If you’ve been a wrestling fan at any point after 2002, more specifically in the past 10 years, you’ve heard this question: Why doesn’t WWE bring back King of the Ring?
I’m guilty of asking why WWE doesn’t bring back the King of the Ring many times myself, hell, even Daniel Bryan has mentioned it recently.
After listening to the cries of the many King of the Ring fans, WWE finally it brought it back.
Of course, they gave absolutely no notice, off-handedly announcing it at the Extreme Rules PPV as a WWE Network exclusive on Tuesday. It wasn’t until Monday that we found out the tournament would begin on Monday with the finals wrapping up on the Network special. Regardless, we aren’t going to worry about this year’s tournament/special. We’re going to tackle the question of why WWE doesn’t bring back King of the Ring as an every year special or even as it was way back in 1993, its own pay-per-view.
First off, I enjoy the King of the Ring concept. As a sports fan, the idea of a tournament to decide a champion is what the entire nature of American sports is built on. Each major sport may do it a little differently but by and large, a tournament determines the champion of the league and it’s great. Of course, translating that into wrestling is right up my alley.
More than that, the history of success with the King of the Ring speaks for itself. Since its inception as a PPV in 1993, King of the Ring winner have went on to have tremendous success. In the inaugural PPV year, Bret Hart took home the crown, add legitimacy to his career. Though he had a title reign the year prior, 1993 was the year where he really began establishing himself as a major player leading into 1994, arguably his most dominant year in WWE.
The following year his brother Owen won the tournament and like his brother legitimized his career to the point where he was able to main event SummerSlam 1994 (an event that did better than the prior year’s SummerSlam headlined by Yokozuna and Lex Luger).
The next eight year saw varying degrees of success for King of the Ring winners with more being superstar success stories than duds. Guys like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar used their King of the Ring crowns to make the leap to full-fledged stars. With some guys it was immediate (Brock Lesnar won the WWE Title at that year’s SummerSlam) while others including Austin and HHH had to wait until they became true stars. Either way, it was a concept that worked — it more times than not (we’ll just ignore 1995 and 1999 now and forever) helped create and build a new superstar.
The King of the Ring tournament worked. It played its role exactly as intended and yet this is the first King of the Ring since 2010. The tournament was dropped as a PPV in 2002 and between then and now only three tournaments have been held: 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Even in the post-PPV sample, two guys (Booker T in 2006 & William Regal in 2008) we able to parlay their kingship into a solid storyline that would help their career. On the flip side, becoming “King” Sheamus almost derailed the irishmen’s promising career.
Why would WWE run from something so successful? The answer as you may know, is that while it was a storyline success, King of the Ring was not a business success.
In the period from 1993 to 2002, non-WrestleMania WWE PPVs averaged 405,102 total buys (this, of course, using the data we have, many WWE PPVs from the mid-90s are without accurate buy numbers). King of the Ring’s average? 315,000.
Using yearly averages, we can see the King of the Ring constantly underperformed its counterparts:
- Average: 250,000
- King of the Ring: 185,000
- Average: 169,167
- King of the Ring: 150,000
- Average: 515,000
- King of the Ring: 475,000
- Average: 477,200
- King of the Ring: 445,000
- Average: 420,800
- King of the Ring: 320,000
Even in 1995, King of the Ring (150,000) just barely out-drew the average In Your House PPV (146,250). By 2002, only Unforgiven and No Mercy drew less than King of the Ring.
The graph above shows the plight of King of the Ring. At almost no point did it have any momentum as a drawing PPV. WWE experimented with reducing the amount of tournament matches that took place on the PPV but it didn’t change the story.
The entire King of the Ring concept has in essence been replaced by Money in the Bank. It’s a suitable replacement but I’ll always take a good old fashioned tournament over a multi-man ladder match any day.
So hey, why don’t you head over to WWENetwork.com, subscribe and watch tonight. Maybe we’ll get it back to being a yearly thing but don’t hold your breath.