Pro-Wrestling Who will be the next King of the Ring? Page
Last updated 17 November 2004
WWF's King of the Ring pay-per-view event is Sunday in Boston. The event features a tournament that crowns, well, the King of the Ring. In reality it is a stage to showcase an up-and-coming performer who is ready to jump to main-event status.
In 1996, Stone Cold Steve Austin won the tournament. In an interview afterward, he first uttered the words that launched the Austin 3:16 craze.
A year later HHH beat Mankind in the final, starting a that led HHH to the WWF title, which he still holds. In some cases, simply getting deep in the tournament elevates a wrestler's status. In 1998, Ken Shamrock, now out of wrestling, won the tournament. The person he defeated in the final, The Rock, has done fine since.
With history in mind, The Shakedown takes a look at this year's eight participants and handicaps the chances of each being the beneficiary of the King of the Ring push:
CRASH HOLLY (20-1): The former hardcore champion has not only been entertaining over the last few months, but he also has gained a fan following. The WWF showed it was willing to put him in a prominent television role when it featured him alongside Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) last week on Smackdown. Because of his less-than-imposing physical appearance, Holly will probably never reach main event status and, thus, his King of the Ring chances are slim.
BULL BUCHANAN (18-1): The young performer from Alabama has a bright future in the WWF - just not yet. His chances are better than his first-round opponent, Crash Holly, simply because Buchanan is almost 6-8 and weighs more than 300 pounds. He is athletic in the ring and has improved significantly since his debut. His break from the Big Bossman and his recent contract extension is evidence that the WWF is serious about using him. He could be the early favorite for next year's tournament.
VAL VENIS (15-1): Venis has been getting an extended push the past few weeks. However, his gimmick doesn't exactly fit his heel status. He is supposed to be a suave playboy, which can fit into a heel's role. But it doesn't fit the vile, ruthless heel character Venis has been playing recently. Venis, who will make a run at the InterContinental championship after King of the Ring, may get past Eddie Guerrero in the first round, but he won't last beyond it.
EDDIE GUERRERO (10-1): The El Paso native could be a darkhorse because he is the WWF's best all-around, in-ring worker. He can carry almost anyone to a nice match. His successful post-WrestleMania program with Chyna has showcased Guerrero's skills. The WWF is bringing back Steven Regal in the coming weeks and would like to use Guerrero and Regal in a feud over the European Title. That doesn't bode well for Guerrero's King of the Ring chances.
RIKISHI (5-1): The dancing Samoan is extremely popular among fans and already has been in several main-event matches. He is a believable performer because of his tremendous athletic ability, his willingness to take bumps and his 400-pound frame. Rikishi's downside is his limited ability to work the long matches that an extended main event performer must work. He won the InterContinental belt from Chris Benoit Thursday on Smackdown. That means he likely will begin an InterContinental feud with Val Venis and leave King of the Ring to someone else.
CHRIS BENOIT (4-1): The former InterContinental champion isn't at main-event status because his mike skills are still lacking. He is as good as anyone in the WWF in the ring. Often, he is able to keep fans interested in matches due to his in-ring work and not his personality, which is rare in today's wrestling landscape. The WWF needs another top-notch heel, a role Benoit could fill. However, the WWF also needs a top-notch heel with charisma, a role Benoit does not fill.
CHRIS JERICHO (3-1): Y2J has already had a brief - very brief - run with the WWF title and HHH. Fans love Jericho's personality. He has the in-ring ability to complement his mike skills. If HHH keeps the WWF title Sunday, the winner of the King of the Ring tournament gets a title shot. This could be the perfect opportunity for Jericho to slide directly into a feud with HHH. If the plan is for HHH to lose the title, Jericho probably won't get past the first round.
KURT ANGLE (2-1): Angle, a 1996 Olympic gold medallist, is slowly becoming one of the WWF's top heels. The Real American Hero has been able to turn fans against him while preaching virtues and morals and standing up for what is right. Seeds have been planted for a HHH-Angle feud. For that to happen, Angle needs to be elevated in status and thereby giving HHH a reason to dislike him.
In storylines, Stephanie McMahon, HHH's "wife", and Angle have been eyeing each other for some time. If Angle wins the King of the Ring title and HHH retains the WWF belt, Angle gets a title shot. That match leads to extended potential for new WWF storylines, something the federation currently needs.
WCW TURMOIL ONCE AGAIN
WCW's creative minds, Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff, have been back with the WCW less than three months and Russo is already unhappy. Russo walked out frustrated last week after Turner executives vetoed several of Russo's on-the-edge ideas for Nitro and Thunder.
