After a four year hiatus, the King Of The Ring tournament is back in WWE. Originally started as a tournament on house shows in 1985, King Of The Ring became a major pay per view show in 1993 and was regarded as one of the big five shows of the year for WWE until the company discontinued the annual tournament after 2002. The tournament itself launched the careers of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Edge, and Brock Lesnar as they were propelled into the main event scene. Past tournament winners have taken on the “King” moniker as a twist on their gimmick such as King Booker, King Mabel, King Harley Race, Macho King Randy Savage, and “The King of Harts” Owen Hart. The tournament also successfully got Bret Hart his momentum back after losing his WWF title to Yokozuna (who lost to Hulk Hogan immediately afterwards) at WrestleMania IX.
Since Booker T’s win in 2005, King Of The Ring winners have not had quite the level success as some of their predecessors. It’s also heavily rumored that Vince McMahon is not a fan of tournaments. Instead of making guys in tournaments, WWE has favored gauntlet matches using them to make stars out of Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, & Kofi Kingston. Even though tournaments have been played down on the main roster, WWE has been running fantastic tournaments on the WWE Network for the past three years with the most notable being the Cruiserweight Classic, the Mae Young Classic, and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Each tournament created new stars and new feuds beyond just the winners of each tournament.
The field for this year’s King Of The Ring tournament includes three former world champions and some of the best wrestlers in the company. Although the tournament heavily favors heels, this year’s tournament has some strong babyface competitors that could shake things up in the main event scene. Here’s a look at each competitor and how likely they are to win the King Of The Ring.
Cesaro vs Samoa Joe
Cesaro and Samoa Joe have only wrestled one singles match in WWE: Samoa Joe’s second match on RAW back in 2017. Joe was victorious in a match that was just a sample of what these two can do together. This is a matchup that will showcase two fantastic professional wrestlers that can tell amazing stories with their physicality alone.
Aside from defeating No Way Jose on the July 8th episode of RAW, Cesaro has lost to Rey Mysterio, Aleister Black, Seth Rollins, and Ricochet. Of course Cesaro wrestled fantastically in each match, but he needs to get some wins in order to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, he has never defeated Samoa Joe in a singles match in WWE or ROH.
Samoa Joe’s character has begun to shift during his brief feud with Roman Reigns. After Reigns was hit by a car, Joe was depicted as an honorable man outside the ring who becomes ruthless inside the ring. This added dimension to Joe’s character was brought up again this past week as he competed on both RAW & SmackDown. Samoa Joe would be a fantastic adversary for Seth Rollins and he has the chops on the mic to carry RAW week to week with his words as well.
Cesaro vs Samoa Joe is a match that could be repeated 7 times in a row before anyone would get close to bored but this match is likely a one-off. Samoa Joe has potential to go all the way in this tournament and his recent performances had to have opened some eyes backstage. This tournament is Joe’s to lose and he very well could to Ricochet should he get past Drew McIntyre.
Ricochet vs Drew McIntyre
We have never seen Drew McIntyre vs Ricochet in WWE. The two faced each other in 2017 in WCPW with Drew pinning Ricochet to advance in the English Qualifying Round of the Pro Wrestling World Cup. This matchup could be preview of the two top future performers in WWE and easily could have been the final for this entire tournament.
Ricochet briefly held the United States Championship this summer after winning it from Samoa Joe but lost it to AJ Styles. Pretty great company for the 31 year-old phenomenon. It should be noted that Ricochet has been known on the indies and Twitter as “King Ricochet” and he knows how to own wearing a crown.
Since arriving on the main roster, Drew McIntyre has only managed to win the RAW tag team championship with Dolph Ziggler. McIntyre has mostly lost his big matches on PPV, aside from his tag team work. The King Of The Ring tournament is a great opportunity for McIntyre to launch himself to the main event scene of RAW. If he’s able to get past Ricochet, he’s going to have to face Sami Zayn or his most recent rival, Cedric Alexander. McIntyre grew to become even more dominant on the indies and NXT after leaving WWE in 2014 and he’s ready if given the opportunity to carry the ball as a top heel on the RAW roster.
Cedric Alexander vs. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn hasn’t won a singles match on television since May 13th. It makes no sense for such a fantastic performer to go on such a long losing streak. Zayn has been consistently entertaining with his new attitude since returning from injury in April.
Cedric Alexander made a big splash in his surprise victory over Drew McIntyre on the July 15th episode of RAW. McIntyre got one back from Cedric this past week on RAW which makes it natural to imagine that McIntyre & Cedric are on a collision course for a third matchup. Cedric is still making his name on the RAW roster and a win over Sami Zayn here could give Cedric a boost.
Sami Zayn’s case is a curious one. He has yet to become a major player on the main roster after a very successful run as NXT Champion. In spite of his on-camera griping, Zayn has two years left on his contract with WWE and isn’t going anywhere. Much like Cesaro, Zayn could use some wins soon to boost his credibility on the RAW roster.
