Ranking Every King of the Ring Finals Match on PPV
From 1993-2002, WWE held the King of the Ring pay-per-view every June, an event that featured a scintillating single-elimination tournament. To this day, the event evokes many memories.
Bret Hart, Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar were all able to win the crown along with seven other men, some of whom launched their career to the next level by surviving the tournament.
There were several great tournament matches at these events and WWE made things even more unique by having a qualifying round just to get in. As the brackets were paired down, it would come down to two men who had usually competed several times in one night.
Here, we will rank the final match from the tournament from each year, taking into consideration things like the qualify of the match and what it meant to the man who would be known as the king for the next year.
Though WWE had other King of the Ring tournaments prior to 1993, we will only focus on those that were held on pay-per-view itself.
Honorable Mention: Booker T vs. Bobby Lashley—2006
This match makes the list because it did take place on pay-per-view, but the event was WWE Judgment Day in May 2006. That year, WWE brought back the tournament after a four-year absence, but this was the only match held at the event.
Booker T seemed like a heavy underdog going into the match as big things were expected of Bobby Lashley. Instead, Booker used the help of Finlay to hand Lashley the defeat.
This would lead to Booker T using the royalty that came with winning the tournament much more literally than any superstar before him, becoming the memorable King Booker.
10. Mabel vs. Savio Vega—1995
When the 1995 King of the Ring tournament got under way, many fans probably weren't looking at Mabel as a possible winner, but that's exactly what happened.
After defeating The Undertaker, which very few superstars did in that era, Mabel found himself in the finals after Shawn Michaels and Kama fought to a time-limit draw.
Savio Vega was not even an original participant in the tournament, but he replaced an injured Razor Ramon and got a count-out victory over Yokozuna before defeating The Roadie.
But Vega was giving up way too much size against Mabel and was crushed with a big splash by the big man. After winning the tournament, King Mabel would go on to get a WWE title shot against Diesel later that year at Summerslam.
9. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts—1996
The 1996 tournament had a great story in Jake Roberts and they did a great job in portraying him as a superstar who could overcome so much to win the crown. Instead, Steve Austin spoiled the party.
Roberts was able to get by Vader via disqualification the semi-final round, but Vader attacked Roberts afterward and injured his ribs. Then-commissioner Gorilla Monsoon came out and gave Roberts the option not to compete. Roberts chose to continue. His valiant effort came to an end at the hands of Austin
Following the match, Austin went on to have easily the most memorable coronation of all-time, complete with a speech (YouTube) that helped define his career.
8. Billy Gunn vs. X-Pac- 1999
Finals moments of the 1999 King of the Ring final
The 1999 King of the Ring tournament was unique in the fact that the final four featured three former members of D-Generation X. In the end, Billy Gunn took on X-Pac with the winner earning the crown.
X-Pac gave Gunn all he could handle, but it was Gunn who emerged victorious after he defeated his longtime friend.
The tournament victory didn't allow Gunn to reach the heights many probably thought he would in WWE. In fact, he was defeated the very next night on Monday Night Raw by Bradshaw.
7. Brock Lesnar vs. Rob Van Dam—2002
2002 was the year of Brock Lesnar. Shortly after his debut, he entered the King of the Ring tournament and he was a heavy favorite upon doing so.
After defeating superstars such as Bubba Ray Dudley and Booker T, Lesnar survived this big boot (YouTube) from Test before moving onto the finals to meet Rob Van Dam.
Lesnar seemed to be too much for RVD, but RVD did get some late offense in. But when he tried to flip off the top rope, Lesnar snatched him out of mid air and turned it into the F-5 to win the match.
Just about two months later, Lesnar would go on to take the WWE title from The Rock at Summerslam.
6. Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon—1994
Though he got plenty of help from Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart won the 1994 King of the Ring tournament when he last defeated Razor Ramon.
This tournament was an exhibition of Hart's skills as he beat Doink the Clown, Tatanka and 1-2-3 Kid to get to the finals where he got by Ramon. Hart won the match in a little over six minutes.
