Every WWE King Of The Ring Winner Ranked From Worst To Best

Every WWE King Of The Ring Winner Ranked From Worst To Best

WWE is bringing back the King of the Ring tournament starting this coming Monday on Raw, and to celebrate, we’re counting down every single previous King of the Ring winner in history, and ranking them!

There have been 20 King of the Ring tournaments, with the inaugural iteration debuting in 1985, and the latest taking place in 2015. The hall of winners is certainly an interesting lineup, and ranking them was no easy feat.

There are so many factors to judge the King of the Ring winners on. How they embraced the role of being ‘King,’ the manner in which they won the crown, and how they used their victories to propel them into the upper reaches of the business.

Without further ado, here is every WWE King of the Ring tournament winner ranked from worst to best!

19. Mabel (1995)

My justification for classing Mabel as the worst King of the Ring winner ever can be summarized in three words:

He’s bloody Mabel.

Soon after the Men on a Mission turned heel, Mabel was set on the path towards becoming the top heel in the WWF. Which was a bad idea in itself.

Winning the King of the Ring was a step in this particular direction, and it wasn’t long before he was taking on WWF Champion Diesel in a title match at SummerSlam.

Mabel lost the match though, went into a feud with the Undertaker, which saw him accidentally injure the ‘Deadman,’ and ended up leaving the company mere months later in early 1996.

He also gets minus points for passing through the semi final with a BYE after a quarter final match between Shawn Michaels and Kama went to a time-limit draw.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Adam Bomb
  • Quarter Final – The Undertaker
  • Semi Final – BYE
  • Final – Savio Vega

18. Billy Gunn (1999)

When Billy Gunn won the King of the Ring in ’99, the idea was for him to break out of the tag team scene and establish himself as a singles star.

However, the entire tournament was laid out to tell us the story of the breakup of D-Generation X and thus, Gunn winning the crown was overshadowed by this.

Gunn did go on to have a short feud with the Rock, which he lost, and then DX had reformed by the end of the year anyway rendering the entire thing a pointless waste of time.

We all know that Gunn did have a decent career but aside from a short Intercontinental Title reign, it all came as a tag team competitor, and he certainly isn’t the first person that comes to mind when we think of Kings of the Ring.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Viscera
  • Quarter Final – Ken Shamrock
  • Semi Final – Kane
  • Final – X-Pac

17. William Regal (2008)

William Regal winning the 2008 King of the Ring could, and should, have been really, really good.

Despite suiting the role of King to an absolute tee, and being one of the best to ever step foot in a ring, Regal did not take advantage of his victory.

After the tournament, the interim Raw General Manager went into a lackluster feud with Mr. Kennedy, culminating in the Brit losing a ‘Loser Gets Fired’ match, which was kayfabe speak for Regal serving a wellness policy suspension.

This derailed any momentum that could have been built up, and despite continuing to embrace the King moniker upon return, it didn’t bring any success.

Road to victory

  • Quarter Final – Hornswoggle
  • Semi Final – Finlay
  • Final – CM Punk

16. Bad News Barrett (2015)

We go with back-to-back Brits, with the winner of the most recent King of the Ring tournament, Bad News Barrett.

Barrett was winding down his time with WWE, knowing the company didn’t see him as the major star he certainly could and probably should have been.

Giving him the King of the Ring victory was very much a “last chance” gift for Barrett, and unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.

Instead of propelling him into the World Title scene, the crown launched Barrett into feuds with the likes of R-Truth, and forming a tag team with Stardust.

Just a year later, the Lancashire man joined – and was booted from – the disappointing League of Nations faction, and was released from the company.

Road to victory

  • Quarter Final – Dolph Ziggler
  • Semi Final – R-Truth
  • Final – Neville

15. Tito Santana (1989)

Tito Santana may just be the least memorable King of the Ring winner in history.

Much like the Billy Gunn entry earlier, the ’89 tournament was tasked with telling the story of the breakup of Strike Force, a tag team made up of Santana and Rick Martel.

