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Best Non-Tournament WWE King of the Ring Matches

A photo from WWE King of the Ring '98.

The WWE King of the Ring tournament has been a part of WWE for close to 40 years. In the 80s, it was relegated to house shows, and it was something we heard of only after it was over. It wasn’t until 1993 that the tournament was given its own PLE. It was a PLE that was highly anticipated and produced some great tournament moments.

Now, the tournament has been great and the PLE’s selling point, but that doesn’t mean it is the only highlight. There have been some fantastic matches throughout the show that had nothing to do with the tournament—matches that have become a highlight of the PLE over King of the Ring matches. Below is a list of these great non-tournament matches.

Kurt Angle vs.  Shane McMahon (King of the Ring 2001)

Shane McMahon sought to establish his authority in WWE at the height of the Invasion angle. In doing that he decided to lock horns with the Olympic champion. It was a match that was fought under a street fight stipulation and a match that was easily the most entertaining of the evening.

McMahon needed the street fight gimmick to hang with Angle, but Angle was up to the task. The two men beat the holy crap out of each other. It was a brutal encounter that was highlighted by Shane’s head smacking onto the cement with a sickening thud. The spot was a botch but one that brought so much more to the match. It was a great match that stole the show.

Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin (King of the Ring 1997)

Before they were main eventing WrestleMania, Steve Austin and HBK had a tight little match at King of the Ring. They were on the same side of a feud opposite the Hart Foundation, but had a hard time coexisting., thus they were scheduled to face each other at the PLE.

It is not hard to imagine these men putting on a compelling wrestling match. Both are some of the best workers in wrestling history and had tremendous chemistry with one another. What set this apart was the face vs face dynamic. HBK was still getting cheers and it was interesting to see him work in a slightly more heel role. It presented a refreshing match and set the stage for the greatness that was to come.

The Undertaker vs. Mankind (King of the Ring 1998)

This match need not have much of an introduction. Anyone who grew up watching the Attitude Era knows where they were when Mick Foley became a star. The fans were behind the deranged one, but it was on this night that he became a legend.

Foley took two of the nastiest bumps in WWE history, off and through Hell in a Cell. Everyone was shocked at the man’s ability to stand when the match drew to a close.

Outside of those two bumps the match was filled with brutal spots. The chair shots were stiff, and the thumbtacks added a sense of danger that WWE audiences hadn’t seen before. It was the most hardcore match anyone had witnessed, creating a legend. It’s a match that made the 1998 King of the Ring PLE famous.

Diesel vs. Bret Hart (King of the Ring 1994)

Diesel was stepping out from under HBK’s shadow when he took on Bret Hart. Big Daddy Cool was enjoying a dominant run with the Intercontinental Championship and WWE decided to give him a shot at the big strap.

Diesel was still green, by this point, but that didn’t matter much with Hart. He can have a good match with just about anyone. That is not to say that Diesel was up to the task. He played his Goliath role perfectly as the two put on an entertaining match. It showed more technical acumen than anyone would have expected from Diesel.

This match was a great precursor to their Survivor Series classic the next year. It was also one of the most entertaining matches on an underwhelming card.

Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog (King of the Ring 1996)

The feud between HBK and the Bulldog got intensely personal from the onset. Involving Bulldog’s wife, Diana was a way to get into HBK’s head and hopefully get the Bulldog a championship win. It didn’t have the desired effect, but that doesn’t mean some great matches weren’t produced.

Their encounter at King of the Ring was the best of their feud. There had been screwy finishes in previous title matches so it was nice to see a clean finish with this one. It helped to legitimize the reign of Michaels giving him a big win.

HBK and Bulldog were great, between the ropes, as well. They wove a great story in the ring, and we could feel the motion that each man worked with. It was one of the best matches of HBK’s championship reign and one of the best of the evening.

More From LWOS Pro Wrestling

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