Reviewing anything to do the ‘sport’ of professional wrestling is always a challenge due to the very nature of the product itself, but that said I’m going to have a go with the new Best of King of the Ring DVD set and I promise I’ll try not to be too much of a ‘smart mark’ about it.
The King of the Ring is a championship title in WWE (formerly the WWF) that has been awarded on and off for the best part of 30 years on a semi-occasional basis following a “single elimination tournament” traditionally held all at the same event.
This DVD set mentions but glosses over the first run of the events as these went largely un-televised and this is the first disappointing thing about the collection. Some of the early winners include bone fide pro-wrestling legends like Harley Race, Randy Savage and Ted DiBiase and the chance to relive some of their matches would certainly have been welcome.
The DVD starts with the first pay-per-view version of the event in 1993 with the tournament final featuring another true legend, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart, going up against Bam Bam Bigelow in a reasonable match which plays with the psychology of the 3 matches in one night well and really sets up the title of King of the Ring as being something that genuinely matter (within the world of the WWF).
As such it’s a bit of a mixed affair that ends in a way that puts neither man over and makes neither look like a loser.
This format of tournament final and notable other match from the PPVs continues across the three discs and includes some great matches and some of the most notoriously brutal moments in WWF/E history.
Particular highlights Owen Hart winning the tournament, the now legendary “Austin 3:16” speech, Undertaker destroying Mankind in Hell In A Cell and Shane McMahon displaying ridiculous levels of dedication to his father’s company in a brutal ‘street fight’ with Kurt Angle.
While these highlights are great and most of the other matches included are at least worth watching (though the more recent one’s taken from Raw rather than the dedicated PPV seems a little quick when compared to the earlier ones), there are some bizarre omissions.
While their matches and WWF/E careers may not have been as stellar as the likes of Triple H, Steve Austin or the Hitman, it seems strange that Mabel and Billy Gunn’s tournament winning efforts are not included when Ken Shamrock’s is.
Also unfortunate is the lack of context around the finals. Sometimes the commentary tells us who the finalists went up against earlier but other times this is barely mentioned and a brief highlights package from the tournament before the finals would really have added that extra something to make this an excellent package (possibly on a par with the Rise and Fall of ECW which remains the best WWE DVD set to date).