Not all kings are created equal. Both in matters of regency and the ring, there are those who undeservedly sit upon the throne.
The King of the Ring has served as a launching pad for some of the biggest stars in the history of the business. Brock Lesnar, Bret Hart, and Stone Cold Steve Austin have all seen their stock rise meteorically after claiming the crown. Sadly, not every star has been so lucky.
These are the five who fared worst after becoming wrestling royalty.
In 1995 steroid infused muscle monsters were out and overweight titans were in. By virtue of this Mabel got his chance to be named King.
His reign got off to a shaky start as he won one of the most lacklustre tournaments in history, earning a BYE in the semi-finals and beating Savio Vega in the finals. From there he unsuccessfully challenged Diesel for the WWE Championship at Summerslam and then injured The Undertaker in a short feud.
Mabel was never going to be a top star in the WWE and his push towards that position is still utterly baffling. The only reason this isn’t in the top spot is that it did at least lead to some main event exposure for the lumbering behemoth.
Another year, another semi-final BYE. There may well be a pattern emerging here.
Come 2010 Sheamus was being pushed as the new top heel and the company was bestowing honour after honour upon him to get him over with the fans. Already a two-time WWE Champion by this point in his tenure, the crown felt surplus to requirements on him.
Upon winning the tournament, Sheamus started a downhill trend that saw him decrease in relevance all the way up until he claimed victory in the 2012 Royal Rumble.
If the point of the crown is to elevate a performer then it missed the mark by a huge margin this time. The only saving grace for Sheamus is that he did bounce back and go on to have a pretty good career after a while.
3. Billy Gunn
He’s an ass man and he certainly fell on his here.
In 1999 the WWE were looking to push Billy Gunn as a main event level talent and the King of the Ring was the perfect opportunity to do just that. Gunn certainly had the talent to go at that level in the ring and he was undeniably over with the Attitude Era crowd. Sadly, the ball was dropped and dropped hard.
The tournament served as a vehicle to tell the story of the dissolution of DX more than anything else and that did nothing to help Gunn to look important in the fan’s eyes. Following up the win with a high-profile loss to The Rock, complete with weekly verbal eviscerations, only served to highlight the fact that Gunn was not seen as being on the level of a Great One.
By the end of the year, he was back to tag team action and never got near the main event as a singles star again.
2. Wade Barrett
It is almost painful to put Barrett on a ‘worst of’ list but his turn as King was nothing short of abysmal. So much so that it seemed likely that the tournament would be permanently laid to rest afterward.
Despite all of his potential, Wade was going nowhere in a hurry in 2015 and clearly needed a boost. To this end, he was given the win in the most forgettable King of the Ring tournament ever. The throwaway nature of it all could have been mitigated had Barrett been thrust into the World Title picture upon winning, however, that’s not the direction the WWE went in.
Instead of main event glory, Barrett was forced to compete in a seemingly unending feud with R-Truth. It was tedious, devalued the crown, and provided the final nail in the British brawler’s coffin.
Not too long after this, he was released from his contract which honestly must have felt like a royal pardon considering their treatment of him.
1. Tito Santana
Here it is, the worst King ever is the one that most of you probably forgot even wore the crown in the first place.
Taking victory all the way back in 1989, Santana did exactly nothing with his newfound momentum. It didn’t help that the story of the breakup of Strike Force was presented as being more important than the crown itself.
Despite staying with WWE until 1993 he never did anything more than fail to win the Intercontinental Championship after his big win. It’s a shame too because he was a talented performer and whilst he was never World Champion material, he did still have more value than was tapped into.
With a brand-new tournament taking place right now it might be wise for the combatants to take a look at these cautionary tales from history lest they fall foul of the kingly curse. Whoever the next to sit on the throne is, may they have better luck than these five.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Impers0nalJesus. Thanks for reading!