Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Best and Worst WWE King of the Ring Winners

A photo of 2019 WWE King of the Ring Winner Baron Corbin.

The WWE King of the Ring tournament is a launching pad. Like the Royal Rumble, it catapults a wrestler into the limelight. Winning the tournament usually signifies the office’s faith in a wrestler. It is a platform for the wrestler to show the world that they have arrived.

Winning the King of the Ring tournament should mean a rocket to the top, and in some instances, this has been the case. However, as with most WWE pushes, not all of them turn out the way the company had hoped. The history of the King of the Ring winners is more 50/50 than anything.

Below, we will examine some of the best and the worst from the winners of the King of the Ring.

Best: Bret Hart (1993)

This is probably the single greatest performance in the history of the tournament. Bret had been shoved to the back of the WWE title picture and something was needed to placate the Excellence of Execution.

Hart wrestled his butt off on this night. He had great matches against Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow on route to winning the crown. These matches had different styles and pacing but remained engaging in their outright. It was a testament to how talented Hart was, and it made Hart one of the most deserving of the King of the Ring crown.

Worst: Mabel (1995)

Mabel was never a man who should have never received a main event push. His size was impressive, but that was where the buck stopped. He was terrible on the stick and was even worse in the ring. His ability to injure opponents was what he was known for, not an endearing feature.

Winning King of the Ring was a head-scratcher. With men like HBK, The Undertaker, and Kama on the docket it was a marvel that Mabel won. He was not supported by the fans and had a push that flamed out before the year was up.

Best: Owen Hart (1994)

In terms of needing a King of the Ring win, there may be no better example than Owen Hart. Hart was trapped under his brother’s shadow for years before he finally broke out. His heel turn and started his momentum, but it was at the King of the Ring that Owen established himself.

Owen cut through Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, and Razor Ramon Owen looked like a main event star. He got a great bit of momentum and translated the win into a fantastic world title feud opposite his brother. It was the night when he announced his presence with authority. That joke may be lost on the younger crowd.

Worst: Billy Gunn (1999)

The King of the Ring is a great way to give a mid-card guy his trip to the main event. Sometimes it works. In Billy Gunn’s case, it was a failure that didn’t make it to the end of the summer.

Gunny was great as a tag team competitor, but he never moved into the singles area well. WWE tried this in 1999 when breaking him from D-Generation X, but no one got behind it. The fans never got behind Gunn and he never provided a credible threat to any world title. It was a push that WWE pivoted on quickly but having The Rock bury the Ass Man.

Best: Steve Austin (1996)

Austin was headed for nothing in WWE. He came in as the Million Dollar Champion but was never treated seriously by either the office or the crowd. That is until his iconic King of the Ring victory that rocketed him into superstardom.

Steve Austin had adopted a tough guy persona and kicked a%$ in the tournament. He had a gritty victory against Marc Mero and then a squash over Jake Roberts. It wasn’t a great final, but it prompted Austin to deliver his famous Austin 3:16 speech. The rest is history.

Worst: Xavier Woods (2021)

The most recent King of the Ring tournament was one that didn’t play very well. The matches didn’t carry the weight necessary for King of the Ring, and Xavier Woods winning was a choice that didn’t work.

Woods is a great wrestler and an entertaining talent, but his win meant nothing. He was well past the point of it pushing him to the main event, so the win meant nothing. It provided for a few entertain segments, from The New Day, but it was never taken seriously. It was retconned not long after when Roman Reigns took the crown from Xavier Woods.

Best: Brock Lesnar (2002)

The Beast busted his way onto the WWE scene. He was a little-known commodity but one that didn’t take long to introduce himself to WWE. He carved his way through everyone put in front of him en route to winning the King of the Ring.

Brock Lesnar plowed through the field for the crown. He beat Bubba Ray Dudley, Test, Booker T, and RVD with ease. None of his matches reached past 9 minutes. Lesnar didn’t even break a sweat in a tournament full of heavy hitters. The Beast was here to take over the company, and he did just that.

Worst: Sheamus (2010)

Sheamus is a beloved wrestler, but it wasn’t always like that. When he debuted, he was disliked by just about every fan. This fact didn’t help him when he went over in the tournament.

Fans look for a legitimate champion and this wasn’t one. Sheamus was already a proven talent and winning the King of the Ring wouldn’t change that. It would have made more sense to have John Morrison win the crown and see where he takes it.

Also, we can’t discuss King Sheamus without bringing up that hideous crown and cape. He didn’t look regal, more like a joke. A joke that no fan was laughing at.

Best: Kurt Angle (2000)

Kurt Angle had what could be the best rookie season in WWE history. Debuting at the 1999 Survivor Series Angle was fantastic as the arrogant heel. The fans detested him, and he picked up on the sport very quickly. So quickly that he amassed an incredible resume in a calendar year, with the King of the Ring being a huge trophy.

The Olympic Gold Medalist was a man on the rise. He had already captured the Intercontinental and European Championships. Winning the King of the Ring was a huge moment for the man. One that pushed him even closer to the main event.

Worst: Baron Corbin (2019)

Baron Corbin is another man who has received so many failed pushes that it begs the question of why. Why, in 2019, would WWE think it a great idea to have him win the tournament? Men like Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, Andrade, and Cesaro would have been great choices as the winning. Even the underdog Chad Gable would have been a great story.

Corbin became insufferable after his win. No one wanted to see his dreadfully long coronation and every promo was terrible. He was never one to be taken seriously and this gimmick made things worse. He looked awful, had no meaningful feuds, and was a waste as the king.

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