As a wrestling fan, one of the most fun discussion exercises centers around the simple question of “What If?” Well, we here at PTBN love talking wrestling, both past and present. And we love collaborating on columns too. So we have arrived at our “What If…?” series. Each month, our staff will tackle a new “What If…?” question and layout why they made their choice as well as the fallout for all involved in the decision.
This month’s subject: King of the Ring Winners in years that a King of the Ring tournament did not occur
Jordan Duncan: 1989
There are times in life when you look back and say, “I wish this had gone differently.” I speak with no hyperbole when I say that every single wrestling fan in the history of the universe feels that way about the Twin Towers colliding at WrestleMania VI. To say it was a letdown is an incredible understatement.
So what if Akeem and Boss Man got a proper match before Boss Man crushed him? And what if it wasn’t just two former partners colliding, but instead a hard working officer of the law taking on an African king? Let’s recreate some 1989 WWF. At SummerSlam that year, the Towers teamed with Andre the Giant and lost to Jim Duggan and Demolition. Here, we would have the same result, only Boss Man loses the match and his partners snap on him, making Boss Man an angry babyface out for revenge?
After SummerSlam, as we head into the fall, the WWF could announce that King Haku was NOT in fact a King, but simply a Duke. As a result of this trickery, he would be vacating the throne and there is a need for a new king, and a tournament would take place. 16 men would enter, one would leave as king. Here’s my brackets.
First Round: (All matches taking place on TV shows in September)
Akeem defeats the Red Rooster in a quick squash
Jimmy Snuka defeats Dino Bravo in a match that probably sucks, because Dino Bravo
Dusty Rhodes defeats Bad News Brown via DQ
Barry Windham defeats Hillbilly Jim
Big Boss Man defeats Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in a hard fought, long match
Rick Rude defeats Koko B. Ware
Andre the Giant defeats Hercules
Brutus Beefcake defeats the Brooklyn Brawler
Akeem defeats Jimmy Snuka with relative ease
Dusty Rhodes defeats Barry Windham
Big Boss Man defeats Rick Rude in another lengthy match
Andre defeats Brutus Beefcake
Semi Finals: (The semi finals and finals take place on a Saturday Night’s Main Event)
Akeem defeats Dusty Rhodes in his first real challenge
Big Boss Man surprises Andre, but post-match is subjected to a vicious beating from the hands of the Giant
In the finals, the Boss Man is already hurt and despite fighting his best, falls to Akeem, giving us KING AKEEM, AFRICAN ROYALTY.
Tell me you wouldn’t love seeing a massive celebration and coronation of King Akeem that rivals that scene in “Coming To America” with the dancing, only it’s topped off with Jive Soul Bro blasting as KING AKEEM struts to the ring, wearing a crown on top of his yellow hat.
Sorry Vince, you left TRILLIONS on the table here. King Akeem runs roughshod over the company, instituting prima nocta on Dusty and Sapphire and forcing his subjects to bow in his presence. At the Rumble, he is carried to the ring on a throne by 10-12 jobbers, and WINS the match…because of course a king wins the Royal Rumble.
Things look bleak. Hope is lost. Hulk and Warrior are too busy with each other to notice that the World Wrestling Federation is slowly being taken by force, and soon, they will fall to KING AKEEM. Only one man can stop him, only one man can remove him from the throne. It is up to the Big Boss Man to actually commit a crime…REGICIDE.
So yeah, Boss Man kills Akeem at WrestleMania VI (not literally) and restores order to the land. And as Akeem shuffles away in defeat, Bossman picks up the crown, slowly looks at it, and contemplates……
Marc Clair: 1990
If there were a King of the Ring event in 1990 WWF, there would be plenty of candidates on the roster which would have made excellent kings: Rick “The Model” Martel, Rick Rude or Mr. Perfect (which would make a great rebound from his PPV loss to Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI) immediately spring to mind as top candidates. But to me, a King of the Ring should be someone who is on the verge of a monster push, and in 1990 WWF there was one man in the middle of such a push who I feel would make a perfect king – both visually and storyline-wise – and that would be one John Tenta, the man better known at the time as Earthquake.
