On This Day, July 8, 1985, WWF debuted the King of the Ring tournament. Today, join us as we discuss the first-ever King of the Ring tournament and its winner to highlight this momentous occasion.
The first-ever King of the Ring winner was an already established star. Before winning the tournament, Don Muraco was a two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion and had a short, high-profile feud with the company’s top star – Hulk Hogan. With three of their matches headlining Madison Square Garden that year, there is no doubt that Muraco was made for championship stardom. However, we argue that Muraco will always be remembered as the one to dawn the King of the Ring crown for the first time.
The tournament has always had a very prestigious field of competitors. This trend started in the very beginning. Muraco knocked off a former Champion – Pedro Morales – in the semifinals. Before that, he defeated WWE Hall of Famer Junkyard Dog. That was followed by a pinfall victory over Les Thornton. Muraco would then meet The Iron Sheik in the finals, where he would score another pinfall. There were other great matches outside of Muraco’s journey to keep note of as well (such as Tito Santana vs. Terry Funk, Ricky Steamboat vs. Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and Paul Orndorff vs. Bob Orton Jr). However, there could only be one true winner, and that was Don “The Rock” Muraco.
Nowadays, we expect the King of the Ring to go on and do great things. At the very least, we hope to see them win the world championship. However, that didn’t exactly happen for Muraco. After winning the tournament, he spent much of the year engaged in a rivalry with Ricky Steamboat before turning heel and aligning himself with Adrian Adonis and Bob Orton. He was fired in 1988. His career had already peaked, and his remaining years in the company were somewhat underwhelming.
Despite Muraco’s popularity fizzling out, the King of the Ring tournament has opened the door for some incredible career-defining moments. Brock Lesner and Steve Austin are certainly the first two individuals that come to mind when pontificating on the career-defining victories in this tournament. Both performers were catapulted into stardom because of their victories. Lesnar crushed Rob Van Dam in the finals of the 2002 King of the Ring and later went on to defeat The Rock at SummerSlam and become the youngest WWE Champion in history.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeated Jake Roberts in the final of the 1996 King of the Ring and delivered one of the best promos of all time. The King of the Ring would evolve over the years. From being shown during house events to becoming its own pay-per-view, it has become one of the greatest honors in wrestling to win. There is no question that without it we would’ve never heard “Austin 3:16,” or we wouldn’t know the “Human Suplex Machine” the way we do today.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to Don Muraco and the rest of the competitors for making the first King of the Ring a success On This Day, July 8, 1985.
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