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Throwback Thursday – 1993 King of the Ring

The first-ever pay per view King of the Ring winner was none other than Bret “Hitman” Hart, when he won the 1993 tournament by beating Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow (Bret’s busy night also included telling off Hulk Hogan in a much-publicized backstage altercation during the event). During the coronation ceremony, however, Bret was confronted and then attacked by Jerry “The King” Lawler, who claimed to be the only King of the World Wrestling Federation. This incident, followed by several weeks of Lawler’s verbal assaults on members of the Hart family set the stage for a showdown at the 1993 edition of Summerslam.

At the time, the title of King of the Ring was almost treated with the same notoriety as the existing championships, as Bobby “The Brain” Heenan reminded us during the opening segment of the show when he corrected Vince McMahon by adding there were not three but four very prestigious championship matches that night. The title of who the REAL King of the World Wrestling Federation was would be decided in a winner-take-all match between Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart – and Doink?…

Call me crazy, but I thought this was great stuff. With brothers Owen and Bruce sitting in row one, Bret is the first to make his way to the ring, which was your first indication something strange was going on as this was a time when it was much more common to see the champion make their entrance second. Sure enough, Lawler then comes through the curtain on crutches with his left knee heavily bandaged where he’s met by Todd Pettengill who wants an explanation. Lawler then takes us through one hell of a promo/sob story of an apparent car accident on the way to the building that afternoon involving a lemon of a rental car “made here in Detroit, the Motor City” (he doesn’t miss the opportunity to take a shot at the Auburn Hills crowd). He continues, “a little old blue-haired lady, who should’ve had her license revoked about 50 years ago, pulled out in front of me, and she caused about a 10 car pileup.” In one of the most overlooked yet hilarious comments of his announcing career, Bobby Heenan adds, “must’ve been Helen Hart.” Spectacular. Lawler then announces he is in no condition to wrestle, and then introduces a replacement – his “self-appointed court jester” Doink the Clown.

As you may recall, this early incarnation of this character was that of an evil, sadistic SOB played by the late Matt Borne, who was quite an accomplished wrestler in his own right and is perhaps best known for his days in Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling promotion in the 1980s. Bret and Doink have a pretty solid match (how can you not love a match which utilizes a submission hold called the Stump Puller) until things after Bret applies the Sharpshooter looking for the victory. With Bret’s back turned, Jerry Lawler sneaks into the ring, revealing he was faking his injuries all along, and hits Bret in the back of the head with one of the stiffest looking shots with a foreign object you will ever see, as he quite literally wraps one of his crutches around Bret’s head. Watch it back. I don’t care if that crutch was gimmicked or not. Bret would later write in his book that he was absolutely livid with Lawler for this, and spent the rest of the night returning the favor. Owen and Bruce jump the guardrail to help their brother but are stopped by security.

As Lawler helps Doink to the back, WWF President Jack Tunney comes through the curtain (this was a big deal back in the day) and demands that Lawler gets back into the ring to face Bret as originally scheduled or he will face a lifetime ban from the federation. What ensues is incredibly violent by 1993 standards, which includes the aforementioned “receipt” when Bret wraps the other crutch around the skull of The King. An interesting coincidence here is the referee is actually Bill Alfonso, who you may remember from his days in ECW in the mid to late 1990s.

The two Superstars do an incredible job of making their hatred for one another seem legitimate, and maybe they actually did hate each other that night after the plethora of potatoes (that’s insider talk for legitimate shots for you lesser nerds). The chaos continues when Bret cinches in his patented Sharpshooter, finally submitting Lawler and retaining his title as the King of the World Wrestling Federation. Or not…

Instead of releasing the hold, Bret decides he’s going to punish Lawler just a little bit longer – for a total of 3 and a half minutes to be exact, but who’s counting? Something I really enjoyed about the way this was done was the realism. It looked so real that it made my little brother cry like a baby when we rented the tape later that year (shoutout to Coliseum Video). Several referees and agents in suits rush out of the back to get Bret off of Lawler, but to no avail. “Use physical force, dammit!” screams Bobby Heenan at ringside. It isn’t until Owen and Bruce get into the ring does Bret finally let Lawler free. And just when it seems like the pandemonium is over, Howard Finkel announces that the referee has reversed his decision due to Bret’s disobedience and was now awarding the bout to Jerry Lawler. If you didn’t know any better you’d think you were watching Slap Shot as this sets off yet another brawl, with Bret again attacking The King – even Owen and Bruce take turns jumping on top of Lawler as he’s wheeled away on a stretcher.

Unfortunately, the Lawler/Hart feud is soon put on hold due to certain legal issues which arose for Lawler shortly afterward which we won’t get in to. But this particular match is just a classic example of how the King of the Ring title used to be used to further feuds and storylines because it actually meant something. And if you haven’t seen this match in a while and feel like watching a great brawl, which really was ahead of its time in terms of physicality and violence, I highly recommend checking it out.

Now if you excuse me, I have to go find the owner of the vehicle blocking my driveway. Must’ve been Helen Hart…