WWE: Who Is the Ultimate King of the Ring?

Anthony Rizzuti@@Anthony_RizzutiSenior Analyst IIIMay 27, 2012

WWE: Who Is the Ultimate King of the Ring?

0 of 20

    In the category of "things we miss in the WWE," the King of the Ring tournament is right at the top of the list.

    Although the once annual tournament promoted talent and created wrestling superstars, the company has decided to drift away from the concept and flock towards a number of gimmick pay-per-view events.

    But whether you agree or disagree with the exclusion of the King of the Ring proceedings, there is no doubting the mark the tournament left on the company's history.

    So until it returns, let's take a look at the event's best. For that matter, let us find out who is the best.

    Through it is traditional bracket style, let's find out who indeed is the ultimate King of the Ring.

Guidelines

1 of 20

    Before we begin our quest to find the ultimate King of the Ring, let's do a bit of house cleaning.

    -The WWE has showcased a total of 19 King of the Ring tournaments. Being that the number 19 is obviously not a favorable one for this type of format, the field has been cut down to 16 seeds. I have already eliminated the two least impressive King of the Ring victory performances—Mabel in 1995 and William Regal in 2008—to improve the process.

    -The third of the eliminated seeds will be determined in the upcoming play-in round. Since Bret Hart won the event on two separate occasions, the play-in round will be a matchup between Hart's 1991 and 1993 tournaments.

    - On the next slide will be the entire seeding of the bracket. The high odds (1,3,5,7) will go up against the low evens on the left side and the high evens (2,4,6,8) will go up against the low odds on the right side.

    - Seeds 1-8 are ranked according to the WWE's 50 Greatest Superstars list. Seeds 9-16 are ranked by general popularity and prominence within the company, as well as the rest of the wrestling industry.

    - Winners of each matchup will be determined by body of work on their particular tournament.

    - The objective is to find out who had the single greatest King of the Ring performance. This will be judged on individual tournaments, not the entire King of the Ring history of each participant.

Seeding

2 of 20

    1. Stone Cold Steve Austin (1996)

    2. Bret Hart (1991 or 1993)

    3. Harley Race (1986)

    4. Triple H (1997)

    5. "Macho Man" Randy Savage (1987)

    6. Edge (2001)

    7. Ted DiBiase (1988)

    8. Kurt Angle (2000)

    9. Brock Lesnar (2002)

    10. Tito Santana (1989)

    11. Don Muraco (1985)

    12. Sheamus (2010)

    13. Owen Hart (1994)

    14. Booker T (2006)

    15. Billy Gunn (1999)

    16. Ken Shamrock (1998)

Play-in Round: Bret Hart '91 vs. Bret Hart '93

3 of 20

    1991 Bret Hart opponents: Pete Doherty, Skinner, BYE, Irwin R. Schyster

    1993 Bret Hart opponents: BYE, Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow

    As promised, we will kick of this tournament of champions with a rather interesting play-in between two of Bret Hart's performances. And evidently, the discussion for this battle shouldn't last too long.

    The 1993 opponents for Hart are far more impressive than that of the 1991 crop. Quite honestly, the '93 Hitman probably could defeat the '91 version had he fought Mr. Perfect alone.

    The 1993 Hart moves on and becomes the #2 overall seed in the tournament.

Round of Sixteen: (1) Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. (16) Ken Shamrock

4 of 20

    Stone Cold Steve Austin opponents (1996): Bob Holly, Savio Vega, Marc Mero, Jake Roberts

    Ken Shamrock opponents (1998): Kama Mustafa, Mark Henry, Jeff Jarrett, The Rock

    The most popular tournament in American sports, the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, has never seen a #16 seed upset a #1 seed. 

    But guess what. This isn't basketball.

    That's right, we have an upset special right out of the chute. There is no arguing that Ken Shamrock's 1998 field of opponents was much more challenging than the Rattlesnake's. Austin faced a jobber in Savio Vega, two mediocre talents in Holly and Mero and an end-of-the-line Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

    Shamrock, on the other hand, wrestled and defeated a very respectable group. The mixed martial artist took down the likes of a young Mark Henry, a solid Jeff Jarrett and a rising star in The Rock.

    Although it was the angle that launched the famed Attitude Era, Austin's King of the Ring tournament gets upended here in the very first round.

Round of Sixteen: (7) Ted DiBiase vs. (10) Tito Santana

5 of 20

    Ted DiBiase opponents (1988): Brutus Beefcake, Ken Patera, Ron Bass (forfeit), Randy Savage

    Tito Santana opponents (1989): Bad News Brown, The Warlord, Akeem, Rick Martel

    No doubt about who takes this one.

    The battle of the two WWE Hall-of-Famers easily goes to The Million Dollar Man himself, Ted DiBiase. Brutus Beefcake, Patera and Savage are considerably more formidable than what Santana squared off against.

    With the exception of Rick Martel, Santana's most famous challenger was The Warlord. And that's only because he was eliminated two seconds into the 1989 Royal Rumble.

