WWE dusts off King of the Ring, which coincides with the inaugural Queen’s Crown beginning tonight on SmackDown and continues Monday on Raw. Both tournaments conclude at Crown Jewel on October 21, one day before the new draft rosters go into effect.
The brackets haven’t been released. However, we can still preview the tournaments by looking back at how WWE fulfilled their past needs.
Most look at King of the Ring as an opportunity to create a new star. While that mindset is understandable, it is not what WWE has always had in mind. Vince McMahon looks for different things at different times.
Sometimes, the objective of King of the Ring is to create a new star. Other times, the goal is to heat up someone for a big match or freshen up an act that’s gone stale.
Bret Hart won the tournament in 1993 to set him up for a showdown with Hulk Hogan, which never materialized. A year later, Owen Hart captured the crown in a move to heat him up for his steel cage match against Bret at SummerSlam.
In 1995, WWE pushed Diesel as the top guy. However, with a lack of opponents for the newly anointed hero to conquer, a new star was needed. The mammoth Mable went from babyface tag team wrestler to villainous king to give Diesel a compelling challenger.
WWE altered course the next two years with an eye on the future as the tournament created new stars. Austin 3:16 was born when Stone Cold Steve Austin won in 1996. Triple H went all the way in 1997 and aligned with Shawn Michaels four months later to form D-Generation-X.
The 1998 tournament served as the culmination of a feud between Ken Shamrock and The Rock when the UFC Hall of Famer tapped out “The People’s Champion.” Billy Gunn winning King of the Ring in 1999 was the genesis of a main event push that didn’t work.
More winners came and went. Kurt Angle, and Brock Lesnar were prospects destined for superstardom. Mid-card heels such as Wade Barrett and Baron Corbin needed a refresh, and the crown served them well.
“All Hail King Booker” echoed in areas across the globe as Booker T elevated the crown and his career. His highly entertaining blend of street bravado and pompous royal decorum made him WWE’s top heel and World Heavyweight Champion.
The first tournament matches will see Rey Mysterio battle Sami Zayn and Liv Morgan clash with Carmella. Looking at the needs of all four wrestlers, some could use the crown more than others.
Rey Mysterio doesn’t need to win the tournament while Sami Zayn’s conspiracy victim gimmick has run its course. Perhaps Zayn playing an overbearing king is the next stage of character development.
On the women’s side, Carmella is already the self-proclaimed most beautiful woman in WWE. Winning the Queen’s Crown would raise her ego exponentially. Many are clamoring for Liv Morgan to win.
WWE, however, highlighted in their network documentary an inability to capitalize on Liv past a win here and there. A follow-up plan is a must. Having Liv win the crown with nothing on the back end makes the whole endeavor worthless.
Support for Xavier Woods to win the male bracket has nearly turned into a min-campaign. It would be a nice story and realistically the closest he’d get to a World Title run. Still, Vince McMahon doesn’t book things because it would be nice.
Looking at what WWE needs right now, SmackDown’s Universal Title scene is in poor shape. Besides Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel and Big E next month at Survivor Series, Drew McIntyre is Roman Reigns’ only credible opponent.
“The Tribal Chief” will need another dance partner with some juice behind him. Reigns and McIntyre feuding between December and WrestleMania won’t sell. King of the Ring is a great vehicle to solve that problem.
With only two wrestlers in each tournament announced so far, WWE is either keeping things close to the vest or, as recent history suggests, they’re booking on the fly and have no idea which direction to go.
Regardless of the result, King of the Ring always gives fans something to get excited about. Now with the first-ever Queen’s Crown added to the mix, WWE can tell two exciting stories to augment their programming while making some new stars in the process.