WWF King Of The Ring 1993 Review feat. Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

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WWF King Of The Ring 1993

WWF King Of The Ring 1993 marked the beginning of a fifth annual PPV event for the company. It was highlighted by the first televised KOTR tournament (having been held on house shows between 1985 and 1989, and also in 1991 for grins and giggles), but while its winner Bret Hart was the undisputed star of the show, it is perhaps the back-story behind the WWF Championship match which makes this more historically noteworthy, as well as its aftermath.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Bret Hart vs. Razor Ramon

Kicking off the show was a rematch from Royal Rumble, as Bret Hart (who had won the tournament in ’91) battled Razor Ramon. This pairing made fans take the KOTR concept seriously, because two top names – and arguably the WWF’s most popular performer – were involved in the main portion of the competition right off the bat. And just like at the Rumble, they worked well together; when Razor’s greatest feuds are discussed, Bret’s name is rarely brought up, but it should be because they always clicked, at least in the WWF. At one point, Razor stomped on Bret’s fingers, which is an important aspect that I’ll come back to later. Bret managed to turn the tables on Ramon by reversing his middle rope back suplex into a cover to advance, and so he should have, because why wouldn’t the biggest name involved make it through the quarter-finals at the very least (I’m looking at whoever booked KOTR 1995 as I write that)? Razor would turn babyface not too long after this, which would lead to him becoming one of the WWF’s more popular performers in his own right.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Mr. Perfect vs. Mr. Hughes

Next up, we had the battle of the “Misters”, as Perfect clashed with Hughes. Perfect had actually battled Doink three times before a winner was finally determined in a fun side-story of the qualifiers, while Hughes was being embroiled in a feud with The Undertaker (which itself felt like an extension of Taker’s ongoing rivalry with Harvey Whippleman’s other client Giant Gonzales). Other than wondering how Hughes was able to wrestle with his glasses on (seriously), this isn’t worth checking out at all, and it ended with a murky finish, as Hughes got himself disqualified after using Undertaker’s urn (this was one of the many occasions where Paul Bearer’s personal item had been stolen). Perfect advanced, while Hughes disappeared off the radar, which seemed to be the story of his career, as he would only show up in small doses, never having a long run in the WWF between his three stints in 1993, 1997 and 1999.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan

This was a fun pairing at King Of The Ring 1993. On one hand, you had the large, tattooed monster who had the potential to be one of the top heels in the company (he was only booked like that occasionally, with this event being one such example), and on the other hand, you had the lovable patriotic veteran in Hacksaw, who still had value and popularity. This meant that, just like Bigelow defeating Big Boss Man at Royal Rumble, it provided a credible opportunity for Bigelow to gain some momentum as well as garnering some heat, and he succeeded at ticking those boxes when he hit a diving headbutt. And just like Boss Man, Hacksaw would disappear from the WWF scene for a long time not long after this event, which I guess makes Bigelow the WWF’s version of 911 (an ECW performer who would Chokeslam guys to the point that their characters were written off TV).

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Lex Luger vs. Tatanka

No, this wasn’t an entry from their well-crafted 1994 feud. Instead, this was the unbeaten babyface Tatanka squaring off against the heel Narcissist. Considering that Luger was too big a name to sacrifice to Tatanka (despite the latter being an established mid-carder by this point), and since it was decided that Tatanka’s undefeated streak couldn’t end here, there was only one way to resolve this dilemma. Yes, a good old-fashioned time limit draw. Strangely, Lex demanded more time before whacking Tatanka with a steel plate-assisted forearm, though the bout was not restarted to give what would have been a very unfair advantage to Luger. So, both men were eliminated, thus giving Bigelow a bye to the final (isn’t it funny how it’s usually a heel that benefits from such booking, and a monster heel at that?). Tatanka’s streak would eventually be ended by Ludvig Borga of all people, while Lex would only be a villain and a Narcissist for a few more weeks. Come July 4, he became an American hero after bodyslamming Yokozuna leading to their SummerSlam match. More on SummerSlam shortly, as the real-life saga that links that card to this one is arguably the most interesting aspect of KOTR 1993.

