WWF King Of The Ring 1994 Review feat. Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler

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WWF King Of The Ring 1994

WWF King Of The Ring 1994 came after the classic WrestleMania X and before the memorable SummerSlam 1994, so one would think that this might be a great event, right? Erm, not quite. A combination of a disappointing tournament, a poor main event and perhaps the worst announcer to sit behind the commentary desk ever made for a tough night for WWF fans.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Razor Ramon vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

Kicking us off, we had Razor Ramon – who also opened up KOTR 1993 against Bret Hart – squaring off against Bam Bam Bigelow, who had made the final of the previous tournament. Whereas Ramon was the first heel for the babyface to conquer in ’93, here Razor was the face and Bam Bam was the heel to take down. It helped that Razor had height and muscle on him to make it believable that he would slay The Beast From The East, even with the menacing Luna Vachon at ringside. Though Bigelow boasted a huge frame, a very intimidating appearance and the bragging right of main eventing the following year’s WrestleMania against Lawrence Taylor, he was very much the guy that would lose in the big matches. So, while this was only a quarter-final, it was no surprise that Bigelow lost here to Ramon in an enjoyable opener.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Irwin R. Schyster vs. Mabel

The show had started off decent, then, but next we come to the WWF’s most boring man, IRS. He was up against Mabel, who was a year off his unwanted KOTR 1995 tournament win. Here, he was still the biggest member of Men On A Mission, and he still had Oscar backing him up – and getting the crowd’s energy levels up – with his rapping skills. If only that same energy could have been channelled into the ring, because this was as dull as one would expect. IRS advanced, and by this point, Art Donovan was already outstaying his welcome with fellow commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Randy Savage. Donovan was an elderly ex-baseball player who was presumably there to deliver some one-liners and provide a “local celebrity” feeling, but instead, he was totally clueless about the action, and this was one of numerous times where he continuously wondered about the weight of one or more of the competitors. Things would only get worse from there.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Owen Hart vs. Tatanka

Now, we come to the star of the show, Owen Hart. Owen had turned heel on Bret at Royal Rumble and then pinned him at WrestleMania. To keep his momentum going, he vowed to follow in his older brother’s footsteps by winning King Of The Ring. His first opponent was Tatanka, and if you’ll recall, he had previously enjoyed a lengthy undefeated streak that lasted for well over a year. Unfortunately for the Native American, though, those days were behind him by this point, and so it meant that there could only be one logical choice for the winner. Therefore, Owen was able to cradle Tatanka for the pin to make it to the semi-finals. Tatanka was on a bit of a slide by this point, leading to his career taking a very different direction when he himself turned heel on Lex Luger two months later at SummerSlam.

King Of The Ring Tournament Quarter-Final Match
Jeff Jarrett vs. The 123-Kid

Our final quarter-final bout saw Double J square off against the wrestler who nurseries should have employed to teach young children to count, The 123-Kid. Having debuted on the WWF scene as the ultimate underdog in May 1993, Kid was now established as a popular competitor, albeit one who still retained an underdog status. As for Jarrett, he had arrived a few months earlier, but was still finding his feet as the aspiring country singer attempting to use wrestling as a platform to musical stardom. The two worked fairly well together, and Kid ended up getting the slightly surprising victory with a roll-up to make it to the semi-finals, and to set up a clash with Owen (incidentally, one of the downsides of KOTR is how you can sometimes tell who will advance depending on whether the winner’s next opponent will be a face or a heel). Double J attacked Kid afterwards, though, thus giving Mr. 123 an excuse if (or rather when) he lost to Owen later on. Kid would eventually exact full revenge when, as X-Pac, he shaved some of Jarrett’s hair off at SummerSlam 1998.

WWF Championship Match
Bret Hart (C) vs. Diesel

Diesel had seen his stock rise significantly in 1994 already, having made a big splash during the Rumble match and having captured the Intercontinental Title from Razor Ramon shortly after WrestleMania X. For reasons unknown, Shawn Michaels was not given this WWF Title shot, with Diesel instead getting the opportunity to challenge Bret Hart, in the latter’s first PPV defence of his second WWF Championship reign, one which solidified him as the face of the New Generation. This was the first of four PPV showdowns between these two (further rematches occurred at Royal Rumble 1995, Survivor Series 1995 and In Your House 6), but while it’s arguably the worst or second worst supershow bout that they had, it was by no means bad. In fact, it was very exciting, as Hart (who debuted a remixed theme tune here for what that’s worth) was a true master of in-ring psychology and was perfectly suited in chopping down the big villainous tree that was Diesel. As far as Kevin Nash is concerned, for a guy who had never had a truly major match and was still rough around the edges despite having been in the wrestling business for a few years by this point, he served his role well, meaning that this opportunity really benefitted him. He wasn’t to win the gold, mind you, though he didn’t lose the match either. Bret had called in a surprise return for Jim Neidhart to give him back-up, but when The Anvil chased Shawn Michaels around the ring, he ended up attacking Diesel too, giving the challenger a win by DQ. Though the booking made sense with regards to Neidhart, who we’ll come back to shortly, it didn’t make Bret look particularly strong (and with his title defence happening in the middle of the show as well), so he has a point when he has remarked that he was never truly booked as The Guy, despite the fans treating him as such from late 1992 through to 1997.

