With the new iteration of King of the Ring about to hit us all like a wet fish to the side of the head, I decided, on a par with some of my recent offerings, to look back at the very first Pay-Per-View that was called “King Of The Ring”. We set our wayback machine to June of 1993 (26 years ago! Cripes!) and settle down to watch what we had no idea we were going to get.
This has become the epitome of a one-man show. Whenever one particular wrestler was involved, the matches were quite entertaining. Everyone else? Well… not so much.
However, this show did give quite a large number of us a feel-good moment that has gone down in history when a heel won a match.
How’s that for a teaser? I’m going to guess older readers will know exactly what I’m talking about, and that younger readers won’t give a stuff, but I don’t care. This is a show that went down in history, as it showed Vince McMahon knew how to say sorry (in a fashion), and that he also knew when to let go.
Let’s watch the first King of the Ring!
Our commentators are Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan and Randy Savage. If memory serves, this would have been about the time of the steroid trials, so maybe that’s why we don’t have Vince McMahon on commentary.
Opening match – KotR Quarterfinal: Razor Ramon v Bret Hart
We get straight into the first match. This back after Hart lost the title to Yokuzuna Hogan, at Wrestlemania IX, and when Razor Ramon was still motivated in the ring, but after his shock loss to the 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman, X-Pac, Syxx… whatever name he’s using this week), which the crowd does not let Razor forget. This is a basic, decent match, back and forth, with even the rest-holds being done decently. They remind us that there is a fifteen minute time limit. Still, a decent match, which ends after about ten minutes when Razor goes for a belly to back superplex but Hart manages to swing around in mid-air and fall on top of him for the pin. Actually, the whole ending sequence, from the inverted atomic drop, was really, really good. Decent opener.
That’s how to counter a Razor’s Edge!
We look back at Mr Hughes attacking the Undertaker on TV, setting up a PPV match that never happened. Thank God… but it could not have been worse than Undertaker v Giant Gonzalez. Nothing could be worse that Undertaker v Giant Gonzalez.
KotR Quarterfinal: Mr. Hughes v Mr. Perfect
And after the opening match we get an unmotivated Mr. Perfect against a “wrestler” (term might be used wrongly here) who was clearly still learning how to sell, bump and, well, wrestle. Perfect goes into over-selling mode early to try and cover for the lack of ability of his opponent. I don’t even think Ric Flair at the height of his powers could have carried this slug. After 6 minutes, Mr. Hughes uses the (stolen, Undertaker’s) urn against Perfect to earn the DQ.
No, really, this is supposed to be hurting Mr. Perfect. Honestly.
We’re with Yokozuna and Mr Fuji. They actually put over Bret Hart before burying Hulk Hogan. Surprisingly decent promo from these two.
KotR Quarterfinal: Bam Bam Bigelow v Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Boy, am I seeing a lot of ol’ Hacksaw lately in my non-current watching! This is a five minute match that, surprisingly goes back and forth. Look, it was just two big guys wrestling in a very early-80s style, but it was not awful. I’ve certainly seen worse. A lot worse. And only a few minutes ago. Both guys looked motivated. Ending came when Duggan missed the three point stance clothesline and Bigelow hit the top rope headbutt. Yes, I didn’t mind this.
Now, that is a HUGE man to be flying like that.
Terry Taylor is with The Smoking Gunns and The Steiner Brothers. Oh, when Billy Gunn looked like a reject from the Village People. Decent promo… until they let Rick Steiner talk.
KotR Quarterfinal: Lex Luger v Tatanka
This is when Lex was still doing the whole Narcissist gimmick, though nearing its end (Lex Express was just around the corner! Don’t remember that? You are so lucky!). Both guys were “undefeated” in WWF at the time. The match starts with Luger being forced to wear an elbow pad because of his bionic super arm of destiny (I believe there was an Infinity Stone involved somewhere, and maybe some sort of AI, but I could be getting mixed up). And then Tatanka comes in, Luger jump starts the match while his mirrors are still in the ring and… Look, this match, again, is not terrible, but it was obvious soon after they started what the result was going to be. There was a lot of stalling broken up by little flourishes of activity and random two counts, but when Jim Ross started going on about the fifteen minutes, you knew, you just knew. And, sure enough, a fifteen minute time limit draw was the result, giving Bam Bam Bigelow a free pass to the final. Like I said, not a bad match, just underwhelming. And afterwards, Luger wants five more minutes, then he takes off the elbow pad and uses the superarm to knock out Tatanka.
