Before concepts like Money In The Bank existed, there was another event where a superstar on the roster could be elevated to the next level & become a breakout "man to pay attention to" star in one night...the same concept that helped the career of some who would go on to become a WWE/World Champion & enter Hall Of Fame. This concept is called King Of The Ring & this DVD, hosted by King Booker (not Booker T...KING BOOKER complete with accent) takes a look back at the best moments of not only the tournament but the original PPV itself that was around for a decade.
Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow - This was the finals of the first King Of The Ring tournament (technically the first one on PPV) with Bret coming into the match wrestling one more match than Bigelow throughout the night causing Bret to have injured fingers & leg & back coming into the match. Bigelow just kept overpowering Bret including tossing him over the top rope to the floor early in the bout before targeting his back with hard irish whips into the post, various blows including headbutts, backbreakers & bearhugs, bodyslam on the floor, using anything he could get his hand on such as the ringpost & even outside help. Bret just refused to quit & kept fighting including being able to escape some holds while counter others with moves like the sleeper & a top rope bulldog. Bigelow was too strong when Bret attempted the sharpshooter causing Bret to find an alternative route. This wasn't a classic back & forth contest (look for his match against Mr. Perfect earlier in the night for that) but definitely told the story of Bret being the underdog fighting the giant who had everything going in his favor. Keep watching as Bret had his ceremony only to be "crowned" by another King.
King Of The Ring '93
WWE Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna - After that ending to WrestleMania IX, this was the rematch. If this wasn't Hogan's last WWE match for almost a decade, it wouldn't have been very memorable as the match never seemed to move out of first gear & was the stereotypical Hogan performance of being dominated before "Hulking Up" & making his comeback in the end but I'll give Hogan credit in the fact that he heavily sold for Yokozuna just based on his facial expressions throughout the match & the fact that he didn't slam Yokozuna. The ending was crap but in the end, Yokozuna regained the WWF Title & Hulk Hogan left the WWE to not be seen again for almost a decade.
King Of The Ring '93
[Greatest Wrestling Stars Of The 90's]
Razor Ramon vs. Owen Hart - Unlike the finals the previous year, both men had wrestled two previous matches earlier in the night to get here. Owen showed he was wasn't intimidated by Razor by slapping him right away causing Razor to respond by showing his heavy power advantage with various slams & side headlock takeovers before Owen caught Razor with his own spinning heel kick & abdominal stretch. Razor went for the Razor's Edge at one point only for Owen to counter with a backdrop that sent Razor over the top rope to the floor when someone who already made an impact in the WWE Championship match earlier in night came out to once again be an impact player leading to the birth of "The King Of Harts."
King Of The Ring '94
Kiss My Foot Match: Bret Hart vs. Jerry Lawler - This was the rematch from the previous month's "In Your House" with the special stipulation that the loser must kiss the foot of the winner resulting in Lawler making sure his foot had an absolutely horrible smell so Bret would have the worst experience possible if he lost. Bret was real aggressive from the start that came back to bite him giving Lawler control for a few moments before Bret got back control. Hakushi an appearance leading to Bret getting his revenge and for Lawler, that wasn't the only thing that didn't taste good.
King Of The Ring '95
[Legends Of Wrestling: Jerry Lawler & Junkyard Dog; Blu-Ray edition of "Over The Limit 2011" PPV]
WWE Intercontinental Champion Goldust vs. Ahmed Johnson - The DVD I rented had a bad scratch here so I wasn't able to see this match clearly to comment on it.
King Of The Ring '96
Jake Roberts vs. Steve Austin - This was the final match of the annual King Of The Ring tournament with Jake going into the match with ribs that were heavily injured by Vader earlier in the night while Austin's lip was patched up from being busted open earlier in the night. Austin was completely ruthless here & the perfect heel against Jake who refused to quit despite the referee & even President Gorilla Monsoon coming out to check up on him as Jake was after his own "Cinderella" story as Austin kept focusing on Jake's ribs. When all was said & done, Austin 3:16 was born.
