What’s The Status Of The King Of The Ring?

(Photo Credit: WWE)

On a packed pro wrestling weekend, the WWE will travel to Saudi Arabia for another of its very lucrative events, while AEW runs its traditional Memorial Day weekend pay-per-view. More cache and meaningful booking has been put into the Saudi events, as they were previously glorified house shows when the agreement with the Saudi government began a few years ago, but despite the stadium setting, the King and Queen of the Ring event is still considered one of the “B-shows” on the calendar. That’s not necessarily a criticism either, as the Backlash show in France was a financial success that had many pundits talking about the electric atmosphere for the audience. The term “B-show,” at least in this particular context, is an event that won’t stretch to four hours and will have a rather basic line-up, which again, isn’t necessarily a negative aspect to the show. The only downside is that by nature, the results might be too predictable, but given the amount of cash the company gets from the Saudi government, the money is the only result that matters.

In terms of a basic presentation, the King of the Ring format is rather easy booking for the company to manufacture some hype for the event or more specifically, it gives the organization something relatively easy to promote as a major pay-per-view for the Saudi audience. Make no mistake about it, the King of The Ring was a very valuable tool in the WWE playbook, but it hasn’t had that status for more than two decades. There reason for that are a combination of factors, but the bottom line is, the KOTR just doesn’t have the credibility that it had in its heyday, and it’s debatable if the office can bring it back for anything more than a one-off for the big Saudi payoff. If that’s all the concept amounts to then it’s still worth it because of how profitable the stadium event is, but it doesn’t accomplish much outside of that.

One of the biggest reasons that the KOTR concept lost its luster is that management simply phased it out of the program, with notions at the time that the promotion didn’t want to pigeon-hole itself into a one-night tournament format. In doing so, the KOTR faded into something of the past, archived as what propelled Stone Cold Steve Austin more than anything else that was useful in the modern era. You also have to take into account the status of the organization by the time the concept was shelved in 2003. Triple H was going to be the top guy in the company, and there wasn’t any competition to push the promotion in a different direction so they didn’t really need another star on the horizon every year to move up the card and potentially work the main event scene. As much as I disagree with the nepotism, considering that it’s very doubtful that Triple H would’ve had a Hogan type run with the main event spot at Wrestlemania every year in the mid-2000s if he wasn’t a part of the McMahon family, the point being, the office had their guy so a staple event to elevate another star wasn’t needed or a priority.

The other major aspect of why the concept doesn’t have any cache now is the way that it was used since it was brought back onto the WWE landscape. It wasn’t an annual tradition or even a pay-per-view, but rather that was sporadically added to the product without any rhyme or reason behind it. Sure, Booker T finally got a main event run as King Booker, more than three years after he should have when he was totally ready to beat Triple H at Wrestlemania 19, but that had as much to do with putting a WWE spin on his character before he won the title than anything else. Keep in mind, that was 2006, and while the success was more than justified, the character became tedious and verbose on screen.

In more recent years, Sheamus won the KOTR and looked like a goofy cosplay version of a Hobbit. More importantly, he lost most of his matches after the king character was used on television and did nothing of importance during that specific run. Baron Corbin won the KOTR, and again, the only thing it accomplished was that he wore the crown on television, but his character didn’t do anything of value on the shows. His losing streak as the king persona almost suggested that it wasn’t a good career move to win the tournament. The last time the KOTR was held, Xavier Woods won and he wasn’t buried afterwards, but he didn’t make any progress from the victory either. He was in the same spot in the organization so the win didn’t do anything to boost his career.

However, the pieces of the puzzle are in place and the circumstances are right for the King of The Ring to be used to set up a major main event.

Triple H announced that the winners of The King and Queen of The Ring tournament will get title shots at Summer Slam. That alone immediately gives the pay-per-view more value because there’s something of importance at stake.

Gunter is already in the finals, and the finalist from the Smackdown bracket will be determined on the show tonight between Toma Tonga and Randy Orton. Given that Gunther is a heel, I’d guess that Orton gets the win, especially because of his popularity overseas. Gunther vs. Orton is a major match that hasn’t been seen before, and when you take into account that Orton doesn’t need the win because he’s already as over as he’s going to be in his career and will maintain that status because of all his previous accomplishments, it would give Gunther another major victory to set up a title match against Cody Rhodes at Summer Slam.

The status that Gunter has, especially after such a stellar run as Intercontinental champion, making the title relevant for the first time in several years when he set the record as the longest-reigning IC champion, it would give Cody a credible opponent for Summer Slam. Similar to the way that Gunther made the IC title relevant again, it could do much of the same for the King of The Ring tournament. Most importantly, it gives Rhodes a monster heel to work with at a signature event on the WWE calendar. Gunther’s style and character have a level of authenticity and believability that very few have in the industry today. Ultimately, that’s what can be used to draw money, and in this case, it can be used to sell those very expensive tickets at the stadium in Cleveland for Summer Slam.

So, The King and Queen of The Ring pay-per-view will probably be the B-show format that the WWE has used recently, with just five matches on the card, but it sets up for there to be bigger business done down the road on a bigger stage. In truth, it’s a win-win for everyone involved. The Saudis get the social media star in the main event against Cody Rhodes, the WWE makes a massive profit on the event, and the pieces of the puzzle are put in place for Gunther/Cody to draw a major crowd at Summer Slam for the stadium show.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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