5 Greatest WWE King of the Ring Events

King of the Ring 1998 Hell in a Cell

The King of the Ring premium live event is making a comeback over 20 years since the final King of the Ring pay-per-view took place in June 2002. The first event had taken place in 1993 and saw Yokozuna dethrone Hulk Hogan for the WWE World Title and Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart crowned King.

The show will take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 25, 2024. This time, a King and Queen will be crowned.

This feature looks back on the greatest King of the Ring pay-per-view events ever held.

#5 WWE King of the Ring 2000

King of the Ring 2000 Kurt Angle

The 2000 King of the Ring played host to the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of the annual tournament. As such, few of the bouts were given sufficient time to breathe. However, there were some highlights. Val Venis versus Eddie Guerrero was an entertaining contest and Kurt Angle’s bout with Chris Jericho was worth the effort. The semi-final pitting Angle against Crash Holly was a superlative sprint. The final which saw Angle topple Rikishi was passable.

Elsewhere, the four way Tag Team Title match was decent, if a little rushed. Edge and Christian regained the belts from Too Cool.

That was where the good ended though. The rest of the action on the card ranged from disappointing to outright abysmal. The headliner which saw the WWE World Title on the line in a six-man tag team match, saw The Rock pin Vince McMahon to end Triple H’s reign as champion, in a lame match-up. Road Dogg, X-Pac and Tori defeated The Dudley Boyz in a humdrum Handicap Tables Match. The table gimmick was already feeling passé by this point.

The less said about the Hardcore Title bout which saw Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson parade around in drag in an Evening Gown match the better. Mercifully, it only lasted a shade under four minutes. However, the scars are still felt by many to this day. The “match” deservedly won a host of worst match of the year awards.

Overall, King of the Ring 2000 had some bright spots, but unfortunately, they were largely too short to register. The lasting impression of this card was that it was a missed opportunity and really should have been much better than it was.

#4 WWE King of the Ring 1998

King of the Ring 1998 The Undertaker

The 1998 edition of King of the Ring is remembered for one match; the infamous Hell in a Cell encounter between The Undertaker and Mankind. In the most brutal match in company history, the pair fought atop the steel structure. After some back-and-forth brawling, The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the cage through the Spanish Announce Table below.

It was a sickening stunt which would never be permitted today. Miraculously, after initially being stretchered out, Mankind soldiered on and returned to the summit of the cage for more extreme punishment. ‘The Phenom’ chokeslammed Mick Foley through the roof to the canvas below. ‘Taker chokeslammed Foley into thumbtacks to end the insanity. Less of a match, but a collection of violent spots. Nevertheless, the contest remains one of the most memorable bouts of all time.

The main event was also a powerful encounter which saw Kane dethrone Stone Cold Steve Austin and claim the WWE World Title in a First Blood Match. The match was an exciting brawl, with a stunning finish which saw The Undertaker “accidentally” nail Austin with a chair, busting him open. ‘The Rattlesnake’ would regain the belt the following night on Raw.

The King of the Ring tournament saw two rushed and forgettable semi-final bouts, but the final between The Rock and Ken Shamrock was a thrilling back-and-forth encounter, with some exciting near falls down the stretch. Shamrock upset The Rock to win the King of the Ring title.

The opening encounter which saw the odd triumvirate of Taka Michinoku and The Headbangers defeat Kaientai was a a decent match-up. There was nothing else of worth on the show.

A lame undercard, that was saved by the two colossal headline bouts, which are still regarded as seminal matches in company history.

#3 WWE King of the Ring 1996

King of the Ring 1996 Stone Cold

The fourth annual King of the Ring spectacular was a return to form after the nadir of the 1995 event which remains the worst ever WWE supercard event.

Stone Cold Steve Austin bested Marc Mero in a top-drawer opener to advance to the King of the Ring final. Jake Roberts joined him despite being squashed by Vader in his semi-final. ‘The Mastodon’ was disqualified after putting his hands on the referee to avoid a Roberts DDT.

The show then fell off a cliff, with a nondescript Tag Title bout between the woeful Godwinns and the only slightly superior, Smoking Gunns. The Gunns won a match which was completely bereft of heat and crowd engagement. The Ultimate Warrior then decimated Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler in a glorified squash match. The contest was basic and did little for either guy. It would also prove to be Warrior’s final ever WWE match as he departed the company shortly afterwards and did not return until his 2014 Hall of Fame induction.

Ahmed Johnson then rolled over Goldust to capture the Intercontinental Title in a passable but overlong encounter. Johnson’s upward trajectory was nerfed when he was side-lined due to serious kidney problems. He would never recapture his momentum.