    DiBiase moves on here.

Round of Sixteen: (5) "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. (12) Sheamus

6 of 20

    Randy Savage opponents (1987): Nikolai Volkoff, Jim Bruznell, Danny Davis, King Kong Bundy

    Sheamus opponents (2010): R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, BYE, John Morrison

    This matchup between Macho Man and The Great White isn't exactly a landslide.

    But given the fact that Volkoff and Bundy have done more for the business than Truth, Kingston or Morrison ever will, Savage should get the nod here.

    Randy elbow drops his way right into the next round.

Round of Sixteen: (3) Harley Race vs. (14) Booker T

7 of 20

    Harley Race opponents (1986): George Steele, BYE, Billy Jack Haynes, Pedro Morales

    Booker T opponents (2006): Matt Hardy, Kurt Angle (Forfeit), Bobby Lashley

    Here is another simple pick.

    Harley Race easily gets by the five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time WCW Champion. Lashley was a solid matchup for Book, but the true money maker sat in Kurt Angle. Unfortunately, Angle never even competed due to injury.

    Race, the second-ever King of the Ring, goes on.

Round of Sixteen: (2) Bret Hart vs. (15) Billy Gunn

8 of 20

    Bret Hart opponents (1993): BYE, Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow

    Billy Gunn opponents (1999): Viscera, Ken Shamrock, Kane, X-Pac

    Fresh off his play-in victory, the 1993 Bret Hart faces off against The One Billy Gunn. And although his opponent is different, Hart gets the same result here.

    Gunn's victories over Kane and previous King of the Ring winner Shamrock could be considered fairly impressive. But again, Hart went through Razor and Mr. Perfect. Even Bam Bam Bigelow holds some weight here.

    Hart keeps chugging on.

Round of Sixteen: (8) Kurt Angle vs. (9) Brock Lesnar

9 of 20

    Kurt Angle opponents (2000): Bradshaw, Bubba Ray Dudley, Chris Jericho, Crash Holly, Rikishi

    Brock Lesnar opponents (2002): Bubba Ray Dudley, Booker T, Test, Rob Van Dam

    Not only did these two meet in the main event at WrestleMania XIX, but they both defeated Bubba Ray Dudley en route to their King of the Ring title!

    Okay, I was kidding around there. 

    Anyway, this match between two of the greatest athletes the industry has ever seen is quite a close one. The advantage, however, goes to Kurt Angle. Although Brock Lesnar just about plowed his way through his tournament, Angle faced a bit more stiff competition.

    He had big ol' Bradshaw, big ol' Bubba, Y2J and Rikishi, who was a decent deal at the time.

    The gold medalist avenges his 'Mania XIX loss to Lesnar with a win here.

Round of Sixteen: (6) Edge vs. (11) Don Muraco

10 of 20

    Edge opponents (2001): Test, Perry Saturn, Rhyno, Kurt Angle

    Don Muraco opponents (1985): Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Iron Sheik

    Wow. Just wow.

    Sorry, Edge. You did wrestle some good names in Test, Saturn and Angle, but call me when you beat three WWE Hall-of-Famers in the same tournament.

    The edge does not go to Edge. In fact, it goes quite easily to Don Muraco.

    The very first King of the Ring goes on.

Round of Sixteen: (4) Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. (13) Owen Hart

11 of 20

    Hunter Hearst Helmsley opponents (1997): Ahmed Johnson, Crush, Mankind

    Owen Hart opponents (1994): Doink, Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, Razor Ramon

    What was once an actual feud takes the stage here. This matchup between Owen Hart and the then-Hunter Hearst Helmsley is all about quantity vs. quality. Normally, I go with quality.

    This time, however, I have to side with Owen and his quantity. 

    Defeating Mankind was impressive, but that's about it for Triple H. Hart took out some decent names in Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid (X-Pac) and Razor.

    Chalk up another one for the Hart family.

Elite Eight: (7) Ted DiBiase vs. (16) Ken Shamrock

12 of 20

    Ted DiBiase opponents (1988): Brutus Beefcake, Ken Patera, Ron Bass (forfeit), Randy Savage

    Ken Shamrock opponents (1998): Kama Mustafa, Mark Henry, Jeff Jarrett, The Rock

    Both men did face some quality competition in their respective tournaments. DiBiase, however, met his opposition when they were already over. 

    Shamrock, on the other hand, made work of three guys who had yet to hit their peaks. The Rock wasn't THE Rock, Mark Henry wasn't the force he is today and even Jeff Jarrett wasn't in his top form.

    With guys like Beefcake, Patera and especially Savage, DiBiase takes out Shamrock and moves on into the final four.

Elite Eight: (3) Harley Race vs. (5) "Macho Man" Randy Savage

13 of 20

    Harley Race opponents (1986): George Steele, BYE, Billy Jack Haynes, Pedro Morales

    Randy Savage opponents (1987): Nikolai Volkoff, Jim Bruznell, Danny Davis, King Kong Bundy

    This isn't exactly the cream of the crop for these two legends. But the big name of this pool of opponents is none other than Pedro Morales.

