It had been a long time coming, but WWE finally brought back the King Of The Ring tournament. The bracket-driven concept was easily one of my favorite events of the WWE calendar through the 90s. It effectively pushed forward guys into spots of prominence and allowed for a creative way to switch things up and added a new dimension to feuds. And when characters took on the “King” persona… those were the good old days.

Starting with the inaugural pay per view incarnation in 1993, I took that and the subsequent brackets, analyzed them and came up with an overall ranking of the brackets themselves. I factored in who was in the final 8, the quality of those seven matches, and gave extra weight to the winner as well as their finals opponent. Did the winner go on to be a big deal, or did they squander the opportunity and fizzle out? Would the finals opponent have been a better option? Were there matches along the way that lasted fewer than 4 minutes, and did they take the easy way out by giving someone a bye?

Those were the factors I weighed… here’s what I came up with, listed worst to first:

1999 – Easily the worst of the tournaments. Billy Gunn winning the whole thing, beating X-Pac in the finals? Seriously?! Neither of the semi-final matches went more than 6 minutes (nor did the finals). Two of the first-round matches didn’t hit the 4 minute mark. The prior year’s winner, Ken Shamrock, got eliminated in short order in the first round – a fight that would’ve been better served late in the tournament. The tournament felt like they were trying too hard to push the DX feud.

Picture 211995 – The finals were terrible, even worse than 1999. MABEL vs SAVIO VEGA?! I was very tempted to name this as the worst of the brackets, especially with the BYE that Mabel got in the semi-finals, but there was some decent talent in the quarterfinals. Savio Vega found a way to defeat Yokozuna in the quarterfinals… a match that should’ve been in the semis instead of putting The Roadie in the final 3. I actually remember from 20 years ago the match between Kama and Shawn Michaels and how it ended in a time-limit draw. Mabel getting the victory over The Undertaker in the quarterfinals – in addition to the fact that the whole thing took place on pay per view – keeps this from being in last place.

2008 – I’m a fan of William Regal. The guy deserved far better than he received throughout his WWE tenure. I would’ve loved to see him get World Title shots… but having him win the 2008 bracket is truly regrettable… primarily because his opponent in the finals was CM Punk. The semifinals were decent enough… with a short match between Regal and Finlay resulting in a knockout, and Punk pinning Jericho after six minutes of action. The quarterfinals is what really kills this tournament. Sure, MVP and Matt Hardy are decent opponents, but the fact that this tournament was on RAW meant that the matches had to be short, and neither of those guys got more than 5 minutes. And in Regal’s half of the bracket…. Hornswoggle and The Great Khali. If it weren’t for the top half of the bracket, this one might be a SERIOUS contender for worst bracket ever based on what they could’ve done… especially had it been stretched out to more than just one night. Had Punk won and the matches been given more time, it would’ve been higher.

2010 – Sheamus beating John Morrison in the finals is a disappointment, primarily because there were plenty of better options on the other side of the bracket. Alberto Del Rio…. Cody Rhodes… and a guy by the name of Daniel Bryan. On Sheamus’ side of the bracket, sure a victory over Kofi Kingston is an alright way to get things started, but giving Sheamus a BYE in the semi-finals is terrible. Rey Mysterio, Big Show, MVP, Tyson Kidd and Alex Riley each could’ve been utilized to help put over Sheamus, and instead they gave him an extended rest.

owen_kotr_4969718_orig1994 – The setup was perfect. Owen Hart trying to get out of the shadow of his older brother Bret, who had won the King Of The Ring the prior year. Owen had Jim Neidhart watching his back the whole way. At the time, it absolutely seemed like Razor Ramon could win the tournament, and he had a strong showing getting to the finals. Owen beat Tatanka, then The 1-2-3 Kid by submission. What really sells this bracket is the fact that The King Of Harts was born from it, and it added quite a bit to the feud between the Hart brothers. Had Lex Luger advanced, that would’ve added something special to Owen’s resume with a victory over one of the other guys who co-main evented WrestleMania X a couple months prior. Instead, they had Luger lose to Jeff Jarrett… by count-out. Scott Steiner also failed to reach the quarterfinals.

