The King of the Ring tournament has launched a number of stars from midcard stalwarts to main event talents, but the disastrous reign of Baron Corbin has gone down as one of the worst in WWE history.
While Baron Corbin will go down as a legend by the end of his WWE career, his run as King of The King has a lot to be desired and will be a stain on his career for as long as it goes on.
WWE pegged him as a future star
From the moment he signed with WWE in 2012, Baron Corbin has been pegged as a future star in the promotion. He was a project for the NXT system in it’s early days, having made a big splash outside of wrestling as both a football star (he played for the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL) and as a Golden Glove-winning boxer.
Did you know? – During his time with the Indianapolis Colts, Baron Corbin was roommates with current WWE commentator Pat McAfee!
He was signed to the NXT Performance centre as part of the first batch of future stars signed to the company. He was a key part of early NXT, alongside such stars as Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd among many others.
Signing to NXT allowed the future King Corbin the chance to flourish in a new environment, and he took that opportunity with both hands. He debuted as a dominant monster, going undefeated for months and finishing off his opponents in a matter of seconds, with his incredible “End of Days” finishing move that he uses to this day.
He didn’t spend long in NXT and was called up to the main roster after winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at Wrestlemania 32. This was the first step on the road to King of the Ring glory, but did not come without it’s bumps in the road.
Before he tasted the crown and sceptre once worn by Randy Savage, Owen Hart, Triple H and William Regal, Baron Corbin once suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats you can get in WWE – he failed to cash in his Money in the Bank contract, against Jinder Mahal of all people.
He has still yet to taste WWE Championship glory, but the King of the Ring crown would soon lay heavy on the head of Baron Corbin.
Baron Corbin wins King of the Ring
Baron Corbin was already high on the list of the ones to watch by WWE personnel. He was given a number of accolades on the run to winning King of the Ring, including being the Raw General Manager for an extended period of time and retiring WWE legend Kurt Angle. While the Angle match at Wrestlemania 35 was meant to be a huge deal for Corbin, fans rejected the match completely and it has been largely forgotten despite being such a huge potential moment.
It was the 2019 King of the Ring tournament where King Corbin was finally born. The tournament has often been used as a star making procedure, launching mid-carders like Owen Hart, William Regal and Sheamus into the main event and the WWE Championship picture.
While previous editions usually had some “easy matches” en route to the final (William Regal for instance defeated Hornswoggle in the first round of the 2008 edition), Baron Corbin beat some huge opponents to win the King of the Ring and wear the crown for himself.
He defeated The Miz, Cedric Alexander, Samoa Joe, Ricochet and Chad Gable in 5 massive matches, rivalling any previous King of the Ring tournament in WWE for both how star studded it was and the quality of matches. His final match against Chad Gable is regarded as one of Baron Corbin’s best ever matches and utilised the incredible “End of Days” counter first seen during their match in NXT together.
After winning the tournament, he began to change everything about his character. Now going by the name King Corbin, he began dressing like a king from “Game of Thrones”, with a fur cape in addition to the cap and sceptre usually worn by previous Kings of the Ring.
Soon after his victory, he was placed at the top of the card and pushed into the main event. Now part of WWE royalty, King Corbin faced another top WWE superstar in Roman Reigns, who was in the midst of his awful run as a face that was thoroughly rejected by all.
While the fans were sick of WWE pushing Reigns down the people’s throats, their apathy toward Corbin made this feud quite the dud. The fans couldn’t decide who they wanted to win, with nobody really caring that at all, a death knell for any main event feud.
The rivalry lasted an eye-water 5 months, and spanned multiple pay per view matches and countless appearances on TV together. King Corbin, despite his new royal gimmick, gained nothing from the feud and slotted right back into place in the mid-card. All momentum gained from his tournament win had dissipated into nothing and he was no better off than before his King of the Ring win.
Shinsuke Nakamura takes the crown
WWE thankfully decided to take the crown from King Corbin, but not soon after that fans weren’t already sick to death of his tired, old royal schtick. He joined the ranks of previous failed King gimmicks, and was in good company alongside the likes of King Mabel, King Barrett and King Billy Gunn.
WWE finally accepted that Corbin was doing nothing with the King gimmick, and had him lose the title to another wrestler. It is one of the most embarrassing and emasculating things to happen in WWE, as it shows that you could not make the gimmick work and that the boss Vince McMahon had lost faith in your ability.
WWE made a fine decision when they chose Japanese star Shinsuke Nakamura as the new King of the Ring. The gimmick fit perfectly for the man already christened “The King of Strong Style” due to his hard hitting style forged in the dojos of New Japan Pro Wrestling. Nakamura even wore Royal garb, including a crown and a cape, during some huge entrances at NJPW’s version of Wrestlemania, “Wrestle Kingdom”.
The pair feuded over the crown, with Nakamura intent on being the new King in WWE. The feud ended when the King of Strong Style defeated Baron Corbin on Smackdown to stop the reign and King Corbin and usher in the reign of King Nakamura.
The move was a huge one for Nakamura, who like Corbin had failed to win the WWE Championship in huge matches, both against AJ Styles and Jinder Mahal. He finally achieved solid success in WWE, although this change survey marked the end for King Corbin’s stay in the main event of WWE.
Future for King Corbin?
The stay for Baron Corbin in the main event scene looks to be over after his loss of the King of the Ring title. He has always been a good hand in the mid card and is a solid superstar to hold the United States or Tag Team Championship, but wrestling in the main event of a pay per view is a step too far for the Lone Wolf.
The future of King Corbin is simply to forget about it ever happening. Baron Corbin can make a host of gimmicks work and can draw heat like few others in WWE. He has an innate ability to make the fans dislike him and want to see him lose, which is something that most wrestlers lack and will never be able to learn.
His future lies wrestling the likes of Finn Balor, Sami Zayn or, at a push, Drew McIntyre. This is not a bad thing at all, and with a nearly 10 year career in WWE he has had a better career than 99% of WWE wrestlers.
Baron Corbin has earned a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame one day. Not as a headline act, but he will be honoured one day by his peers by a man who managed to make the fans hate him, non-stop, for close to a decade.
Baron Corbin has earned a chance to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame – an accolade fit for a King.
Was he the worst ever King of the Ring?
Baron Corbin was not the worst King of the Ring ever. His reign was forgettable, but he ended up exactly where he was before the victory when it was all said and done.
Billy Gunn looked like an absolute fool after he won the crown, being eviscerated by The Rock and sent right back to the tag team division. Mabel made a mockery of the crown when he won in the 1990s, even making the Undertaker wear a mask due to breaking his skull with a botch in their match.
Bad News Barrett was the worst King of the Ring winner. He left a popular gimmick, giving the fans bad news weekly to huge pops, for a generic King gimmick that nobody wanted and nobody responded to. Baron Corbin as King of Ring was forgettable but did not actively ruin his career, which has to be seen as a positive in this case.
Baron Corbin is not the worst King of the Ring, but he did come close.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.