King Of The Ring Tournament Semi-Final Match
Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect

Since both Lex and Tatanka were goners, we had just the one semi-final match, but what a battle it was. This was a rematch from the incredible Perfect-Bret clash at SummerSlam 1991, and while this wasn’t quite as good, it was still a terrific contest, especially given that Perfect was far healthier than he had been in August ’91. It was a sportsmanlike showdown, but with Perfect still demonstrating some slight heel traits to ensure that Hart received the lion’s share of the cheers. Back and forth they went in a very exciting manner, while providing heel announcer Bobby Heenan with the opportunity to rip on both men, which was amusing (incidentally, this was the second and final WWF PPV where The Brain commentated alongside Jim Ross and Randy Savage). In the end, Bret reversed an attempted small package into one of his own for the win, and though Perfect was unhappy, he still endorsed Bret afterwards to end the best WWF PPV match of 1993.

WWF Championship Match
Hulk Hogan (C) vs. Yokozuna

This was the big rematch from WrestleMania IX, an event where Hogan had swooped in and dethroned the newly-crowned champion Yokozuna. If you’ve seen one Hogan match against a monster, you’ve seen them all, and this followed the usual formula. Hulk got his shots in early on before Yoko turned the tide and took control, and from there, it was only a matter of time before Hogan’s comeback. When it came, though, we had a surprise: Zuna kicked out of the Legdrop! Hulk was shocked, and after numerous failed bodyslam attempts, Hogan was wondering what his next move should be. In the midst of all this, a “Japanese photographer” climbed up onto the ring apron, and his camera exploded in Hulk’s face, burning the great man’s eyes. This somehow stunned Hogan enough for Zuna to knock him down and hit him with a huge legdrop to win his second WWF Title (the guy on the front row dressed as Hogan was stunned; the same fan was present when Hulk lost the WWF Title to The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, so he doesn’t have much luck in following his hero). Afterwards, Hulk took several Banzai Drops, as Bobby Heenan declared that Hulkamania was dead. And this time, it was – sort of. This marked Hogan’s last televised WWF match until 2002, as he would depart the company for good, eventually joining WCW in time to face Ric Flair at Bash At The Beach 1994. Yoko’s WWF Title reign would las until WrestleMania X.

Now, we come to the behind-the-scenes aggro. According to Hart, the working plan was for Hulk to face him, and drop the WWF Title to him, at SummerSlam 1993. This would mark a passing of the torch akin to when Hulk lost to The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, only this time the new champion was up to the task of replacing him, and this time, Hogan would depart permanently. WWF Magazine hyped up the collision, and Hart noted that he and Hogan even participated in a photo shoot, specifically designed to promote that bout. According to Hart, though, somewhere along the way, the plan changed. Instead, Hulk would lose the gold here to Yoko and then leave the company, meaning that Bret would have to settle for the King Of The Ring 1993 tournament and the hopes of later regaining the WWF Championship. Hogan has claimed that Bret’s story is not true, but there does seem to be sufficient evidence to support Bret’s argument, despite it being a rarity for babyfaces to clash at that time (even though Hart fought a fellow face here in Mr. Perfect).

As a result, Bret would never get the true “rub” from Hogan, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Backstage at this show, Hart confronted Hogan (Bret has alleged that Hulk had previously begun to view him as competition, hence their relationship changing from that point onwards) and the two engaged in a shouting match, with Bret mostly deriding Hulk. Hogan may have been leaving, but he was going out with a whimper rather than on a massive high. Bret and Hogan have never truly seen eye-to-eye ever since, though most of the hate comes from Hart’s side, as Hulk has never tried to stir things too much in public between them. As for what the true story was? We’ll probably never know for certain, but if you had asked a WWF fan in May or June of 1993 what the ultimate dream match would have been, they’d have likely said Hogan vs. Bret. It might have made for an awesome way to mark the tenth anniversary of WrestleMania, with Hogan bowing out of his prime on the grandest stage and at a milestone event while putting over the face of what would become known as the New Generation. They did eventually clash in what was an angle rather than a proper match on WCW Monday Nitro in 1998, but otherwise the two never battled in the ring. But hey ho.

Eight-Man Tag Team Match
The Steiner Brothers & The Smoking Gunns vs. Money Inc. & The Headshrinkers

One thing I never understood about the WWF during this era, even given that live events were still a priority: in the years 1992, 1993 and 1994, the WWF World Tag Team Titles changed hands numerous times, but not once on Pay-per-View, despite title defences occurring on PPV during that period. How crazy is that? I mention that King Of The Ring 1993 because this eight-man tag bout (which marked the first PPV for Billy Gunn and Bart Gunn) felt like pure filler, and that’s how it played out, despite some entertaining spots. Billy got the pinfall win, but The Steiners would benefit in the short-term as they dethroned Money Inc. shortly thereafter to become WWF Tag Team Champions. See what I mean? Why not have the title change take place here to make KOTR seem like an even bigger deal, rather than a fun yet pointless eight-man bout. It’s bizarre, but it just goes to show how times have changed.

