The tournament was held annually from 1985 to 2002 - although no events were held in 1990 and 1992. While some of these events were un-elevised, the King of The Ring re-debuted as it's own Pay-Per-View in 1993, until its final airing in 2002. Following a four year absence, the King of The Ring returned to WWE TV in 2006, being held on Smackdown over the course of a month before its finals at Judgement Day, where it was won by Booker T.
The tournament made three more returns, in 2008 on RAW, won by William Regal, 2010 on RAW won by Sheamus, and 2015 on RAW won by Wade "Bad News" Barrett.
Four years later, the King of The Ring once again returned on Monday night RAW. 16 superstars entered, half from RAW and half from Smackdown, and Baron Corbin won the event after defeating hot favorite Chad Gable to be crowned as the new king.
One of the major issues that has plagued the WWE over the years is their piling mid card crisis. Too many superstars languish in a non-title setup and hence leave the brand owing to creative frustrations. The King of the Ring tournament helps legitimize the presence of these stars and gives them an opportunity in the form of a launchpad to get to the main event scene.
Here, we take a look at seven such superstars who have over the years won the King of the Rings tournament and have gone on to make legendary WWE careers.
#7 Brock Lesnar - 2002
In his first year in WWE, Lesnar was a 2-time WWE Champion and Royal Rumble winner, was in the main event of WrestleMania and had defeated the likes of The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero and more. But the beginning of his rise to the top all started by winning the 2002 King of The Ring, where he defeated Rob Van Dam in the finals to take the crown.
As mentioned before, following his KOTR victory, Lesnar would take on all those accolades above and would also hold the WWE Championship for a third time in 2003 before he left WWE in 2004. After being the best draw in the UFC for several years, 'The Beast' returned to WWE in 2012, where he has since won the WWE Championship for a 4th time and became a 3 time WWE Universal Champion.
Lesnar would also win the 2019 Money in The Bank, take away The Undertaker's WrestleMania streak and win many more big matches over the like of John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, Goldberg, CM Punk, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and more.
#6 Edge - 2001
Before becoming King, Edge had a tremendous tag team career of seven tag title reigns, and even held the Intercontinental Championship for a cup of coffee. After becoming King in June 2001, Edge would soon split from Christian and win the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice and WCW United States Championship before the year's end. Edge would have two more WWE Tag Team title reigns in 2002, before being shelved for all of 2003 with his broken neck.
Edge returned in 2004 and following more reigns as WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, Edge would turn heel upon entering the main event scene. From late 2004 until 2009, Edge would be WWE's best heel performer. During this time and his final year as a babyface before retirement, Edge became a 4 time WWE Champion, 7 time World Heavyweight Champion, the inaugural Money in The Bank winner and won the 2010 Royal Rumble.
Edge was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2012.
#5 Randy Savage - 1987
The late, great 'Macho Man' Randy Savage is arguably the greatest performer of all-time. While not as heavily hyped as the tournament was in later years, Savage was still the third ever King of The Ring winner.
Winning the crown in 1987, Savage was a heel at the time but had been noticeably becoming more popular. Following a beat-down save from Hulk Hogan, the two would form The Mega Powers. Come WrestleMania IV in 1988, Savage would win a one-night tournament to become WWE Champion. Savage would hold the Championship for 371 days before losing it to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania V.
Savage would later adopt 'The Macho King' moniker, which was actually unrelated to his own tournament win. After big feuds over the next few years with Dusty Rhodes, The Ultimate Warrior and Jake Roberts, Savage would defeat Ric Flair at WrestleMania VIII in 1992 for his second WWE Championship, which he would hold for five months before dropping it back to Flair.
Savage would leave WWE in 1994 and join WCW, where he had a successful run. Savage feuded with, then eventually joined the nWo, went to battle with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper and Diamond Dallas Page and became a four time WCW World Champion.
Sadly, Randy Savage died after suffering a heart attack during car accident in 2011. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
#4 Kurt Angle - 2000
As mentioned earlier, Brock Lesnar has probably the best rookie year in the history of WWE. If anyone else comes close to having the best, it would have to be Kurt Angle.
In between a winning streak and being WWE Intercontinental and European Champion at the same time and winning the WWE Championship at No Mercy 2000, Kurt Angle would win the King of The Ring. Kurt Angle would go onto have one of the best professional wrestling careers of all-time.