King Of The Ring Tournament Semi-Final Match
Razor Ramon vs. Irwin R. Schyster

It was back to the King Of The Ring 1994 tournament, and here we had a Royal Rumble rematch involving Razor, one year after he found himself in the same situation when he opposed Bret. IRS had almost won the IC crown from Ramon at the Rumble though Razor retained, so this was a chance for them to settle their, erm, feud once and for all. It wasn’t a great match (the words “IRS” and “great match” don’t mix very well together), but at least it served a purpose, and fans popped for Ramon when he pinned Irwin with the Razor’s Edge. Two down and one to go for Ramon, then, but who would his adversary be in the final match?

King Of The Ring Tournament Semi-Final Match
Owen Hart vs. The 123-Kid

Well, considering that Owen Hart came into King Of The Ring 1994 with a lot of momentum, and that Kid came into this particular match at far less than 100%, the result was inevitable. Nevertheless, considering this and the fact that the match lasted less than four minutes, it was very entertaining and arguably the highlight of the show. With ten or fifteen minutes, this could have been an absolute classic; as it was, it was still very good, and alongside Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33, it’s one of the best sub-five minute bouts that you will witness on a major stage. Indeed, they meshed very well together, before Owen scored the submission victory via the Sharpshooter. Kid would end up getting a WWF Title shot against Bret Hart a few weeks later on Raw, in what is remembered as one of the greatest television matches of the era.

WWF World Tag Team Championship Match
The Headshrinkers (C) vs. Yokozuna & Crush

How the mighty had fallen. Yokozuna, who had been WWF Champion for much of the past year and who had just lost the WrestleMania X main event after competing twice, and who had been the top heel in the territory so to speak, was now tagging with perennial mid-card villain Crush to face Samu and Fatu, who had recently captured Tag Team gold and turned babyface. This wasn’t as bad as some might have you believe, though it’s hardly a vital reason to sign up for the WWE Network to relive, either. The most notable thing here was not what happened, but how somebody reacted to an occurrence: Lex Luger showed up, waving the Stars and Stripes to much applause, but primarily to distract Hawaiian-turned-foreign-sympathiser Crush long enough for him to take the loss, allowing The Headshrinkers to retain. The reaction I was referring to, though, came from Art Donovan, who famously reacted to the appearance of Luger (who was one of the WWF’s top babyfaces at this point, remember) by saying “Who’s the fella with the American flag?” Unbelievable, as co-commentator Randy Savage might have said.

King Of The Ring Tournament Final Match
Razor Ramon vs. Owen Hart

It was now time to round off the KOTR tournament, with popular babyface Ramon squaring off against the talented yet whiny heel Owen. The two had a decent bout, but on another PPV with a proper build-up, they were capable of something special. As it was, this felt like them giving everything they had left, but little else. Crucially, Jim Neidhart ran down, but he turned heel by clotheslining Razor behind the referee’s back, giving Owen the chance to claim victory and to succeed at, well, succeeding Bret as the King Of The Ring 1994 winner. In a post-match speech, he cut a speech alongside The Anvil where he proclaimed himself to be “The King Of Harts” in a nickname that would stick for the rest of his career. Ramon never did get revenge on Owen or Neidhart, while the dastardly duo would now jointly declare war on Bret, leading to a classic Steel Cage clash between Bret and Owen at SummerSlam. In terms of the tournament as a whole, then, there were some bright spots, but it could have been better, and it was inferior to the 1993 version (though it was still superior to what would come in 1995).

Rowdy Roddy Piper vs. Jerry Lawler

Oh, boy. King Of The Ring 1994 would mark Piper’s first televised WWF match since WrestleMania VIII, and since the show was King Of The Ring, why wouldn’t he face Jerry “The King” Lawler? Unfortunately, the promos to hype up this seemingly thrown-together contest were spirited yet occasionally nonsensical (the latter pertaining more so to Piper), and though Lawler introduced a heelish Piper impersonator, “the kid” appeared at Roddy’s side for the bout. Hot Rod had bagpipe players, erm, playing him to the ring, making for a slightly memorable entrance, and Piper even reeled off the “I came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum” line from his movie They Live (this was 1994 kid-friendly WWF, so him saying “ass” was a minor shock. Then, to quote Bruce Prichard, the bell rang. What followed was a slow, boring match where the big offensive moves looked like they wouldn’t hurt a fly, and not even the novelty of Piper returning could overcome the fact that, as a match – never mind as a main event – this stunk the joint out, and left the Baltimore, Maryland crowd hoping for a quick conclusion. Ultimately, it took more than 12 minutes of people’s lives up, before Piper finally pinned Lawler to win with a ballsed-up back suplex cover. I love Roddy, and Lawler can be a hoot to me, but this was painful to watch. People knock the clash of The Undertakers at the next PPV event SummerSlam, but that was more plodding than terrible, whereas this just misfired on every level imaginable. Why it headlined the show is beyond me.

As it turned out, this show would still be far better than the KOTR extravaganza from the following year, which was truly diabolical. That aside, though, WWF King Of The Ring 1994 was still a disappointing supercard presentation, between the DQ ending to the WWF Title match, the slightly underwhelming tournament, the awful main event and Art Donovan managing to make Mike Adamle look like a first-class commentator. Still, it’s not all bad, and even the terrible stuff can be laughed at, making this something of a darkly comical show to look back upon more than anything.