WWF Intercontinental Championship Match
Shawn Michaels (C) vs. Crush

At least they had the sense to let Shawn Michaels defend his IC crown here against Crush, although I guess the same mindset from the previous situation applied as Shawn had just recently dethroned Marty Jannetty to regain the belt on a house show rather than on PPV. That was the moment where Diesel first appeared at Michaels’ side, and it was at this show where Shawn officially gave Kevin Nash the stage name that would make him a star. Crush, meanwhile, was struggling to maintain any real momentum as the Hawaiian babyface that liked to, erm, crush things. This was one of his better showings, though that is to be expected when Michaels is standing on the other side of the ring. In the end, Crush was distracted by not one but two Doinks, this time walking down the aisle side-by-side in a funny yet creepy bit. That allowed Michaels to hit a superkick (which actually caught Crush in the back of the head in a twist that Shawn would never really implement going forward) to retain the belt. Crush had been outsmarted by Doink(s) again, and he never really got his retribution on the evil clown(s).

King Of The Ring Tournament Final Match
Bret Hart vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

After defeating Razor and Perfect, and after giving Hogan a real-life tongue-lashing backstage, Hart took to the ring one more time to face Bam Bam, who was relatively fresh, having only competed once against Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Like Hogan vs. Yoko, this followed the formula of working to topple the big, mean giant heel, but unlike that match, Hart had the skills to make this encounter dramatic and unpredictable, especially since it appeared that Hart had lost. Indeed, a spent Bret was left laying, which allowed Luna Vachon to hit a chairshot, setting up Bam Bam to pin Bret to win the tournament. Only, a second referee came down and called for VAR … okay, he instead simply told the first official what had happened, and the match continued (this is one of those only-in-wrestling tropes, as most of the time outside interference is overlooked, but it isn’t when a match layout or a storyline calls for it). Bret used this to slowly build himself up and to go off the adrenaline to make a big comeback, and he eventually managed to turn Bigelow into a victory roll to win the match and the tournament. Hart was the King, and it was his third awesome match of the night (though the match with Perfect was definitely his best of the evening). But remember when I said about Bret’s fingers being damaged against Ramon? That was the reason why Bret didn’t win any of his bouts with, nor did he then attempt from that point on, the Sharpshooter all night. That’s right, Bret had three great matches and won each one, all without relying on his finishing move. How many wrestlers do you know who are capable of pulling that off, especially in the modern era where guys and girls kick out of finishers on house shows?

Post-match, Bret was presented with his King Of The Ring 1993 crown, his robe and his sceptre by Mean Gene Okerlund (who would soon depart for WCW, making this his final WWF PPV appearance until WrestleMania X-Seven in 2001). But before Bret could truly celebrate, though, Jerry Lawler showed up. He had debuted for the WWF in December 1992, but this was the first time that he properly got into a scrape with somebody. And this made sense, because the King Of The Ring winner was being confronted by The King, who suggested that he was the true royalty. Bret responded by calling him the “Burger King”, which got big laughs, and he started off a “Burger King!” chant that was playground-level humour, but which admittedly followed Lawler around for years. Jerry responded by attacking Bret with the royal props, and Bret suggested that Lawler dropped the throne a little too hard onto his sternum in the process. So, an eventful night for Bret culminated with him having engineered one real-life feud with Hogan and having entered into another on-screen rivalry with Lawler.

Despite the way that he was left laying, then, King Of The Ring 1993 belonged to Bret Hart, and at this point, it was impossible to deny that he was the most popular WWF competitor by a mile. Vince McMahon either didn’t see that or chose to ignore it, though, because the next PPV would see Lex Luger in the midst of a major push that had Vince essentially screaming “please like this man!” Nevertheless, Bret would eventually be back on top, but even he still looks back on this night, coming at a turbulent time for him professionally, as one of his finest. Thanks to The Hitman, then, WWF King Of The Ring 1993 is a highly entertaining trip down memory lane.