Following on from my post the other day on the winners from King of the Ring, here is part two which looks at the losers…
‘Bad Ass’ Billy Gunn
With the exception of the irredeemably awful Nelson Fraser, Billy Gunn was probably the most unlikely candidate to win KOTR. A perennial mid-carder, Gunn was perfectly adequate in the ring and on the mike but never developed the aura of a megastar. He found his greatest success as a member of the massively popular New Age Outlaws team; whilst his partner Road Dogg (Brian James) brought captivating promo skills, Gunn was seen as the workhorse of the pairing. During the late ’98 to mid ’99 period, WWE suffered from a serious dearth of all-round polished mid-carders, and when they ran out of decent stories for DX, they believed Gunn could go on to be a useful upper-card or even main event level performer.
To this end, WWE booked him to win the 1999 KOTR tourney, but it was largely overshadowed on the night by the story-line which involved inter-feuding between the members of DX, and the colossal main event featuring Stone Cold Vs Vince & Shane, which essentially rendered it a one match show. From this unspectacular start, Gunn then went out to an uninspiring feud with his former stable mates over the DX name, before going on to his solitary main event rivalry with The Rock. Once paired off against The Great One, it became clear to all just how unsuitable Gunn was for a top-line push. With neither the charisma, the verbal dexterity, nor the ability to expand his repertoire of moves, The Ass Man was swiftly demoted back down to the mid-card, a position he remained in for the rest of his WWE career.
The former UFC fighter, dubbed The Worlds Most Dangerous Man, never quite lived up to his seeming potential and early popularity with the audience. Making his first major appearance refereeing the legendary bout between Bret Hart and Steve Austin at WM 13, Shamrock was pushed hard from the off; only 11 months later he received his first WWE Championship shot against Shawn Michaels at IYH: Degeneration X. Even though it is almost impossible to have a bad match with HBK, Shamrock deserves credit playing his part very well, and it turned out the best bout of his short career. Impressed by the reaction to him, WWE continued to feature him prominently throughout the early 1998, mostly through his lengthy series with The Rock.
They repeatedly clashed over the Intercontinental Championship (then still a valuable secondary strap), with each time Shamrock denied victory via some screwy finish designed to protect him. The feud culminated at KOTR ’98, with the two men meeting in the final, and Shamrock finally scoring the clean win to an impressive reaction. On any other show, this would have been the enduring moment, but it wasn’t to be; the match was followed by the notorious Mankind Vs The Undertaker Hell in a Cell, in which Mick Foley performed the most mind blowing stunts ever seen on PPV, and all memory of Shamrocks big moment was erased. Although he was involved several major stories and matches after this, Shamrock never really regained his momentum and in early 1999 he became lost in the Corporation/Ministry fiasco which dominated the TV shows. He also didn’t do much improve his over-all wrestling abilities, and eventually WWE lost interest in him. Uninspired by his bit part in the forgettable Union stable, and the lousy series with Steve Blackman, Shamrock left WWE in late 1999 and resumed his career in MMA.
By far the worst KOTR winner ever, Mabel (Nelson Frazier) debuted in WWE as part of the terrible Men On A Mission tag team. Going solo after the team turned heel then spilt, Mabel was selected as main event candidate during at time when the established top-liner consisted of basically Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Diesel. Desperately needing some fresh talent when they were losing business to WCW, WWE somehow decided Frazier was their man. This was in spite of the fact he had no real charisma or connection with the audience, was cumbersome and limited in the ring. Blindly determined, WWE booked him to win the 1995 KOTR, and absolutely no one cared. Amazingly he went on to challenge Diesel for the Championship in a lousy bout at Summerslam 1995, and then floundered back in the mid card, before leaving WWE the next year.
He would unfortunately return to WWE sporadically over the decade, most notably as Viscera in the Ministry of Darkness, but never improved as a performer, nor got any more over. Frazier worked for WWE in 2008, and has since gone on to work as a monster foreign heel for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
Edge – Winning the 2001 tourney was meant to push Edge rapidly towards the top bracket, but it didn’t quite work out that way; WWE mistakenly followed with a rivalry with Christian which fans didn’t take too and Edge spent several more years treading water in the mid-cards, before finally ascending to the top with his R-Rated Superstar gimmick in 2006.
He may have found his place in the WWE Hall of Fame in the end, but the KOTR was not the stepping stone towards that it should have.
Owen Hart – Much like Edge, Owen had all the skills but thanks to some unimaginative stories and scenarios, Owen never rose to the position of true main eventer following his KOTR win in 1994, but continued to be a valuable asset to the upper mid card.
Continually improving and becoming more loved by the audience, Owen may have eventually reached the top spot had it not been for his untimely, tragic death in 1999.