use the push but knowing it was doomed to fail eventually. For Wade Barrett, that came sooner than expected. Much to the dismay of wrestling fans, as many believed Neville could have benefited from winning the tournament and pushing onwards as a legitimate singles competitor.

For Barrett, his role within the mid-card division has remained stagnant since his capturing and loss of the Intercontinental Championship. The saying, “You win some, you lose some” applies to the 2015 run for Barrett. In fact, his run as Intercontinental Champion fully resembles his current run as King of the Ring. He’s simply traded in some gold and white leather for a plastic crown and scepter, and upgraded his spiked and studded entrance cape to a red velvet King’s cape. The result, however, remains the same.

It all culminated at the Elimination Chamber event. Stuck inside a steel and chain chamber, Barrett fought for his chance to once again win the Intercontinental Championship. His efforts were greeted with a less-than-glorious exit. He would be the first one to be eliminated, and by R-Truth no less.

Wade Barrett, we’ve got some BAD NEWS for you! Be it Raw or Smackdown, PPV or Network exclusive, Barrett will gladly serve as your King TO the ring, but once inside he is merely a jester. Here to serve as your entertainment for the evening.

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