King For A Day! by TheOneBigWill With the King of the Ring (one night) Tournament coming Monday on Raw, I figured I'd take a quick look back at each previous King of the Ring, from 1993-2002, & 2006. I'll examine in my own opinion what each winner received and whether his KOTR victory pushed him into an elite spot likes its projected to do. From there, I'll then give my opinion on some top prospects that might be threats to be the next KOTR this Monday. 1993: Bret "Hitman" Hart The first official King of the Ring Pay Per View saw Bret Hart go through quite possibly the toughest line-up that any KOTR winner has had to face. Bret Hart started the night off in a contest that almost went to the time limit, against Razor Ramon. In the semi-finals, he then had another tough match-up against Mr. Perfect. To claim victory in the tournament, he then had to face a rested Bam Bam Bigelow. The interesting note in this, is each man had to win qualifying matches, leading up to the Pay Per View, with the exception of Bret Hart. Why Bret didn't, I don't honestly know. I believe it may of had something to do with the fact he was a former World Heavyweight Champion, and this was his reward for not receiving a rematch when he lost his Championship at Wrestlemania IX. However that not withstanding it doesn't mean Bret's road to victory was any easier. The question that begs to be asked. Did it help, hinder, or remain invalid to Bret Hart's career? In my personal opinion, I don't think it helped Bret's career anymore than where he was currently at, as he was already a Main Event, former World Heavyweight Champion. Now if I had to lean one way or another, I would say it did infact help him, slightly, as winning this tournament kept Bret Hart fresh in the minds of the fans, as someone who could go through countless Superstars to claim victory. From his KOTR win, he really didn't see much, however. The only thing that truly sparked from this, is a feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler, that ended for the time, at that year's Summerslam. Bret did go on to reclaim the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania X, which was a landmark Wrestlemania. However I wouldn't contribute his KOTR victory as having anything to do with that win. 1994: "The King of Harts" Owen Hart The second King of the Ring Pay Per View saw exactly what the first one gave everyone, a Hart winning it all. However unlike the first (unofficial) KOTR, Owen Hart received tremendous success off of his victory in the tournament. Owen's road to victory was slightly tainted. He qualified against Doink the Clown, and went on to defeat Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, and Razor Ramon to capture the crown. Owen's victory was tainted, in my mind, because he faced an injured 1-2-3 Kid, who'd received a pretty bad beat-down after the Kid defeated Jeff Jarrett in the quarter-final/opening round match. From there, Owen went on to pick up a victory over Razor Ramon with the help of his brother-in-law, Jim Neidhart. So we jump to the question, did it help, hinder, or remain invalid to Owen Hart's career? As I already said, I felt Owen received a tremendous push from winning this tournament. Not only did "The Rocket" Owen Hart get a name change that would draw him equal to his brother Bret, when he remained himself the "King of Harts." But Owen also received a World Heavyweight Championship match against his brother, at that year's Summerslam. The KOTR tournament, pushed Owen into a higher level and ultimately allowed people to view the belief that Owen Hart could be a Main Eventer. Following the 1994 year, Owen did indeed drop back to mid-card ranks, and never truly returned to Main Event status, however he would carry the "King of Harts" gimmick through the years and become one of the better heels in the business. Owen would feud greatly with his brother Bret over the course of the following years, then join him in reforming the Hart Foundation, and I ultimately believe it was indeed his KOTR victory that started it all for him. 1995: King Mabel The third King of the Ring was technically the first one of the series, that truly took a swerve for the most part. Going into the Pay Per View, to my knowledge the guy being pushed the most to win the entire thing was either Razor Ramon, or Shawn Michaels. An injury forced Razor Ramon to back-out of the tournament, only for a replacement to be found in Savio Vega. Whereas Shawn Michaels & Kama fought to a draw. As a result of all of the unknowns, we received our first shocking King of the Ring winner.. in Mabel. Now to trace the steps of this multi-layers story, we first start with Savio Vega who unlike the rest, had to qualify on the pre-show, against I.R.S. Vega, an unknown to the