WWF King Of The Ring 1993
by Scrooge McSuck
- Back to my nostalgia trip... 1993 will always hold a special place in my wrestling heart, no matter how low of an opinion the majority of fans have for it. I watched WWF television religiously (Raw, Superstars, Challenge, AND Mania), and had a subscription to WWF Magazine. Following WrestleMania, there was talks of something called "The King of the Ring", a one-night tournament featuring 8 WWF Superstars. Wrestlers would quality for the tournament through various matches aired across the weekly WWF shows. The inaugural King of the Ring would also feature a WWF Championship match between 5-Time Champion Hulk Hogan and the man he defeated for the strap, Yokozuna. As a kid, and this is the honest truth... the entire time leading up to the show, I had this feeling Yokozuna was winning, but I'm ranting, let's get to the show...
- Originally broadcasted on June 13th, 1993 from the Nutter Center in Dayton, OH. Quick research shows that isn't exactly a large arena... couldn't they have gone to Florida or something for a somewhat larger location? Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan, and Randy Savage are calling all the action, and for a three-man team, it's probably one of the best. J.R. still cared, Heenan was still funny and occasionally serious when necessary, and Savage was more mellow than you would think and had chemistry with both of them.
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Razor Ramon:
Funny to think this was the WWF Title Match only a few months earlier on PPV... it might look like total demotion, but the entire field in 1993 (the 8 Qualifiers), with only a couple of exceptions, was pretty deep in terms of star power and push levels. Bret got a bye into the tournament for (insert reason here), and Ramon beat Tito Santana. It was a few weeks later, though, that Ramon lost on an episode of Monday Night Raw to "The Kid", and has been suffering from the embarassment ever since... Lockup, and Ramon proves to be the stronger of the two. Bret comes off the ropes with roundhouse rights, takes Ramon over with an arm drag, and slaps on a hammerlock. Ramon blocks a second arm drag attempt, and levels the Hitman with a clothesline, but a follow-up elbow misses, and Bret goes back to work on the arm. Ramon escapes, misses a charge into the corner, then back to the arm. Ramon tries to counter with a slam, but Bret holds onto the armbar. Ramon escapes and puts the Hitman down with an elbow for a two count. Ramon goes for a headlock, but Bret slips out and works the arm some more. Whip to the corner, Bret takes a knee to the face, then gets thrown shoulder-first into the post for good measure. Ramon with some punts to the chest and stomps to the right hand. Ramon scoops Bret up, and throws him backwards over his head for a two count. There's a move you don't see much of. Ramon with a running powerslam for another two count. Ramon drops a pair of elbows and connects on a side slam. Ramon hits the ropes, but misses the elbow this time. Bret takes it to the corner with rights, connects with an inverted atomic drop, and a clothesline gets two. Russian leg sweep for two. Back breaker gets another two count. Bret to the second rope, and an elbow drop gets two. Ramon misses on a big swing, and Bret rolls him up for two, again. Bret sets up for the bulldog, but Ramon throws him off, chest-first into the turnbuckle. Ramon signals for the end, but Bret slides out of the grip, kicks off the buckle, and cradles Ramon for the closest two count you will ever see. Bret argues the count, allowing Ramon to attack from behind. Ramon goes for the second rope suplex, but Bret shifts the momentum, turning into a body press, and THAT gets the three count at 10:26. Solid opener, and much more watchable than the Rumble Match, thanks to time trimming. Only complaint: Ramon no-selling the work of the arm the first half of the match.
- It was this past weekend of Superstars, that Mr. Hughes, with the help of the Giant Gonzales, not only stole the urn from the Undertaker, but also put Paul Bearer out of action for the forseable future. Yes, they actually did do Undertaker/Hughes in place of Undertaker/Gonzales for a few weeks, but Hughes disappeared, and thus we got the Undertaker/Gonzales SummerSlam Blowoff, instead. Either way, the matches were balls.
