Greatest WWE King Of The Ring Winners

By Joe Burgett
May 13, 2024
Xavier Woods - 2021 King of the Ring Winner

The King of the Ring tournament has been taking place “technically” since 1985 in the WWE. There have been years where the tournament did not take place. However, from 1993 to 2002, the tournament took place yearly. Usually, it would happen at a WWE PPV of the same name. The shows might feature other matches, but the main part of the PPV was the tournament itself.

Most of the time, at minimum, a performer would need to wrestle between 2 to 3 matches on the card. The last match would obviously become the “finals” of the tournament. The winner of this would, of course, be crowned the new WWE King of the Ring. The title would usually only be held for one year, as the winner would need to defend this crown to keep the title of “King.”

Of course, sometimes it would be held longer. This was because the tournament was not held yearly as often after 2002. Normally, WWE would use this tournament to help someone “get over.” As in, the tournament would be used to establish the person as a legitimate rising star. That is the main reason main eventers have rarely entered the tournament. The King of the Ring has been big for mid-card heels, as they could call themselves “King.” Then use that to claim how much better they are.

This is why a ton of heels have won the tournament over the years. Since the goal of the tournament was to help someone rise up on the card, a person could earn more opportunities by winning. This is why we wanted to discuss the greatest King of the Ring winners. We’ll discuss how the tournament helped them or made a big difference for them in some form. That said, let’s get started!


Don Muraco
  • 1985 King of the Ring Winner

Don Muraco is incredibly important to the King of the Ring. He won the very first KOTR tournament in 1985. While Don did not exactly need to win this tournament to become a big deal, it did help him a bit. This same year, he main-evented three consecutive Madison Square Garden shows against Hulk Hogan, a huge accomplishment at the time. He was not on the WrestleMania card that year, so getting this opportunity was huge.

Along with adding Mr. Fuji as his manager, Muraco would also get a chance to star in parody TV shows with him. The two took part in Miami Vice & General Hospital parodies, which went over very well. Muraco was also not left off of another WrestleMania card while with the company. This means that this King of the Ring win did do a lot for the original “Rock” in professional wrestling. Being the original winner of the tournament was already a huge honor, but the fact that it helped him stay relevant for a long time after makes this a big deal.


Xavier Woods - 2021 King of the Ring Winner
  • 2021 King of the Ring Winner

Xavier Woods, as of this writing, is the last King of the Ring winner. The last tournament took place in the fall of 2021, which came at an interesting time. Woods is part of the infamous New Day faction. His stablemates, Big E. & Kofi Kingson., have experienced a ton of success in the singles world. Both have been a WWE World Champion during their careers and held other singles gold such as the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Kofi also held the WWE United States Championship on top of that.

Therefore, Woods was the only guy without any major singles title in his career. As a huge fan of the King of the Ring tournament, Woods spoke openly for years that he wanted to win it. Of course, the tournament came and went randomly during the 2000s & 2010s. The previous was held in 2019 and that was the first since 2015. Thus, WWE did not put a lot of importance on the KOTR. Woods still wanted to win it, and when WWE decided to bring it back, Woods was added to it.

He would pick up big wins over some legitimate singles stars. Then, against all odds, defeated Finn Balor to win the 2021 KOTR. Woods made the honor fun again, referring to himself as King Woods and even knighting Kofi as “Sir Kofi Kingston” & the “Hand of the King.” It was a fun thing that showed the world that Xavier could get it done as a tag team or singles wrestler. He just needed the opportunity to prove it.


Randy Savage & Miss Elizabeth - WrestleMania 8
  • 1987 King of the Ring Winner

Randy Savage is one of the greatest of all time, a WWE legend if there ever was one. However, one could argue that the King of the Ring allowed him to step out in an interesting form. In 1987, he won the KOTR Tournament as WWE saw that he was clearly something special. Fans loved him, allowing Savage to get cheers despite being a heel at the time. That forced him to be more hostile toward the fans as well as his valet and love interest, Miss Elizabeth.

He eventually cooled off to become a babyface, which led to the formation of the Mega Powers team with Hulk Hogan. That would become bigger later on, but at the time, it was a huge move for Savage to be paired with Hogan. Savage was being picked as someone who could be on the same level as Hogan, but he needed to prove it. Winning KOTR was huge, and likely prepared him for WrestleMania IV.