King Of The Ring '96
[Jake Roberts: Pick Your Poison; Stone Cold Steve Austin: Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time]
WWE Champion Shawn Michaels vs. British Bulldog - It should be noted that Mr. Perfect was assigned to be the special outside referee due to the controversial ending to their previous PPV match, Owen Hart was on commentary for this match, and Bulldog was not only managed by Jim Cornette during this match but also had his wife, who was accusing Shawn of sexual harassment during this time, in his corner as well. Bulldog showed off his power advantage early by shoving Shawn to the floor twice resorting in Shawn going for the strategy of grounding Bulldog while also using his lucha influenced offense like catching Bulldog in a head scissors sending him to the floor followed by a frankensteiner off the apron. Bulldog decided to also try to ground Shawn but kept getting outpaced by Shawn & eventually got caught in a armbar takedown. Bulldog's strength came to his advantage with moves like pressing Shawn over the top to the floor only to press him back into the ring before going back to grounding him in the ring. Shawn kept trying to fight out of it with various move attempts only for Bulldog to have counters of his own such an attempted frankensteiner into a powerbomb. This was one of the best quality singles performances in Bulldog's career during this period while Shawn was really on his game during this period as well resulting in a quality encounter.
King Of The Ring '96
[Shawn Michaels: Heartbreak & Triumph]
Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels - This match was one of the most unusual in WWE history at this time based off the setup alone as both men were Tag Team Champions who didn't get along but had a common enemy in the Hart Foundation who were instrumental in both men having this match in the first place. Despite both men having different personalities, Austin being no-frills while Shawn was the flashy type, each one didn't have a problem showing their rebellious personality early as they both knocked the other down & gave them the middle finger early in the match before it got more competitive as time went with both men trading momentum back & forth to the point where a cameraman got knocked off the ring. Just like how I stated that each man had a common rebellious attitude, that would heavily come into play in the end when both men were not happy with the referees officiating leading to both men seeing eye to eye despite still not trusting each other.
King Of The Ring '97
[The Legacy Of Stone Cold Steve Austin]
Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst-Helmsley - Years before both men started feuding over the WWE Championship in various matches from a street fight to a steel cage to Hell In A Cell, they met here in the finals of the 1997 tournament. Mankind came into this match with a bad neck from his earlier encounter & Hunter showed early signs of his "ceberal assasin" persona by targeting that neck & working it over heavily including throwing Foley into the ropes so hard that his head was wrapped around & hung in the ropes in the same manner that caused him to lose his ear years earlier. Hunter continued to beat on his neck with slamming it into the steps & various kneedrops to the head before Mankind was able to get some offense like dropping his elbow from the apron onto Hunter who was on the concrete floor. Chyna did play a factor as the match went on throughout the match with Hunter continuing to beat on Mankind's neck while dishing more punishment like a pedigree through a table. This match did it's job in that we saw Mankind bring out a more aggressive & calculated side of Hunter that we hadn't seen previously but he would be heavily known for years later as "The Game."
King Of The Ring '97
[Triple H: King Of Kings]
Ken Shamrock vs. The Rock - Triple H was on commentary (while Chyna did spanish commentary) for this match & this was during his babyface D-Generation X run so you had your share of funny one line comments & insults. Both of these men had been feuding against each other all year so they knew each other very well with Shamrock kept tossing Rock to the outside resorting to him using dirty tactics to get an advantage before tossing him outside with his wrist getting caught in the ring ropes. Rock continued to take advantage with dropping Shamrock on the guardrail & re-injuring his ankle while getting in Triple H's face at one point. Both men showed signs of exhaustion & trading momentum throughout the rest of the match. This was possibly their best televised matched from their feud that year.
King Of The Ring '98
Hell In A Cell Match: Undertaker vs. Mankind - You knew this match was going to be special the moment both men started at the top of the cage where they brawled & almost fell through at one point before Mankind was thrown off the top with Jim Ross yelling his now infamous line "GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY, THAT KILLED HIM! AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, HE'S BROKEN IN HALF!" The match looked like it was over with Mankind being put on a stretcher with a dislocated shoulder before he decided to go back up only to be chokeslammed through the cage with the chair on top hitting him in the face on the way down. Taker ended up twisting his ankle coming down from the top as one person who came into the ring to check up on Foley ended up getting chokeslammed out of his shoes before they continued the match with Taker ramming the steps into Mankind's arm multiple times but missed a suicide dive that busted him open allowing Mankind to take advantage using the chair before bringing out a back full of thumbtacks. This was probably the most famous Hell In The Cell match & the match that launched Mick Foley into wrestling immortality for the beating he took from start to finish.