This would help further the feud between him and his older brother, Bret, who won the tournament the prior year. Now, Owen had proven that he could do it too.
5. Kurt Angle vs. Rikishi—2000
The version of the King of the Ring tournament in 2000 was unique in the fact that it included 32 superstars, the most ever. In order to be the king, you would have to defeat five men to do it.
30 men tasted defeat, leaving just Kurt Angle and Rikishi. Though it lasted just under six minutes, this was a very highly-contested final match. Rikishi was able to get the upper hand, but he made a mistake when he went to the top rope. Angle made him pay, running up the turnbuckle and hitting a ring-shaking belly-to-belly suplex to get the win.
Angle was able to add the King of the Ring crown to his precious Olympic gold medal.
4. Edge vs. Kurt Angle—2001
Could Kurt Angle win the tournament two years in a row? That was one of the big storylines heading into the 2001 event. By beating Hardcore Holly, Jeff Hardy and Christian, Angle would have the chance to do it as he qualified for the finals.
Edge was the only thing in the way. After stringing together three wins in the tournament, Edge had his chance to put his name on the WWE map for good. The two men put on a competitive match with many twists and turns, but in the end, Edge got an assist from Shane McMahon that allowed him to win the tournament.
Instead of a crown, Edge became the first man to win a trophy for the tournament, an object that would help put a wedge in between he and his tag team partner, Christian.
3. Ken Shamrock vs. Rock—1998
This was an excellent tournament final with a tremendous back story.
At WrestleMania 14, Ken Shamrock defeated The Rock to win the WWE Intercontinental title, only to have the decision reversed when he refused to let go of his ankle lock. At King of the Ring, he would get another crack at him.
Both men took very different paths to the finals. Many fans were likely looking forward to a final that included Shamrock versus another former UFC star, Dan Severn. Instead, The Rock took out Severn in the semi-final round with the help of D'Lo Brown.
For over 14 minutes these two went back and forth in what was a solid tournament final. However, The Rock found himself in the ankle lock again and this time, Shamrock didn't make the same mistake he did at WrestleMania. This was arguably Shamrock's crowning achievement during his time in WWE.
2. Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind—1997
The 1997 King of the Ring tournament only had eight superstars, but that doesn't take away from the qualify of matches. This tournament was all about Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
Helmsley was actually eliminated in the qualifying round when he was disqualified against Ahmed Johnson. Helmsley came back the next week, threatening legal action against WWE if he wasn't given another shot, saying he was never told the rules of the match he was disqualified in.
Helmsley would go on to get a spot in the tournament by defeating Crush. He then went on to face Johnson in the semi-finals, this time getting the victory. He found Mankind waiting in the finals.
Just about every time these two men have ever squared off, the action has been great. In this match, Mankind controlled the majority of the action, but Helmsley had Chyna in his corner and she made the difference.
Chyna got involved more than once, putting Mankind in a virtual two-on-one situation. Helmsley capitalized and used the Pedigree to win the match. Obviously, many more achievements would follow.
1. Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow—1993
When WWE debuted the King of the Ring tournament on pay-per-view, one of the selling points was finding a superstar who could survive several grueling matches in one night. No one exemplified that more than Bret Hart in 1993.
Hart had a tough, physical match with Razor Ramon in the first round before having to outduel Mr. Perfect in a technical battle in the semi-finals. Hart had competed nearly 30 minutes on the night while his opponent in the finals, Bam Bam Bigelow, had been in the ring for just five.
Bigelow defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the first round before being given a free pass to the finals due to a time-limit draw between Lex Luger and Tatanka. Hart would need some rest, but he wouldn't get it.
The much bigger Bigelow used his size advantage to wear Hart down and much like Chyna had earlier, Luna Vachon interfered on behalf of Bigelow, smashing Hart with a steel chair. Bigelow covered him and actually won the match, butl another referee came out and changed the call, ordering the match to continue.
Having to survive an experienced brawler now, Hart came up with a clever rollup to pin Bigelow and win the tournament. By WWE standards in 1993, this was an impressive accomplishment.