The two men faced off in the final with Santana coming out on top, but he never really pushed on, and after a losing effort challenging for the Intercontinental Championship, just sort of fizzled out.

In 1991, he adopted a Spanish bullfighter gimmick and went by ‘El Matador,’ and then left the WWF altogether in 1993.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Bad News Brown
  • Quarter Final – The Warlord
  • Semi Final – Akeem
  • Final – Rick Martel

14. Ken Shamrock (1998)

At the time, Shamrock seemed a decent choice to win the King of the Ring tournament in 1998.

He brought a legitimate MMA background, and could believably batter anyone he felt like. Winning the tournament could have been the start of a very special WWE career.

The downside of this was that Shamrock had already been tested in the main event scene, and it didn’t work. There were too many names in the company that were far more popular, and unfortunately his victory in the tournament didn’t change that.

His tournament was made up of defeating members of the Nation of Domination faction, who he had prior been embroiled in a feud with, culminating in a victory in the final against the Rock.

After a dead feud with Mabel following his KotR victory, Shamrock turned heel later in the year, winning the Intercontinental Championship and joining the Corporation.

The ‘World’s Most Dangerous Man’ never kicked on any further than that though, and ended up returning to MMA in 1999, leaving us wondering what could have been.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Kama Mustafa
  • Quarter Final – Mark Henry
  • Semi Final – Jeff Jarrett
  • Final – The Rock

13. Don Muraco (1985)

Muraco won the first ever King of the Ring tournament, and given that fact, you may think he’s positioned a bit low in this list.

Well, that’s because Vince McMahon didn’t really know what to do with the tournament. Nowadays, we think of it as a way to propel a midcard talent further up the card, but in its original form it was more just a pretty pointless tournament on a glorified house show.

Given the tournament’s lack of publicity, Muraco couldn’t use his victory to his advantage, and rather than kicking on up the card, dwindled in the midcard until he was released in 1988.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Junkyard Dog
  • Quarter Final – Les Thornton
  • Semi Final – Pedro Morales
  • Final – Iron Shiek

12. Sheamus (2010)

To say Sheamus burst onto the scene following his WWE debut in 2009 would be an understatement.

By the time he won the King of the Ring in November 2010, the ‘Celtic Warrior’ was already a two-time WWE Champion, but the crowd just weren’t connecting with him.

Winning the King of the Ring almost seemed like a step backwards, and an attempt to get him over before restarting a main event push. He did not get over.

It just came across as WWE throwing everything they could at the Irishman in an attempt to present him as a top heel in the company. And it just didn’t really work.

His win was also marred by a BYE in the semi final after a quarter final between Drew McIntyre and Ezekiel Jackson went to a double countout.

Oh, and his crown was stupid.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – R-Truth
  • Quarter Final – Kofi Kingston
  • Semi Final – BYE
  • Final – John Morrison

11. Ted DiBiase (1988)

Ted DiBiase’s ‘Million Dollar Man’ character and winning the King of the Ring sounds like a match made in heaven.

And, it sort of was.

Becoming King was DiBiase’s first real singles accomplishment in the WWF, but despite having a great career and becoming one of the best heels of all time, he would never go on to win the big one.

He was great in the role that he played, but that was consistently just below the World Title scene, which prevents him from appearing towards the upper echelons of this list.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Brutus Beefcake
  • Quarter Final – Ken Patera
  • Semi Final – Ron Bass
  • Final – Randy Savage

10. Harley Race (1986)

When Harley Race joined the WWF in 1996, the company wanted to position him as one of its top heels. The only issue with this was that they didn’t want to acknowledge his past achievements in the NWA.

Winning the King of the Ring tournament was the way around this, and Race – the great heel he was – embraced the King moniker greatly, forcing his opponents to kneel before him. If they refused, Bobby Heenan would force them to kiss Race’s feet. Wonderful stuff.

