The WWE King of the Ring Tournament got underway this past week with eight qualifying matches to determine who will be crowned the next King in a special, three-hour edition of Monday Night RAW.
It has been two years since the last King, William Regal, took the throne during a big edition of the cable television show.
Regal’s victory was easily one of the most underwhelming in the history of the tournament, likely because very little came of it.
After all, fans had become tempered to the idea that winning the King of the Ring Tournament would set your career soaring. It worked out for nearly every winner of the prestigious gauntlet, with no less than seven previous winners taking home World Championship gold later on in their careers.
So how will these eight competitors fare if they were to win the big one? Who do they most resemble and who will they turn out to soar (or fall) like? Let's take a look.
Most like: Booker T (2006 Winner)
Let’s face facts here. Sheamus is a legitimate threat to the WWE title at any point in the year. He’s starting to show the flexibility of the kind of wrestler that can compete at both the top and the bottom of the card. Granted, his rivalry with Santino Marella did nothing to strengthen his ambition, but the Celtic Warrior cannot be counted out.
King of the Ring is notoriously a heel event. Ten of the last 12 winners of the event were technically heels at the time of their coronation. Though many of them would soon go on to big-face pushes (Steve Austin, Brock Lesnar, Edge), they were not in good graces at the time of their victories.
Would the same be true for Sheamus?
Not hardly. Sheamus is a solid heel who can generate great heat with veritable ease.
To embellish his character with a crown and esteem would possibly go a long way. The same happened for Booker T, who was a former World Champion coming in that had been floundering for some time. The King of the Ring victory made him a relevant, main event talent once again.
Most like: Mabel (1995 Winner)
Is this what we call domination?
A chance for Ezekiel Jackson to get his big break has come along with big Zeke taking part in a star-studded King of the Ring Tournament. The only foreseeable problem, however, is that Jackson may still be miles from being ready for this.
Jackson made quite the impression when he broke out of the shadow of The Brian Kendrick. He proved he could actually wrestle decently, sell well and put on a solid performance for a man his size. He may not use the microphone much, but he’s got an understated charisma that comes out in his explosive in-ring style.
What separates Zeke from most big lugs in his position is an untapped potential for the ballistic carnage some of WWE’s biggest stars became known for.
But for Jackson, a win at the King of the Ring could be the biggest mistake in the world. Zeke is still relatively unknown to the majority of the WWE Universe. Check the ratings of ECW and you’ll see it, or better yet, look at his brief time on RAW.
Squash matches don’t build stars (Sheamus, Brock Lesnar), or do they? Better not put too much behind him yet.
Most Like: Ken Shamrock (1998 Winner)
The creative brain trust vendetta aside, Daniel Bryan hasn’t wrestled any bad matches yet in the WWE and is looking more and more like the venerable stud he was predicted be. T
hough he may be called any number of things for his antics (a nerd, Dancin’ Daniel Bryan, or a ladies’ man), Bryan is tough and ready to take the next step.
He’s very reminiscent of the 1998 winner, Ken Shamrock, and could see even more success than Shamrock did if he wins King of the Ring.
Here’s a legitimately tough, strengthened competitor willing to weather the storm for best results. Bryan is a solid submission artist and can be exciting for his willingness to take risks.
What holds him back in this tournament, however, is the general belief around WWE circles that you’ve still got to earn a lot before you can prove yourself.
While he may be the United States Champion, he can also draw similarities to C.M. Punk’s 2008 KOTR run in which he inexplicably lost to William Regal. It wasn’t because Punk was poorly performing; it was because they still felt he had a lot more to earn before he had a lot more to prove.
Most Like: Hunter Hearst Helmsley (1997 Winner)
Is this the beginning of the fateful push for John Morrison at the top of the card and to the WWE Title?
Maybe or maybe not, but one thing for sure and that's Morrison is stepping up his game at just the right time as the WWE continues to change the landscape at the top of the heap.
Morrison has had a few bad breaks in the past that have cost him his main event status, yet he’s got an impressive move set and skills and still gets over with a teasingly arrogant persona.
In 1997’s Triple H, he found himself in a similar predicament, thanks mostly to his association with the Kliq, yet he did eventually rebound to the most prosperous levels of his career. If anything, this could be the win that springboards him right into the public eye and a natural feud with WWE Champion The Miz.
