KOTR Subverted Expectations

After the dust settled last Monday on Raw, Baron Corbin became the 2019 King of the Ring (KOTR).

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who was blamed for the show’s record-low ratings over the summer.

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who diehard fans believe is absolutely atrocious in the ring.

Yes, the same Baron Corbin who reportedly only Vince McMahon sees as a star.

The criticism is fair, but I don’t agree with a lot of it. Corbin’s win capped off a KOTR that was highly entertaining while subverting expectations.

Baron Corbin and Chad Gable were the last two people anyone expected to make it to the KOTR finals, much less, win the whole thing.

Gable was brought up from 205 Live and saddled with a sympathetic babyface character who people look down on because he’s short.

Corbin returned for the tournament after being off of television for the first six weeks of the Paul Heyman booking regime, which reportedly didn’t plan on using Corbin much going forward.

When KOTR began, Ricochet, Ali, and Buddy Murphy were each in the midst of a newly minted push. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe, Drew McIntyre, and to a lesser extent, The Miz are always in the mix for a significant win.

Elias had some momentum due to his alliance with Shane McMahon. While Kevin Owens would have been a popular choice to win, everyone expected him to be screwed out of the tournament via Elias/McMahon, which is precisely what happened.

Corbin and Gable put on strong performances through the tournament, and their match in the finals was highly entertaining. Corbin got the win with a beautiful finishing sequence where Gable spun into Corbin’s End of Days finishing maneuver.

Last night, on Raw, Corbin, and Gable had a rematch that expanded their story and made for another fun outting. Corbin debuted a Game of Thrones-inspired crown, robe, and specter after Gable destroyed the chintzy looking crown and royal garb WWE had reserved for the winner.

WWE has received a lot of slack over the past year for their monotonous storytelling and homogenized presentation of the product. Creatively, KOTR served as a big win for the company. They were able to subvert expectations with the tournament while keeping it interesting throughout with excellent matches and several twists and turns along the way.

Now, Chad Gable is a prominent character on television, and Baron Corbin proved he doesn’t suck as a wrestler while his character has a fresh coat of paint, now dubbed King Corbin. The Kansas City native is the seventh consecutive heel to win KOTR. While it would be nice to see an up and coming babyface win the crown, bad guys always make for a better king.

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