The Miz vs Baron Corbin
After losing to Shane McMahon at Money In The Bank, the former WWE champion found himself off the past three PPVs. The Miz reminded everyone of the power of his Skull Crushing Finale on this past week’s RAW when he dropped Dolph Ziggler in a quick blow off to their feud. Although it’s unlikely The Miz wins this tournament, his first matchup is an intriguing one: Baron Corbin.
Baron Corbin is loathed by WWE fans to the point of having “go away heat”. Corbin has stayed off WWE programming after his feud with Seth Rollins flopped so badly in early July. Corbin has shown flashes of promise coupled with his impressive athleticism for a 6’8″ man. Corbin is definitely a favorite to win this tournament seeing as to how WWE has kept him in a major role on TV for the past 2 years. However, one convention of the King Of The Ring tournament could be employed here to keep heat on Corbin without him winning the tournament: a draw.
A double disqualification and/or draw in the King Of The Ring tournament will eliminate both competitors from the tournament, giving their future opponent a bye for their round. This worked for Lex Luger & Tatanka in 1993 giving Bam Bam Bigelow a bye on his way to the finals against Bret Hart. A draw between Shawn Michaels and Kama in 1995 paved the way for Mabel to win the crown over a tired Savio Vega. Goldust & The Ultimate Warrior were eliminated in 1996 via double count-out giving Vader a bye before he was upset by Jake Roberts.
If Corbin were to wrestle to a draw with The Miz in their first round match, this could begin a feud that we got a preview of on the 2017 Survivor Series. A feud between Miz & Corbin has great potential to re-energize both Superstars’ 2019 while shuffling the players in the main event scene without hurting anyone’s TV time.
Kevin Owens vs Elias
After Elias cost Kevin Owens his match against Samoa Joe this past week on SmackDown, it’s clear that Owens will destroy The Drifter in their first round match. Owens has been hot for WWE since his face turn and subsequent feud with Dolph Ziggler, Shane McMahon, and Drew McIntyre. It feels like McIntyre and Owens are destined to face one another in the finals but with such an interesting competitive field in this year’s tournament, the possibilities are wide open.
Elias finally won gold this past week when he defeated R-Truth for the 24/7 Championship, but Elias doesn’t quite make sense wearing gold. He’ll likely lose this first round match and his 24/7 championship in the same night. Elias has grown as a singer and public speaker, but his work in the ring doesn’t quite pop. He’ll need some more experience before he’ll get close to the crown. This match will be a quick one as Kevin Owens looks to make a statement on his way to being one of the top babyfaces on SmackDown as it transitions to FOX.
Ali vs Buddy Murphy
Ali has had Buddy Murphy’s number since he came to the SmackDown roster but after a tremendous showing against Roman Reigns this past week on SmackDown, Buddy Murphy has propelled his name into another echelon of WWE. These two have potential to have the match of the tournament. The chemistry between the two shined in their feud for the Cruiserweight Championship on 205 Live and they’ll shine once again in the King Of The Ring Tournament. Although Shinsuke Nakamura declared that he’s done feuding with Ali, it feels like Ali has unfinished business with the Intercontinental Title. A loss to Murphy here won’t stop that from happening. Look to Murphy to pick up the win here.
Chad Gable vs Shelton Benjamin
Two amazing amateur wrestlers will clash in this exciting first round matchup. Benjamin has been silent on SmackDown for 2 months in odd backstage vignettes but this past week on SmackDown he finally spoke. The 6’2″ Shelton Benjamin called 5’8″ Chad Gable “Shorty”. It’s hard to say what Benjamin’s direction is going to be with this new attitude, but he’s not leaving SmackDown anytime soon.
Chad Gable recently moved to the 205 Live roster and has had two fantastic matches with Jack Gallagher. Gable may get past Benjamin here, but it’s unlikely that he’ll go far in this tournament. Gable has his eyes on the Cruiserweight Championship and he’ll likely win it sooner than later in 2019.
Apollo Crews vs Andrade
Apollo Crews and Andrade split a nice set of two matches in July but Andrade was unable to defeat Crews without the help of Zelina Vega. Andrade is a heavy favorite in this tournament after dazzling the WWE Universe with his consistently fantastic performances in 2019. Andrade’s matches with Rey Mysterio have been the best matches Mysterio has had since he returned to WWE. Andrade and Crews will put on a heck of a match but Andrade will come out on top with or without the help of Vega here. After defeating Mysterio in two consecutive falls on this past week’s RAW, it’s clear that Andrade is gaining momentum on his rise to the top of the card in WWE. Crews’ direction is much more curious, but he’s been consistently featured on WWE programming since putting on a fantastic performance in a losing effort to KUSHIDA on NXT in June. The idea of Andrade taking on Chad Gable for the first time ever softens the blow of Apollo Crews losing here.
In the comments below share your picks, predictions, and what you want to see out of this tournament. Is there a favorite match from past King Of The Ring tournaments you love? Do you hate tournaments like Vince supposedly does? Why? There’s much to talk about with tournaments this week with the G1 just ending and King Of The Ring and PWG’s Battle Of Los Angeles on the Horizon. Let’s talk tournaments!