Mr. Perfect vs. Mr. Hughes (w/ Harvey Wippleman):
It's not only the battle of the Mister's, but the battle of Curt's, too. Okay, I'm stretching now. Mr. Hughes defeated Kamala on an episode of Wrestling Challenge, and it took Mr. Perfect three attempts to get past the evil Doink (the Clown). I love Mr. Perfect, but they sure did drop the ball on his babyface run. Heenan almost calls Jim Ross "Monsoon" after Ross throws a little insult at him... cute. Lockup, and Hughes throws Perfect into the corner. Hughes hits the ropes, and Perfect takes him over with a hip toss. Perfect comes off the ropes with a dropkick, but all it does it stagger Hughes into the ropes. Lockup to the corner, and Hughes knocks Perfect out of the ring with a cheap shot. Back inside, and Hughes with clubbering blows and a chinlock. Perfect chops away at Hughes like an ax on a tree, but a boot to the face puts an end to his momentum building. Whip to the ropes, and Hughes with a shitty clothesline. Snapmare, and Hughes goes back to the chinlock. Perfect fights out again, but Hughes yanks the hair and sends Perfect hard into the corner. We cut to an insert promo from Bret Hart, who gives his opinions on the match and who he would prefer to wrestle (Perfect). This promo is about as boring as the match. They manage to blow a spot so bad, I had no clue what the original intent was meant to be. Hughes chokes, but misses a splash across the ropes. Perfect with a hip toss, followed by a back drop. Perfect takes Hughes over with a snapmare, then floats over with a neck snap. Hughs goes for the urn, KO's Perfect, and it's a Disqualification at 6:02, giving us a Semi-Final match of Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect. That's the only positive out of this stinker. I don't recall Hughes ever having a good match, but maybe that's personal bias... nah, he sucked.
"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan vs. Bam Bam Bigelow:
Along with Hughes, Duggan was the only one left in the tournament at this point I couldn't see winning, not even as an eight year old kid. Jim Duggan got here by defeating Papa Shango, and Bam Bam had an equally tough opponent in Typhoon. Yeah, the losers of those Qualifying matches were way down the list of being useful anymore. Just think, the last time the WWF held a Tournament on PPV (at this point), these two men were involved. They do a shoulder block spot where neither gets the advantage. Duggan comes back with clotheslines to take Bigelow off his feet and out of the ring. Back inside, and it's a slugfest. Whip to the corner, and Bigelow misses a charge. Duggan goes for a slam, but Bigelow counters with a headbutt. Bigelow sends Duggan to the ropes, and slaps on a bearhug. Duggan fights free with clubbing blows, but Bigelow remains in control. Bigelow with a half-hearted snapmare, but he misses a headbutt. Duggan goes for the slam again, but Bigelow lands on top for a two count. Duggan fights out of another bearhug, and manages to slam Bigelow. He sets up for his big clothesline, but he takes the Koko bump in the corner. Bigelow quickly climbs the ropes, and the diving headbutt finishes Duggan off at 5:01. Watchable, thanks to being kept reasonably short. The end result never seemed in doubt.
Tatanka vs. "The Narcissist" Lex Luger:
Talk about booking yourself into a corner... Tatanka was still rockin' an undefeated streak, as was the Narcissist... yeah, we all know how this one is turning out. Tatanka picked up a lame DQ victory over Giant Gonzales to get here, and Lex Luger KO'ed Bob Backlund for a cheap count-out victory. Did Bob Backlund really need protection against LEX LUGER in this tournament? As a kid, I actually dug Lex Luger during his run as the Narcissist... it seemed very believable. I never really cared for Tatanka though, maybe because the WWF never pulled the trigger on him when he was still "hot". Luger attacks before the bell so he can continue to pose. Tatanka throws the mirror over and lays into Luger with chops. Tatanka sends Luger to the corner, and a clothesline gets two. Tatanka works the arm, and we get a Bigelow promo. Tatanka with a body press for two, then more arm work. If I could define Luger with one of his characteristics, is that he's a very loud seller. Almost as bad as Iron Mike Sharpe. Luger takes control of the action, and drops a pair of elbows for two counts. Luger actually hits the jumping screaming elbow, which means never again until 1997. Luger with a snapmare, and it's chinlock time. For the record, I hated this match when I was a kid, too. Luger with a clothesline and elbow for a two count. Tatanka counters a slam with a cradle for two. Tatanka with a sunset flip for two. Heenan has Luger ahead on points, 138,000 to 4. Heenan must've been the influence for scorekeeping on Who's Line Is It, Anyway. Ross starts calling out the remaining time, and we know what that means. Tatanka goes through his routine and lays into Luger with chops. Tatanka with a powerslam for a two count. He heads to the top rope, and comes off with a big chop for two. Tatanka goes up once more, but he misses a body press. Whip to the ropes, and Luger with a clothesline for two. Luger with a powerslam for two. Luger with a suplex for two. Back breaker for two. Bell rings, and it's a 15:00 Time Limit Draw. As much crap as I give Luger for usually being unmotivated, he was still skilled enough in 1993 to work up to the level of his opponent. This one stunk, but wasn't a disgrace to wrestling, just REALLY dull. This gives Bam Bam Bigelow a bye into the Finals.