    And for pretty much that reason alone, Race will go over Savage in this round.

    Although "Macho Man" had to conquer King Kong Bundy as well as three other obstacles, the quality of his opponents fall just short of Race's. As the only WWE, or in this case WWWF, champion, Morales is easily the most impressive feat of the two.

    Race races into the next round.

Elite Eight: (2) Bret Hart vs. (8) Kurt Angle

14 of 20

    Bret Hart opponents (1993): BYE, Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow

    Kurt Angle opponents (2000): Bradshaw, Bubba Ray Dudley, Chris Jericho, Crash Holly, Rikishi

    Perhaps the two best technical wrestlers of all-time square off in this fantasy matchup. (Man, I wish this actually happened.)

    At first look, this may seem somewhat difficult to pick. Given the three main event type talents Hart got in his tournament, I'll take him over Angle in the round.

    Razor, Perfect and even Bigelow are obviously all well-respected within the industry. For further analysis, we look to Pro Wrestling Illustrated's top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years." Each of the three land within the top 80 of the countdown with Razor at 72, Perfect at 55 and Bigelow at 68.

    Only two of Angle's opponents, Jericho and Rikishi, landed on the list. Both of which were positioned outside the top 100. 

    The best there is, was and ever will be gets by a fellow legend in Angle.

Elite Eight: (11) Don Muraco vs. (13) Owen Hart

15 of 20

    Don Muraco opponents (1985): Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Iron Sheik

    Owen Hart opponents (1994): Doink, Tatanka, 1-2-3 Kid, Razor Ramon

    Sorry, Owen. You have to consider this one as a squash.

    Again, the amount of Hall-of-Fame talent Muraco bested gets him over the hump. 

    Onto the final four for Muraco.

Final Four: (3) Harley Race vs. (7) Ted DiBiase

16 of 20

    Harley Race opponents (1986): George Steele, BYE, Billy Jack Haynes, Pedro Morales

    Ted DiBiase opponents (1988): Brutus Beefcake, Ken Patera, Ron Bass (forfeit), Randy Savage

    Welcome to the final four of the tournament. And unfortunately for Harley Race, his welcome may not last long.

    Race coasted into this round on the strength of his finals victory over the great Pedro Morales. But now, Race has finally met an opponent that boasts some quality and quantity.

    DiBiase's wins over Beefcake, Patera and Macho overrun Race's line. Beefcake cancels out Steele, Patera trumps Haynes and Savage slightly edges Morales.

    No bribery needed here as DiBiase moves onto the championship round by the force of his competition.

Final Four: (2) Bret Hart vs. (11) Don Muraco

17 of 20

    Bret Hart opponents (1993): BYE, Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, Bam Bam Bigelow

    Don Muraco opponents (1985): Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Iron Sheik

    There are some fabled named between these two groups. But again, Muraco's King of the Ring resume is much too difficult to top.

    Muraco has two WWE champions and three Hall-of-Famers to Hart's one and zero.

    With the victory, Muraco now goes on to face DiBiase in our finals.

Finals: (7) Ted DiBiase vs. (11) Don Muraco

18 of 20

    Ted DiBiase opponents (1988): Brutus Beefcake, Ken Patera, Ron Bass (forfeit), Randy Savage

    Don Muraco opponents (1985): Junkyard Dog, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Iron Sheik

    Finally, we are here.

    After staving off their respective competition in this tournament of tournaments, Ted DiBiase and Don Muraco meet in the finals.

    And in order to really dissect who had the tougher crop of opponents, here are the major accomplishments of DiBiase's and Muraco's King of the Ring competition:

    DiBiase

    Beefcake: #173 in PWI rankings, WWF Tag Team champion (1 time)

    Patera: WWF Intercontinental champions (1 time)

    Savage: #9 in PWI rankings, WWF champions (2 times), WWF Intercontinental champion (1 time)

    Muraco

    Junkyard Dog: #51 in PWI rankings, WWE Hall-of-Famer,

    Les Thornton: #320 in PWI rankings

    Pedro Morales: #111 in PWI rankings, WWE Hall-of-Famer, WWWF champion (1 time), WWF Intercontinental champion (2 times)

    Iron Sheik: #134 in PWI rankings, WWE Hall-of-Famer, WWF champion (1 time)

    So by the looks of it, the ultimate King of the Ring winner is...

Winner: (11) Don Muraco

19 of 20

    Yes, Don Muraco.

    If you didn't catch on yet, Muraco's group of opponents boast an incredible amount of quality and quantity. He faced three WWE Hall-of-Famers, 2 former WWE champions and four of the best 500 singles wrestlers of all-time.

    The very first King of the Ring ends up as the ultimate King of the Ring.

What Do You Think?

20 of 20

    What do you think?

    Agree with the winner? Disagree with the winner?

    Please feel free to leave your thoughts and/or your personal King of the Ring down below in the comment section.

    Thank you for viewing.