What the World Was Watching: King of the Ring 1995

Vince McMahon and Dok Hendrix are in the booth and they are live from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  We are in ECW country, as illustrated by hat guy being in the front row opposite the hard camera.

King of the Ring Qualifying Match:  Savio Vega (w/Razor Ramon) (4-0) pins Irwin R. Schyster (w/Ted DiBiase) (1-2) after a spinning heel kick at 4:01:

Our never-ending series of King of the Ring qualifying matches finally ends here, with this being the tenth qualifying match (for eight spots) for this year’s edition of the tournament.  This match was shown on the Sunday Night Slam pre-show to fill the spot in the tournament that Razor Ramon vacated due to a rib injury.  Savio dominates much of the action, scoring near-falls on basic moves before stopping IRS from leaving and then blasting him with a spinning heel kick to qualify for tonight’s tournament.  Rating:  *½

McMahon and Hendrix discuss the King of the Ring Tournament as the pay-per-view begins.  McMahon says that Razor Ramon is okay for singles action but not tournament action and Hendrix says there is no way Savio Vega wins three more matches to become the King of the Ring.

Footage of how Yokozuna qualified for the tournament against Lex Luger on RAW is shown.

Todd Pettengill interviews Savio Vega and Razor Ramon.  Savio says that he is the first Latin American competitor in the King of the Ring and he is going to make the most of it.

King of the Ring First Round:  Savio Vega (w/Razor Ramon) (5-0) beats Yokozuna (w/Jim Cornette & Mr. Fuji) (1-0) via count out at 8:23:

Just remember, we could have had Owen Hart in the heel slot instead.  Yokozuna waves the Japanese flag and Savio counters with the American/Puerto Rican flag in another attempt to get him over as a babyface.  Yokozuna works deliberately but the ECW fans near ringside get on Cornette’s case throughout the bout, which makes for some fun viewing.  Owen runs out near the end of the bout to attack Ramon after Savio blasts Yokozuna with a spinning heel kick and Savio and Yokozuna end up brawling out of the ring.  However, Yokozuna ends up running into the ring post, which the WWF camera crew misses, and Savio rolls in just in time to qualify.  This is our first puzzling decision of the tournament as many thought Yokozuna would be advancing to the finals.  Rating:  ½*

Jerry Lawler is shown wearing a nasty sock backstage, spraying some air freshner to take care of the odor.

Footage of how the Roadie qualified for the tournament against Doink is shown.

King of the Ring First Round:  The Roadie (w/Jeff Jarrett) (1-0) pins Bob Holly (7-6-1) after a foot to the face at 7:30:

As has been noted several times, there is a big problem when those who are accompanying wrestlers to the ring or interfering have more star power than the people who are featured in the actual tournament.  The Roadie was a serviceable wrestler but many fans at the time did not know this and he hardly had a great deal of credibility, having only wrestled one match and being lucky to beat Doink in the qualifiers.  That said, the crowd is really behind the Roadie as he gets a big reaction after powerbombing Holly and Jarrett struts on the floor.  Although the Roadie relies too much on rest holds, Holly’s offense is more than enough to carry the match and both men exchange a fun series of near falls.  The ending also makes sense as Holly takes a risk, as he is apt to do, but the Roadie puts a foot up on a dive and that is enough to put Holly down for the count, even though it looks like Holly actually gets his shoulder up at two.  Rating:  **½

Pettengill interviews Shawn Michaels, who we can barely hear due to mic problems.  He basically says he is ready to face Kama and advance in the tournament.

Footage of Kama qualifying for the King of the Ring against Duke Droese is shown.

King of the Ring First Round:  Shawn Michaels (11-1) wrestles Kama (w/Ted DiBiase) (18-0) to a time limit draw at 15:03:

Although some of the booking on the bottom half of the bracket so far has been confusing it really does not matter because the top half of the draw is what has all the intrigue.  Michaels does a good job putting over Kama’s strikes, doing better than most of Kama’s enhancement talent in the lead up to this encounter and that in turn helps to give credibility to Kama’s various submission attempts to end the match.  The fans in attendance, though, appear to be waiting for Michaels to hit a miracle move to win ala Bret Hart but it never comes as Michaels hits a sunset flip with two seconds left in the time limit and that is not enough time to advance.  The crowd is shocked that Michaels is out of the tournament, meeting the result with stunned silence after Michaels connects with Sweet Chin Music when Kama tries some post-match antics.  On the live show this finish was telegraphed by Michaels dancing with the King of the Ring crown by the entrance, with the crown being way too big for his head.  On the Coliseum Video version of the show they edited that out so if you watch the show on WWE Network you will see Michaels entrance significantly cut down.  Rating:  **½

Footage of how Mabel and the Undertaker qualified for tonight’s tournament is shown.