Semi-Finals: Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Mr. Perfect:
Kudos to someone giving the fans what they wanted instead of a stinker like Bret vs. Hughes or something equally less acceptable. Their SummerSlam '91 encounter is considered a classic, but what if Curt's back wasn't holding him back from going all out? Lockup, and neither with the advantage. Perfect with a waistlock, but Hart forces a break. Bret with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder block. Bret with a hip toss, and he quickly takes Perfect over with a headlock. Perfect counters quickly with a head scissors, but Bret slips out just as fast to grab a front facelock. Bret with a slam, and Perfect with a mule kick to create breathing room. Perfect with a slam, and Bret responds with the same, and goes back to the headlock. Whip to the ropes, and Bret with a crucifix for a two count. Bret with another headlock, and a cross body press gets another two count. Hart with a shoulder to the midsection and a sunset flip for two. Bret with another headlock, but Perfect with a cheapn shot to the midsection to break it this time. Perfect with a few more well placed punts, followed by a standing dropkick. Perfect removes the straps, and you know it's game time, bitches. Perfect holds open the ropes, then kicks him to show him who's boss. Perfect rams Bret to the corner, and works him over. Perfect with a knee lift for a two count. Perfect boots Bret out of the ring, then sling shots him off the apron, into the security rail! Hart starts selling the knees, added into his continued selling of the fingers from his match with Ramon.
Back into the ring, and Perfect with another of his signature knee lifts for a two count. Perfect with rights, and a missle dropkick from the top rope is for naught with Hart being in the ropes for the pin attempt. Whip to the corner, with authority, and Perfect covers for another two count. Perfect heads to the top rope again, but this time Bret climbs up as well and takes him over with a super-plex for a two count. Bret goes to work on the leg of Perfect, sweeps from under, and slaps on the Figure-Four. Perfect makes it to the ropes, but now he's selling a leg injury, as well. Hart with another leg sweep, and he clamps on a grapevine. Perfect escapes with a boot to the face then sends Bret to the corner. Perfect tosses Bret across the ring with a handful of hair, then slaps on a sleeper hold. Bret struggles to stay on his feet, but somehow manages to make it to the ropes to force the break. Perfect with a nasty chop, and applies the sleeper once more. Bret escapes in the corner, then lays Perfect out with a european style forearm. Hart returns a favor from earlier, tossing Perfect across the ring by the hair, and having Perfect crotch himself sliding out of the ring. Hart with a reverse atomic drop and Russian leg sweep for a two count. Hart with a leg drop and back breaker. Bret to the second rope and he connects with an elbow drop for a two count. Bret goes for the sharpshooter but Perfect grabs the fingers and stomps them for added heel heat. Perfect goes for the Perfect-Plex, but Bret blocks, and a suplex takes both men over the top, to the floor. They crawl back in, with both men selling their injuries from the match. Perfect fakes a blown knee, and surprises Bret with a cradle, but Bret counters, and that's enough for the three count at 18:56. Perfect teases some heel action, but offers a very brief handshake, and takes off. Now that's awesome. Probably the best match of the year for the WWF, and better than their SummerSlam '91 encounter, IMO.
WWF Championship Match:
For those unfamiliar with this era, Hulk Hogan somehow walked away from WrestleMania IX as the WWF Champion, despite the match being contested between Bret Hart and Yokozuna. Following the title win, Hogan made a grand total of 0 live appearrances on WWF television in the weeks leading up to the King of the Ring, mostly appearing through interviews filmed on the set of whatever crappy movie he was making at the time. I don't think Hogan ever defended the title on the house show circuit, either, rendering the belt more worthless than ever. Just a prop for someone to hold onto, because... I don't know, there's absolutely no positive to this argument. Shock value? Yes, it was shocking, but the WWF was moving in a new direction, so why give Hogan the belt, while, for example, burying Randy Savage into a non-wrestling role? It makes zero sense today, and even less sense 20 years ago... but I'm rambling, so let's get to the stupid match.
