WWE recently announced the return of one of their best tournaments, the King of the Ring.
Starting in 1985 and running until 2002, except in 1990 where the event wasn’t held, it became a PPV event from 1993-2002 before being replaced by Badd Blood. It returned in 2006 and became a bi-yearly event until 2010 when it took a five-year hiatus, returning in 2015 for a one-off tournament. The basis was a sixteen-man tournament with the winner being crowned ‘The King’, surprisingly only a handful of competitors used the moniker of ‘King’, most notably King Booker and Owen Hart who dubbed himself ‘The King of Harts’. With sixteen men per bracket, although some only had eight, and the tournament occurring 20 times since 1985, there are multiple matches that have gone under the radar to most fans and not given the recognition they deserve. These are five underrated matches from the King of the Ring tournaments.
5. Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle – Opening Round, King of the Ring 2006
On the face of it, this match doesn’t seem to be underrated due to the wrestlers competing and the time the match took place. 2006 was Kurt Angle’s intense persona in which every single match he had, was always amazing. Him going against the ‘Legend Killer’ Randy Orton, a young talent who at the time was still looking to build his legacy in the industry. That was one of the downfalls for this tournament, as all competitors were on the SmackDown brand in a time where RAW was classed as the main show, which meant there was somewhat less focus on SmackDown despite the immense array of talent the brand possessed.
The match was really as you may expect it, with Angle using his effective arsenal of throws and submissions whilst Orton was using his athleticism and intelligence to fend off the Olympian. The early stages were all Orton has he targeted the arm, attempting to prevent Angle to be able to lock in any kind of suplex or the Ankle Lock. The match turned around quickly after Angle flips Orton out the ring before taking control with suplexes and countering the RKO into the Ankle Lock for the win. A short but sweet eight-minute match between two of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots.
4. CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho – Semi-Final, King of the Ring 2008
Another match where the two competitors are that good, the match is always going to be highly rated. The King of the Ring 2008 took place in April on one sole episode of Monday Night RAW with competitors from RAW, Smackdown and WWE ECW.
Jericho was in his resurgence as a competitor, returning the previous year, whereas Punk was in his ascendance to the top as he was the current Money in the Bank briefcase holder. Jericho, as the more experienced competitor, controlled the match getting in his usual offence of the Lionsault, Enziguri and the Walls of Jericho only for Punk to keep battling through and hit the GTS for the win, advancing to the final before being defeated by William Regal. It was another competition where the matches aren’t well known as the winner is unfortunately a forgettable one, meaning some of the other matches would definitely go under the radar. This was another short but sweet match, lasting just over six minutes but served its purpose to show off the talented CM Punk against the wily veteran in Jericho.
3. Brock Lesnar vs. Rob Van Dam – Final, King of the Ring 2002
Brock Lesnar, when he wants to, can put on one hell of a match.
He always seems to put on the best matches with people half his size, look at his matches recently with AJ Styles, Finn Balor and Daniel Bryan. This match was no exception, even though it was 17 years ago. A brilliant dynamic with a valiant and extremely popular babyface going up against a legitimate monster with a conniving heel manager in his corner.
The match started out as you’d expect with RVD going for low kicks to take out the legs as well as hitting a superb thrust kick to Lesnar. Lesnar soon regained the advantage though and controlled the most of the match with his super-human strength. The finish to the match was one of the best I can remember from a King of the Ring tournament, as RVD hits a Five Star Frog Splash onto Lesnar, only to be guillotined on the top rope by Heyman, inadvertently knocking RVD to lay on top of Lesnar’s prone body. After Heyman is knocked the floor, RVD goes for a springboard crossbody, to be caught by Lesnar and hit with the F-5.
A brilliant match between a big man and smaller competitor, showing off that Lesnar really was the ‘Next Big Thing’ and that RVD is an absolute professional and one of the best.
2. Neville vs. Luke Harper – First Round, King of the Ring 2015
An entry from the most recent event and another match with the big man/little man dynamic as Neville, during his ‘Man That Gravity Forgot’ persona went against a post-Wyatt Family Luke Harper.
You’d expect with a match of this dynamic to be all about Harper, but it was Neville who seemed to control the match with quick movement and hard strikes that kept the big man. Harper did get some offence in with a knee as Neville springboarded towards him, shifting the momentum ever so slightly as Harper was able to use his strength advantage before Neville hit a wicked Sunset Flip Powerbomb and finished Harper off with his patented Red Arrow. Neville beat Sheamus in the semi-finals before falling to Bad News Barrett. The matches are readily available to the fans on the WWE Network, you do need to do some searching to find them! But I fell that the WWE didn’t put their all into this event like they have done in the past, and it felt like it was a very lacklustre attempt at what is one of their most popular events.
1. Val Venis vs Eddie Guerrero – Quarter Finals, King of the Ring 2000
This match made me remember how good of a performer Val Venis was. I really think that his odd gimmicks did hinder his potential even though he was always a reliable mid-card talent. Flanked by Trish Stratus, going up against the ever-lovable Eddie Guerrero, also with a valet in the form of Chyna, put on a great workhorse classic.
Venis used his size to his advantage to dominant the early parts of the match, with Eddie trying to counter the strength with his speed and agility to counteract the momentum until he was dropped hard on the guardrail. Both competitors were going back and forth hitting big moves to try and take full control but were never fully able to. Eddie managed to get the upper hand by hitting moves like a Superplex and a Super Hurricanrana.
Venis portrayed the solid heel in this match, raking the eyes and having Trish distract the referee, which complimented the uber babyfaces in Eddie Guerrero and Chyna, and created a compelling back and forth contest with the crowd not knowing who was going to come out on top.
The end of the match came after Venis hit Eddie with a Fisherman Suplex following a brief distraction from Chyna that went awry. With the most competitors to compete (KOTR 2000 had 32 men in the tournament), it is understandable this match was lost in the shuffle of the card.
As we await the 2019 edition, we all have our favourites and who we want to be the King but we just know that some of the matches in this tournament will certainly not be underrated and if WWE can do the competition right, it’ll be one to remember.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!