In late 1989, Earthquake popped up seemingly out of nowhere when he was introduced as a regular old fan who just happened to be a little overweight and was chosen to sit on the backs of Dino Bravo and Ultimate Warrior as part of a push-up contest. But when this man was perched upon the back of the mighty Warrior, he jumped up and landed on him with all his might. It turns out this “fan” was a plant from the devious Jimmy Hart, all part of a plan to get one over on the Ultimate Warrior. After Warrior won the title at WrestleMania VI, it seemed logical to put him into a program with Earthquake. But our old pal Hulk Hogan was still around, so instead Warrior reignited his feud with Rick Rude, while Hogan entered into a program with the Earthquake. What better way to build up a guy as a believable threat to the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan than to crown him King of the Ring?
I would build up the King of the Ring over the course of the summer after Mania with qualifying matches taking place on SuperStars. The field would eventually be narrowed to the Elite 8, who would face off at the very first (in my world) King of the Ring tournament. The eight superstars in my final bracket would be: Earthquake, Rick Martel, Mr. Perfect, Barbarian, Brutus Beefcake, Tito Santana, Big Boss Man, and Jake Roberts. In Round One, Mr. Perfect and Tito Santana wrestle to a 15 minute draw, playing into their eventual match in the finals of the Intercontinental tournament later that summer. Boss Man defeats Martel by DQ after he is sprayed in the eyes with Arrogance. He advances to the finals due to the draw between Perfect and Tito, but his status is questionable due to the damage from the Arrogance spray. Jake Roberts defeats the Barbarian clean with a DDT, while Earthquake defeats Beefcake. Towards the end of the match, Beefcake has the sleeper on and it looks like Earthquake may pass out, but Quake fights back and drops backwards, crushing Beefcake and setting him up for the Earthquake splash and the victory for Mr. Tenta. In the only semi-final match, Quake defeats Roberts when he reverses a DDT attempt into the corner, and crushes Roberts repeatedly, again winning with the Earthquake splash. In the finals, a partially-blind-but-determined Boss Man challenges Tenta and pushes him to the limit, even getting a Boss Man Slam. But Boss Man is disoriented and is only able to get a two count after it takes him a few seconds to cover Quake. While arguing with the ref and Jimmy Hart, Boss Man is hit from behind by Hart’s megaphone which he had conveniently dropped into the ring during the chaos. Quake follows it up with this final Earthquake Splash of the night, becoming KING EARTHQUAKE! Just picture the visual!
This sets him up as an impressive challenger for top faces Hogan and Warrior going forward. In my world, I’d even have Quake defeat Hogan at SummerSlam and move into a Survivor Series program with Warrior, but that “What If…”, but I’ll stock that bit of fantasy booking away for a future column.
Jason Greenhouse: 1992
On the January 21, 1992 during an installment of the Barber Shop on WWF Wrestling Challenge, Shawn Michaels turned his back on long time Rockers tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. Following several wins on WWF TV and a win over El Matador at WrestleMania VIII, Michaels was proving that his singles career was on the rise.
In the weeks following WrestleMania VIII, WWF President Jack Tunney would announce that there would be a brand new pay-per-view on June 21, 1992 called King of the Ring. An eight man tournament would be held that evening and the winner would be crowned King of the WWF. Shawn Michaels would defeat Koko B. Ware on WWF Superstars to qualify for the tournament.
In other qualifying matches taken place on WWF Superstars and Wrestling Challenge, Davey Boy Smith defeated Repo Man, Rick Martel defeated El Matador, Owen Hart defeated the Bezerker, Papa Shango defeated Sergeant Slaughter, Tatanka defeated Skinner, the Mountie defeated Virgil and Crush defeated Kamala.
On June 21, Shawn Michaels would go on to defeat Virgil in the opening round, Tatanka by disqualification in the semi-finals and “the Rocket” Owen Hart in the finals. Along with Michaels becoming King of the Ring, his significant other, Sensational Sherri would reprise her role as Queen Sherri.
