The King of the Ring is underway. Let’s hope this year’s winner doesn’t end up on this list.
I love wrestling tournaments. There are built-in stakes, a clear narrative to follow, and the ability to make some brand new stars. King of the Ring is a simple concept: who is the best wrestler, determined by a long tournament. WWE has both brought back King of the Ring and created a new Queen’s Crown tournament.
Not every King of the Ring winner is created equally. Some kings use it as a launching pad into the stratosphere like Brock Lesnar or Stone Cold Steve Austin. There are others who just re-establish themselves as the best wrestler, like brothers Bret & Owen Hart.
Some winners just fail to live up to the moniker of King. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and these guys were just weighed down by their new title. Here are the three worst winners of the King of the Ring tournament.
3. William Regal, 2008
I hate putting William Regal on a list of the worst anythings. He’s one of the most underappreciated wrestlers of all time, plus he’s like the nice grandfather of NXT. Tell me you don’t pop whenever he says “War Games!”
In 2008, Regal won a very underwhelming tournament to become King of the Ring. His first-round match was against Hornswoggle. He’d then beat Finlay & CM Punk in four-minute matches to claim the title of King. If WWE wanted Regal to have a high and mighty gimmick, they could’ve done so without a tournament. People remember him as the “cultural ambassador to the United States,” they could’ve just run with that once more. This tournament was a one-day “meh” affair, and Regal didn’t even get a push after his coronation.
2. Billy Gunn, 1999
WWE wanted Billy Gunn to take off so badly around this time. Gunn had the right look. He’s tall, built well, and could go in the ring. They decided the best way to launch him to singles stardom was to book him as King of the Ring. Gunn beat Ken Shamrock, Kane, and X-Pac all on the pay-per-view to win the tournament. Unfortunately, the win would not be the singles breakout that WWE expected.
Gunn would be involved in a DX civil war after winning the tournament and would lose that feud. Then he would feud with The Rock heading into SummerSlam and during the build-up he was eviscerated by a single Rock promo. Gunn would lose to The Rock in a Kiss My Ass match, never recover from the character assassination at the hands of The Rock, and would be back in the New Age Outlaws by September. A rough go for “The One”.
1. Mabel, 1995
If you’ve listened to Crossbody of Work for a while, you may know that Javier and I are Mabel marks. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t the worst King of the Ring. WWE in the mid-90s loved to have big wrestlers, and it doesn’t get much bigger than the almost-500 pound Mabel.
He had some big wins in the tournament, besting Adam Bomb and The Undertaker in early rounds. A bye let him into the finals, where he beat Savio Vega to get the crown. Then it was on to facing WWF Champion Diesel at Summerslam in what has been considered one of the worst WWF title matches. They did bump Mabel down the card, where a feud with Undertaker also did Mabel no favors. Mabel kept injuring wrestlers, including Undertaker, and would be gone from the company by early 1996.