W.W.F., then went on to defeat Yokozuna in the opening round, the Roadie in the semi-finals, then face Mabel in the finals. Shawn Michaels and Kama fought to a draw, as neither man could truly get the upper hand before the time expired, as a result, Mabel, who defeated the Undertaker in the opening round thanks to Kama, would go directly to the finals, with a bye in the semi-finals. Mabel defeated Adam Bomb to qualify leading up to the Pay Per View. From there, as stated above he then defeated the Undertaker with help from Kama, received a bye, and defeated Savio Vega in the finals to become the 1995 King of the Ring. The only horrible part to all of this, is they didn't build Mabel to win at all, and if anything pushed Savio Vega as the huge underdog, who would've defeated a record 4 people in one night, to claim victory. So, the question, did it help, hinder, or remain invalid to Mabel's career? My first judgment call would be to say it greatly helped Mabel to push him into the Main Event, however it also hurt him as he took on the "King" gimmick to get there, and it could've only lasted so long before it ran a course. Mabel's victory, and name change to add "King" in front of his name, saw him receive a Summerslam Heavyweight Championship match against Diesel. Then ultimately lead to him getting buried in a casket match against the Undertaker.. only to resurface in 1999, change his name and join Taker as a midcard minion. 1996: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin This year's King of the Ring tournament dropped the Quarter-Final round from the Pay Per View, so the winner of the tournament would no longer have to win 3 straight matches in one night. Also this year's winner, for some reason no longer received a World Heavyweight Championship match at that year's Summerslam, as the previous 2 winners had. Dispite dropping a round from the Pay Per View, this may be the single greatest tournament in King of the Ring history, as it was the birth place of.. Austin 3:16. Steve Austin in a qualifying match defeated Bob Holly, then went on to defeat Savio Vega, a man he'd had previous wars with in the monthes leading up, in the quarter-final round. The night of the Pay Per View, he defeated Marc Mero in the semi-final match, busting his lip/mouth open and receiving stitches in the process. Only to go on to the finals, defeating Jake Roberts to claim the crown. While many would argue that Steve Austin's amassed so much over his career, that his KOTR victory is one of the lesser valued trophies. However I'd start the arguement that without this victory, Steve Austin never would've came into his own, and the gimmick that started it all in "Austin 3:16" would've never been born. So with that being said, and to answer the question of help, hinder or remain invalid.. I'd say Steve Austin's King of the Ring victory was a huge starting point for the Texas Rattlesnake. After his KOTR victory, he didn't see a huge push, until November when he challenged Bret Hart, in a losing battle at that year's Survivor Series. From there, he went on to win the Royal Rumble in 1997, only to once again be the first wrestler to win a match intended to give the victor a World Heavyweight Championship match, only to not be given his rightful shot, due to controversy. 1997: Hunter Hearst Helmsley The 5th installment of the King of the Ring tournament saw a wrestler defeated in an opening round match, only to return due to confliction of rules and win it all. Triple H., then known better as the blue blood snob, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, was defeated in the opening round/qualifying match-up against Ahmed Johnson, only to return due to "misunderstanding" that he could be disqualified and defeat Crush in his second opening round/qualifying match, to then go on defeating Ahmed Johnson in the semi-finals and finally, Mankind in the final round to win the tournament and take his place among the elite. To answer the question of help, hinder, or remain invalid, I'd say his career really remaining invalid from the KOTR victory. He received a small push as an upper midcard wrestler, but never saw Main Event status. Not that he wouldn't (obviously) go on to be one of the better Main Event wrestlers in Professional Wrestling, however I wouldn't contribute his KOTR tournament victory to being any type of help with it. His victory didn't truly gain him anything of importance, as he never received a World Heavyweight Championship match from it, and the only note-worthy event that progressed from it, was a lengthy feud with Mankind, that later saw Triple H. and Shawn Michaels get paired together, ultimately forming DeGeneration X. 1998: Ken Shamrock One half of the King of the Ring's that time & history forgot. When