In 1993 the WWE introduced a new pay per view onto their annual schedule: King of the Ring. On some occasions super-stardom followed a King of the Ring victory while in other cases it never led to what the WWE hoped. Today, Craig looks at the different career paths of each King of the Ring winner between 1993 and 1999.
Inspired by watching a number of old King of the Ring PPVs, I decided to take a look at how each King of the Ring winner fared after their tournament win. As a note, I’ll just take in the ones broadcast on PPV or television, no those that featured as a house show prior to 1993.
1993: Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart
As the WWF edged towards the ‘New Generation’ period, Bret Hart was a logical choice to win the inaugural King of the Ring PPV. More impressive was the way he won with three vastly different matches against Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and then Bam Bam Bigelow. It showcased, to any doubters, that Hart was able to work well with performers of all shapes and sizes. The following Wrestlemania, Bret would defeat Yokozuna for the WWF title and remain at the top of the card until his departure from the WWE in 1997. His stint with WCW was far less successful and a concussion suffered at the hands of Goldberg brought his glittering full-time career to an end. After that, a return to the WWE saw a Hall of Fame entry, a chance to make amends with Shawn Michaels and a match against Vince McMahon at Wrestlemania.
1994: Owen Hart
What a year 1994 was for ‘The Rocket’ Owen Hart. At Wrestlemania X he defeated his brother in the opening contest before watching Bret win the title at the end of that night. It meant that their programme would continue and it culminated in an excellent cage match at the 1994 SummerSlam. By 1995, he began to work more and more in tag teams first with Yokozuna – he won the tag gold with him at Wrestlemania XI – then The British Bulldog. 1997 saw Hart reunite with his brother after the formation of the Hart Foundation with Bret, Brian Pillman and the British Bulldog. In the summer of that year Owen would trade the IC title with Stone Cold Steve Austin with Hart accidentally breaking Austin’s neck at SummerSlam 1997. After the Montreal Screwjob only Owen and Anvil remained but by the end of the year Neidhart was gone too. A programme with Stone Cold was mooted for 98 but never materialised and instead Hart was given his old Blue Blazer gimmick. He appeared as that character at Wrestlemania 5 against Mr. Perfect.
Ah, the late Nelson Frazier Jr. A mildly entertaining mid card tag team act that Vince saw more in. Mabel came to the WWF in 1993 as part of Men on a Mission, with Mo. The pair ditched their fun loving gimmick in 1995 and Mabel was picked to win the King of the Ring, despite being just 24. His in-ring style was widely considered as reckless resulting in injuries to a number of performers. In fact, ahead of his SummerSlam 1995 main event with Diesel, Nash wasn’t happy to work with him. The match, though, went ahead with Diesel suffering an injury from a move he’d warned Mabel not to attempt. Worse was to come when Mabel injured The Undertaker, legitimately fracturing his orbital bone and putting him out of action for two months. The two were to meet when The Undertaker returned but Mabel’s time at the top, and run with the WWF, wasn’t to last much longer. His last appearance, of that run, came at the 1996 Royal Rumble where he lasted just 12 minutes before being eliminated by Yokozuna. Frazier would return in the late 90s and was largely used as part of The Undertaker’s Ministry.
1996: Stone Cold Steve Austin
The most successful former King of the Ring and he wasn’t even meant to get the nod that year. Had it not been for the infamous “Curtain Call” incident involving Shawn Michaels, Triple H as well as the departing Razor Ramon and Diesel saw Hunter punished and his King of the Ring win of that year spiked. Austin certainly took advantage and within two years would be top of the WWF mountain during the Attitude Era and engaged in a blistering hot feud with Vince McMahon.
1997: Triple H
On 8 June 1997 King of the Ring returned to the Providence Civic Center, which had hosted the 87, 88, 89 and 91 incarnations of the tournament, with Triple H being the victor, better late than never I guess. Despite his crowning being delayed, he’s not done too bad. A spell in DX with Shawn Michaels immediately followed the KoTR win before Triple H eventually took over after Wrestlemania 14. Since then he’s become a multi-time WWE Champion and, thanks in no small part to his marriage to Stephanie McMahon, is the heir to the WWE throne.
1998: Ken Shamrock
The WWF sure had high hopes for the man billed by ABC as “the world’s most dangerous man” but it never really panned out for Shamrock. A high profile debut saw the former UFC star referee the submission match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 and suplex Hart post match. As entertaining as Shamrock’s ‘snapping’ shtick was, a lack of ability on the microphone was always going to hamper him. He would go on to hold the IC title and capture the tag titles with the Bossman, the man that was arguably the best fighter in the world when he joined the WWF would never reach the same heights as he did in the octagon.
1999: Billy Gunn
Having been a tag team specialist for much of his 6 years, by that point, with the WWF – first with Bart Gunn in the Smokin’ Gunns then Road Dogg in The New Age Outlaws – a singles push was a logical next step. It failed, largely due to Gunn’s lack of charisma and a rumoured reluctance from The Rock to working with him. Soon Gunn was back in tag action with Chuck Palumbo. You can’t fault his longevity though; despite breaking into the WWF in 1993 he was to hold tag gold early in 2014.