Russo, who threatened to quit the company, did not write either television show this week and his future still has not been determined. He met with WCW executives Wednesday in Los Angeles, but little progress was made. Until Russo returns, Terry Taylor will head the creative team. Russo was upset that several of his storylines were cut by Turner's Standards and Practices and that the Lex Luger-Elizabeth situation has not been resolved. Russo wanted Elizabeth to become more physically involved, something Luger, Elizabeth's real-life boyfriend, was against. WCW executives maintain they nixed the storylines. They say they need to get a better handle on the show because advertisers are beginning to become leery of spending money pro wrestling.
ON THE STONE COLD TRAIL
Many have noticed that some recent WWF pay-per-view ads have included several references to the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who has been out since November with a neck injury. This week, some promotional material actually included a photo of Austin.
Fans should read little into the ads as far as Austin's return to the ring goes. Austin could appear at the Fully Loaded pay-per-view event on July 23 in Dallas simply due to convenience. Austin lives near San Antonio and the WWF will be making a Texas trip that week, which includes the Dallas show on Sunday, RAW in Austin on Monday and Smackdown Tuesday in San Antonio.
Even though Austin may appear on the shows, it will simply be to build up interest in his return. Austin is still not physically ready for a full-time schedule. His workouts and cardiovascular activity have increased in intensity, but the timetable for an in-ring return is still set for SummerSlam August 27 in Raleigh.
Q: How much longer do you think we will be subjected to The McMahon-Helmsley Faction, which has become the NWO of the WWF?
A: WCW's NWO of 1996-97 and the WWF's current McMahon-Helmsley Faction are similar. First, they both are heel groups and both have a place at the top of their respective company's shows. A big difference is that the NWO had Hulk Hogan and The Outsiders, who were WCW's biggest draws at the time.
The McMahon-Helmsley Faction has HHH and Vince McMahon, but they don't have The Rock - wrestling's top draw. The biggest difference in the two organizations is what has kept the Faction from running more smoothly than the NWO. It is also what has allowed the WWF to continue the storyline without seriously damaging its overall product.
The Faction has gotten no bigger than its original members. There has been the tease of adding Kurt Angle or Edge and Christian, but none of those additions have happened. The NWO got too big too quickly and it diluted WCW's product. From day to day, fans couldn't remember who was in the NWO and who wasn't. When they split into the NWO WolfPack and the NWO Black and White, it got even more confusing.
The Faction has teased a breakup for several weeks and one eventually will happen. But because the WWF understands the group's limitation and has watched the WCW's NWO mistake, the Faction has been able to have an extremely successful run.
SIGN OF THE WEEK
(NOTE: The Shakedown wants pictures of your best signs. Send pictures via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and check in to see if your sign wins "Sign of the Week.") Fans at Tennessee's WWF shows and Montana's WCW shows still have a ways to go to catch the rest of the country in sign creativity. The best one this week was on RAW Monday where a fan suggested that Linda McMahon take some time away from her CEO role and run for higher office. The sign read "Linda McMahon for President."
LINE OF THE WEEK
Speaking of the judiciary process, the judge in the WWF vs. USA Network case in Wilmington, Del. takes "Line of the Week" honors. The judge was well informed on the parties he was presiding over. After congratulating counsel on a well-argued case and suggesting that the parties try to reach a business settlement, the judge finished the hearings by saying, "If you smell what I'm cooking."
MCI Worldcom pulled its ads from WWF television ... Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former wrestler, attended Saturday's WWF house show in Minneapolis. He got into an "argument" with The Rock, which was aired Monday on RAW ... The WWF took direct ownership over its New York entertainment complex in May and the effects are beginning to show. The WWF will open the WWF Night Club June 23. The WWF also has plans to broadcast Tuesday Smackdown tapings in the complex ... The Oscar De La Hoya-"Sugar" Shane Mosley pay-per-view fight drew 400,000 fewer buys than the WWF's WrestleMania pay-per-view event in April ... The Rock and New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza will be featured in USA Today's "USA Weekend" magazine supplement this Friday....ECW has expressed interest in signing Psychosis, who was recently released by WCW ... Too Cool, Edge and Christian, Perry Saturn, Hardcore Holly and Kurt Angle will wrestle Friday as part of the IWA show in San Juan, Puerto Rico ... Shawn Michaels threw out the first pitch at an Arizona Diamondbacks game last week. Michaels was in Phoenix to promote RAW and Smackdown. America West Arena will host RAW Sept. 11 and Smackdown tapings the following night ... The WWF has a house show July 1 in the Compaq Center in Houston ... According to the WWF's Jim Ross, Tazz could be back as early as Sunday at the King of the Ring pay-per-view event ... The ECW payroll situation is close to being resolved as owner Paul Heyman handed out paychecks late last week.