King Of The Ring 98
[Hell In A Cell; Tombstone: History Of The Undertaker; Mick Foley's Greatest Hits & Misses; OMG: Top 50 Incidents]
WWE Champion Undertaker vs. The Rock - In the first minute, two referees were knocked out while Rock hit the Rock Bottom & had Taker beat. They brawled from the ring to ringside to the entrance way & through the crowd using anything in sight like the ringbell, chairs, ether (you read that right) and even Paul Bearer getting a shot in with his shoe. This was definitely one of the most unusual & out of control matches in both mens careers.
King Of The Ring '99
[Tombstone: History Of The Undertaker]
WWE Champion Triple H, Mr. McMahon, Shane McMahon vs. The Rock, Undertaker, Kane - This was one of the most unusual WWE Championship matches in history just based off the setup alone as it was the first time the title was on the line in a six man tag as Triple H would lose the title if anyone on his team lost the fall while none of the members of the opposing team were getting along because they all wanted to win the championship. The match started out with Shane vs. Kane with Kane putting his hands behind his back letting Shane get the first punch in which did even budge Kane before he got his hands on Shane & military pressed him with Taker later coming into the match beating up on Shane while narrating as he did it before Triple H's team would regain momentum with him doing most of the work with Shane attempting to help while Vince came in to get his shots in whenever the other guy was already down. The issues between the challengers was clearly shown as The Rock would make blind tags into the ring twice, everyone breaking up each others pin attempts to the point where they started fighting each other with Kane chokeslamming everyone & Taker delivering a chairshot to the head before giving Shane McMahon one the biggest chokeslams you've ever seen. This was a fun & entertaining match.
King Of The Ring '00
Rikishi vs. Kurt Angle - Rikishi came into this match with a bad arm from his earlier tournament matches but still brought the fight to Angle early before Kurt had to do whatever he could to block the stinkface early before going to work on that arm to the point where Rikishi couldn't use the arm & hurt himself when he tried to do a clothesline later in the match. Rikishi attempted to use his weight to his advantage with splashes in the corner & dropping on top of Kurt during a sunset flip attempt but Angle would be denied including delivering his Olympic Slam & a belly to belly off the top rope. This was one of those matches that was pretty short & sweet but told a story in the time they had.
King Of The Ring '00
WWE Light Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy vs. X-Pac - Various times during the "Attitude Era", WWE attempted to compete with WCW's crusierweight division with their own Light Heavyweight division but it just never really came together as it was suppose to but this was one of the rare title defenses of that title. As expected when it comes to this division, the match was very fast paced with Hardy relying on his daredevil style with moves & moments like doing a clothesline off the guardrail, crashing & burning when attempting a Whisper In The Wind, and a Swanton while Pac resorted to more wrestling like working over the ribs & back with the abdominal stretch & hip tossing Hardy over the top rope before going aerial himself with a crossbody off the top rope. Good encounter between both men.
King Of The Ring '01
Edge vs. Kurt Angle - Kurt was out to be the first man to ever repeat as King Of The Ring but was already scheduled for a Street Fight against Shane McMahon later that night so he tried to talk Edge into forfeiting the match but ended up insulting him in the process which caused Edge to reject Kurt's offer & start the match throwing punches. Edge came into this match with hurt ribs from his earlier match which Kurt targeted by suplexing Edge over the top rope, throwing him into the steps, dropping him on the guardrail, and a back suplex before Edge made a comeback attempt including a frankensteiner off the top rope followed by various pin attempts. This was another match that did it's job in establishing the King Of The Ring while pushing current (the upcoming Street Fight) & future (Edge & Christian) storylines.
King Of The Ring '01
Street Fight Match: Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon - You knew this was going to be one hell of a fight from the minute Kurt came out as he threw his medals down & charged to the ring to take down Shane with various takedowns & suplex in the opening minute. This match was one of the matches of the year as these two delivered such an amazing performance that it ended up injuring both men for at least a month afterwards such as Shane McMahon being constantly thrown into the glass stage walls that had no give resulting in him landing on his head. This had something for everyone's taste... brawling, weapons, high impact moves, storytelling and even some amateur wrestling. I consider this a lost classic.
