Back to the WWF this week, as we look at an event that for nearly a decade was their regular June offering. KOTR was always the lesser of the “Big Five” pay per view events, mainly because it fell between WrestleMania and Summer Slam, which are the two biggest. By 2002 they finally decided that the KOTR Tournament winner would earn themselves a Title match at Summer Slam, which gave the tournament some much needed importance once again, but then they jacked the event in following that one, so it’s new importance lasted for all of one show.
Shunting the actual tournament to the side following the 93 event ultimately meant that people cared less about the show as a whole, as KOTR often felt like quite a missable event with throwaway matches up and down the card. That will likely come across when you see some of the Main Events. Even the bigger more well-known matches from some of the Attitude Era KOTR shows felt like they were thrown together with a napkins worth of planning to them.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling from me, to the chuffing wrestling that we shall now watch!
King of the Ring 1993
King of the Ring Final
Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Bret Hart
Bigelow defeated Jim Duggan in the Quarter Finals and then got a BYE to the Final thanks to Tatanka and Lex Luger going to a 15 minute broadway in their Quarter Final. Bret had won a solid bout with Razor Ramon in the Quarters and then gone on to steal the show with Mr. Perfect in the Semis, injuring his fingers and leg in the process. They play up that Bigelow is relatively fresh here whilst Bret is walking wounded following his prior exertions.
Bret tries to stick and move in the early going, but Bammer grabs a hold of him and then chucks him over the top rope to the floor for the cut off. Bret sells well whilst Bigelow does a good job of meticulously working him over, making every move and attack count. Bigelow’s stuff has a real “oomph” to it, which made it look like he was clobbering folk. Bret does occasionally try to fight back, but each time Bigelow is able to cut him off before he can get something going.
Jim Ross, Randy Savage and Bobby Heenan are great on commentary, with the first two marvelling at Bret’s guts whilst Heenan just thinks he should give it up. The fight heads outside, where Bigelow slams Bret on the floor and then distracts the referee so that his squeeze Luna can sneak down to hit Bret with a chair. Bigelow throws Bret back in and heads up for a diving head butt, which gets a three count from the referee. However, we get a Dusty Finish™, as Earl Hebner runs down and demands the match re-start. Sadly Howard Finkel got the call wrong at first and said the result had been reversed before having to correct himself. The crowd still pops at least.
Bammer keeps working Bret over from the re-start, but Bret eventually manages to slip out of the old Canadian Back Breaker and gets a big back suplex for a double down. Bret can’t capitalise though and Bigelow tries going back to the hold again. Bret manages to counter into a sleeper this time though, and then dumps Bigelow outside once he gets to the ropes. Bret follows with a dive to the floor, as he’s pulling out all the stops here, and then goes to the usual back inside. Sharpshooter looks to be on its way, but Bigelow is able to power out of it. Bret keeps coming though and eventually catches Bigelow with a victory roll for the three count.
WINNER AND KING OF THE RING: BRET HART
This one was a solid match and it capped off a strong night for Bret, where he went out there and worked three good matches that were all good in different ways. I’d certainly recommend watching the Bret KOTR Tournament matches from this show, even if you don’t watch anything else.
Bret heads over to the stage to get his crown and sceptre, but Jerry Lawler takes umbrage to someone else getting to call themselves “King” and comes over to lay a whupping on him. It’s a good heel beat down actually and one of the rare occasions during the Hulkamania Era where they ended a pay per view with a flat finish like that.
King of the Ring 1994
Jerry Lawler Vs Roddy Piper
Piper had been off acting and whatnot, but Lawler antagonised him into setting this match up. There was also an additional backstory of Piper wanting to give his winnings to a children’s charity, so Lawler made sure to let everyone know that he would absolutely not do the same were he to win. Lawler brought a kid out to the ring on a Raw prior to this and had the kid do a Roddy Piper impression before embarrassing him. Piper decides to bring the lad down to the ring with him for this one, with the commentators pushing the idea that Lawler put him up to it and that he’s actually a good kid really.
Plenty of jokes have been made about the WWF pushing the whole “New Generation” tagline during this era, only to then put these two in the Main Event of a pay per view. Art Donnovan, a former American Footballer, is doing guest commentary here and he’s positively awful at it. By this stage in the eventing the disdain Gorilla Monsoon and Randy Savage have for him is evident and they try and avoid speaking to him if possible.
This is one of those matches that would probably work a lot better if they had a really hot crowd who were into seeing Lawler get a kicking, but the crowd is pretty tepid all told. There are chants for “Roddy” now and then and they aren’t actively booing the action or anything, but the heat isn’t what you would want it to be, which means there isn’t much to disguise the fact that they are basically just kicking and punching one another.
Piper gets a prolonged shine on Lawler, which again would probably be fun if the crowd was more into it, but sadly just starts to drag after a while. Lawler does sell and bump well for Piper, as you’d expect, and eventually he drags the kid into the ring so he can attack him. Piper dives on the kid to take the assault in his stead, which allows Lawler to cut him off and start getting some heat.