Race’s was the first King of the Ring tenure that could go down as memorable, and very much set the tone for many of the Kings later down the line.

Unfortunately, and despite a long-running feud with Hulk Hogan, Race never quite reached the same level he did in the NWA.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – George Steele
  • Quarter Final – BYE
  • Semi Final – Billy Jack Haynes
  • Final – Pedro Morales

9. Edge (2001)

Edge’s King of the Ring victory in 2001 was evidence that WWE had faith in him to push on and become a top singles competitor for years to come.

He was already a multi-time Tag Team Champion and former Intercontinental Champion before he won the crown, and his victory in the final against the previous year’s winner Kurt Angle seemed to signify the start of a singles push.

It took a bit longer than expected for Edge to reach the very top, but his feud with Christian did solidify him as a singles star as opposed to someone stuck to tag team success.

Edge’s illustrious career more than repaid the faith WWE placed in him with the tournament win, and is the only other man (we mentioned Sheamus earlier) to win the King of the Ring, Money in the Bank and a Royal Rumble.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Test
  • Quarter Final – Perry Saturn
  • Semi Final – Rhyno
  • Final – Kurt Angle

8. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (1997)

There’s a rather fun fact about Helmsley’s ’97 King of the Ring win.

He was actually promised the crown in 1996, but management changed their mind following the Madison Square Garden “Curtain Call” incident, and handed it to some other bloke instead. More on that shortly.

Helmsley actually lost his first round match with Ahmed Johnson via DQ, but he threatened the WWF with legal action as he claimed he was never informed he could be eliminated from the tournament that way, so got a second chance against Crush, who he beat.

It wasn’t his tournament victory that really solidified Helmsley as a top star, but more so his resulting feud with Mankind, which brought many great matches out of both men.

He later formed D-Generation X, became ‘Triple H,’ and the rest – as they say – is history.

Road to victory

  • Quarter Final – Crush
  • Semi Final – Ahmed Johnson
  • Final – Mankind

7. Brock Lesnar (2002)

Brock Lesnar won the 2002 King of the Ring tournament just three months after he made his on-screen debut, and was propelled to success following his victory.

Lesnar didn’t really care for the tournament or the accolade, he just saw it as an opportunity to beat people up.

Although he didn’t really do much with the King moniker – which is probably for the better really – it only took the ‘Next Big Thing’ another two months to defeat the Rock for the Undisputed World Championship at SummerSlam.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Bubba Ray Dudley
  • Quarter Final – Booker T
  • Semi Final – Test
  • Final – Rob Van Dam

6. Owen Hart (1994)

Owen Hart’s 1994 King of the Ring victory allowed him to step out of his brother Bret’s shadow, and was a very deserved and overdue singles achievement for the ‘King of Harts.’

A feud then started between both Owen and Bret over the WWF World Championship, leading to a Meltzer five-star match between the two.

Unfortunately, Owen could never quite capture the big one, but his victory in the King of the Ring tournament is an accolade befitting of one of the most underrated performers of all time.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Doink The Clown
  • Quarter Final – Tatanka
  • Semi Final – The 1-2-3 Kid
  • Final – Razor Ramon

5. Kurt Angle (2000)

The 2000 King of the Ring tournament, won by Kurt Angle, was the largest in history, made up of 32 competitors as opposed to the usual 16 or eight.

The Olympic gold medalist was a great choice to win the crown. Despite only debuting a couple of years earlier, he was already a European and Intercontinental Champion.

The win was very much the start of his main event push. He went into a feud with Triple H, and although he didn’t win, this gave the ‘American Hero’ enough traction to become a main event player and he would soon go on to defeat the Rock for the World Championship at No Mercy.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Bradshaw
  • Round 2 – Bubba Ray Dudley
  • Quarter Final – Chris Jericho
  • Semi Final – Crash Holly
  • Final – Rikishi

4. Booker T (2006)

There maybe no-one in history that embraced the King moniker and used it to their advantage more than Booker T following his triumph in the 2006 tournament.