This event was pretty much entirely made up of a tournament to crown the new WWE Champion. 14 men competed for the title that night. Savage beat Butch Reed, One Man Gang, & Greg “The Hammer” Valentine to make it to the Finals. There, he faced and defeated “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase to win the WWE Championship for the first time. He’d hold the title for a little over a year and have one heck of a rivalry with Hogan too.

One could say that the King of the Ring tournament was sort of showing the world that Savage was meant to win the WrestleMania tournament months later.


Brock Lesnar - SummerSlam 2002
  • 2002 King of the Ring Winner

By 2002, the King of the Ring tournament had been going on every single year since 1993. While the winner of this tournament might go on to have a lot of success, WWE wanted to make the 2002 even bigger. The winner of the tournament that year would get an Undisputed WWE Championship match at the SummerSlam event about 1 month later.

When Brock Lesnar debuted on the main roster around the time of the 2002 WWE Draft, he was quickly taken by Ric Flair for the RAW Brand. WWE allowed Brock to show off his incredible speed and power for a few months on the RAW brand. They saw him as the literal “Next Big Thing,” which led to the move to get the Undisputed Title around his waist.

This is why the 2002 KOTR had the added honor of getting a title match. Brock won the tournament with ease and then went on to defeat The Rock at SummerSlam to win his first title in WWE. While the Undisputed Title had been defended on both brands prior to this, Brock became the first champion to defend the title exclusively for the SmackDown brand. Which changed a lot of stuff in WWE.

Brock had an incredible run after this, leading to a lot of memorable matches and rivalries.


KOTR - Bret Hart
  • 1991 & 1993 King of the Ring Winner

Bret Hart is the only person in WWE history to have won the King of the Ring tournament more than once. It is a big honor, but was likely done to help Hart appear as a major name for the company. As WWE began migrating to the early 1990s era, the major steroid scandal forced them to push guys who were not like the Hulk Hogan types from the past. While Bret was a large man, without question, he was not a Hogan-sized individual. That was key, and WWE saw a lot of potential in him anyway.

In 1991, he won the WWE Intercontinental Title right before winning the KOTR. He would go on to capture the WWE Championship a little while later and then headlined the WrestleMania IX event against Yokozuna. While Hart defeated a lot of people to remain champion, such as Shawn Michaels & Ric Flair, he lost the title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania. By the summer of 1993, the KOTR tournament began again.

This was the very first PPV version of the tournament, which is likely what led to Hart winning the crown again. He had a cool rivalry with Jerry “The King” Lawler after this and even became the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble. This led to a WrestleMania X title shot, where he defeated Yokozuna to capture the WWE Championship again. One could say that the KOTR helped Hart show the world how excellent he was.

While the second win did not do this as much as the first, being the only two-time winner is still pretty cool.


"Stone Cold" Steve Austin wins King of the Ring
  • 1996 King of the Ring Winner

Most of us know the story by now. Triple H was actually scheduled to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament. However, after a controversial situation with The Kliq, Hunter was being punished by WWE Owner Vince McMahon. Due to this, McMahon needed to crown another man instead. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had already been on a huge run. He was getting more and more popular with the fans. Yet this tournament, this event, is perhaps the time when Austin stepped into superstardom.

It was the night where he told Jake Roberts in a now infamous promo: “You talk about your Psalms, you talk about John 3:16. Well Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.”

The promo received massive praise and is now iconic for fans. Austin used this tournament as fuel to go on yet another impressive run. At WrestleMania 12, before this KOTR, Austin faced Savio Vega. A guy who he was far better than and everyone knew it. By WrestleMania 13 a year later, he faced Bret Hart who helped Austin yet again show how incredible he was.

It was a slow-burn build for him, but the KOTR certainly was the timeframe where we saw the start of something special. We’d eventually see him become a main event talent and one of the greatest of all time.


KOTR - Kurt Angle
  • 2000 King of the Ring Winner

When Kurt Angle first signed with WWE, no one knew what would happen. Angle was a legitimate Olympic Gold Medalist, one of the few Americans to ever win the gold in freestyle wrestling. After signing with WWE though, the company strapped a rocketship to the man. He debuted in January 2000 and then captured the Intercontinental & European Titles a month later. He is one of the few to ever hold both at the same time.