Happily, the card picked up again with a tremendous brawl between The Undertaker and Mankind, which was at that point in time, the ‘Phenom’s’ greatest ever match. Mankind shockingly dealt ‘Taker a defeat via technical submission as he subdued the ‘Deadman’ with his patented Mandible Claw.

Stone Cold then returned to batter an injured Roberts in the King of the Ring final, which was more angle than match. However, after Austin pinned Jake ‘The Snake’ he cut an impassioned promo, which remains just as powerful when heard today as it was almost 30 years ago. Austin 3:16 was born and after a rocky next few months firmly established himself as a headliner in waiting opposite Bret Hart in their all-time classic feud.

The card was headlined by an excellent WWE World Title match between Shawn Michaels and The British Bulldog. The bout was fought at a tremendous pace and featured some top-notch false finishes down the stretch. One of the great WWE Championship matches that rarely gets mentioned in the conversation of all-time classics.

The 1996 King of the Ring, despite a lull in the middle of the show, featured excellent action by the standards of the time and a star-making performance from Stone Cold Steve Austin, who would soon become company figurehead in the Federation’s most prosperous period ever at that point in time.

#2 WWE King of the Ring 1993

King of the Ring 1993 Bret Hart

The inaugural King of the Ring pay-per-view is remembered for Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart’s stunning performance across three excellent tournament bouts opposite Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and Bam Bam Bigelow. All of the matches were very different and all top-notch. Worthy of special praise was Hart’s semi-final collision with Perfect which was even superior to their seminal SummerSlam 1991 classic.

The rest of the King of the Ring tournament was poor, particularly the snoozefest that was Lex Luger versus Tatanka which was inexplicably booked as a 15-minute time-limit draw.

Hulk Hogan made his final WWE pay-per-view appearance for nine years in a tedious bout with the mammoth Yokozuna. The match ended in a colossal screwjob when Harvey Wippleman, posing as a ringside photographer shot a fireball into Hogan’s face, leaving him easy prey for a huge leg drop. It was an inauspicious start to Yokozuna’s second reign as champion.

The Steiner Brothers and The Smoking Gunns bested Money Inc. and The Headshrinkers in a decent eight-man tag team bout that would have been significantly better had it not been so rushed. The company should have shaved five minutes off Luger versus Tatanka and added them to this encounter.

In the co-main event, Shawn Michaels beat Crush in a passable contest to retain the Intercontinental Title.

Without Bret Hart, this show would have been a dud. As it was, however, it was propped up by his tremendous performances which were made even more memorable by the classic post-main event angle between Hart and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. ‘The King’s’ assault on Hart kicked off the feud of the year.

Overall, a fine show for the time, but it was outperformed by one King of the Ring pay-per-view event.

#1 WWE King of the Ring 2001

King of the Ring 2001 Shane McMahon

The 2001 King of the Ring was the penultimate KOTR pay-per-view event prior to this year’s revival. It was also the best to date.

The show was packed full of Attitude Era madness and was all the better for it. All of the King of the Ring tournament matches on display were top-notch encounters.

Defending champion, Kurt Angle bested Christian in a glorious technical match-up, packed full of action. Edge defeated Rhyno in a battle of the Spear and Gore, which was a logical story to tell. The match was entertaining while it lasted. Edge then defeated Angle in an incredible final, packed full of big moves and great storytelling. Shane McMahon, who was due to face ‘The Olympic Hero’ in a Street Fight later on the card, interfered and contributed to Angle losing the bout.

That led to the highlight of the card; a phenomenal, violent and hugely enthralling Street Fight brawl, which solidified Angle as a worthy headline attraction.

Elsewhere, Kane and Spike Dudley fell to the Dudley Boyz in a decent match-up and Jeff Hardy bested X-Pac in a fair Light-Heavyweight Title bout.

The show was headlined by a three-way which pitted defending WWE World Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin against the Canadians, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. The match was technically sound and packed full of big moves and counters. However, the match lacked heat, given that no one thought Benoit or Jericho would dethrone ‘The Bionic Redneck’ and they didn’t. The champion retained after a rather anti-climatic pin, as he crawled across the ring to pin an already laid out Benoit.

The match was also notable for featuring a run-in by WCW and United States Champion, Booker T, which would ultimately lead to the tragically botched invasion angle.

With one all-time classic match and many other good ones, King of the Ring 2001 is the most well-rounded and best King of the Ring event in WWE history.

You can watch King and Queen of the Ring 2024 and all previous King of the Ring events exclusively on the WWE Network.