Lately, WWE has been caught in the camel clutch of nostalgia. The RAW Reunion happened a few weeks ago, bringing Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair back for cheap pops. The SmackDown reunion show is happening in October, coinciding with the show’s premiere on Fox Sports 1. Kevin Owens is using Steve Austin’s signature move, the Stunner. The Fiend defeated his first real opponent with Mankind’s old finisher, the Mandible Claw. Everything old is new again at Titan Towers. Now, they’re bringing back the King of the Ring tournament. The finalists from RAW and SmackDown Live will meet in a brawl to determine who wears the crown and carries the scepter.
I’m not a fan of the nostalgia kick. It feels forced, a toxic attempt to reel fans of the Attitude Era back into the fold. Bolstering the ratings by hauling JBL in from Bermuda to mispronounce Dolph Ziggler’s name for ten minutes seems counterproductive. And do we really need to hear about Hulkamania anymore? Vitamins, training, prayers. Something like that. Maybe add “Don’t make racist comments” to the list of things all the little Hulkamaniacs should do on a daily basis.
But the King of the Ring tournament?
I’m for it. I can’t wait to see what they do with it. There have been so many memorable moments from the King of the Ring contests! I’m hoping for more from this year’s tournament.
In my mind, there’s a gigantic difference in toxic nostalgia and embracing the past. When an older superstar shows up on WWE shows, there are no real stakes. Essentially, it’s the same as plopping down on the couch at a late-night show. They make an appearance. They wave to the crowd, do the things they’re famous for, and then they’re gone like Keyser Soze. When it’s over, there’s a feeling of general malaise or, at least, the desire to take a shower to hose the smarminess off our eyes.
The King of the Ring tournament, however, is the perfect vehicle for the current state of the company. The roster on both shows is stacked to the gills with a ridiculous amount of talent. There’s no better way for WWE to get schwifty and show us what they’ve got. This is sixteen guys, safely beating the hell out of each other. It represents a way to pull something revered from the company’s history and not drag it through the mud of idealized memories of bygone days. We haven’t had a King of the Ring for five years. Lots of things have changed since Wade Barrett was the holder of that title. It’s time. We need this.
While no bracket has been officially announced, the competitors have been named. Here are the 2019 King of the Ring contenders:
Baron Corbin – Please, God. No. Just no.
Cesaro – I could accept Cesaro winning if his kingly raiments included tearaway pants.
Cedric Alexander – The guy is good. He’s been tearing it up with Drew McIntyre lately, looking impressive even when taking a loss. He’s got an outside chance.
Drew McIntyre – Isn’t he already the King of Badassvania or something? This could be his chance to break out and be something besides a McMahon lackey.
Ricochet – He’s the hot choice from the RAW side. Hell, his Twitter handle is already @KingRicochet. He’s been ready for this for years.
Sami Zayn – WWE doesn’t know what to do with Zayn now. I can’t imagine them making him King of the Ring.
Samoa Joe – I do not believe he could lead a benevolent kingdom. I also think Joe could inflict more chaos without the crown.
The Miz – I really like The Miz, but he’s going to have to work to be the King. He can’t just waltz up to the throne because he’s The Miz. To be clear, he’s become an excellent wrestler, but I think he has too many other things going on within the company to be an effective King.
Ali – The Man in the LED Mask always puts on a good match, no matter who Creative books him against. He’s a dark horse, but I think he’s got a shot at taking the crown.
Andrade – This works only if they recognize his real-life relationship with Charlotte Flair. Then, we can have the King and Queen of the Ring. See what I did there?
Apollo Crews – Take a seat, laughing boy. He hasn’t been over since his first month in NXT. Becoming King of the Ring won’t help.
Buddy Murphy – Really, I just want to see Buddy Murphy v Ali in a King of the Ring match. That would be amazing. I don’t even think I care who wins. Just book it and let me watch some actual wrestling.
Chad Gable – Gable has been terribly mishandled since his arrival on the main roster. Can the guy who used to tag with Bobby Roode really be the King? I have my doubts.
Elias – See: Corbin, Baron.
Kevin Owens – The more I think about this, the more I like it. What a middle finger in the face of Shane McMahon that would be! Not to mention, the fans are really loving face Owens right now. The pop he got on the last SmackDown Live was deafening. Owens as King of the Ring sets up a ridiculous number of storylines which I would explain to you if I were drunk.
Shelton Benjamin – They have done nothing with Benjamin since he got back except throw him into Rumbles and have him think loudly. The new generation of fans don’t know who he is. No throne for you, Shelty.
I haven’t looked forward to a crowning this much since my kid was being born. This year’s King of the Ring has an excellent mix of established talent and new guys. There’s potential here for some killer matches. If they don’t overthink the booking and give the boys a little room to work, this will be a tournament to remember. Here’s hoping that no matter who wins King of the Ring, wrestling fans will still win.