27th Aug2019

Opinionated: What Are The Best Matches In King of the Ring History?

by Chris Cummings

opinionated-king-ring

Okay, okay, okay… so I’ve already rambled on about King of the Ring in a previous “Opinionated” article, here on Nerdly, but I thought it might be fun to also talk about this too. What are the very best matches from King of the Ring? I’m talking about the King of the Ring Pay-Per View events that ran from 1993 until the final PPV in 2002.

I mentioned before how much of a fan of the King of the Ring concept I am. I think it’s a really cool way to highlight new characters and wrestlers, put a bunch of talent on a card and do something unique once a year in the same way that shows like Royal Rumble and Survivor Series do (or used to do, at least, in Survivor Series’ case). There has been a mass of matches in the ten PPV shows that ran under the King of the Ring name. Some of them have been decent, some of them were bad, some of them were really, really good. Hell, a couple might just have been great. So, I wanna highlight a few of the best matches and chit-chat about them.

I’m going to start by talking about the very first King of the Ring show in 1993. This show isn’t the greatest of shows, in fact there are some real duds here. There are plenty of terrific wrestlers who appear, from Shawn Michaels to Bam Bam Bigelow to Razor Ramon to Mr. Perfect to the (spoiler alert) eventual King of the Ring winner Bret Hart. Not all of these guys had a chance to shine, though. Still… the match that stands out to me from this show, and one I enjoy revisiting, was the close-to-twenty-minute one-on-one encounter between Mr. Perfect and Bret “Hitman” Hart in the Semi-finals. It’s no secret that Hennig and Hart shared a fantastic chemistry in the ring, and a close friendship outside of it, and this match, which strangely saw both men working as baby-faces at the time, is another chapter in their not-long-enough rivalry. These guys just never worked together (on televised events, at least) enough. This technical, exciting, old-school match is the definite highlight from the 1993 King of the Ring (though I also enjoy the finals between Hart and Bigelow) and you should go back on the WWE Network at some point and give it a watch (for the first time, or as a revisit). It’s worth it.

In 1994 we had a chance to see the late great Owen Hart become King of the Ring, though the event, while not bad, didn’t feature any great matches. It’s a shame, because Owen faced both 123 Kid and Razor Ramon on this event, but both matches were over way too quick and just didn’t get a chance to evolve into something special. They could have. 1995 was a bit of a dud and 1996, aside from being the event in which The Undertaker and Mankind had their first major televised match in their historical and legendary rivalry, was also run-of-the-mill and a little mediocre. 1997, however, featured two matches I recall very fondly and always like to go back and watch. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, who had been teaming together at the time, had a singles match that remains a lot of fun. It isn’t the best of either man’s career, but it’s still enjoyable and the fact that both guys were popular with the fans helped add a different vibe to things. The other match, which was even better, was the King of the Ring finals in 1997, which saw the future father of NXT and multiple-time World Champ Hunter Hearst Helmsley take on Mankind, who was now a “good guy”. These two men had a strong chemistry in the ring which went on to see them have some incredible matches together throughout the years. This one, which was a more basic singles, match, was exciting, dramatic and a highlight of the show. Good stuff.

1998 during the height of The Attitude Era, is easily the most infamous and most-watched King of the Ring event and that’s due to one specific match. The Undertaker and Mankind took their feud to the menacing Hell in a Cell contraption and had one of the most famous matches in the history of pro-wrestling. Ultra-violent, shocking, controversial, memorable and scary, this match saw Mankind fly from the top of the cell onto the ringside announce tables in one of the most ridiculous and replayed spots ever. It also saw Mankind get choke-slammed through the cell and suffer a concussion as he landed in the ring with a steel chair hitting him in the face as he hit the canvas. The various injuries that both men suffered here was one thing, but the sheer sensational hardcore story they told was something never seen before, or since. It isn’t the best “wrestling” match. Not at all. There are no toe-holds, no catch-as-catch-can stylings. No mat-wrestling. But, with the steel, blood and broken teeth, this has become an unmissable and legendary contest that remains spoken of 21 years later. Unbelievable.

The 2000 King of the Ring featured some fun matches, from Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho’s ten minute scrap to an enjoyable six-man tag main event between The Rock, Undertaker and Kane and Vince, Shane and Triple H. It wasn’t mind-blowing though, even with Kurt Angle winning the crown. One year later we would see the year’s previous King, Kurt Angle, take on Shane McMahon in a match that was way better than it had any right to be, and saw Shane famously land on his head repeatedly as Angle attempted to suplex him through the stage glass wall. The main event is also worth revisiting, with Steve Austin, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho fighting over the WWF Title. I like the 2001 show a lot. It’s a blast, kind of from beginning to end.

2002 was another high quality show and the very last time the King of the Ring was on PPV. I know, I keep talking about that, but it’s a shame, because it’s cool. This event saw Brock Lesnar win the crown, but it was some of the other matches that shone. Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho had a very good fifteen minute semi-final match, Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero has an entertaining quarter-hour showdown, Hulk Hogan took on the other real American, Kurt Angle, and The Undertaker and Triple H clashed over the WWE Undisputed Championship in the main event. The star-power of the show was high, and the match-quality was too. Not unlike 2001, this show was a lot of fun, with Van Dam and Jericho providing what was, in my view, the best match on the card.

It’s easier than it’s ever been to go back in time and watch wrestling. King of the Ring is about to return to our screens in WWE, so why not head back and check out Mr. Perfect facing The Hitman, or Mankind risking his life against The Phenom, or Shane McMahon falling on the top of his cranium over and over again? I mean… what more could you want? King of the Ring has really offered some memorable and awesome moments, that’s for damn sure.

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