As we know, Booker was already an established name when he won the tournament, but despite a whole host of accolades, he’d never won the big one.

The Harlem man had actually cheated to defeat Lashley and win the crown, which led to a feud between the two. Booker was impressive throughout, and was awarded with a very well-deserved yet very overdue WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign when he defeated Rey Mysterio at the Great American Bash.

Road to victory

  • Quarter Final – Matt Hardy
  • Semi Final – Kurt Angle
  • Final – Bobby Lashley

3. Bret Hart (1991 & 1993)

Bret Hart is the only man to ever win two King of the Ring tournaments, and did so in consecutive iterations in 1991 and 1993.

While his 1991 triumph was – in all honesty – fairly ordinary, it did help establish Hart as a singles star, and kickstarted his rise to the top of the card, and led him to his first WWF Championship run.

His second win kickstarted somewhat of a transition phase in the WWF and even wrestling as a whole. Smaller, more technical performers like Hart and Shawn Michaels were beginning to become bigger stars than just the “big men” that the sport was sold on before them.

The ‘Hitman’ went on to become a five-time WWF World Champion, and many of our favorite wrestlers of today may not even be around if it wasn’t for Hart’s King of the Ring successes.

Road to victory (1991)

  • Round 1 – Pete Doherty
  • Quarter Final – Skinner
  • Semi Final – BYE
  • Final – Irwin R. Schyster

Road to victory (1993)

  • Round 1 – BYE
  • Quarter Final – Razor Ramon
  • Semi Final – Mr. Perfect
  • Final – Bam Bam Bigelow

2. Stone Cold Steve Austin (1996)

As we mentioned earlier, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was originally supposed to win the 1996 edition of the tournament, and that “other bloke” I referred to, was the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Following a rather lackluster run as the Ringmaster, Austin turned the WWF on its head with THAT promo following his victory over Jake Roberts in the final.

Now, Austin’s rise wasn’t actually as rapid as some might believe. It was actually another two years before Austin would go on to win his first WWF World Championship, defeating Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV with the help of Mike Tyson.

Nonetheless, had Helmsley not been axed as the 1996 winner, had Austin not been chosen as his replacement, and had the WWF not allowed Stone Cold a couple of minutes mic time after his win, one of – if not the – most popular stars in wrestling history may never have been born.

Road to victory

  • Round 1 – Bob Holly
  • Quarter Final – Savio Vega
  • Semi Final – Marc Mero
  • Final – Jake Roberts

1. Randy Savage (1987)

There may be no-one in history as well-suited to being the ‘King’ than the ‘Macho Man’ himself, Randy Savage.

Savage won the crown two years after his WWF debut, and despite being a heel, was so impressive in the role that the crowd began to cheer him.

This led to a babyface turn and an Intercontinental Championship feud with the Honky Tonk Man. Although he wouldn’t capture the title, this helped solidify Savage as one of the most popular stars in the company, and he went on to capture his first of two World Championships at the next WrestleMania.

In 1989, Savage won the King of the Ring Title from Jim Duggan. Now, this was all a bit silly. So… Harley Race had gifted his King of the Ring moniker to Haku after suffering an injury. Duggan then defeated Haku for this title, before Savage beat Jim to become the “King of the WWF.”

The ‘Macho Man’ would then become known as the ‘Macho King,’ and would consistently use his scepter as a weapon. The biggest example of this would spark his feud with Ultimate Warrior which culminated at WrestleMania VII, and was actually Savage’s final match in WWF before his in-ring retirement.

He would of course return and become a two-time World Champion at WrestleMania VIII in 1992, but Savage’s best work undoubtedly came during his ‘Macho King’ days, and his career was catapulted to stardom by his tournament win.

There has been no better King of the Ring in history than Randy Savage.

  • Round 1 – Nikolai Volkoff
  • Quarter Final – Jim Brunzell
  • Semi Final – Danny Davis
  • Final – King Kong Bundy

5 years ago by Liam Winnard


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