For the first time since 2015, WWE is set to crown a new King of the Ring, and will begin the 16-competitor tournament next week on Raw. While the King of the Ring tournament dates back to 1985, it wasn’t until the event became a pay-per-view in 1993 that fans first really took notice. Bret “Hitman” Hart was the inaugural pay-per-view winner, defeating Bam Bam Bigelow in the finals. Hart was a great choice, having already been WWE champion at that point. His late brother Owen would win the following year, setting up a terrific feud between the two.
In 1995, the gargantuan Mabel won perhaps the worst King of the Ring tournament ever. Thankfully, 1996 saw the win of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who cut the Austin 3:16 promo on that night that sent his career rocketing toward the top. Triple H won in 1997, just a few months before the launch of D-Generation X started him on the path to legendary status. Ken Shamrock beat The Rock in the finals in 1998, while Billy Gunn won in 1999. 2000 gave rise to king Kurt Angle, with future Hall of Famer Edge preventing Angle from repeating in 2001. After Brock Lesnar won the tournament in 2002, the King of the Ring pay-per-view ceased.
King of the Ring tournaments have since been held on WWE TV in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2015, and won by Booker T, William Regal, Sheamus, and Wade Barrett, respectively. Now, WWE has announced that the King of the Ring will return, beginning next week on Raw.
Although the full brackets have yet to be revealed, 16 WWE superstars will compete in the tournament, eight from Raw and eight from SmackDown. The tournament will not be held in one night, but instead over a period of several weeks. No conclusion date has been confirmed, but one assumes the next pay-per-view, Clash of the Champions is a pretty safe bet. After all, the King of the Ring is essentially a championship, just not one contested very often.
Without further ado, here are the announced competitors. Representing Raw are Ricochet, The Miz, Cedric Alexander, Drew McIntyre, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, and Samoa Joe. Representing SmackDown are Elias, Kevin Owens, Chad Gable, Andrade, Shelton Benjamin, Buddy Murphy, Ali, and Apollo Crews. Obvious candidates for the crown on Raw are the fast-rising Ricochet and McIntyre, as well as the veteran destroyer Joe. Obvious SmackDown picks are former Universal Champion Owens, and the also fast-rising Andrade and Ali. Perhaps if either of those last two win, they can get their other names back. And of course Corbin is in there, just to annoy the WWE fans, as is his way.
More: Our 12 Biggest Questions After WWE Summerslam 2019