A lot of fans might not know this, but the King of the Ring tournament dates back to the '80s. It wasn't aired on television or pay-per-view back then, yet featured great winners like Randy Savage and Harley Race. It became an official pay-per-view in 1993 and ran until 2002. Since then, it has run every few years on Raw and Smackdown.
A lot of these tournaments are far from memorable, but every once in a while they produce something great. Some of those matches were truly special and this will be a list of the 10 best. They can be from any year of the tournament and take place in any round, as long as they were good.
10 Ali vs. Buddy Murphy - 2019
The 2019 King of the Ring Tournament came from out of nowhere and delivered quality matches up and down. The first-round meeting between Ali and Buddy Murphy was an exciting one. The two had classic battles during their time on 205 Live, so fans knew they were going to see something special.
The King of the Ring outing wasn't on par with their best work together, but it was still a hell of a contest. Both were favorites to win the whole thing, so the drama and tension were high. Considering Murphy was fresh off of a win over Daniel Bryan, Ali beating him came across as a surprise to many.
9 Baron Corbin vs. Cedric Alexander - 2019
For most of 2018, fans were fed up with Baron Corbin. He was the focal point of Raw almost every week and those episodes ran for three hours each. That's a lot of one guy. Recently, the amount of Corbin on our televisions has been dialed back. He returned in time for the King of the Ring tournament and put on a string of strong matches.
On the flip side, Cedric Alexander was hot off of a feud with Drew McIntyre and looking to establish himself as a force on the main roster. He and Corbin went toe to toe in a grueling match that showcased the skills of both competitors. Corbin hit an impressive End of Days to advance.
8 Baron Corbin vs. Chad Gable - 2019
Yes, we're still in the 2019 tournament. That's how good it was. When the brackets were revealed, almost nobody predicted that this would be the finals. Baron Corbin against a guy who was mostly known for being a tag team wrestler. Chad Gable scored upsets over the likes of Andrade and Shane McMahon to get to this spot.
Gable and Corbin stole the show on a great episode of Raw with a hell of a battle. They had a callback to an especially impressive sequence during their time together in NXT. The crowd didn't seem to care much about Gable to start, but he rallied them behind him as things progressed. Corbin ultimately won to cap one of the best King of the Ring runs in history.
7 Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Bret Hart - 1993
The inaugural King of the Ring pay-per-view remains one of, if not the best, in history. You might as well call it the Bret Hart Show. He competed in three matches on the evening, with the final being against the monstrous Bam Bam Bigelow. To make matters worse, Bigelow was fresh because of a bye in the tournament.
Hart and Bigelow put on the classic David vs. Goliath story. Bigelow battered Hart and threw everything at him. The resilient Canadian refused to give up and rallied against his much larger opponent. Hart scored with a victory roll to win the tournament. Performances like this helped solidify that Bret was a main event level star to stay.
6 Drew McIntyre vs. Ricochet - 2019
Once again we return to 2019. This first round clash proved to be the best outing from a tournament filled with them. Drew McIntyre and Ricochet are kind of perfect opponents for each other. McIntyre loves to toss around smaller wrestlers, while Ricochet thrives in the underdog role.
This match didn't last all that long, coming in at under 15 minutes. However, they packed a ton of action into the bout and the pace never slowed. This was wall to wall action and it was competitive throughout. The fans were on the edge of their seats, as both men were considered favorites to make the finals. Alas, Ricochet came out on top in one of the biggest matches of his career.
5 Chris Benoit vs. Finlay - 2006
It's understandable why people don't want to talk about Chris Benoit anymore. He did some truly awful things. For the sake of this list though, we'll remember the stellar match he had during the 2006 King of the Ring tournament, which ran for several weeks on Smackdown.
Benoit and Finlay were no strangers to each other. Each time they squared off you were guaranteed a fight. Two tough dudes just going out and beating the stuffing out of one another. This opening round match took 21 minutes before Finlay scored an upset in what many consider to be a hidden gem.
4 Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam - 2002
Consider this another hidden gem. 2002 marked the final appearance for the King of the Ring as its own pay-per-view. That show opened with a tournament bout pitting Chris Jericho against Rob Van Dam. They had only previously met once on pay-per-view (another underrated classic at Unforgiven 2001) and both men were coming off great runs.
Jericho was Undisputed Champion a few months prior and RVD came in as the Intercontinental Champion. They went at it like two top stars. The crowd was engaged throughout, unsure of who would advance and who would be sent home early in disappointing fashion. It would be Jericho, as RVD won and wound up making the finals.
3 Marc Mero vs. Steve Austin - 1996
In the eyes of a lot of fans, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was truly born at the 1996 King of the Ring. He defeated Jake Roberts to win the tournament and delivered his now-infamous "Austin 3:16" promo. It kicked off his run as a force to be reckoned with in WWE for years to come.
Before his showdown with Roberts, Austin had to get past the "Wildman" Marc Mero. On paper, these two don't sound like they'd put on a great match, but it turned out to be an intense battle. Things got so heated that Austin left the arena to get 16 stitches in his mouth after his victory.
2 1-2-3 Kid vs. Owen Hart - 1994
This match is such an anomaly. A lot of people are under the impression that a match needs to be lengthy to be great. That can certainly be the case, but Owen Hart and the 1-2-3 Kid proved that you can do something spectacular in a short amount of time. Their semi-final bout lasted just over three minutes.
Kid came in battered after taking a beating earlier in the night. He still gave it his all for the short runtime. These were two of the fastest guys in all of wrestling in 1994, so the pace was insane. There was so much packed into a few minutes. Some of the best wrestlers in the world could only dream of doing this much in 20 minutes. Owen won the match and eventually the tournament.
1 Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect - 1993
The classic Madison Square Garden Intercontinental Title match between these two at SummerSlam 1991 is more famous than their 1993 rematch. However, this one is arguably better. Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect both came in as crowd favorites. Before the bell, they got into a little spat during an interview when their fathers were brought up. It added heat to the match.
For about 18 minutes, Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect put on an astounding match for the Dayton, Ohio faithful. It was the definition of a wrestling clinic. There were too many counters and crisp exchanges to count. Hart won after a wild ride by playing possum and pulling Perfect into a small package. Some of the best pro wrestling you'll ever see.