As history shows, Michaels career would sky rocket in mid to late 1992. Being crowned King of the Ring in June would be a huge stepping stone him. Being crowned King is the one title that Shawn Michaels would not procure during his Hall of Fame career. Had this tournament taken place in 1992, there is no doubt that Michaels would have been victorious. King of the Ring is custom made gimmick for an arrogant heel to benefit from and no one else would fit this role in 1992 than Shawn Michaels.
Davey Boy Smith defeated Rick Martel with a running powerslam at 7:17
Owen Hart defeated Papa Shango with a missile dropkick at 5:28
Tatanka defeated the Mountie with a Renegade Drop at 8:37
Shawn Michaels defeated Crush by count out at 8:49
Owen Hart defeated Davey Boy Smith with a small package at 19:58
Shawn Michaels defeated Tatanka by DQ at 14:25 when the referee saw Tatanka hit Michaels with Sherri’s shoe
Shawn Michaels defeated Owen Hart at 11:46 following a side suplex, after Sherri took a top turnbuckle off and Michaels through Hart into the exposed buckle
Ben Morse: 2003
Beginning in 1993, the WWF attempted to elevate a Superstar each June with the King of the Ring tournament culminating on pay-per-view; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. In 2002, Brock Lesnar marked the final King to have his coronation at a dedicated event rather than Raw; a year later, WWE phased out the show in favor of 2003’s installment of Bad Blood.
At the aforementioned first Raw-branded show in the brand split era, two performers who had been on the cusp of main event status for years battled over the recently-revived Intercontinental Title, and in the short term, Christian topped Booker T for the championship, but what if these men had been battling for the crown?
While many have held the Intercontinental strap, there have been diminishing returns over the years. With the King of the Ring crown, not every man to step into royalty has been a runaway success, but the ones that do best have been able to make the honor part of their character. In fact, in 2006, Booker finally took the elusive step to the WWE World title by adding “King” in front of his name and rocking a faux British accent; I think had Christian done the same in 2003, he might have taken a quicker route to the top of the card.
From the moment he broke free of his constrictive goth vampire character, Christian has been a guy that does best when he’s working an over-the-top heel persona, not unlike the type Owen Hart took on in 1994 following his own ascension. While the Intercontinental title by 2003 proved a fleeting trophy that failed to distinguish Christian from the mid-card pack, taking on the role of “King of Charisma” to go with his long-overdue new look would have really helped the Peeps’ Champion to stand out.
I can picture the tremendous skits King Christian would have put on throughout 2003, and with the confidence that WWE saw him as being worthy of the throne, I know he would have run with it and had a good time along the way. The feuds with Booker T and Rob Van Dam could have gone as planned, but without Christian diminishing to his role as Chris Jericho lackey after dropping the IC strap.
Christian would eventually take a more circuitous path to the main event, leaving for TNA in 2005, picking up some World titles down there, riding atop ECW upon his WWE return for a year, than finally getting his run in 2011 after Edge went down with an injury; if he wins King of the Ring, no guarantees, but I firmly believe the added credibility could have had him filling the top heel role SmackDown lacked years sooner.
Glenn Butler: 2004
SmackDown and Subway present…the 2004 King of the Ring!
Booker T def. Hardcore Holly after the two men pummel the hell out of each other
Rob Van Dam def. Luther Reigns
John Cena def. Rene Dupree to put the capper on their springtime rivalry over the US Title
Bubba Ray Dudley def. Rey Mysterio via Big Fat Guy bullying and some well-timed D-Von double-teaming
Booker T def. Rob Van Dam
John Cena def. Bubba Ray Dudley
John Cena def. Booker T
WWE Champion. World Heavyweight Champion. WWE World Heavyweight Champion. United States Champion. World Tag Team Champion. WWE Tag Team Champion. Royal Rumble winner. Mister Money in the Bank. Slammy Award winner. Doctor of Thuganomics. John Cena’s list of accomplishments and honorifics is long, but there’s one thing missing, and that’s a reign as King John.