Hulk Hogan © (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Yokozuna (w/ Mr. Fuji):
Hogan appears to have changed his bandana since the interview from about two minutes earlier... got to love continuity there. Happened all the time on Saturday Night's Main Event, too. Lockup, and Hogan can't budge his 550 pound challenger. Lockup #2, and Yokozuna shoves Hogan back into the corner. Yoko rakes the eyes, and chops away. Yokozuna continues the punishment, with Hogan poorly selling the entire time. Yoko with a slam, and more plodding offense. Whip to the corner, and Hogan with a poor man's over-sell of the bump. Whip across the ring, and Yoko misses his corner splash. Hogan with rights, his first offense at around the 4-minute mark. Whip to the corner, and Hogan follows in with a clothesline. Hogan goes for a slam, but Yokozuna is too fat and easily fights free. Hogan with more rights and another failed slam attempt. Yokozuna with more clubberin', and Hogan with more clotheslines. Hogan goes to the well too many times, though, and gets laid out on a third attempt. Yoko comes off the ropes, and misses a splash. Hogan with a shoulder block, but that puts him down rather than the challenger. Whip to the corner, and Yokozuna clamps on a bearhug. Why couldn't this match have been 28-seconds, too? Hogan escapes with rights, but goes down to an elbow. Yokozuna with a belly-to-belly suplex, and it's Hulk-Up Time™. Hogan with rights and a big boot, but Yokozuna won't go down. Hogan repeats, still nothing. THREE TIMES WITH THE SAME ROUTINE, and finally Yokozuna goes down. Hogan drops the leg, but that only gets two!? Holy shit, Hogan's in trouble. Suddenly, some mysterious camera operater hops on the apron and shoots a fireball into the Hulkster's face. Yokozuna with a double thrust to put Hogan down, and the leg drop finishes it off at 13:10, giving Yokozuna his 2nd WWF Championship. Yokozuna completes the task of killing Hulkamania, giving Hogan a banzai drop before walking away with the gold. Hogan's last appearance on WWF television for nearly a decade. Match was complete ass, but we already knew that before I hit "play."
Steiner Brothers & Smoking Gunns vs. Money Inc. & Headshrinkers (w/ Afa):
Need a match to feed to a deflated crowd? Throw on a random super-sized tag team match! This one was so meaningless, WWF Magazine ignored it ever happened in the issue that covered the event. This was around the time when the Steiners and Money Inc. swapped the tag titles roughly three times in a string of house show events, a trend that seemed to happen a lot around 1992-95, probably to increase house show business. The Gunns are freshly debuted, and the 'Shrinkers... feh. Dibiase starts, taking Scott over with an arm drag. Lockup, and repeat. Scott with a single leg trip, and a hammerlock. Dibiase counters into a headlock, then puts Scott down with a shoulder block. Criss-cross (Jump Jump), and Scott with a dropkick, followed by a clothesline to send Dibiase out of the ring. Fatu tags in, and gets taken over with a wristlock. Bart in, and he works the arm as well. Fatu no-sells taking a face-full of canvas, and lays Bart with a reverse thrust kick. Whip to the ropes, and the Shrinkers with a double clothesline. I.R.S. with rights as Jim Ross nearly breaks kayfabe discussing his past. BAD JIM ROSS! Bart continues to play face-in-peril, with very little enthusiasm from the crowd. Fatu with some Grade-A biting, and a back breaker for a two count. I.R.S. goes up top, comes down with a sledge, and an elbow drop gets another two count. Bart with a surprise sunset flip, but I.R.S. easily kicks out. Whip to the ropes, and it's a double clothesline. Billy gets the "hot" tag, and lays into Dibiase with clotheslines. Dibiase quickly applied the Million Dollar Dream, but Billy escapes, and cradles Dibiase for the upset at 7:02. That came out of nowhere... Now that I think about it, did Rick Steiner ever tag into the match? It was OK, but again, just filler.
- Mean Gene Okerlund is with President Jack Tunney, who declares Yokozuna the undisputed WWF Champion... so much for "fans" getting a rehash of "This Tuesday In Texas." I guess that should've been the obvious hint that the final nail was put into the coffin of Hulk Hogan's WWF career.
WWF Intercontinental Championship Match:
What is the deal with the creative team NOT putting on another HBK/Jannetty match on PPV? I can understand at WrestleMania, since Jannetty was on the unemployment line, but at this point he was a former Champion, having only lost the title to Shawn at an untelevised event in Albany, NY, where we witnessed the debut of Diesel, Shawn's new bodyguard. Oh well, whatever... this was originally announced as a Non-Title rematch stemming from a fake KOTR Qualifying Match on Superstars that went to a no contest, but Crush gets a title shot because of weird science. Lockup, and Crush with a side headlock, followed by a shoulder block, sending Michaels from the ring. Michaels attempts to work the arm, but Crush over-powers him, then shows off flashes of his athleticism with a pair of dropkicks. Michaels with a single leg trip, but Crush kicks him away and takes him over with an arm drag. Crush with a press slam and tilt-o-whirl back breaker (his WrestleFest finisher!). Diesel makes his presence felt, allowing Michaels to attack from behind and send Crush into the post. Crush tastes the steel a few more times, before being tossed back in the ring for a two count. Michaels with a double axehandle from the top rope for another two count. Michaels continues to pound the back, then slaps on a front facelock. Crush again uses his strength advantage to toss Michaels around like a doll. Michaels goes to the top rope, and misses whatever he was going for. Whip to the ropes, and Crush with a back body drop, followed by a back breaker for two. Crush with a big boot and leg drop (Crush-a-mania!) for two, again! Michaels slips out of a press slam, but takes a clothesline instead, knocking him to the floor. Suddenly, Doink x 2 comes out, distracting Crush long enough to allow a HBK super-kick to the back of the head and the three count at 11:14. Crush pops up immediately to chase after the Doink's, an issue that REALLY needed to die. Bleh... not to make fun of Michaels, but it was around this time where his workrate was slipping and his waistline was expanding, and the quality of his matches was mostly subpar.
