The WWE King of the Ring Countdown special aired on Fox television in the United States last week. It’s now available on WWE Network/Peacock. Here’s a review of what was on the show.
The opening video package focused on some King of the Ring winners of the past including many WWE Hall of Famers. Corey Graves, the WWE Raw announcer, was the narrator of the special. It’s a ranking of the ten greatest King of the Ring superstars ever.
It mentioned the inaugural King Don “The Rock” Muraco while noting that 20 superstars have ever been crowned King of the Ring.
#10 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin won the King of the Ring tournament in 2019. They showed clips of Corbin bragging about his fame, wealth and power. IT even featured when he poured dog food on Roman Reigns. Shinsuke Nakamura beating Corbin for the king’s crown was shown. That led to the “Sad” Corbin era where he lost his house, his car, his wife left with the kids and Corbin had a disheveled look. Corbin even wore the same shirt to work for several weeks. Corbin had the “CorbinFundMe” as well. Corbin turned it around after making money in Las Vegas following Money in the Bank 2021. Now he’s “Happy” Corbin even without his crown.
Analysis: Corbin was featured as a heel on Smackdown during this period, but it’s not like he won a title as the king or ever got a significant push. It’s not like the King Corbin gimmick elevated him that much.
#9 Randy “Macho Man” Savage
There were promos shown from Savage’s legendary career. They showed when Savage was the third ever King of the Ring with highlights of his exploits as the king. The “Macho King” nickname worked for him as we clips of Savage on talk shows and even a “Snap into a Slim Jim” commercial clip. They mentioned Savage being a WWE Champion although it wasn’t when he was the Macho King character. Macho Man ended up inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015. Savage passed away in 2011.
Analysis: Macho King wasn’t my favorite run for the Macho Man, but he did a great job of being a top heel that was easy to hate even though he was my favorite wrestler. To his credit, he put in work as Macho King and adopted the gimmick while some of the guys on this list never really cared to be a “king” character.
The Irishman Sheamus watched WWE since he was five years old and he knew he wanted to bring the Celtic Warrior to WWE because he truly believes in it. Sheamus won King of the Ring in 2010 with Sheamus saying that it put him on the map. Sheamus would go on to win the 2012 Royal Rumble and then beat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 28 soon after that. Sheamus went on to become a four-time WWE World Champion along with many other titles and a lock for the WWE Hall of Fame. Fit Finlay talked about how Sheamus is a hero in his country. Sheamus said he’ll continue to represent his homeland.
Analysis: Sheamus is one of the top WWE superstars since the 2010s and I admire him for his consistency. They didn’t mention that Sheamus was a WWE Champion in December 2009, which was before he won King of the Ring. He’s doing as well as ever now in his early 40s. I’ve always been a fan of his since he’s got a great look, works hard and is a guy living his dream.
#7 Kurt Angle
The great Kurt Angle spoke about how he was born to win an Olympic Gold Medal, but his destiny was to come to WWE to entertain the fans. Steve Austin and The Rock spoke about how special Angle was and how quick he learned about pro wrestling. They showed highlights from King of the Ring 2000 with Angle becoming King of the Ring. That was just the beginning for Angle because he went on to win multiple World Titles in WWE. They also mentioned Angle being entertaining by showing some of his comedy bits. A clip from Angle’s Hall of Fame speech was shown where he said you had to make moments because they last forever. Randy Orton and John Cena spoke about how special Angle was.
Analysis: Angle had an amazing career and is one of the greatest WWE superstars ever. However, what they didn’t tell you here is that they dumped the ceremony the night he won. They did it on Raw the next night. I think Angle wore the king attire for like two episodes of TV and then after that he never did again.
It was mentioned by Graves that Angle and Savage are the only kings that also finished as runners up in King of the Ring tournaments.
It was mentioned that the WWE Universe got to know Edge as part of the Edge & Christian tag team. Trish Stratus spoke about how Edge winning King of the Ring in 2001 was the beginning of the path for him to succeed on his own. Like a lot of guys on this list, Edge went on to win a lot of championships in his career. They mentioned Edge’s comedic skills while showing some of his hijinks with Christian like playing the kazoos while Orton talked about how funny Edge was. They spoke about Edge’s connection with the crowd that was evident at Royal Rumble 2020 when he came back to the ring after nine years away.