Bob Backlund is shown touring historical Philadelphia.  The foreign announce teams give their opinions on Backlund in Spanish and French as McMahon laughs.

Stephanie Wiand interviews Mabel in the aisle, who says that he is going to win and is headed to the finals.

King of the Ring First Round:  Mabel (w/Mo) (5-1) pins The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) (9-0) after a leg drop at 10:45:

With Michaels out of the tournament there is a weird atmosphere in the arena but people are putting their hopes in the Undertaker winning and going straight to the finals, something that makes sense due to the Undertaker’s slower in-ring style.  The Undertaker’s Creatures of the Night are also in attendance as being a goth somehow entitles you to front row seats at WWF live events.  A curious twist in this match is that Mabel hits his finishing belly-to-belly suplex early on but does not bother covering the Undertaker, preferring to go on an extended, deliberate beatdown instead and Mabel is clearly blown up by the seven-minute mark, barely having enough strength to run the ropes or whip the Undertaker into them.  And when the referee gets bumped the crowd sadly knows what is coming and sure enough, Kama hits the ring, gives the Undertaker a weak tap with his leg on the back of his head, and Mabel advances.  So just like that the top two men in the tournament are gone and the worst choice of the four men in the top half of the bracket to advance is in the finals.  Rating:  DUD

After the match, Kama taunts the Undertaker but the Undertaker sits up and stalks him to the locker room.  The crowd is so upset about how the match has played out that they barely react.

Pettengill narrates a video package of this year’s WWF Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Pettengill interviews the Roadie and Jeff Jarrett, with Jarrett saying that the Roadie will be great when he beats Savio Vega and Mabel.  The Roadie says Philadelphia will soon make a statue of him like they did with Rocky Balboa.

King of the Ring Semi-Finals:  Savio Vega (w/Razor Ramon) (6-0) pins The Roadie (w/Jeff Jarrett) (2-0) with a schoolboy at 6:36:

This could be viewed as an extension of the Razor-Jarrett feud but McMahon and Hendrix are more willing to adopt the angle that Savio is continuing his underdog quest to win the tournament by wrestling his third match of the evening.  The crowd is dead, not showing much investment in either man, a sharp turn of events considering the Roadie’s reaction in the first round, and they grow tired of the Roadie’s Memphis-like stalling for much of the contest.  Jarrett tries to cheat to help his manager, but Savio knocks the Roadie into the Intercontinental Champion and advances to the finals to continue tonight’s “miracle story.”  The WWF cameras find fans down the aisle that are happy with the result but the fans on the hard camera act like they are at a funeral.  Rating:  ½*

Carlos Cabrera interviews Savio in Spanish, with Hendrix providing a botched translation of how Savio steals hub caps and has no chance against Mabel.  McMahon gets so tired of the segment that they throw it to footage of what the King of the Ring attire looks like.

Bret Hart recaps why he hates Jerry Lawler.

Wiand interviews Lawler, who tries to get Wiand to take a whiff of his feet.

“Kiss My Foot” Match:  Bret Hart (7-2-2) beats Jerry Lawler (3-0) via submission at 9:21:

The crowd was on life support through the last match but in a testament to his abilities, Lawler immediately gets a big heel-like reaction when he steps out.  The “kiss my foot” stipulation was one that Bret and Lawler had run on the house show circuit and it got a good reaction in Providence, Rhode Island so the company decided to make it mainstream.  Although it is a ridiculous stipulation, Lawler put everything he had into it and carried the feud to this show since Bret was cutting the same promos for their match over a four-week period.  Lawler hits Bret with three piledrivers, which would make Bret clinically dead in Memphis, but Bret does not feel like walking through Memphis and kicks out at two.  Then we get an overbooking overture as Lawler takes off his boot and uses it as a weapon and some attempted Hakushi interference backfires.  All of this culminates in Bret destroying Lawler and finally defeating him in the middle of the ring with the Sharpshooter.  In a nice callback to SummerSlam 1993, Bret initially refuses to release the hold but does so before the decision gets reversed.  The match was a big bag of tricks but was entertaining enough at a basic level.  Rating:  *

After the match, Hakushi and Shinja try to prevent Lawler from having to kiss Bret’s feet.  However, heel miscommunication results and not only does Lawler have to kiss Bret’s foot but also has his own foot shoved in his mouth, as Bret vowed to do in the build to the match.

A video package puts over the WWF’s role in the Special Olympics in Connecticut.

McMahon recaps the last two King of the Ring coronations of Bret Hart and Owen Hart.

