WWE’s King of the Ring tournament was considered one of the company’s highest-profile pay-per-views, becoming a spectacle from 1993 to 2002. With the idea originating in the ’80s, the contest evolved and then saw a month-long tournament result in the quarter-finals occurring at the PPV where the winner would be crowned in a sport-bracket styled event.
It was considered a traditional three-hour PPV, right up there with the WWE’s “Big Five” events of the year, next to the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series. But after it was discontinued in 2002, it’d then be taken to network TV, with Vince McMahon hoping to boost RAW ratings. It stopped in 2015, but last year saw a revival, as McMahon wanted to ensure RAW and SmackDown remained top of mind with nostalgic fans coming back. However, while there’s now a tournament set to kick off the search for the next Intercontinental Champion, it’s pretty clear this was a missed opportunity to use the competition once more in a win-win scenario.
2019’s KOTR occurred from August to September, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t know if WWE will still be considered an essential business then like it is now. The company has to assume worst-case and use up all the real estate at present in terms of brand building. This Intercontinental tournament, stemming from Sami Zayn being stripped of the title, just lacks pomp and circumstance and feels like a random interim set of fights. Instead, WWE should have been capitalizing on the brand KOTR already is, using it to enhance the strength of their three shows, NXT and SmackDown included, which would also help in the AEW ratings war.
Even last year’s KOTR didn’t have the shine of old, and not to knock Baron Corbin as winner, it just didn’t feel like the elite tournament where the likes of Bret Hart, Stone Cold, and Brock Lesnar became wrestling royalty. After the Attitude Era, despite the likes of Sheamus and Wade Barrett winning, admittedly, this series has felt diluted, and taking it out as a stalwart PPV didn’t help. If KOTR becomes a flagship event again, you can bet once the field is strong and there are no restrictions, fans of old and new will jump in.
NXT has stars such as Finn Balor, Johnny Gargano, and Adam Cole to offer up now that brand invitations and wilds cards are reportedly being considered again. McMahon is surprisingly not seeing the potential to allow KOTR to flow across all his shows as part of a banner month. It could even have been expanded to 32 wrestlers, with the prize being this belt. RAW and SmackDown stars would be crossing over as well based on the draw, so we’d simply get the best matches no matter which brand you belonged to. This would have seen A.J. Styles, Seth Rollins, Edge, Randy Orton, etc., and all the big names not involved in a title shot at the moment to be part of a bigger movement.
As such, the problems of the modern era would have been fixed because with all this dedicated air-time and epic talent on display, KOTR would regain the prestige it deserves. The champ would feel regal as someone who earned the title, beating the best of the best, and so, this making the belt revered again. We can all agree that with so many big names rocking this belt, from Shawn Michaels to the Rock, it does deserve to get more than a mid-card feel. Had KOTR used it as the top prize, we’d have the perfect high-stakes gimmick and lots of value-added to the shows with the cream of the crop duking it out.
WWE wasted a major brand-building opportunity by not using King of the Ring as the tournament to determine the next Intercontinental champion.