He’d win the 2000 King of the Ring tournament later that year. It was a big moment because some were unsure how big Angle could be after some early success. Winning the tournament showed us a lot of things. First, Angle knew how to navigate this type of thing coming from a world where tournaments and many matches in a 24-hour period is a common thing. The cardio to do this is tough and Angle was barely affected by anything.

Angle then showed the world that he was more than capable of beating other top names. This is likely why he won the WWE Championship by October 2000 and held onto it for a while. Heck, he even won the infamous Armageddon Hell in a Cell match to retain the title. Of course, Kurt went on to have more wild success in a relatively short WWE career. One could say that winning King of the Ring likely showed everyone he was prepared to be a main eventer in WWE.


King Sheamus
  • 2010 King of the Ring Winner

The winner of the 2010 King of the Ring tournament is perhaps one of the best examples of how much this tournament can help someone get over. Sheamus was relatively new to the main roster in 2010. He was signed by WWE around 2007 but was placed in FCW. This was WWE’s developmental system before they had NXT or the Performance Center. By 2009, he was on the ECW brand but was quickly shifted over to the RAW brand by 2010.

He would get a shock win over John Cena to become the WWE Champion shortly after moving over. However, he did not hold the title for very long. After dropping it, WWE seemed to have no idea how to use him. By November 2010, they had the idea of re-heating him by having Sheamus win the King of the Ring tournament.

Sheamus could likely lay claim to the most success as the reigning King of the Ring than anyone else in WWE history. However, this was not because he did so much in one year. Rather, because WWE did not hold the KOTR tournament again until 2015. Throughout that period, Sheamus was incredibly successful.

He won the WWE United States Title shortly after winning KOTR. Yet he also went on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship a few times. He also would win the Royal Rumble match and even the Money in the Bank. He used the MITB to cash in and become WWE Champion again. All of this took place before the next King was crowned.


2001 King of the Ring - Edge
  • 2001 King of the Ring Winner

Edge won the KOTR tournament at an interesting time. He was mostly a tag team wrestler but had tasted some success in the singles department. While Edge had been the WWE Intercontinental Champion before this, it was for about a day. Upon winning the KOTR, his tag partner Christian often carried the big KOTR Trophy around for him. Edge carried it around too, but this was done to add fuel to their eventual split. Edge won his second Intercontinental Title after the KOTR win.

The split from Christian led to a feud for the IC Title, which Christian won and then lost back to Edge. Test then took the title from Edge, but an interesting thing happened. Since this took place during the WWE Invasion angle, all WCW titles were defended on WWE programming too. That allowed Edge to win the WCW United States Championship.

WWE’s Survivor Series PPV held a “title unification” between the WCW United States Champion and WWE Intercontinental Champion. Whoever won would be guaranteed a job with the winning company at the end of the show, and obviously hold the title connected to that winner. Edge beat Test to effectively win the IC Title, and retired the WCW U.S. Title.

This means after winning the KOTR, Edge won four championships before 2001 was over. Once the WWE Draft took place, Edge ended up on SmackDown where he saw wild success for years to come. One could say that winning KOTR helped him a lot.


King Booker T
  • 2006 King of the Ring Winner

We should make sure the world realizes one thing. Booker T was already a well-established name by 2006. He was a top guy in WCW and captured the WCW World Heavyweight Championship 5 times before the company was sold. While he was given a lot of big matches during his initial run in WWE, it seemed that after the Invasion Angle, Booker was pushed down a peg. Of course, this led to multiple title runs with the Intercontinental and Tag Team titles.

Yet Booker never could seem to get back into the main event territory where he felt like he belonged. Then a big thing happened. In 2006, the SmackDown brand was able to get the rights to hold the King of the Ring Tournament. It is technically the only SmackDown branded KOTR ever, as of this writing. Booker would win the tournament, which was big enough.

However, this win led to Booker calling himself “King Booker.” He would then adopt a semi-British accent, which went over well with the fans. It is still one of the gimmicks fans love most involving Booker. This King Booker gimmick went over so well, he’d capture his sixth World Heavyweight Championship, but ultimately the first World Title he ever held in the WWE.

Arguably, without the KOTR, we’d never have this beloved run for Booker T. Therefore, it’s a good thing that we did.

Related Articles From Partners
© 2024 WrestlingHub.com