you ask most people who won the 1998 KOTR, the answer you'll get is either, "I don't know" or "The Rock." Now clearly The Rock is not the winner, however it goes to great length to explain just how forgotten this year's tournament and it's winner was to the sport. In this year's KOTR, the most asked for final's match was Dan Severn v. Ken Shamrock, however when The Rock ended up defeating Severn in the semi-finals to advange against Ken Shamrock, the finals quickly became "The Rock v. ???" As people went on to see The Rock as one of the most popular and over Superstars in the sport, ever. Whereas Ken Shamrock, the true winner of the 1998 tournament went on to accomplish next to nothing. Ken Shamrock defeated roughly every member of the Nation of Domination to win this tournament. Shamrock defeated Kama in a qualifying match, advanced to then defeat Mark Henry, and went on to the Pay Per View to defeat Jeff Jarrett in the semi-final round, then finally picking up a victory over The Rock, ultimately capturing the crown. So to answer the question of help, hinder or remain invalid.. Well, I think its more than obvious that because Shamrock is forgotten about through the history of time as the unknown, unremembered KOTR winner. I'd say this victory didn't do anything for him at all, and if anything almost took down the King of the Ring itself with him. Shamrock after winning went on to receive a European Championship match against the British Bulldog at that year's Summerslam, a title he still didn't win.. and his biggest match to date (in the W.W.F.) would be back to back victories over Bret Hart, then Shawn Michaels on Raw leading up to Survivor Series of that year.. only win via Disqualification at the D-X Pay Per View in December, still resulting in him not winning the Championship. 1999: "Mr. Ass" Billy Gunn The 1999 version saw the return of the Quarter-finals to the Pay Per View, and the second half to the most forgotten King of the Ring tournament in history. This year's tournament also made history, as Chyna was the first female to enter the tournament, defeating Val Venis in a qualifying match, only to lose to the Road Dogg in the first round. Billy Gunn, who two monthes prehand took on the new gimmick "Mr. Ass" was in-line for a major push, as he had just split from Road dogg & X-Pac, to venture out into single's action on his own. As a result, he is the second KOTR that time and history roughly forgot. Billy Gunn defeated Viscera to qualify, then went on during the Pay Per View to defeat Ken Shamrock, Kane and then X-Pac in the finals. The question of help, hinder, or remain invalid would have to slightly advance to the side of help. This was the true point of every King of the Ring tournament, as Billy Gunn's multiple match victories allowed people to attempt taking him seriously, as a possible threat to upper midcard and Main Event status. Unfortunately, injuries and lack of overall ability hindered Billy Gunn's major push and ultimately flattened his career. His major push saw him go toe to toe with The Rock at Summerslam, only to then reform with Triple H., Road dogg & X-Pac in D-X. After returning from his injury, they continued to push Billy Gunn, letting him go toe to toe with Triple H., then having a run as the Intercontinental Champion. However that would be the extent of Mr. Ass's major push. 2000: Kurt Angle Not only did they remain with the Quarter-Finals through the Finals being contested at the Pay Per View, but this was the first year they allowed 32 Superstars to enter. The tournament started almost a month before the Pay Per View, and saw Kurt Angle defeating Bradshaw in a qualifying match, then Buh Buh Ray Dudley in a second round match, advancing to the p.p.v. Many suggested that the night belong to Chris Jericho, who ended up being eliminated in the Quarter-Finals by Kurt Angle. Angle would then go on to defeat Crash Holly in the Semi-Finals, then Rikishi Phatu in the Finals, to become the KOTR by out-lasting 31 other guys. To answer the question of help, hinder or remain invalid would be tricky. The reason I state this, is because Kurt Angle was having a major rookie season, beginning with an undefeated streak, then becoming both the European & Intercontinental Champions at the same time. Angle's success in his rookie season continued with the KOTR victory, but its hard to say it remained invalid or helped him. It definately didn't hurt him, but it'd be arguable to say it either helped him, or remained invalid. Angle went on to receive a Championship match, in a Triple Threat match against Triple H. & The Rock, although it wasn't because of winning the KOTR tournament, as Angle & Triple H. both pinned The Rock (I believe) in a match to receive duo Number One Contender's chances. Angle would go on that same year at No Mercy to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The KOTR victory was, in my mind, just another title that he captured in the long list of rookie accomplishments. 