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Mat Matters: Picking the King of the Ring winner
By MATT BISHOP - SLAM! Wrestling


Alberto Del Rio asks how you could pick anyone else but him... Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

After running the show as an annual pay-per-view extravaganza from 1993-2002, WWE dusts off the "King of the Ring" tournament for only the third time since tonight when eight superstars compete for the crown previously won by such men as Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Steve Austin, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Edge and Booker T.

For many of the 17 winners, becoming "King of the Ring" set them up on a path to superstardom. Others, like Mabel and Billy Gunn, didn't quite pan out.

This year, four Raw wrestlers -- former WWE Champion Sheamus, Ezekiel Jackson, John Morrison and United States Champion Daniel Bryan -- and four Smackdown superstars -- Alberto del Rio, Kofi Kingston, Drew McIntyre and "Cody Rhodes -- will compete in a one-night tournament to determine the 2010 King of the Ring after qualifying on their respective shows last week.

On Monday Night Raw from Philadelphia, one man will be crowned king. Here is SLAM! Wrestling's preview of the tournament, which is a special three-hour edition of Raw beginning at 8 p.m. ET. We'll rank the contenders starting with the most likely to win to the least likely.

1. Alberto del Rio

Simply put, Del Rio is the choice to win this event. A rapidly-rising star on Smackdown, Del Rio seemingly is being groomed for superstardom in the near future. There's no better place to start than by winning King of the Ring. Remember, though, Del Rio cost Rey Mysterio his shot at being in the tournament on Smackdown on Friday and Mysterio could be out for some revenge here. Still, Del Rio's talent combined with the sneakiness of ace ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez should be enough for Del Rio to make the final at the very least. Of all the participants in this tournament, none of the real contenders would benefit from the "King" moniker like Del Rio.

Projected finish: Winner

2. Sheamus

It's no secret Triple H is returning at any moment. Of course, if you recall, Sheamus was the man to put Triple H out of action in April. Now, this could go one of two ways: Triple H makes his return and costs Sheamus his spot in the tournament or Sheamus wins and of course, you have the added "intrigue" of the "King of Kings" taking on WWE's newly-minted King of the Ring. Since many are predicting a Triple H return, I hope it doesn't happen in the finals as that would likely detract from the winner.

Projected finish: Loss in semifinals

3. Daniel Bryan

In a tournament short on top babyface talent, Daniel Bryan stands out as the man to get the job done in this tournament. If anybody were to be the benefactor of a Triple H attack on Sheamus, it likely would be the United States Champion. Bryan has been on quite a roll, beating the likes of new WWE Champion The Miz, Intercontinental Champion Dolph Ziggler and former World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger. As of late, Bryan has made Ted DiBiase his whipping boy. It finally seems WWE is turning the corner on Bryan as he has the best match on nearly every show he's on. A win over Sheamus or Del Rio would be a boost for Bryan, but I don't see WWE getting the same mileage out of the "King" designation with Bryan as they did with 2006 winner King Booker and 2008 winner William Regal. After Bryan, however, the list really falls off.

Projected finish: Loss in finals

4. Ezekiel Jackson

Well, he's big and he's winning a bunch of squash matches. That makes him a candidate here. Jackson certainly isn't the best technician in the ring, but he seems to be someone the company is getting behind. He's the No. 2 babyface contender in this tournament.

Projected finish: Loss in semifinals

5. Drew McIntyre

"The Chosen One" seems to have fallen out of favor. McIntyre went from a sure-fire pick to win "Money in the Bank" at WrestleMania and didn't. Then he was one of the favorites to win the Smackdown "Money in the Bank" briefcase at the July pay-per-view. McIntyre wasn't given the ball either time. With people like Del Rio and Sheamus ahead of him on the heel side of this tournament (not to mention they are way more over), McIntyre is a long shot here.

Projected finish: Loss in first round


He may not win King of the Ring, but John Morrison has the coolest entrance... Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
6. John Morrison

Morrison got a big win over Sheamus at Survivor Series and has been featured more prominently lately with his parkour techniques. Still, Morrison has mainly been treading water lately. His match should be exciting, but I don't see him making it further than one match.

Projected finish: Loss in first round

7. Kofi Kingston

Can you believe it was a little more than a year ago when Kingston destroyed Randy Orton to a huge response at Madison Square Garden and appear to be on the verge of breaking out? Of course, that didn't last long. Now Kingston's here at No. 7 on a list of eight. It boggles the mind.

Projected finish: Loss in first round

8. "Dashing" Cody Rhodes

It's a shame Rhodes isn't going to make it far in this tournament because out of everybody in this bottom four, he could 1) use it the most, and 2) deserves better. Rhodes has a very entertaining gimmick and has, to me, been a shining star on Smackdown as of late. On top of that, he's a good wrestler. Despite his brief run with the WWE Tag Team Championship with McIntyre, WWE really hasn't done anything with Rhodes that makes me think he has much of a chance here. He's only No. 8 on this list because of the heels here, and he does not stand much of a chance. Sad.

Projected finish: Loss in first round

So, now that we have that out of the way, let's project the field. As I write this, less than 24 hours before the event, WWE has not produced the matches yet. So here's how I see things shaking out.

Final
Alberto Del Rio d. Daniel Bryan
Semifinals
Alberto Del Rio d. Ezekiel Jackson
Daniel Bryan d. Sheamus
Quarterfinals
Alberto Del Rio d. John Morrison
Daniel Bryan d. Drew McIntyre
Ezekiel Jackson d. Cody Rhodes
Sheamus d. Kofi Kingston

WHAT YOU THINK
Who will win the King of the Ring tournament tonight?
Alberto Del Rio - 27%
Sheamus - 19%
John Morrison - 18%
Daniel Bryan - 13%
Ezekiel Jackson - 11%
Cody Rhodes - 5%
Drew McIntyre - 4%
Kofi Kingston - 3%
Hopefully these matches, especially the semifinals and the final, are given the amount of time they need to be significant. I'm not holding out much hope after no match in the 2008 King of the Ring that happened on Raw went more than seven minutes. With The Miz being the new WWE Champion and John Cena buying a front row ticket for the show, there likely will be a lot of time dedicated to those two endeavors. And in case you forgot, TLC is coming up in a few short weeks.

With these eight participants, we should be in for a good night of action. I wish there was something on the line here other than "oh, hey, you're the King." A title shot would be ideal. Right now, this rates barely above the Bragging Rights match (in which the winner gets a trophy. A TROPHY!) in terms of giving people reason to care. The good news, though, is you don't have to pay for this (unlike Bragging Rights), so it's a bit more forgivable. As far as three-hour Raw's go, this one has a concept and that always helps. Hopefully we get a good show.

RELATED LINKS

  • Previous Mat Matters Editorial columns

    Matt Bishop can be reached at bishop20@msu.edu. Please include your name and hometown. Click here to follow Matt on Twitter. Should be a good one!.