Miz and Morrison have flirted with a lengthy feud before, but have never gone all the way. Miz is also notably ahead in the feud, leaving many to wonder if JoMo can get some revenge and take the world title along the way.
Most Like: Bret Hart (1993 Winner)
Where has the Kofi Kingston that swept through 2009 been all of 2010?
The former RAW sensation has had seemingly no luck moving up the totem pole on SmackDown and is now competing in the King of the Ring with other stars who seem more ready to step up than he is.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Kofi.
Kingston is still very marketable for the company. He’s a good worker with enough explosive talent to overpower his botch credentials, and his microphone work remains in the top half of the entire roster. Kids and adults both seem to love him and his merchandise will still sell even if he isn’t working at the top of the card.
So why push him? For the same reasons Bret Hart won his second King of the Ring in 1993.
The Hitman may have already been a world champion before ‘93, yet he had fallen out of the upper crust, thanks to bigger rivalries involving Hulk Hogan and Yokozuna. So the consolation prize was the King’s crown and a high-profile feud with Jerry Lawler and his brother Owen before he finally reclaimed the gold.
Both Kofi and Bret deserved the accolades but were in the wrong place to receive them, so King of the Ring allowed for something of an easy out.
As the roster of SmackDown Faces goes, few are left to climb the mountain and be a World Champion. Kofi is on the bubble to perform now more than ever.
Most Like: Kurt Angle (2000 Winner)
The King of the Ring tournament brings up the illustrious royalty of the WWE Universe and attempts to crown a new member into the family. But sometimes, the winner is already living the good life and is only getting a big boost to his already massive ego.
Alberto Del Rio is SmackDown’s hottest rising heel, thanks to his performance in the ring and arrogance out of it. The guy is a natural on all fronts and appears to be primed for the grandest stages over the next few years. The same could be said of the man who came around just a decade before him, Kurt Angle.
Angle had the same kind of skills and coordination and simply embellished his King of the Ring win as another notch on his belt.
Would you really expect Del Rio to do anything different? The man raised on only the finest can finish with the finest, if he can dodge Rey Mysterio’s revenge this week.
Most Like: Edge (2001 Winner)
Just one year ago, Drew McIntyre was the biggest prospect on the SmackDown roster. McIntyre, Mr. McMahon’s handpicked “Chosen One,” was headed into his first reign as the Intercontinental Championship and was a backstage favorite for the names in charge.
But one year later, McIntyre has fallen out of favor and his career hasn’t seen much action since mid-year. After losing out on his mid-card title, McIntyre formed a brief faction with Cody Rhode,s which led to a tag team title run, but both affairs were too brief to truly bolster McIntyre repertoire or chances.
After pinning MVP this past week, McIntyre seems somewhat lost in the shuffle of eight combatants that could become the next King.
But the same could be said for Edge, who was also well established at the time of his win. He even had tag-team credentials throughout the run. Edge emerged the unlikely winner of the 2001 King of the Ring despite overwhelming odds (and Kurt Angle) in his way.
The rest is history and could be for McIntyre as well. Odds, however, are not in his favor.
Most Like: Billy Gunn (1999 Winner)
“Dashing” Cody Rhodes has been trying to break out of the tag team mold for nearly three years now. After being brought in as a stable face, Rhodes was almost immediately turned into an ungrateful stud obsessed with his own excellence. The issues, though, were that the team always overshadowed his individual efforts and performance.
Yet the “Dashing” character Rhodes adopted this past year may get him back on the right track. Rhodes is now an overblown, over-the-top character who is too good to hate. Everything about the character and his in-ring antics as “Dashing” Cody Rhodes make for great fodder in the WWE Universe.
Rhodes is in an almost-identical situation as the one Billy Gunn was in when he was embracing the “Mr. Ass” character—a chauvinistic, narcissistic being that needs a big singles break.
A King of the Ring win would be the exact way to differentiate Rhodes from the crowd and help him prove that he is truly dashing.
Becoming King of the Ring typically ends in an instant push for the winner. That said, here’s a quick review of those odds from before.
Agree or disagree; who do you think wins the 2010 King of the Ring Tournament?
John Morrison: 6-1
Albert Del Rio: 7-1
Kofi Kingston: 10-1
Ezekiel Jackson: 12-1
Cody Rhodes: 18-1
Drew McIntyre: 18-1
Daniel Bryan: 25-1