Lawler tries to put Piper out with his own sleeper hold (which the announcers don’t really make much of actually, which is a surprise) but Piper of course survives that, so Lawler goes to a piledriver instead for two. Lawler made sure to taunt for a while before making the cover, so that he didn’t kill off his finish, which is a typical example of his veteran smarts. Piper starts Scottishing Up following that and gets a duo of running bulldog headlocks. On the third attempt though the referee takes a dump, which allows Lawler to clock Piper with a concealed weapon and make a cover with his feet on the ropes. The kid pushes Lawler’s feet off the ropes though, which allows Piper to reply with a back suplex for the three count.
WINNER: RODDY PIPER
With a hotter crowd this may have been more enjoyable. It’s a match you’d think would have the potential to be fun, but the lack of heat left the whole thing feeling flat and the work was as basic as you could conceive.
King of the Ring 1995
Sid and Tatanka w/ Ted Dibiase Vs WWF Champion Diesel and Bam Bam Bigelow
The story here was that Bigelow had been a part of Dibiase’s Million $ Team, but he was kicked out following his loss to Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI. Sid essentially ended up as his replacement in the group and was currently feuding with Diesel over the WWF Title. They had met at the inaugural In Your House pay per view, where Diesel had taken a bad bump off a power bomb and ended up injuring his right elbow, meaning he has an elbow pad on to protect it. Tatanka had turned heel during the summer of 94 but hadn’t really changed his look to capitalise on his new heel persona. He does have a very good heel sneer though.
Matt and Jeff Hardy have a cameo here as the two lads who open the gate on the entrance way. Diesel and Bammer clear the ring to start, which leads to Sid and Tatanka stalling. They were doing the storyline here that Sid was ducking out of fighting Diesel, which means he sends Tatanka in to do the wrestling for him until an opportunity comes to cheap shot Diesel by attacking his arm. Diesel sells that quite a bit and the heels work the appendage over for a bit.
As usual, all of Sid’s offence and selling is awful, but Tatanka is solid if dull. Sid misses a leg drop and Bigelow gets the tag. He runs wild on the heels, but a Dibiase distraction allows them to cut him off for another heat segment. At one point it looks like they botch a false tag spot, as they try doing the old “hold the face in a front face lock and have them slowly push their way to their corner only for the other member of the heel team to jump in so the ref misses the tag and the heat continues” routine but Tatanka doesn’t get into the ring soon enough to distract the ref so he doesn’t miss the tag.
Diesel comes in a drops an elbow before selling the arm and quickly tagging out again (remember that one for later) which leads to Bigelow coming in and quickly getting cut off again, thus meaning both faces look like chumps in a short period. Tatanka does redeem the heat segment somewhat with an awesome jumping DDT to Bammer at least. Seriously, that looked fantastic. The heat starts to drag besides that spot though, even though Bigelow is doing a good job of selling everything.
Eventually we get the real hot tag, as Bigelow counters a drop down from Tatanka with a flipping senton before bringing in Diesel. Diesel destroys Tatanka and delivers a pretty awful looking power bomb to him, but decides not to make the pin and demands Sid come in to face him. Sid isn’t up for that and walks out (because booking a monstrous near 300 pound man like a coward is money apparently) so Diesel just drops an elbow on Tatanka for the three count. That elbow drop doesn’t seem to hurt as much as the previous one did however, as he just shakes it off and celebrates with Bigelow.
WINNERS: DIESEL AND BAM BAM BIGELOW
This was a boring match that went on for too long and had a frankly rubbish finish. The only positive I can take from it is that Sid running away did at least logically set up the Lumberjack blow off that he and Diesel had at In Your House II.
King of the Ring 1996
Champ: Shawn Michaels w/ Jose Lothario Vs Davey Boy Smith w/ Diana Hart and Jim Cornette
The story here was that Diana had accused Shawn of stalking her, so Bulldog was out to get him as a result. Normally this would make Shawn the heel, but they pushed very hard the idea that she was making it all up, so as to keep Shawn as a face. According to a shoot interview with Jim Cornette the storyline eventually go toned down and eventually cancelled when Stu Hart complained that it was making Diana look like a “Hoooooooooooorrrrreeee”. An additional twist is that Shawn and Bulldog did a double pin finish on the previous pay per view, so Mr. Perfect is supposed to be the referee.
Gorilla Monsoon comes down before the match starts and states that Perfect will only be the referee outside the ring, whilst Earl Hebner will be the referee inside the ring (Wow, remember when referees were actually allowed to have names?). This annoys guest commentator Owen Hart, who is blatantly cheering for Davey in hilarious fashion. The Milwaukee crowd boo’s Davey when he waves the Union Jack around (Hey, stuff you too you beer guzzling pigs!) which leads to a good old fashioned “USA” chant. The old ones are still the best ones I guess.
We get a quick and exciting open, as both men do some nice chain wrestling and Shawn eventually sends Davey outside the ring with a head scissors before following with a rana out on the floor. Shawn continues to shine on Bulldog back inside with arm drags and the like, with most of it being good but there are occasions here and there where their timing is off, leading to some awkward moments. We get a couple of annoying shots of Diana as she watches whilst showing off early afternoon soap opera acting skills.