After winning his first WWE Heavyweight Championship four months after winning the crown, Angle would have excellent matches and feuds with The Rock, Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin and many more. He had a brief spell as WCW Champion in 2001, and also held the WCW United States and WWE Hardcore Championships. Angle won his second WWE Championship in 2001 and third in 2002. He would also become the inaugural WWE Tag Team Champion (today's RAW Tag titles) with Chris Benoit.
Angle won his fourth WWE Championship in 2003 and also headlined WrestleMania XIX. Over the next three years he would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and have many epic matches with The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels and many more. Angle controversially parted ways with WWE in 2006 and would join TNA Wrestling for a near decade long run, which saw him become a 6 time TNA World Champion, as well as a X Division, and Tag Team Champion.
Kurt Angle would be inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2013 and WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.
#3 Bret Hart - 1991 & 1993
'The Best There is, Best There Was, and Best There Ever Will Be', he just might be. Bret Hart is the only ever two-time WWE King of The Ring winner.
The Hitman first won the crown in 1991, just a few months after the Hart Foundation came to an end. The reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion at the time, Hart would go onto hold the IC title on another occasion, before defeating Ric Flair for his first WWE Heavyweight Championship in October 1992.
Over the course of the next 5 years, Bret Hart would be a 5 time WWE Champion, the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble, and would main event two WrestleMania's. Hart also had some of the best ever matches and feuds with Shawn Michaels, brother Owen Hart, Jerry Lawler, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin, among more. Following the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997, Bret Hart debuted for WCW at the end of the year.
Bret Hart's run with WCW was very creatively mishandled and a very much wasted opportunity. However, he did still manage to become a two-time WCW Champion, four time United States Champion and a Tag Team Champion by the time of his forced retirement in 2000.
Bret Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2006 and as apart of the Hart Foundation in 2019.
#2 Triple H - 1997
Hunter Hearst Helmsley was actually scheduled to win the 1996 King of The Ring. However, the infamous 'Curtain Call Incident' put those plans on ice.
After climbing his way back to the top of the midcard over the course of a year, the future Triple H would defeat Mankind to win the finals of the King of The Ring in 1997. What a career Triple H has had ever since. But of course we won't lie, he did take on many of his accomplishments by his own backstage influence means. Yet that happening or not, he still almost tops this list for having one of the best post-KOTR careers.
Triple H would go onto form WWE's most popular ever faction D-Generation X, and would become the WWE European and Intercontinental Champion during this time. He finally broke out on his own in August 1999 when he defeated Mankind the win his first WWE Championship. From here on, The Game became a nine-time WWE Champion, a five-time World Heavyweight Champion and two-time Royal Rumble winner, and headlined seven WrestleManias. He also had some of the best ever matches and feuds with Steve Austin, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, John Cena, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, Mick Foley, Brock Lesnar and countless others.
Triple H now oversees everything in WWE NXT and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class on 2019 with D-Generation X.
The Game can be celebrated as one of the greatest superstars of all time and began his fabled ascend to the top with a King of the Ring win.
#1 Stone Cold Steve Austin - 1996
Now you could actually easily argue that the likes of Brock Lesnar, Edge or Bret Hart or just about everyone on this list actually had a better post-King of The Ring career than Steve Austin. At least in terms of championships and longevity.
But at the end of the day, Stone Cold Steve Austin is probably the greatest of all time. It was Austin who almost single-handedly turned WWE around in the ratings war against WCW. While WWE did have help along the way from The Rock and D-Generation X, if it wasn't for Steve Austin, we might be watching Nitro today instead of RAW.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, who as mentioned wasn't even the original 1996 planned winner, would defeat Jake Roberts in the tournament finals. He then gave the most memorable promo in WWE history where he proclaimed ''Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!''.
Over the course of the next year, WWE slowly pushed Austin up the card. By the time it was all said and done, Austin was a six-time WWE Champion, a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a four-time Tag Team Champion, won three Royal Rumbles, headlined three WrestleMania's and had the best ever wrestling storyline with Vince McMahon. Austin would also have some of wrestling's other best ever feuds with The Rock, Bret Hart, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle and more.
Austin retired from the ring at WrestleMania XIX in 2003 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2009.
Were there any other exemplary post-KOTR careers? Head on down to our comments section!