Shawn Michaels © (w/ Diesel) vs. Crush:
King of the Ring Finals: Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow:
It's been a long journey for both of these men, but the Finals are here! Bret Hart is still selling the injured hand courtesy of Razor Ramon, and the knee thanks to Mr. Perfect, while Bigelow had a brisk match with Jim Duggan, then rested for roughly 2 hours... okay, so maybe Bret is a little bit on the screwed side of things. Bigelow misses an ambush charge, but still is fresh enough to easily win a slugfest. Whip to the ropes, and Bret surprises Bigelow with a cradle for a two count. Bret goes to work on the arm with a wristlock, then switches to the armbar. Bigelow escapes with a rake of the eyes, then plows through the Hitman with a shoulder tackle. Bigelow with a press slam, sending Bret air mail to the arena floor. Back inside, and Bigelow continues to pound away. Whip to the corner, complete with chest-first bump. Bigelow with a headbutt to the shoulder for a two count. Bigelow clobbers Bret across the back and takes him over with a delayed suplex for another two count. Bret tries fighting back, but gets sent hard into the corner once more. Bigelow with more headbutts for another near fall. Whip to the ropes, and Bigelow clamps on a bearhug. Bret struggles to escapes, and gets taken down with a back suplex for his efforts. Bigelow dumps Bret to the floor, but winds up on the wrong end of a whip into the security rail. Bret hammers away with rights and elbows, but Bigelow catches him coming off the apron and rams him back first into the post. Suddenly, Luna Vachon comes from out of nowhere and "lays out" Hart with a chair shot. Bigelow rolls him back in and hits the top rope headbutt, and that's good for the three count at 9:25... but wait! A second referee comes to ringside to inform the official official (say that five times fast) of what happend, so the match... WILL... CONTINUE!
Bigelow resumes the pounding he's been giving Hart for the majority of the match, and slaps on another bearhug. You gotta go with what's been working, right? Hart escapes, eats a headbutt to the FACE, and this time Bigelow with an overhead body vice type of submission hold. I think Jesse Ventura used to do that one, too. Bret somehow rolls free and brings Bigelow over with a back suplex. Bigelow gets up first, and immediately misses a senton splash. Bigelow remains in control, and goes for another body vice, but Bret escapes with a rake of the eyes, and slaps on a sleeper hold. Bigelow counters with a snapmare, but Bret is smelling blood and quickly sends Bigelow out of the ring following a pair of dropkicks. Bret follows with a plancha, and pounds away with rights. Back inside, and Bret wih a clothesline from the second rope for a two count. Bret with a russian leg sweep and running bulldog, but Bigelow fights out of a Sharpshooter attempt. Hart goes for a back suplex, but Bigelow shifts the momentum to land on top with a splash for a two count. Whip to the corner, and Bigelow meets the boot of Bret. Hart climbs the ropes, takes Bigelow over with a victory roll, and that's enough for the three count, the real one, at 18:20, making Bret Hart the first King of the Ring. Good match, but a little slow at times. It's noteworthy to mention that all three of Bret's matches were quite good, but all three had a different feel to them, and were worked completely different from each other.
- We all know how the show ends... Bret Hart is being coronated as "the King" when suddenly Jerry "The King" Lawler makes his presence felt, declaring himself to be the true King of Wrestling. Bret suggests otherwise, calling him the Burger King, and what follows is a Grade A ass-whooping from Lawler to end the show and kick off a program that would last on-and-off for the next two years.
Final Thoughts: I'm not sure what others have to say, but I've longed considered this the Bret Hart Show. It opens, closes, and has slapped in the middle three very good-great matches featuring the Hitman, without resorting to following the same formula for each. Everything else is pretty miserable stuff, especially the poor quality of the non-tournament matches. Still, the hour's worth of stuff featuring Hart is well worth a recommendation to check this show out, as well as the (at the time) death of Hulkamania in the World Wrestling Federation.
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