I love a tournament, and I’ve long been an advocate for giving every wrestler who appears on Raw or SmackDown some kind of story, motivation, or goal. The return of King of the Ring checked all those boxes, and booked some exciting matches and possible showdowns for WWE television. I was psyched when it was announced last month.
Now that it’s all over but the coronation of King Baron Corbin, I look back and think...
That was alright.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it happened. I hope it happens every year, and I think it’s smart to keep it in this format so as to fill television time. If a firm brand split sticks after the Oct. 11 & 14 draft, the finals will have to happen on a pay-per-view (PPV) - but that honestly should have happened this time, too.
There were some really good matches. Ricochet vs. Drew McIntyre and Buddy Murphy vs. Ali stand out in my memory from the first round. Both SmackDown quarterfinals were a lot of fun. And Corbin’s win over Chad Gable on Raw last night (Sept. 16) kicked ass.
But were they markedly better than a handful of other bouts we see every week during the hours of product WWE cranks out? I don’t mean to criticize the roster for routinely putting on entertaining matches - it’s a good problem to have. But it’s honestly why I don’t think the 2019 King of the Ring made that much of an impression on me. It’s similar to why even the greatest 205 Live matches don’t capture my attention for long. There’s always another really good match coming up on NXT, or a PPV, or...
King of the Ring 2019 was also snakebit. You’d almost think this had been a month-long round robin like New Japan’s G1 Climax considering how many guys who participated are now injured. McIntyre apparently came into the thing needing surgery. Elias had to bow out (and was opening people’s eyes to his in-ring abilities before he got hurt). Word is Samoa Joe is on the company’s injury list again.
Maybe that’s why it feels like there aren’t many (any?) spin-off feuds coming out of it. You’d imagine the “win and advance, lose and you’re done” tournament format would lead to bad blood in the world of heels and faces, but [shrug emoji]. Worse yet, wrestlers many of us were excited to see breakout during the tournament exited early and disappeared. I wasn’t the only one with Ali or Andrade going far on my bracket, but [shrug emoji].
Which isn’t to say no one benefited from the 2019 King of the Ring. Gable reminded everybody he would have fit right in with the SmackDown Six, and can get almost any crowd invested in almost any match. Will WWE do anything with that knowledge this time though? Or is he going to go the way of Ali and Andrade now that the tourney is done?
And, of course, we have to say hail to the king. Corbin was a stud throughout, hamming it up as a villain while wowing everyone with crisp, safe ringwork. It seems like it was enough to turn the tide of public opinion on him after his interminable main event run from late 2018 through this summer. But even if he’s gone from a guy you hate to a guy you love to hate, do you see him as a Universal or WWE champ? Or did they just rehabilitate him to where he’s now Miz circa 2015 (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?
The story never ends, though. Something thrilling could happen with the coronation on SmackDown tonight (Sept. 17), catapulting King Corbin to a top belt or continuing to make Chad ready, willing and Gable for bigger things.
But while I appreciate the last few weeks and hope we don’t have to wait four years for the next one, I can’t praise the 2019 King of the Ring tournament as much better than...
It was okay.