That could be because the era when Cena was on the rise was caught in the interregnum between the time WWE did away with the tournament and a time when nostalgia was at a high enough level to start bring back plot elements fans remembered fondly from the supposed halcyon days of the 1990s. It could also be because John Cena’s Boston-area heritage inspired in him a deep anti-monarchical streak: Hobbes’ divine right of kings is a fraud perpetrated by the privileged few, and just as the Doctor of Thuganomics isn’t going to presume that his academic accomplishments make him better than anyone else, he can’t stand by while another wrestler claims the kingship of SmackDown only to abuse his new power.
What is such a populist character to do once crowned king, then? It’s simple: abdicate the throne. The crown, scepter, and cape might be good for some happy-fun-time publicity shots, but as the vestments of arrogance they rarely befit a babyface wrestler (King Duggan notwithstanding). Cena’s King of the Ring win becomes less about the actual kingship and more about showcasing the next great star of pro wrestling in a tournament setting, where he can be seen against a variety of opponents and establish his dominance over all of them, some more definitively than others, with the obvious feud growing out of the finals.
Besides, while Booker falters in the finals here to set up his summertime feud with King John, we know that King Booker’s time will still come. In the meantime, the king is here.
Trent Williams: 2007
When the idea for this month’s What If column came up as making a King of the Ring for years that didn’t have one I got pretty excited since I love tournaments, especially when they are centered around anything having to do with wrestling.
I chose 2007 because I feel there was a lot of guys all crowded around the mid-card and one of them needed to win a King of the Ring to boost them out of that mid-card and put them into the main event picture. I would have this be bigger than the normal King of the Ring where instead of 16 participants I would have 32 which is what they did in 2000. I would have the first two rounds on TV, and then the rest of the rounds on PPV. I would have the PPV actually take place in July and it would replace Great American Bash and the winner would get a World title shot of his choosing at SummerSlam.
I chose Mr Kennedy to win the tournament because at this time he was set for great things to happen and was getting ready for the push of his life and I figured what a better way to start than having him outlast 31 others and become the KOTR. I would also have him beat a few big names on his way to becoming the King of the Ring. Here is the link to check out my entire tournament brackets.
Aaron George: 2014
For better or for worse the King of the Ring tournament, at its core, is a way for the WWE to push someone they deem to be one of their next top guys. We know all about the successes (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Brock Lesnar) and all the failures (Billy Gunn, Mabel, Steve Austin) and all the people who were humiliated by the gimmick (Harley Race).
Sure it’s a little antiquated but why wouldn’t you use it when you’re doing everything known to man to try and create your next great Samoan Superstar? So let’s take us back to spring/summer of 2014 and see if we can help Mr. Reigns with this thing.
So let’s say the tournament happens in place of “Payback.” The Shield are still together and are the bane of the Authority’s existence. Seven of the top SUPERSTARS, and one NXT superstar are entered into the tournament to crown our new monarch. Because this is a fantasy thing let’s imagine all seven matches take place on one night and all given time to be awesome. Here are the brackets:
NXT Tournament Winner
In the first round, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are forced by the Authority to fight each other. They’re both still faces but Seth does something slightly underhanded to win. Cesaro then fights surprise entrant Sami Zayn, who pushes him to the limit but comes up a bit short. The announcers can play up the NXT connection as at this point they’ve just started doing the specials. John Cena defeats Dolph Ziggler, which angers the fans but is important for later. Finally Roman Reigns has been placed in the “tougher” bracket by the authority as punishment and wins a war against Sheamus.
Round two sees Seth Rollins win a show stealer against Cesaro and Roman Reigns defeat Cena, who the crowd is still enraged with for beating Ziggler. The final sees Seth Rollins fight valiantly but ultimately fall to the surging Reigns who is crowned King of The Ring.
This gives us a Roman Reigns who has actually accomplished something before entering “his” year of 2015. Plus he’s protected by being in there with guys who aren’t going to get cheered over him. The next night on Raw, Seth can turn on the Shield as he’s angry/jealous that he didn’t win instead of the “just because,” we were given. On top of which all these guys can go and would give us a pretty solid tournament.