King Of The Ring '01
[OMG: Top 50 Incidents]
Rob Van Dam vs. Brock Lesnar - This King Of The Ring tournament final was different than the previous years events as the winner would also receive a WWE Championship match at SummerSlam. RVD tried attempted the strategy of "hit & move" when it came to Brock but he eventually did catch him into a powerbomb. Brock had the superior power advantage which he showcased like hold RVD over this shoulder before driving him into the corner & a powerslam before RVD took advantage of Brock's momentum to get some hits in & even hit the 5 Star Frog Splash but Brock still kept coming including catching RVD in mid-air to deliver an F5. This was a short & sweet match which did it's job in continuing to display Brock as an unstoppable athletic monster.
King Of The Ring '02
Hulk Hogan vs. Kurt Angle - Kurt came into this match wearing his amateur wrestling headgear with the wig underneath after his head shaving from Edge the previous month. Hulk stayed in control early by sending Kurt to the outside various times & controlling the ring before Angle resorted to dirty tactics to get advantage & work over Hogan's back with various suplexes before Hogan was able to counter with his own. Angle continued to target the back & even did an AngleSlam before Hogan "hulked up" causing Angle to resort to using a chair that ended up backfiring on him. It was a good match that they would later top on SmackDown weeks later (check Hogan's latest DVD set for that match) with a result that was very well done.
King Of The Ring '02
Bobby Lashley vs. Booker T - The King Of The Ring returned for the first time in almost four years as a SmackDown exclusive tournament. Booker attempted to talk trash to Lashley but got a response of being shoved down to the ground before Lashley landed a bunch of explosive clotheslines. Lashley's momentum had his shoulder accidentally hit the ringpost leaving the opening for Booker to take advantage by using the ringpost & the ropes to work over the shoulder but Lashley kept coming including a shoulderblock that turned Booker inside out. Both men were determined & kicked out of each others signature moves before Sharmell & someone else Lashley had issues with at this time got involved. The end result was the birth of King Booker but keep watching as Lashley decided to crown Booker himself.
Judgment Day '06
C.M. Punk vs. William Regal - This edition of the tournament took place on RAW in 2008 with C.M. Punk coming into this match with a bad back from his earlier match while Regal was fresher due to not having as competitive matches as Punk did (he fought Hornswoggle & an injured Finlay) while it should also be noted that Regal was the RAW General Manager at this time too. Regal gained control after countering the bulldog attempt into a suplex that landed Punk on the back of his head before going to work on the back stretching it. Punk kept going after Regal's head with various strikes & kicks including one that looked like it almost knocked him out but his back was just in too much pain with Regal was able to take advantage of after a failed attempt at a G.T.S. This wasn't as competitive as we would get from these almost a year later in their Intercontinental Championship match but it did it's job in establishing the new king.
"RAW" Apr. '08
John Morrison vs. Sheamus - A couple of notes here in that Morrison wrestled one more match in the tournament than Sheamus while the ring announcer for this match was "Miss U.S.A." who was also on the latest season of "WWE Tough Enough." These two told a great story with Sheamus taking a page out of the "Anderson" playbook by completely focusing on Morrison's arm throughout the match with various moves like a single arm DDT, yanking Morrison off the top rope onto his shoulder, hammerlocks & armbars, and even hitting blocking Morrison's "Starship Pain" with knees into his arm. Morrison gave a good effort but this was all about Sheamus being completely ruthless & becoming King.
"RAW" Nov. '10
[Best Of RAW 2010]
Blu-Ray extras include bonus matches from the previous tournaments like Steve Austin vs. Marc Mero from 1996 that's notorious for Austin's busted lip, WWE Undisputed Champion Undertaker vs. Triple H from 2002 with The Rock at ringside, Kurt Angle vs. Randy Orton in an opening round match from the 2006 tournament on SmackDown, C.M. Punk vs. Chris Jericho from RAW in 2008, and Daniel Bryan vs. Alberto Del Rio from RAW in 2010.
In the end, this was a nice chronicle of the history of not only the tournament but also the PPV itself. While some people may want to see each & every single tournament final & King crowned, the title of this set is call "The Best Of..." and I'm personally glad they didn't waste our time with the flops like King Mabel. The only thing I would have changed is to include the 1-2-3 Kid vs. Owen Hart match from the 1994 tournament since that was my favorite match from that tournament (I would have added Bret vs. Perfect match from the 1993 edition if it wasn't already on Bret Hart's DVD). Overall I was pleased with the presentation & it's something I would recommend picking up.