King of the Ring used to be a fixture in the WWE and it was something that fans waited for all year long, much like WrestleMania or Royal Rumble. It hasn't been contested regularly since 2002, but I and many others feel as though the return of King of the Ring is long overdue.
It won't be coming back in pay-per-view form this year and there isn't any indication that the tournament itself will happen, either, but it's certainly possible. The last three King of the Ring tourneys have come two years apart from each other and the last installment happened in 2010, when Sheamus became king on an episode of RAW.
Also, according to WWE.com, a King of the Ring feature has been added to the WWE 13 video game, so perhaps there is some thought being given to having the tournament on a three-hour RAW in November, just like two years ago.
Winning the King of the Ring tournament has helped launch all-time greats such as Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Bret "Hitman" Hart, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H, Edge and Brock Lesnar to the next level in their respective careers, and there are several guys on the current roster who could use that type of push.
Here is how I would book an eight-man King of the Ring tournament using said current roster.
The first match of the first round will involve Wade Barrett taking on Kofi Kingston. The two of them have a bit of a history, as Barrett once defeated Kofi to win the Intercontinental Championship. Kingston was in the King of the Ring tournament back in 2010, but this will be Barrett's first opportunity to capture the prestigious title.
Kingston is currently part of a tag team with R-Truth, but there really isn't much more they can accomplish as a unit, so I would anticipate them going back to the midcard soon. While Kofi is a great talent and a stalwart in the midcard title picture, he isn't a guy who I consider to be a future main-eventer, so I wouldn't give him the King of the Ring rub.
Barrett, on the other hand, has all the tools to be one of the top guys in the company, so he advances to the next round here. Kofi will provide a great test in a hard-fought match, but Barrett will ultimately be too much for the former Intercontinental, United States and Tag Team Champion.
Brodus Clay and Damien Sandow seemed poised to enter into a feud several weeks ago, but Sandow simply won a match on RAW and nothing came of it. They meet again in the first round of the King of the Ring tournament, however, with high stakes on the line. Both guys are very popular mid-carders who would gain a lot from winning this bout and the tournament, but only one can come out on top.
While I feel like Sandow would be a better King of the Ring winner than Clay, in the interest of sensible booking, Brodus has to win this match. I don't want to make Sandow look particularly bad in the process, though, since he has a very bright future in his own right, so the smartest thing to do would be to have Clay win by disqualification.
Clay would move on to the second round in this scenario, but it wouldn't be at Sandow's expense. A clean win for Brodus would make Sandow look somewhat weak, but this way Brodus gets the win, while Sandow gets the last laugh by hitting Clay with a chair.
Since losing the Intercontinental Championship, Cody Rhodes has sort of lost his way. Rhodes was once viewed as a future world champion, and he may still become one some day, but it doesn't seem imminent. Winning the King of the Ring tournament would be a great way to kick start Rhodes' career, however. In order to do that, he will first have to get through Zack Ryder in the first round.
Ryder is in a similar position to Rhodes, as he has faded into oblivion since dropping the United States Championship. Ryder was never viewed as a possible world champion and I doubt that he ever will be, but he could be an excellent mid-carder and a U.S. or IC title contender if given the opportunity. Winning King of the Ring would put him in line to do just that.
As much as I like Ryder, he simply isn't King of the Ring material. I wanted to even the field out with four heels and four faces, and Ryder worked as a guy to get the fans involved, but he wouldn't be a serious contender. Rhodes is clearly a guy who the fans could see winning the crown, and he comes within two wins of doing so by taking out Ryder.
The King of the Ring tournament normally involves up-and-comers rather than established stars, but Randy Orton brings some much-needed star power to the table. He is a nine-time world champion, so he doesn't need a King of the Ring victory necessarily, but it has been a year since he has been in the World Heavyweight Championship hunt, and his coronation as King of the Ring would immediately put him in the mix.
There may be no superstar in the entire field more suited for royalty than Drew McIntyre. The Scottish grappler is a former Intercontinental Champion and was once dubbed "The Chosen One" by Vince McMahon. McIntyre has gone from being one of the brightest young stars in the company to an afterthought, however. I'm not even sure he would be considered for this tournament, but a win over Orton and a tournament win would really turn things around for him.
As much as I would like to see McIntyre get back to that level, it won't happen at the expense of Orton. If Orton is in this tournament, he clearly isn't going out in the first round, so he'll hit McIntyre with an RKO and move on to the next one.
After dispatching of Kofi Kingston in the first round, Wade Barrett will face a literally enormous challenge in the second round in the form of Brodus Clay. Barrett and Clay have never faced off to my knowledge, so this would be quite the interesting match. Clay obviously has the size advantage, but Barrett can match him in physicality.
One win that really helped legitimize Barrett when he was a part of Nexus was a victory over Mark Henry. At the time, Henry was nothing more than a midcard face, but Barrett got him up for Wasteland, and while he almost botched it, he threw Henry down with conviction. I wouldn't expect Barrett to get Clay up for Wasteland, but a win in any manner would make Barrett look good.
I like Clay, but he isn't ready for a main-event push by any stretch of the imagination, so he ought to put Barrett over here. The premise of Barrett's revamped character is that he's a bare-knuckle fighter who is willing to take on all comers, and defeating a mountain of a man like Clay would only solidify his tough-guy persona.
Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes are two superstars who have quite a bit of history between them. Orton and Rhodes were initially allies in the Legacy stable, but Rhodes eventually grew tired of Orton's tyrannical ways and turned on him, causing Orton to become a face. They reprised their feud last year as well, so this would make for a very intriguing second-round affair.
Rhodes is clearly the guy who would benefit more from a win, but it wouldn't really make sense from a storyline perspective. Wade Barrett is already waiting in the finals, so it wouldn't be pertinent to put another heel on a similar level up against him. The choice comes down to putting either Barrett or Rhodes in the finals, and I set it up with the purpose of giving Barrett the push, so Rhodes has to lose here.
Seeing as guys like Rhodes, Barrett and Dolph Ziggler are constantly losing to Orton anyway, losing this match isn't going to hurt Rhodes all that much. I would ensure that this match lasts at least 10 minutes with a lot of back-and-forth action, though, so that Rhodes can at least come away looking good in a losing effort.
It may have seemed fairly obvious from the start how things would shake out based on the bracket, but the best possible finals matchup comes to fruition, as Wade Barrett and Randy Orton do battle over the right to be called WWE's king. Prior to Barrett's injury, he and Orton were engaged in a pretty heated feud, so there will be no love lost between them.
The WWE could go either way with this one and come away looking good, as Barrett is a guy who could use the win as a springboard toward the main-event scene, while Orton could use it to get back to a level he once frequented. I'm sure many fans would be happy to see Orton come out on top, but I firmly believe that King of the Ring is about making new stars, and that is why Barrett must be victorious.
It isn't usually the heel way to win something like this cleanly, but Barrett is a no-nonsense fighter who should be able to beat the top faces based on his own merits. At the coronation ceremony, I would have Barrett denounce the crown and say that he wanted to win King of the Ring just to show that he could and not in order to be considered wrestling royalty.
From there, he and Orton can continue their feud, with Barrett going over until he is ready to challenge Sheamus or whoever might be World Heavyweight Champion at that time. Barrett is a guy who will be a world champion one day, but reinstating King of the Ring and having Barrett win it would accelerate the process.