That’s some power behind that knife edge chop… really? A chop? Okay…
Mean Gene with Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart, and Okerlund is stirring up shit between them. I never picked that up before – Mean Gene is a douche! We even have a “your dad beat my dad” argument.
KotR Semi-final: Bret Hart v Mr. Perfect
This is a match I’d forgotten about – a forgotten classic of 90s wrestling. My words cannot do this justice – it is one of the very best matches the WWF put out in the 1990s, and it makes checking out this show worth-while. We are reminded that time limit is now 30 minutes. Even headlocks are done in a way that the crowd gets into. This is yet another back and forth match in this tournament, with some great moves, some great counters, plenty of near falls, and psychology out the wazoo. They knew each other, they countered like they knew each other (Hart even countered the Perfectplex) and they went after injuries they knew the other had. Almost 20 minutes of wrestling goodness; I could watch this all day. This is a case of two of my favourite wrestlers beating the snot out of each other, and doing it so that I am entertained completely. And not just me – the crowd is into this! That suplex to the outside was brilliantly done. End comes when Perfect gets an inside cradle for two, but Hart manages to roll over, reversing it for the three-count. Wow. If you’ve never seen it before, watch it. And then, afterwards, Perfect has a hissy fit but eventually they make up like all good babyfaces everywhere before the Attitude Era.
Crucifix with Perfect’s perfect facials.
A perfect drop-kick.
Superplex excellently executed.
Perfect selling of the figure-4.
Mean Gene is with “perhaps the greatest hero in the history of the planet” but we get Hulk Hogan instead. A veiled Pearl Harbor reference… that’s not really PC, is it? Standard Hulk Hogan interview, made interesting by having Jimmy Hart there with him as his manager. I’d forgotten Hart managed Hogan in the WWF. Even for Hogan, this is quite the egotistical promo.
World Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Championship match: Yokozuna v Hulk Hogan (c)
This match is the reason this show is generally remembered. This is the end of an era. And that is not hyperbole. Heenan reminds us this is Hogan’s first title defence since winning the title at Wrestlemania IX. Hogan looks smaller than I’d seen him before (“steroids? what steroids?”) and he looks cut. This is a slow, slow, slow, slow match. Almost fifteen minutes, but it only felt like thirty or so. Hogan can’t slam him. Never does. That meant when Luger did (in Hawaii on a boat… seriously) it meant something. This is not a good match, I’m afraid… but did Yokozuna ever have a match that could be considered good? Watchable, maybe, but good? The ending comes when Yokozuna kicks out the of the leg drop, Hogan decks Fuji on the ring apron, a photographer in such a good disguise that people are still arguing over who was under the fake beard and everything else also jumps up to the apron, Hogan approaches him, a fireball is loosed by said camera, and Yokozuna hits the fattest leg drop ever for the three count and a new champion in Yokozuna. Yoko then rubs salt into the wounds by dragging him to a corner and hitting a post-match banzai drop. The crowd is in shock, sort of, but that’s it. Hulk Hogan was wiped from WWF history and he would not appear again on a WWF/WWE programme for a decade, during which time he helped bring down the WWF’s biggest competitor from the inside, after almost bringing down the WWF itself in 1996 through the awesomeness that was the beginning of the nWo angle… before it got watered down, drawn out and made to be very silly and pathetic. Now he’s a WWE icon. Vince really can forgive when it suits him…
I will say this, though: there is a definite segment of the crowd that is in shock. But not everyone looked or sounded disappointed.
Taylor now with Perfect. He puts Hart over, then storms off. Short, sharp and shiny.
Mean Gene waffles about Yokozuna winning, and he is with Shawn Michaels (with Diesel) before his upcoming match against Crush. Typical Michaels self-serving promo for the time. This is the promo where Diesel got his name (later to become Kevin Nash, then… ahh, why bother?).