2001: Edge The major story going into this year's King of the Ring was a combination of the W.C.W. invasion, mixed with Kurt Angle trying to become the first wrestler in history (through KOTR p.p.v.'s) to win back to back KOTR titles. Kurt Angle would defeat Hardcore Holly, then Jeff Hardy to advance to the Pay Per View, where he'd defeat Christian and advance to the finals to meet Edge. In a unique addition, Angle also had interfering storylines in which he had a street fight with Shane McMahon the night of the King of the Ring, which meant Angle would have 3 matches regardless. However none of this mattered, as Edge became the thorn in Kurt Angle's plain, picking up the KOTR honors. Edge would defeat Test, then Perry Saturn to advance to the Pay Per View, defeating Rhyno then Kurt Angle in the finals to become the 2001 KOTR winner. To answer the help, hinder or remain invalid question, I'd definately say help. Edge's KOTR victory might not of been a lot as far as winning the tournament meant, but it was the final's match in him defeating Kurt Angle that gave Edge that push to upper midcard, beginning of Main Event status. Edge would go on to become a multiple time Intercontinental Champion, as well as United States Champion. As we all know, he'd later continue to become one of the best heels in the business and become a multiple time World Heavyweight Champion, however I wouldn't factor in the KOTR victory having anything to do with that. The tournament helped Edge advance through the ranks and gave him a strong push as a solid midcarder with potential. 2002: Brock Lesnar The unofficial final version of the King of the Ring, as far as the Pay Per View was concerned. It was the first and until this Monday, only KOTR that was both Raw and Smackdown branded. 8 Raw Superstars would battle and 8 Smackdown Superstars would battle. The winner was then promised a World Heavyweight Championship match at Summerslam. This tournament was almost single handedly focused on and around Brock Lesnar's massive rookie season. Similar to Kurt Angle, but more focused. Sure enough, it was Brock Lesnar who picked up the KOTR title, defeating Buh Buh Ray Dudley, Booker T., Test then Rob Van Dam in the finals. I don't think there was ever any doubt that Lesnar would be challenged in this tournament. To answer the help, hinder, or remain invalid question, I'd definately say it remained invalid. Brock Lesnar was on a massive path of destruction and this tournament was nothing more than a small road bump in his way. He went through the tournament with ease, and because he had roughly noone to challenge him, the tournament wasn't anything special. He did gain a World Heavyweight Championship out of winning the tournament, however the tournament itself didn't push Lesnar into the Main Event spot.. Lesnar's dominance throughout his beginning portion of his career quickly gave him that spot. 2006: Booker T. Almost four years went by without so much as one mention of the King of the Ring tournament, until Teddy Long announced that Smackdown would host, exclusively, this tournament. It'd only involve 8 Superstars, however. Kurt Angle, Randy Orton, Booker T., Matt Hardy, Finlay, Chris Benoit, Bobby Lashley & Mark Henry. The tournament was almost focused on Bobby Lashley as the rookie upstart, whereas Kurt Angle once again looked to pick up the title of "only guy to win multiple KOTR titles." (once again, neglecting anything before 1993) The latest installment saw a swerve once again, as Booker T. eliminated Kurt Angle, and went on to defeat Bobby Lashley in the Finals, only to rename himself "King Booker." Without a doubt, while Booker T's career speaks for itself, it wasn't until the renaming and KOTR victory, that King Booker became a World Heavyweight Champion off of the tournament victory. With that being said, I'd say arguably, King Booker has been given the best push to date from winning this tournament.. as his gimmick change via winning, lead to a World Heavyweight title reign that he might not of seen, without it. April 21st, 2008: ???? This long and twisting road has lead us to where we currently are, this Monday night. So the biggest question of all would be who will be entered into this One Night Only, 8 Superstar elimination tournament? Will the winner receive a Championship match, or even a Main Event push? Will the winner rename himself to fit the new "King" gimmick? Or will this tournament victory be just another title for some? Below are my suggestions on possible winners. Mr. Kennedy: Quite possibly the odds on