Eventually Davey presses Shawn over the top rope to the floor, which leads to Vince crying on commentary that it should be a disqualification and has me longing for Jesse Ventura to put him in his place by pointing out that such a thing isn’t actually a DQ in the WWF. Davey adds a vertical suplex out on the floor for good measure before pressing Shawn back into the ring for two. Shawn bumps and sells all of this is his usual impressive fashion, and does so for the rest of the heat, including when Bulldog busts out a full on Surfboard Stretch.
The crowd stays with Shawn and pops whenever it looks like he might make a comeback of some kind. Both men slip out of the others finisher attempts and Davey finishes off the sequence by giving Shawn a clothesline. That was great to watch, as the execution and timing were both excellent. Bulldog sadly botches the follow up dive from the top rope though, missing by a mile whilst Shawn didn’t even move, but he quickly gets back on the horse with a superplex for two.
Davey tries a super back drop next, but Shawn shifts his weight and lands on top for two, in a similar instance to when he landed on top of Bulldog to win the IC Title back in 1992. Shawn tries another rana after that, but Bulldog counters it into a nice sit out power bomb for a two of his own. Shawn does the full comeback, with the referee getting momentarily dazed when he catches a stray leg to the face from Bulldog when Shawn slams him down, and Sweet Chin Music follows. The referee recovers in time and, along with Perfect, they both count along together for the finish (Although Owen drags Perfect out before he can count three thus leaving a question as to whether he actually would have counted or not).
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: SHAWN MICHAELS
When they were “on” this was awesome, but when they were “off” it started getting a bit sloppy. The finish came off a bit flat as well, due to Davey having to get pinned for close to a ten count due to how long it took for Hebner and Perfect to get synchronised. Still, it was a fun match for the most part and these two always had solid if not spectacular chemistry together, with most of their matches ending up around ***ish to me. It could be worse at the end of the day, at least they were capable of having a good match together.
Vader, Owen and Bulldog attack Shawn post-match, which leads to Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior running down to make the save and set up a six man tag for the following months’ pay per view event.
King of the Ring 1997
Champ: The Undertaker w/ Paul Bearer Vs Faarooq w/ The Nation of Domination
The story here was that Bearer was blackmailing Taker into taking him on as his manager again, due to knowing a devastating secret of some kind. That secret ended up being that Kane was still alive I believe. Faarooq has little sympathy for Taker and declares that the only blackmail he has to worry about is “this one right here”. I might possibly not be the only one a tad uncomfortable about this whole race-baiting act Faarooq was doing around this time considering what’s going on in the real world right now.
The Nation consisted of Faarooq, Crush and Savio Vega around this time along with a crew of mostly unnamed additional lackeys, of which one was D’Lo Brown. They had been having some problems in the build up to this show and eventually the group would fragment to set up the much loathed “Gang Warz” that rumbled on throughout the second half of 1997. Taker was doing the much more impressive explosion raising of the lights during this period, but they stopped doing that in 1998 and went back to him slowly raising them again. I definitely recall the explosion going off in Taker’s face once, which probably led to them understandably dropping it in favour of the safer version. Faarooq jumps Taker whilst he squabbles with Bearer, but Taker fights back and shines on Faarooq with punches.
Bearer keeps barking instructions, which actually causes more harm than good for Taker by distracting him and allowing Faarooq to attack him. That Nation makes sure to get their licks in when the opportunity presents itself, which leads to Taker diving off the top rope onto them in an impressive spot. There are so many Nation members though that Taker can’t take them all out and they are eventually to crotch him on the top rope when he tries to go for Old School on Faarooq.
Faarooq tries to hit Taker with the ring steps outside the ring, but Taker kicks them into his face to put a stop on that. This hasn’t been a bad match so far. It’s been mostly slugging and power moves, but those matches have their place and the crowd is in to Taker, so it’s been watchable. The only thing that could drag it down is if the heat starts to drag. They’ve kept it relatively back and forth thus far and that’s worked out well, as it’s allowed the match to ebb and flow a bit.
Faarooq does eventually slow things down by working a long chin lock, which Taker manages to fight out of but he can’t get any momentum going as he always misses an attempt at a follow up move. Thankfully for him though The Nation continues its issues by squabbling at ring side, which distracts Faarooq and allows Undertaker to catch him with a Tombstone Piledriver for the three count.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: THE UNDERTAKER
This one needed a proper Undertaker comeback, as the heat had started to drag and the crowd needed something to get them back up again. It was an okay match but was lacking in certain areas and the out of nowhere style win for Taker felt off. To me
Post-match Bearer demands that Taker keep beating up Faarooq. Taker reluctantly complies, which leads to former Faarooq enemy Ahmed Johnson coming down to try and talk him out of it. That doesn’t go so well, so Ahmed drops him with a Pearl River Plunge to tease his eventual joining of Faarooq’s new and improved Nation.
I’d suggest checking out Bret’s 1993 matches, but aside from that there’s nothing here I’d really recommend you making a special effort to watch. There were a few good matches and few meh ones, which kind of sums the whole KOTR event up really.
See you next week for 1998 to 2002