‘A Mark’s Eye View‘ is a weekly look at some of the things that made me a huge fan of professional wrestling.
The King of the Ring tournament is back and wrestling fans could not be more excited. I am a huge fan of tourneys, but sadly, I haven’t put much stock into the King of the Ring for years. Many point to it as a way to elevate people to main event status. There have been a few exceptions, but this has rarely been the case.
Everyone’s favorite example (including WWE’s) is “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Realistically, Austin‘s tournament victory didn’t do a lot to help his career trajectory; the character was already taking off and he was destined for greatness. His victory that night gave him a platform to deliver his iconic Austin 3:16 promo, but did little else.
Fans love to point to Billy Gunn as an example of an awful KOTR winner, and with good reason. However, others have called themselves King and did a whole lot less with it. Here is the worst stretch in the history of King of the Ring.
Honorable Mention: James J. Dillon
We are going to step outside of WWE for just a second. J.J. is a wrestling legend. He was as integral to the Four Horsemen as Ric Flair or Arn Anderson. His promo ability stood out even among a group of the best talkers of all time. He is one of the greatest managers in professional wrestling history and an all time great.
He also started his career as an in ring competitor. During his stint in Florida, he called himself the “King”. It was less memorable than Mabel’s run with the crown. (Side note: J.J.’s best match was a tune up to the first War Games match on the July 4th, 1987 episode of World Championship Wrestling. Do yourself a favor, get the Network if you don’t already have it, and watch this bout. It is AMAZING.)
Early in his career, the future King was known as King Tonga. He easily bodyslammed Big John Studd and seemed well on his way to big things. He rarely lost and never looked bad in his matches, but he also didn’t really do anything. Later in his career, the former King was known as the merciless Meng. He was known as a tough guy in and out of the ring. Otherwise, he left no impression.
It is surprising that he did absolutely nothing during his run as King. It was the closest he came to winning a singles title in the WWF and he seemed to lose even less. Still, it may be the worst part of his career in the company. (At least the dognapping was memorable.)
The man who beat Haku for the “title” also seemed to be better of without it. He won the first Royal Rumble and was one of the most popular guys in the company. He feuded with Andre the Giant, chummed around with Hulk Hogan, and could fire up a crowd like few others. Yet, his time with the crown is mostly remembered for a few goofy pictures. At least he didn’t find the crown in a trash can.
Savage’s time as the “Macho King” may be one of the saddest runs in wrestling history. From 1988-89, Savage ruled as WWF Champion. He had already proven himself to be one of the most electric in-ring performers and an entertaining promo. He never had any trouble standing out and was one of the top stars in the entire sport.
After losing the belt to Hogan, Savage’s career went downhill. (Weird how that often happened to people who feuded with the Hulkster.) What made it particularly depressing was Savage was so far above a joke title. Watching him wrestle jobbers to the stars over a meaningless crown was one of the worst things a fan could watch. Savage’s went on to have a decent career, but it never fully recovered.
Next week: The best Midnight Express moments!