King of the Ring Finals:  Mabel (w/Mo) (6-1) defeats Savio Vega (w/Razor Ramon) (7-0) after a splash at 8:32:

McMahon puts over how the crowd is witnessing “a real life Rocky Balboa story” but the crowd reaction to Savio is very lukewarm.  Most of the match is Mabel working a bearhug and a chinlock, clearly laboring in this very limited bout, and the crowd is so enamored by this that they work up a large “ECW” chant.  Savio hits his spinning heel kick but Mabel kicks out at two and after that there is no hope for him, even after he briefly survives a Mabel powerslam before going down for the count.  They were clearly aiming for an underdog story to be told in this match but Mabel was not capable of doing the in-ring work to pull it off.  Rating:  ¼*

After the bell, Men on a Mission attack Ramon, laying the groundwork for a future tag team match.  The 1-2-3 Kid returns to make a save but it is far too late for that and he cannot survive the two-on-one onslaught of Men on a Mission either.  WWF officials prevent Mabel from giving the Kid a splash off the second rope.

Mabel is crowned as the King of the Ring, with Mo doing the ceremonies.  Fans, livid with the outcome of the tournament, boo and throw garbage, coins, and drinks.  For what it is worth, Mabel looks like a kid in a candy store and an angry Razor Ramon and 1-2-3 Kid try to do an attack before they are held back by WWF officials.

Jerry Lawler is shown guzzling mouthwash and hilariously squeezes an entire bottle of toothpaste down his throat, trying to get over the effects of the “kiss my foot” match.  He also vomits, though, which is not what anyone needs to see on this show.

Wiand interviews Ted DiBiase, Sid, and Tatanka.  DiBiase says that his men will go straight after Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow.  Sid laughs about injuring Diesel at In Your House and Tatanka says he is here for the money, albeit acknowledging that this time he and Bigelow are facing each other “on opposite sides of the tracks.”

Pettengill interviews WWF Champion Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow.  Diesel says his elbow is fifty percent and Bigelow says he and Diesel “will set the place on fire.”  With the way this show is going I am sure some fans would gladly like to take him up on that offer.

Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow defeat Sid & Tatanka (w/Ted DiBiase) (3-0) after Diesel pins Tatanka after an elbow drop at 17:34:

This main event feels somewhat anti-climactic after all the chaos surrounding Mabel’s crowning as King of the Ring and the crowd is largely disengaged from this battle as Sid and Tatanka beat on Diesel’s elbow and take turns pounding away on Bigelow.  After that lasts forever Diesel gives a less than inspired effort on the hot tag as he “Jackknifes” Tatanka in what looks like a tall man’s version of a gutwrench suplex but lifts Tatanka’s shoulders at two because he wants Sid.  However, Sid just walks out, to DiBiase’s chagrin, and Diesel has to pin Tatanka for the win.  This, without question, is the worst pay-per-view main event of the year so far.  Incredibly boring and soulless.  What would have been better is Bigelow turning on Diesel and laying the foundation for a SummerSlam match because this bout exposed how Bigelow had few legs as a face and how awful the Diesel-Sid program was.  Rating:  ¼*

The Final Report Card:  This show drew a very hostile reaction when it aired since fans expected Shawn Michaels or the Undertaker to win the tournament.  The company clearly opted to try to use the tournament to build a new monster heel, with Mabel being selected for the role despite his youth and inexperience, and it did give Savio some credibility with fans as he would use the momentum from the tournament to appear in a solid midcard, babyface role over the next two years.  However, in putting over Mabel the company did it in a very poor way.  He needed interference to beat the Undertaker in a match that he was clearly going to lose and then he beat a newcomer in the finals when beating a top-level talent would have been more effective.  Based on the push Savio got on this show it can be inferred that Razor Ramon would have served that function but his rib injury took him out of the tournament.  Brackets aside, the main event showed that the Diesel-Sid feud was a disaster but the booking paved the way for yet another match between the two.

The most damaging aspect of the show, though, is that it really hurt the WWF brand.  It exposed how the heel/face dynamic was unbalanced as the second biggest heel on the roster after Sid is now supposed to be Mabel, a man who was featured primarily in tag team action before the tournament.  After that, Owen Hart and Yokozuna were around but Yokozuna could barely do anything as a single and Owen’s credibility as a top challenger was gone after jobbing to his brother Bret across the country for the past year.  New talents were needed to fill the void but that would require time and the company’s recent hires such as Louie Spicolli (Rad Radford), Chris Candido (Skip), and Dan Spivey (Waylon Mercy) were either given lame gimmicks or were too broken down physically for a long run.  And Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett had one of the worst win/loss records at the time, as shown by the singles rankings of the past month where he did not even crack the top twenty.  With no one compelling for Diesel to face, or pitting him against foes that people did not want to see such as Mabel, fan interest nosedived and this happened at the worst possible time since WCW was on the verge of launching Monday Nitro in a little over two months.

Attendance:  16,590 (14, 181 paid)

Buyrate:  0.65 (-.20 over the previous year) (150,000 buys)

Up Next:  Monday Night RAW from June 26, 1995!