wrestling / Columns

The Top 7 Worst King of the Ring Winners

September 30, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
Wade Barrett King Barrett

Baron Corbin might not be Constable or General Manager anymore, but now you can call him King. Corbin defeated Chad Gable in the finals of the 2019 King of the Ring Tournament to add yet another job title to his resume. Going into the tournament, it was thought that a Corbin victory would make the fans the most angry, so he had to be the favorite.

Did it make people angry? Nah. I think most people that would have been angry about it were watching Monday Night Football instead…even if it was the Browns & the Jets.

Now that we have King Corbin, it’s time to find out where he’ll rank among the best & worst Kings of the Ring. We’ve already looked at the most magnificent, so now it’s time for the least. Here are your Top 7 Worst King of the Ring Winners.

7. Don Muraco

I don’t have anything against the Magnificent One, but this one-night tournament he won to become the very first King of the Ring in 1985 looks like one of the lamest tournaments in the history of professional sports entertainment. Muraco defeated the Junkyard Dog in the first round, which is fine since Dog was pretty over at that point. Then he went over the immortal Les Thornton in the quarterfinals & got the duke over a washed-up Pedro Morales in the semi-finals. Thornton & Morales beat luminaries like Steve Lombardi & Johnny V to advance in the tournament.

Then you have the finals. Muraco against pretty much any babyface would have been fine. Tito Santana & Ricky Steamboat were both at Sullivan Stadium and in the quarterfinals. Neither advanced past there. Santana fought Jim Brunzell to a draw…and lost a coin toss. So, Muraco ended up wrestling the Iron Sheik in the final, and I can’t even imagine how that would work as a wrestling match in 1985. Did Muraco work face? Did Sheiky Baby ask the fans if they wanted to see a camel clutch? It sounds bizarre and I wish there was video of this somewhere.

Muraco was never acknowledged as a king, and it was probably for the best for the WWF to sweep this thing under the rug.

6. Ken Shamrock

Shamrock wasn’t a bad choice to win KOTR at the time. He had plenty of tournament experience and still had some mainstream credibility as the World’s Most Dangerous Man. He also needed a win over The Rock after losing to him by disqualificaton at Royal Rumble & a reversed decision WrestleMania. Looking back, of course, it would be better if they could list Rock as a winner of this thing. Shamrock should have worked though.

It didn’t. Nobody remembers anything about Shamrock’s KOTR victory other than Triple H declaring “I’m bi a lot of things, but lingual isn’t one of them” on commentary during the finals. He feuded with Owen Hart before turning heel and joining up with Vince McMahon’s Corporation. Shamrock’s career didn’t go into the toilet after winning the tournament, but he didn’t reach a whole new level either. He just kinda stayed where he was.

5. Sheamus

It’s weird. Sheamus had plenty of success before and after his reign as King. He had already been WWE Champion, and years after being King he would win the Royal Rumble and a good number of singles and tag team championships. He’s had a much better overall career than a lot of people would like to admit.

But something about that stupid looking cape & crown just made King Sheamus seen more like a jester than royalty. People thought he looked stupid when he went with the mohawk, but that was nothing compared to his king attire. The sooner he put that in the back of the closet, the better.

4. William Regal

We’d seen Regal as an authority figure before. In 2001, Regal was an evil commissioner that was relatively harmless in the grand scheme of things. A typical middle-manager. By the time 2008 rolled around and Regal was the General Manager of Raw, he had become much more ruthless. Instead of helping out his fellow evildoers, Regal was all about himself. He stacked the KOTR tournament in favor of himself and pulled out all stops to become King, in addition to already being General Manager. It appeared that Regal was going to be something of a mad king, laying waste to everything & everyone in his way of complete domination of WWE.

The only thing that could have stopped Regal at that point? Himself. Regal’s post-KOTR push was derailed by a Wellness Policy suspension that took him off the road for two months. By the time Regal returned, he was back at his usual level on the card. His best chance to become World Champion had fallen by the wayside. The KOTR victory could have taken him there, but he didn’t allow it to.

3. Wade Barrett

Barrett was a fine competitor, but WWE was really getting lazy with their Kings & the people knew it. Wade was the third straight heel with a funny European accent to win the crown, and since the previous two had done little with it the odds weren’t great that Wade would. Barrett had already had two characters that got over big cut off at the knees by WWE management (Nexus leader, Bad News Barrett), and there was little reason to think that putting a crown on Wade’s head would make the difference.

Sure enough, King Barrett sunk lower into the midcard than he already had been, and was out of WWE within a year of becoming king. All he accomplished as King was losing to Stephen Amell at SummerSlam and forming the forgettable League of Nations faction. Not great.

2. Mabel

The one good thing about King Mabel? The hilarity caused when people tried to carry his throne out during his entrance. They needed some big ol’ boys to take care of that. Everything else stunk, especially the 1995 KOTR PPV event. Philadelphia up & rejected that show more than a decade before major PPV crowds rejecting WWE’s presentation was par for the course. People liked Savio Vega ok, but nobody needed to see him wrestle four times, especially when Shawn Michaels only wrestled once and people were expecting him to at least carry the show, if not win the whole tournament. Instead, HBK drew with Kama in the first round and Mabel rode wins over Undertaker & Vega to the crown.

It made sense on pap-oh who am I kidding? It’s not like the “Diesel hugs old ladies & kisses babies” gimmick was getting over on top the cards anyway, and there’s no universe where anybody thought Diesel & King Mabel would have a wrestling match worthy of main eventing SummerSlam. King Mabel got a push, it fizzled out, and years later when WWE would run off the names of previous KOTR winners, Mabel’s name would be nowhere to be heard.

1. Billy Gunn

Choosing between King Mabel & King Ass is as tough a choice I’ve ever made for the #1 slot on a list. For me, it comes down to two simple facts:

-Nothing the WWF was doing in 1995 was getting over.
-Everything the WWF was doing in 1999 was getting over.

Most people who have gone back and watched that 1999 stuff since it popped up on WWE Network will tell you that it doesn’t age well. The matches were short & over-booked. The characters were loud & obnoxious on both sides of the face/heel fence. The storylines were nonsensical drivel for the most part. But damn was everybody & everything over. The WWF could get over anybody they wanted at that point…except for Billy Gunn.

And Lord did they try with Billy. They had him going over anybody they could find around this time in 1999. It’s easy to see why: good looking physique, part of D-Generation X, very athletic and capable in the ring. He checked most of the boxes. The charisma wasn’t quite main event level, but he had a catchy theme song, which should have been enough to make up for it. It didn’t. He was a great tag team guy, great mid-card guy, but he never quite reached that main event status. He might have had some of “it”, but he didn’t have enough of “it”.

Feuding with the Rock after his KOTR victory exposed the heck out of that. When Rock had God tell Billy that it didn’t matter what his name was, it was all over for King Ass’s main event ambitions. “Billy Gunning” the King of the Ring had become a verb before Edge said it out loud in 2001, and of course that was just further proof of what everybody said about Billy.

Apparently Billy is a darn good coach though, so all’s well that ends well.