3 Wrestlers Who Benefited from Winning King of the Ring

Winning the King of the Ring didn't have the same impact for all wrestlers who held the crown, but these three gained big when they sat on the throne.
WWE WrestleMania 21 "WrestleMania Goes Hollywood"
WWE WrestleMania 21 "WrestleMania Goes Hollywood" / J. Shearer/GettyImages

With the start of the King & Queen of the Ring tournaments, it is time to reminisce about the individuals who have won this prestigious tournament.  Wrestlers who had to endure grueling battles to win the tournament and be proclaimed king or queen.  While some wrestlers are forgotten, or remembered for the wrong reasons, others are remembered for what they did after winning the crown.

But of all the wrestlers who have won this tournament, who benefited from winning?  Whose careers skyrocketed to another level and never came down?  I’ll be looking at three wrestlers who benefited from winning the King of the Ring tournament.  Everyone had a different path to get to the crown and a different path after winning, but their careers and lives altered for the better.

Owen Hart

Before 1994, Owen Hart was kind of lost in the WWF mix.  From being in two different tag teams to a lukewarm individual push, Hart seemed to be ending up in irrelevance.  However, things started to change towards the end of 1993 when he teamed up with his brother Bret.  They had ups and downs along the way, but things were looking good for the Hart brothers.

As 1994 began, Owen had had enough of being in the shadow of his older brother.  After losing a chance to win the WWF Tag Team Championship, Owen kicked Bret in his leg solidifying that he was no longer going to play second fiddle.  He was his own man.  This set up their famous match at Wrestlemania X in which Owen scored an upset victory over his brother Bret.  However, his moment was overshadowed when Bret won the WWF Championship at the end of the night.

Owen was determined to one-up his brother, how could he do that?  By winning the same tournament his brother won the previous year.  Owen qualified for the 1994 King of the Ring tournament by defeating Doink the Clown.  It was onto Baltimore where Owen would have to wrestle three times in one night to win the crown.

In the quarterfinals, he defeated a very tough opponent in Tatanka, in a back-and-forth match that could’ve gone either way.  In the semifinals, he faced a very courageous 1-2-3 Kid in what fans called the match of the tournament.  In a match that was under four minutes, Owen advanced to the finals where he would face former Intercontinental champion Razor Ramon.  During the finals, Jim Neidhart, who had been in the corner of his brother-in-law Bret earlier, came out and surprised everyone by helping Owen to win the tournament.  On that night, Owen proclaimed himself to be the “King of Harts” and his career went to the next level.

After the tournament, Owen Hart was in the mix for the WWF Championship including a legendary steel cage match with his brother Bret as one half of a double main event at that year’s Summerslam.  While Owen never won the WWF Championship, his position in the company was set.  He was in the main events of pay-per-views, won numerous championships, and of course, was a two-time Slammy Award winner.  Sadly, Owen passed away in 1999 following a tragic accident in front of a live crowd.

How much could Owen have done if he didn’t pass away?  We’ll never know.  Maybe he would’ve gone on to win the WWF Championship, but his win in the King of the Ring tournament helped him become a main-event player for the rest of his career.

Kurt Angle

When Kurt Angle debuted in the WWF in 1999, not a lot of people gave him much of a chance to succeed.  He was an Olympic gold medalist, but he had never wrestled in a professional wrestling ring.  But Angle proved a lot of doubters wrong and within six months he won the European and Intercontinental championships, holding both titles at the same time.  He was part of one of the most anticipated matches at Wrestlemania 16, not bad for your first Wrestlemania.  But what would Kurt Angle do after holding two titles, where would he go next?

In 2000, Angle participated in the largest King of the Ring tournament in history.  Thirty-two wrestlers would compete over a month-long period to crown the next king with the final three rounds taking place at the King of the Ring pay-per-view.  In the first round Angle defeated Bradshaw, a battle of two future WWE Hall of Famers.  In the second round, he defeated Bubba Ray Dudley to cement his ticket to the pay-per-view and the quarterfinals.

In the quarterfinals, Angle defeated an old foe of his Chris Jericho.  In the semifinals, Angle defeated Crash Holly who was the Cinderella story of the tournament before wrestling his toughest opponent in the finals.  Angle would face off with Rikishi, then the Intercontinental champion, in a grueling battle that showed both men’s desire to win.  However, it was Angle hitting a belly-to-belly Suplex off the top rope that ended Rikishi’s run and Angle winning the King of the Ring tournament.

After the tournament was over, Angle was propelled to superstardom and never looked back.  In October of that year, he defeated the Rock in the main event of No Mercy to become the WWF Champion.  He would go on to win the title four times, along with the WCW Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship, the WWE Tag Team Championship, and six times the TNA World Heavyweight Championship among many of his accomplishments.  His win in 2000 was the start of a legendary career that fans didn’t think would happen when he first started in 1999.  Oh, it’s true, it’s damn true.

Booker T

The road to the crown for Booker T might be the hardest and most well-earned for anybody who has ever won the King of the Ring.  Booker never had it easy in his life and his career was an up-and-down travel.  After WWF purchased WCW in 2001, the future of Booker T was in question, would he be with WWF, or would his career take him to other places?  He would eventually join WWF and be part of the Invasion angle as a key person in the story.

After it was all done, the next four years saw a lot of good and bad moments for Booker T.  From challenging Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania XIX to being injured and at times lost in the mix, it looked like Booker T might end up out of the picture entirely.  However, towards the end of 2005 he, along with his wife Sharmell, started to develop a new edge, a mean streak that saw him win matches at all costs.

Booker’s chance to show everybody he wasn’t a second-rate player came in the 2006 King of the Ring tournament.  In the first round, he defeated Matt Hardy, and then got some help along the way.  Booker received a bye to the finals when his scheduled opponent for the semi-finals, Kurt Angle, was too injured to compete and Booker was in the finals.  In the finals he would face a young, strong upstart in Bobby Lashley.  Booker, doing whatever it took to win, got some help from Finlay and his shillelagh.  It was more than enough to help him win the match and become King of the Ring.

His win started the King Booker era and within two months of winning the crown, Booker defeated Rey Mysterio at the 2006 Great American Bash to become the new World Heavyweight Champion.  King Booker would be a force to deal with in the WWE for the next year as he was a noble champion, and fought men such as Batista, Bobby Lashley, and Triple H among others before leaving the WWE in 2007.  The career of Booker T got much better after his win of the King of the Ring as he had earned the respect of his peers and fans all over the world.  All hail King Booker!!!!

Those are three men who benefited from winning the King of the Ring tournament.  Each had a different path to the crown but left an indelible mark on wrestling and the tournament itself.  They became legends, heroes and most important of all, they became kings.  To whoever wins this year’s tournament, you must be worthy of the crown and if things play out right, you could be on the very short list of deserving winners of the tournament.