The Main Event:
The King Of The Ring pay-per-view event was a long running WWE tradition that ran from 1985 (technically it actually started as a non-pay-pre-view event, it went ppv in 1993) through 2002 and was then later brought back a few years later. Throughout the history of the event, it has served as a showcase for the best of the best, a tournament of champions type bout that carried with it all of the prestige that the WWE had to offer. An elimination style event, fans would eagerly watch each special with baited breath to see who would knock out who and make it all the way through to become the king of professional wrestling and there was always a lot of build up and excitement before hand to really get fans pumped up. Rather than produce a documentary on this long running event (which probably would have been more interesting), the WWE have instead opted to release this three disc se that serves as basically a highlight reel, compiling some of the more memorable matches that took place from 1992 through to 2010. Sadly, for a lot of fans, this set doesn't even touch the eighties era matches - and that's a shame as some of those were the most fun.
At any rate, with that out of the way it becomes painfully obvious that this set is neither perfect nor comprehensive - but is it worth picking up? A lot of that will depend on how big your wrestling DVD library is, because as long time fans will notice, many of these matches have been released on DVD before on other sets. Let's take a look at what's included and how it's spread out, chronologically, throughout the three discs that make up The Best Of King Of The Ring.
The Noble Scroll
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Bret `Hit Man' Hart Versus Bam Bam Bigelow, King Of The Ring June 13, 1993
Kings and Champions
WWE Championship Match: Hulk Hogan Versus Yokozuna, King Of The Ring June 13, 1993
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Owen Hart Versus Razor Ramon, King Of The Ring June 19, 1994
A True King
Kiss My Foot Match: Bret `Hit Man' Hart Versus Jerry "The King" Lawler, King Of The Ring June 25, 1995
Intercontinental Championship Match: Goldust Versus Ahmed Johnson, King Of The Ring June 23, 1996
New Breed of Royalty
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Stone Cold Steve Austin Versus Jake "The Snake" Roberts, King Of The Ring June 23, 1996
There's not a bad match on this first disc at all, each one is a winner. The Goldust/Ahmed Johnson bout isn't as solid as the others but even it is still worth watching and plenty entertaining, as ridiculous as Goldust seemed then (and still does today). It'll surprise no one to learn that the Bret and Owen Hart matches stand out, both men here in their prime, and the Austin versus Roberts battle that closes out the disc is fantastic from start to finish. There really should have been some eighties matches here though. No Macho Man? No Harley Race? No King Kong Bundy or Don Morroco?Those are pretty big omissions.
Mark of Distinction
WWE Championship Match: Shawn Michaels Versus British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, King Of The Ring June 23, 1996
Stone Cold Steve Austin Versus Shawn Michaels, King Of The Ring June 8, 1997
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Triple H Versus Mankind, King Of The Ring June 8, 1997
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Ken Shamrock Versus The Rock, King Of The Ring June 28, 1998
A Night in Hell
Hell In A Cell Match: Undertaker Versus Mankind, King Of The Ring June 28, 1998
This disc closes out the second half of the nineties rather well, with some focus on Shawn Micheals and his involvement with the event and two great matches with Mankind. It's great to see Mick Foley get some love on this disc, as both his matches are highlight. His bout with Triple H is brutal and his match with the Undertaker is, in this writer's opinion, the best one on the entire set and a stand out match in the career of both of those two storied champions. It's also nice to see The Rock show up here, as it serves as a reminder of just how much fun the WWE was when he was involved and at the top of his game.
WWE Championship Match: Undertaker Versus The Rock, King Of The Ring June 27, 1999
6 Man Tag Match for the WWE Championship: Triple H, Mr. McMahon And Shane McMahon Versus The Rock, Undertaker And Kane, King Of The Ring June 25, 2000
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Rikishi Versus Kurt Angle, King Of The Ring June 25, 2000
Light Heavyweight Championship Match: Jeff Hardy Versus X-Pac, King Of The Ring June 24, 2001
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Edge Versus Kurt Angle, King Of The Ring June 24, 2001
Street Fight : Shane McMahon Versus Kurt Angle, King Of The Ring June 24, 2001
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Rob Van Dam Versus Brock Lesnar, King Of The Ring June 23, 2002
Hulk Hogan Versus Kurt Angle, King Of The Ring June 23, 2002
King Of The Ring Finals Match: Bobby Lashley Versus Booker T, Judgment Day May 21, 2006
All Hail King Booker!
King Of The Ring Finals Match: CM Punk Versus William Regal, Monday Night Raw April 21, 2008
King Of The Ring Finals Match: John Morrison Versus Sheamus, Monday Night Raw November 29, 2010
Maybe not so surprisingly, this third disc, which covers the 2000s, seems to be the most comprehensive. Again, we get to see The Rock in action here and the six man tag team match is never short of consistently exciting from start to finish. The later matches, however, don't quite hold the same appeal as the earlier ones do. There's plenty of skill on display but the event doesn't seem to hold quite the same amount of prestige and importance as it does in the earlier fights so while the final fight with Morrison and Sheamus is a great example of a top notch modern day WWE match, it doesn't seem to be quite as fun.
Again, it would have been nice to see the WWE do one of their retrospective documentaries to cover this event. That didn't happen and what we got was a decent, though far from definitive, collection of matches, a lot of which we've seen before and a few of which we have not. Booker T does play host, introducing some of the matches and providing some historical context for what we watch, but it leaves us wrestling history buffs wanting more. Some probably won't bother with this as it is fairly repetitive, but for wrestling fans, this set does manage to offer up a great selection of related fights spanning two decades worth of wrestling royalty.
The 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen presentation (which presents the fullframe material in 1.78.1 with purple curtains on the left and right side to preserve the proper framing), though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. The material that was shot fullframe is presented that way, with mattes on the sides, so there are no issues with stretching the footage, thankfully. There are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked. Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better.
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here.
Aside from menus and match selection, there are no extras on this set - unless you count a few promo spots for other WWE releases that play before the menus load.
There are some great matches here but so too are there a lot of repeats that could have been omitted and replaced with maybe some more obscure unreleased footage. That complaint aside, this is, overall, a pretty great set featuring some of the top talent wrestling has ever had to offer, most in their prime here. The extras aren't all that exciting but the audio and video are fine and The Best Of King Of The Ring comes recommended for wrestling fans, despite the fact that it's far from comprehensive.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.