favorite to return and win the whole thing. Its been said that winning the King of the Ring tournament would instantly give you a Main Event feel, and a huge push from nobody to somebody. While Mr. Kennedy isn't a "nobody" he certainly has been forgotten about through the eyes of creative and as a result lost a great deal of build. At one time he was considered to be the next World Heavyweight Champion, until an injury sidelined him and he had to watch as Edge took his fame. Later that same year, he was once again pushed to be revealed as Mr. McMahon's son, only to be caught in a steroid scandal that forced W.W.E. to take him out of the spotlight for a while. Will the KOTR this Monday be Kennedy's 3rd chance? If so, how many more chances will the W.W.E. invest in Kennedy before giving up and moving on? My opinion.. if Mr. Kennedy wins, he better not blow his chance again, as it might be his last. C.M. Punk: The current Money in the Bank winner, who has yet to receive any type of Main Event quality push, dispite holding a World Championship title shot available to him at any time. The King of the Ring title might be exactly what Punk needs to reposition himself in line to be seen as elite and in a class to themselves. My only fear with Punk winning is that he'll fall into the catagory of failed Kings. Mabel, Ken Shamrock & Billy Gunn, for example. In my personal opinion, C.M. Punk is being offered too much as it is, and giving him one more huge title is overkill and pointless. Triple H.: Kurt Angle tried on two occations to become the first (unofficial) guy to win multiple King of the Ring titles. Naturally the W.W.E. will want to distance themselves from Kurt Angle as much as posible, and giving Triple H. the "title" of only guy to win two KOTR tournaments might just be the ticket they're looking for. Shawn Michaels: Shawn Michaels has greatly done all and covered every feat in his Pro Wrestling career. Multiple time Heavyweight Champion, Grand slam Champion, Multiple time Royal Rumble winner. Hes Hall of Fame bound regardless of one more "trophy." However to say that they wouldn't give him the pleasure of claiming a King of the Ring title is naive. While its definately a long shot, if Shawn Michaels is in the tournament and I'm almost promising he will be, I wouldn't count him out as being a major threat. Even in a losing effort, H.B.K. will more than likely be the one man to put the ultimate winner over. Cody Rhodes: A lot of you might think I'm joking, and I'd kinda like to say I am. Sadly, I'm not. As I said for Kennedy, the tournament is mainly there to push nobody's into somebody's. Cody has already found Tag Team gold, however hes currently floundering and drowning with Hardcore Holly in a Tag Team division that is less than stellar. With that being said, its an even longer shot than H.B.K. winning, however Cody Rhodes could be a very dark horse to think about. John Morrison: My personal favorite and hopeful for the title. John Morrison has all the markings of a future Main Eventer. To me, the guy is a younger version of Edge, almost to a 'T' of when Edge first started. Giving Morrison a King of the Ring victory would push him back into the spotlight of being a single's threat. The difference between Morrison winning over Mr. Kennedy winning, is that Mr. Kennedy is already a big name without the tournament helping repush him as such. John Morrison needs three major victories, over three big names, to become a threat. This guy is talent, thats currently wasting away in tag team matches with the same team each week. John Morrison is my odd's on favorite to win the whole thing. John Cena: Sadly I'm gonna say read most of what I wrote about Shawn Michaels, and contribute it into John Cena for why he could be a serious threat in this tournament. Whenever something big happens, John Cena is typically the guy who claims the prize. The "Hulk Hogan" of this era, John Cena has won practically everything he can, and refuses to lose. In the wwe.com preview, it states that all four opponents in the W.W.E. Championship match MAY be involved in the tournament. And it also goes on to state all four will be looking to make a final statement before Backlash, which happens to be the Sunday of the tournament. With that being said, John Cena is the only guy in the Fatal Four Way who hasn't made any type of statement. I'd really rather not see Cena pick up the victory, but if its a statement they want to have him make, winning this tournament would certainly do it for him. One things for sure. This Monday night we'll crown a 2008 King of the Ring. And whether its a King that'll advance in his career, or remain the same, Monday should be filled with excitement and this is definately the one thing W.W.E. has been lacking lately.