Tuesday 9 August 2011

Kings of Wrestling

Yesterday Booker T announced via his Twitter account that WWE will be releasing a DVD dedicated to the King of the Ring event. This is a golden opportunity for the promotion to put together something that celebrates what was once a meaningful tournament and a genuine star-making tool. But something tells me that’s not what we’re going to get.

In the 90s the King of the Ring tournament was used to start or continue the elevation of mid-card talent into main event positions. The obvious man to mention is ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin who won the 1996 tourney with a win over Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and went on to cut his infamous “Austin 3:16” promo. He didn’t become a star overnight, but it did provide him with a platform to gain more attention and showcase his skills. To a lesser extent becoming King of the Ring helped both Triple H and Ken Shamrock too.

Sometime between June 2002 and June 2003 the decision was made to discontinue the event. Why has always been something of a mystery: 2001 and 2002 had seen wins for Edge and Brock Lesnar respectively, and the concept was still strong enough to play a part in building new stars. Back in 2003 John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton all would have benefitted from the event. Since then it’s been resurrected (in 2006, 2008 and 2010) but has never been treated as a prestigious event. Winning the event has also become more about overhauling someone’s gimmick than trying to move them up the card. But even now I think King of the Ring has a place in WWE. In fact with the roster in the shape it’s in there’s a strong argument for reinstalling it as a pay-per-view.

A DVD looking at the nineteen tournaments that have been held has a lot of potential. Over the years Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Curt Hennig, Razor Ramon, Christian, Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, Edge, Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, Triple H, The Rock, and Steve Austin have all been involved in King of the Ring matches: there are a wealth of classic bouts available from the event’s history. Booker T, being a former winner, would make a fine host, but not in his ridiculous comedy role of King Booker. It was and is a great gimmick, but to front a King of the Ring DVD with it makes the event appear a joke. That’s not going to sell DVDs or provide fans with the documentary they deserve.

Maybe I’m worrying over nothing. Maybe WWE will buck its own trend and this won’t be a horribly squandered opportunity. Maybe they’ll highlight Kurt Angle’s amazing displays at the 2000. Maybe they’ll acknowledge that Triple H was originally supposed to win the 1996 event. Maybe Owen Hart’s yearlong references to his King of the Ring win will be shown. Maybe someone will explain exactly why Billy Gunn was booked to win the event in 1999. Maybe the matches that are included will be well chosen. I hope so anyway, because this DVD really ought to be something that shows what the event has meant to fans, wrestlers and the business in general over the years.

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