1998 – I understand that WWE was trying to take advantage of the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts and the UFC, but they took it a little far with this tournament. The finals featured The Rock against Ken Shamrock… and the MMA-star was the victor. A guy who went on to NEVER hold the World Title – or even have a memorable pay per view match – got put over arguably one of the top WWE Superstars of all time. Sure, The Rock defeated MMA star Dan Severn in the semi-finals, but only after The Beast had made Owen Hart tap out in 3 minutes in the quarterfinals. Shamrock defeated the likes of Mark Henry and Jeff Jarrett on the way to the finals. Fairly disappointing, from start to finish, but with plenty of potential.

triple-h_kotr1997 – A twenty minute match between Triple H and Mankind in the finals, with the Hardcore Legend rightfully putting over Triple H to help advance his career to the next level. The prior rounds were a bit lackluster, but some decent names were involved. Jerry Lawler being in the semi-finals was a couple years too late, and Ahmed Johnson looked impressive at times but ultimately amounted to nothing. And having it take nearly 20 minutes for Triple H to beat CRUSH in the first round? Not the greatest of tournaments.

1996 – Stone Cold was born when he won this tournament by defeating Jake Roberts. He was absolutely the right choice to win that year – even by Triple H’s own admission – because Austin was ready to take the brass ring, and winning gave him that clout. Vader should’ve been the one to get to the finals, and his semi-finals loss to Jake Roberts – in less than 4 minutes, nevertheless – is regrettable. Marc Mero defeating Owen Hart in the quarterfinals robbed us of an opportunity to see Austin fight the younger Hart brother in his semi-finals match. Had they let Yokozuna, Triple H or The Ultimate Warrior get out of the Round Of 16, this tournament could’ve been really incredible.

2000 – Sure, the finals between Kurt Angle and Rikishi was lackluster, but Angle was definitely the right guy to win the tournament. The other guys in the semi-finals are certainly questionable. Crash Holly… not Hardcore Holly, but the smaller version of the duo… and Val Venis? They had Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho in the final 8. Why not get one of those guys into the semis? A finals match between Angle and any of those three guys would’ve been classic.


2006 – The fact that the everything but the tournament finals took place on Smackdown certainly detracts from the overall luster of the event. At the time, Bobby Lashley was looking like he was going to be a Hall Of Famer, so having Booker T defeat him in the finals was refreshing. Kurt Angle having to forfeit in the semi-finals, giving Booker T a bye right to the finals is a bit disappointing. They could’ve had Booker find a way to take advantage of Angle’s injury. Finlay vs Benoit went 20 minutes andKurt Angle got Randy Orton to tap out in the first round, rounding things out for a fairly solid tournament. The transformation involved in King Bookaaaah and the way he ran with that character actually made this tournament all the better.

2002 – It was inevitable that Brock Lesnar was going to win the tournament, but having Rob Van Dam as his finals opponent was a good option. Having Test as Lesnar’s semi-finals opponent isn’t terrible, but it’s a disappointment when you realize that Lesnar’s first-round opponent was Booker T… who lost in less than 4 minutes when Test got an 8 minute match. Rob Van Dam vs Chris Jericho in the other semi-finals? I’ll take that any day. The other talent was disappointing, with X-Pac being the only other decent talent there, with Val Venis and Hardcore Holly filling spaces.


1993 – Initially I expected the first King Of The Ring Pay Per View to be in the top spot, but it gets to the penultimate spot. Bret Hart carried the WWE from the Hulk Hogan era into a new generation, and it could be argued that this was the event that started that transformation in the business, especially because it’s the event where Yokozuna defeated Hulk Hogan for the belt. But Bret Hart going the entire length of the tournament, putting on great matches with Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and then Bam Bam Bigelow in the finals. Three Hall Of Fame opponents defeated, two of the matches going over 18 minutes… all in one night! The draw between Lex Luger and Tatanka in the first round was actually good in the context of their feud. The aftermath of the tournament, with Jerry Lawler attacking The Hitman during the coronation ceremony and turning it into a good filler angle for a few months was also an added bonus. This event made me interested in all future King Of The Ring tournaments.

Edge_KOTR_132242001 – It doesn’t get much better than Edge beating prior year’s KOTR winner Kurt Angle in the finals, both guys future Hall Of Famers and legitimate stars at the time. Both semi-finals matches went beyond the 8 minute mark. Only one of the first round matches went less than 4 minutes. The potential drama of Christian making it to the semi-finals and almost having a finals match against his tag team partner added to the tournament. Though Jeff Hardy, Perry Saturn, Tajiri and Rhyno aren’t necessarily Hall Of Fame bound, they’re all talented and exciting performers, making for a excellent tournament matches. Two rounds on television and two rounds on pay per view, no cheap finishes, no BYEs? Great stuff.

So how does the 2015 King Of The Ring stack up? I don’t think true analysis can be done until a few years from now where you see how the winner evolved because of their victory, and to see how the other competitors in the bracket look with a bit more seasoning to their careers. What will their resumes look like when 2018 rolls around? How will the landscape of WWE be affected by the events of the 2015 bracket? Time will tell!