Eight-man Tag Team match: The Smoking Gunns & The Steiner Brothers v Money Inc. & The Headshrinkers
Maybe it was following what they followed, or maybe it was the fact that there was an awful lot of collective suck in the ring, but this was not a good match. To show how exciting it was, for a lot of the match, Heenan and Ross discuss Bart Gunn’s alleged rodeo scholarship. I sh*t you not. And we also talk a lot about Yokozuna being world champion. Ross tries to get it back on track, but even he sounds bored. After seven or eight minutes, we have a “WTF?” ending. Dibiase had his patented million dollar dream submission hold locked on Billy Gunn, then he let go. Just like that. Like a moron, not half of the world tag team champs, but he gets rolled up for the pin for his trouble. This leads to an all-on-all fight for 5 seconds before it’s over. Bleh.
This dropkick from Scott Steiner on Ted Dibiase was the highlight of the match… 30 seconds in.
Mean Gene with Yokozuna and Mr Fuji. And Jack Tunney, president of the WWF. Tunney congratulates Yoko and Fuji. Fuji delivers an anti-America, anti-Hogan, pro-Japan promo. Cameras are alluded to, but that’s it. Drawn out and dull.
Intercontinental Championship match: Crush v Shawn Michaels (c) (with Diesel)
Crush is not a good “happy-clappy” babyface. He is a decent heel, and I actually enjoyed some of KroniK’s work in WCW, and some of his stuff with Demolition, so I prefer him as a member of a heel or tweener tag team. This match, though, is dull. Really, awfully dull. Michaels was doing character over wrestling at this point, and it showed in the ring at times. This is one of those times. A little over 10 minutes of match. Diesel ran distraction, banged Crush’s head into the ringpost, distracted the ref (enabling Michaels to bang Crush’s head into the ringpost from the outside a few times) and yet the ending came when Crush was stupidly distracted by a pair of Doinks (don’t ask – if you weren’t there, you don’t need to know) who are smoking cigars, enabling Michaels to hit a superkick to the back of Crush’s head for the win to retain. Crush chases the Doinks backstage.
Mind you, Crush can deliver a nice dropkick.
Mean Gene with Bam Bam Bigelow. Bigelow cuts an intense, short promo.
KotR Final: Bam Bam Bigelow v Bret Hart
This is a one hour time limit. It is actually a good match , that old trope of David v Goliath. Bigelow was game and the match was a bit of fun to finish the PPV with. Bret tries to fight with wrestling, Bigelow goes for the power game, including just throwing Hart over the top rope. That was just not seen back then. A little slow, but there was no down-time. There was always something happening. The fight goes outside and then, out of nowhere, Luna Vachon comes out and hits Hart with a chair. Bam Bam rolls Hart into the ring, hits a headbutt and gets the pin and wins… huh? That’s odd. Oh, hang on, a second ref comes out, says there was interference (when has that ever happened before?!) and the decision is to allow the match to continue. Bigelow works him over, but then, at the end, after almost 20 minutes, Hart gets a victory roll for the win and to become the first King of the Ring. Fine match.
Dump to the outside.
Victory roll for the victory.
Then we have our coronation, Lawler interferes and belts Hart across the back, because he is the true king of the WWF. Thus a feud is set up leading to a kiss my foot match. What a crappy way to end the show.
Well, this show is the Bret Hart show. The good matches were all Hart matches, and this was Vince saying, “Sorry,” for not trusting him with the WWF Title, which would be rectified at Wrestlemania X. This was the end of Hogan’s era, as the younger guys (and Lawler) were pushed to the top, which would lead to the Attitude Era, Steve Austin, the Rock and the WWE. This is where it all began – one fat leg drop, one banzai drop, and the new age started at WWF/WWE. As to WCW, well, it grew on the back of Hogan, then the nWo, and then they tried to have too much of a good thing and we ended up with David Arquette, world champion, ‘Oklahoma’, cruiserweight champion, and, worst of all, Vince Russo, world champion. And who’s left?
Anyway, an interesting PPV. The Hart/Perfect match is a definite must-see match; Hart/Bigelow set the template for modern little v big guy matches, and Hulk Hogan getting squashed like a bug was funny at the time, but now is slightly meh.
Tags: 1993, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bret Hart, Crush, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Headshrinkers, Hulk Hogan, King of the Ring, Lex Luger, Money Inc., mr hughes, mr perfect, old school WWF, PPV, Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels, Smoking Gunns, steiners, tanaka, tournament, WWE, WWF, Yokozuna