Analysis: It took nearly five years after King of the Ring 2001 for Edge to become a WWE Champion in early 2006. He also lost a year with major neck injury. While King of the Ring did help him become a singles wrestler, it wasn’t necessarily the huge launching point for him that it was for others. With that said, Edge is one of the best WWE superstars and a guy I started watching two years before he was in WWE here in our home province of Ontario. Proud of the Edgester.
It was mentioned that Edge was one of ten kings to win a WWE Championship.
#5 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar’s debut in April 2002 was shown when he destroyed everybody in his path. Two months later, Lesnar won King of the Ring 2002 as a rookie on WWE TV and then two months after that, Lesnar won the WWE Title at SummerSlam 2002 when he was just 25 years old. The video showed Lesnar’s rise in WWE leading to more championships and big moments like breaking the Smackdown ring with Big Show. Paul Heyman spoke about how Lesnar wanted to be an MMA Fighter. Dana White spoke about how Lesnar winning the UFC Heavyweight Title was after being in WWE was impossible to do, but Brock did it. Batista said that Lesnar was like Ivan Drago – a terrifying movie character. They showed Lesnar beating The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 to end The Streak and then more clips of Lesnar with titles.
Analysis: Brock Lesnar is another guy that didn’t embrace the “king” gimmick at all. If you’re looking for images or videos of Lesnar as King of the Ring, you won’t find them. With that said, Lesnar’s rise to King of the Ring was the fastest of anybody in WWE history since he was given the king’s crown (so to speak) just two months after his televised debut. Even though Lesnar left WWE from WrestleMania 20 in 2004 until the night after WrestleMania in 2012, he still went on to become one of the greatest superstars ever. Lesnar is still a main attraction even at 44 years of age.
They mentioned that twelve King of the Ring winners have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. That includes the next guy, but he hasn’t been inducted on his own yet.
#4 Triple H
They mentioned Hunter Hearst Helmsley winning King of the Ring in 1997. From there, it featured Hunter in dominant stables like Degeneration X and Evolution. They also showed highlights of Hunter’s many championship wins while playing the “King of Kings” song. There were media appearances shown as well. They even showed a clip from The Chaperone…and his other acting roles. It also featured some of the comedy moments from the DX days. Hunter’s wife Stephanie spoke about how he has evolved as a character with The Rock saying there was nobody like Triple H and Undertaker said he was like a total package. Batista thinks Triple H is “the best there’s ever been.”
Analysis: The King of the Ring win in 1997 came at a time when Hunter was locked in as a midcard heel around the IC Title range all the time. It was two years after that when he made the leap to the main event scene and then he was one of the longest main eventers in company history because he was in that spot for the next decade. Even longer when you think of him headlining WrestleMania 32, which was 19 years after his King of the Ring win.
#3 Bret “Hitman” Hart
They introduced Bret as the only two-time winner of the King of the Ring tournament. Bret won the 1993 King of the Ring when it was the first time KOTR was a pay-per-view event. They covered Bret’s family history, his rise to the top and his run as a WWE Champion. They mentioned Bret winning 32 championships over five decades including five reigns as WWE Champion. John Cena spoke about how the fans were invested in Bret and Roman Reigns said that Bret was his guy. They showed the media, TV and film appearances for Bret as well as his appearance on The Simpsons as well. Steve Austin said that Bret was one of the greatest storytellers of all-time.
Analysis: Bret was already a WWE Champion before the 1993 King of the Ring win. It was weird how they said that Bret was the only two-time winner of King of the Ring, which is true, but they didn’t even mention that he was King of the Ring in 1991 when it was just a house show event. Like many others on this list, Bret didn’t embrace the “king” gimmick, but at least he wore the outfit before Jerry Lawler beat him up. Anyway, Bret is one of the greatest of all time. It was smart for him to win the first King of the Ring tournament PPV show because it gave the PPV credibility right off the bat due to Bret being the first King.
#2 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
They quickly played the clip of Austin’s famous 1996 King of the Ring victory speech: “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.” Shortly after that, Austin 3:16 became the top-selling t-shirt in wrestling and he became WWE’s biggest star during the Attitude Era. They showed Austin’s win over Jake Roberts and then they showed more of the speech. Austin said that it was his feeling, from his heart, from his guts and nothing but attitude. Michael Hayes said that immediately the next night, there were “Austin 3:16” signs and the t-shirts sold out everywhere. They played a clip from Austin’s 2009 Hall of Fame induction with Vince McMahon saying Austin broke all-time records like attendance, merchandising, licensing and he blew them all away. Wrestlers like Kofi Kingston and Jey Uso talked about Austin’s rise while they showed clips of some famous Austin moments with Vince McMahon. Vince said that Austin was extraordinary and you can’t manufacture Austin’s ability. They showed all the media appearances that Austin made with Road Dogg saying Austin was the right guy at the right time. They played the Hall of Fame clip with Vince saying Austin was: “The greatest WWE superstar of all time.” And that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold Said So.
Analysis: The King of the Ring tournament was as big for Austin as anybody in WWE. It really was his launching point. As is the case with some of the others, Austin did not put on the crown or the robe. He just did the famous speech that we all know and love. At that point in his career, Austin had yet to really break through in WWE. No midcard titles or anything like that. A few months later the Bret Hart feud started, then things took off from there and Austin would go on to become arguably WWE’s greatest star ever.
They counted down from #10 to #2 before getting to the top king.
#1 “King” Booker T
The top spot went to a man that fully embraced the King of the Ring gimmick. It was 2006 King of the Ring winner Booker T. There was a clip from Booker saying he didn’t just get anointed king, he became king. They showed clips of Booker with his wife Queen Sharmell with Booker fully transforming himself. When Booker spoke, he also used a ridiculous fake England accent as well. Michael Cole talked about how Sharmell was the perfect king and everything was over-exaggerated. Booker spoke about holding the pinky up because he got that from how people drink tea. Booker spoke about the British accent as clips were shown of the accent in action. Booker went on to become the World Heavyweight Champion on Smackdown while he was King of the Ring as well. They showed some funny clips of Booker overreacting to some things that happened and Kofi Kingston said it was contradictory on every level. They had former WWE writer saying Brian Gewirtz embodied the king gimmick perfectly. Bruce Prichard said that Booker made it the best thing about his career. Booker said he wanted to make it so memorable that the first thing people remember about King of the Ring is King Booker. “Long live King Booker.”
Analysis: I think King Booker was a great choice for number one on this list. He truly embraced the gimmick more than anybody else, he made it his own thing and it worked really well for him. I can remember the year or two prior to this where he was solid as a midcarder although once the King of the Ring push happened, he became this heel character, they brought his wife Sharmell on the road with him and they were so entertaining together. It was also the only time in his WWE career where he won a World Heavyweight Title (on Smackdown) after being a five-time WCW World Champion. Booker certainly earned that title run too. Like Booker said on the show, he wanted people to think of him when the King of the Ring tournament is mentioned and I think that he might be right in terms of being the person people think of the most as King of the Ring.
The show wrapped up there saying whoever is the next King of the Ring is headed for glory. They showed highlights of all the kings mentioned in the show. That was it.
This special had a runtime of 44:07 on WWE Network.
I think the biggest omission was Owen Hart, who was the 1994 King of the Ring that was elevated from midcard talent to main eventer in part because of his win. The “King of Harts” gimmick was amazing. Maybe WWE didn’t want to mention him due to legal issues with his widow, but anybody that knows their WWE history would know Owen deserved to be in this. Other than that, I think they did fine. As I noted throughout the review, some of the guys embraced the king gimmick while others never did. The top two are perfect examples of that with Austin using King of the Ring to help his rise while Booker used it to have the most memorable run as King of the Ring.
It was well produced and well done overall.
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