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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, June 23, 2000

The Angle on King Of The Ring

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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Time to dig out the old brain. With the WWF's King of the Ring pay-per-view just around the corner, it's gonna take more than a little bit of brain power to determine the winner. I confess that I'm already banking on Kurt Angle to take home the crown, but that's a combination hunch, wish, and suspicion. What really separates the men from the boys is the ability to rationally play out the whole tournament and still come to the right conclusion.

Without further ado, here's my King of the Ring tournament reasoning.

Actually, some further ado first. I'll still be submitting predictions as normal, of course, but I want to expand on the actual tourney here. I can give more detail and background in a column than I can in my predictions alone, and this pay-per-view is special (to me) so I wanted to cover it here. If you've got an office pool going, as I do, feel free to steal my picks, though in all likelihood I'll be wrong. Read my picks, then write in with yours, and we'll see who gets closer.

A quick note before I start: the WWF is prone to fudging stuff to suit their last-minute needs, and that may include shuffling around all the brackets. The brackets I have here are the ones that started the tourney originally, progressed through two rounds. If they shift things up right before the pay-per-view, or even in their edited version of Smackdown! on Thursday, then they may be out of date. This column gets written early Thursday, and I've read the spoilers but haven't seen the show - some stuff has already changed, for instance Rikishi winning Chris Benoit's belt. Who knows what else will be added between now and Friday morning!

First, the brackets as I know them to be:

- Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho
- Crash Holly vs. Bull Buchanon

- Rikishi vs. Chris Benoit
- Val Venis vs. Eddy Guerrero

Though everything leading up to this point has been predictable at best -- even if no one's complaining about the in-ring action so far, these match-ups look to be anything but predictable.

Match one: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho

This one, on face value, may be the single toughest to call of them all. Both men have victories on each other, and neither man proved to be the superior force in most of their encounters. Fine, maybe Jericho usually scores the win if it's clean, but it rarely is, and there's no reason to believe it will be here, either. I've still got to say, I don't think Chris Jericho's heart is in this one. He doesn't seem to have his sights focused on the King crown, and with two title shots under his belt in the past two months anyway, he probably doesn't want another slice of Triple H pie the way everyone else may.

Winner: Angle

Match two: Crash Holly vs. Bull Buchanan

What's that, gone to get snacks? Actually, I think we might be pleasantly surprised by this match-up. Crash is a funny little guy, granted, but he's also a terrific wrestler when he wants to be (or when Vince wants him to be). The WWF is serious about pushing Bull, so this may be used as a way of getting him off the ground. A good, significant match on pay-per-view might open people's eyes to Bull, and WWFE seems to be dead-set on that goal, so that's what I expect from these two. Bull's push also dictates a win here, I think.

Winner: Bull

Match three: Rikishi vs. Chris Benoit

Another tough one, for reasons similar to the first match between Angle and Jericho. Both of these men could be favourites to win the whole tournament in any other year, but this year one of them will be eliminated in the first round at the pay-per-view. Rikishi has the size, but Benoit has the wrestling skill, the hunger, and brute force necessary to take him down. At this point, I think picking just about any opponent over Benoit is a scary thought. On the other hand, Val Venis is fighting in the bracket below this one, and I think we all know what could happen if he and Rikishi got it on in the semi-finals. Very tough call. I'm going to rely on consistency here, and recall King of the Ring 1998. The semi-finals came down to Rocky Maivia vs. Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock vs. Jeff Jarrett. Many people though Ken Shamrock would win it, and since Dan Severn was his nemesis, that that would be the final bout. Ken Shamrock did win, but he fought The Rock instead, an opponent he'd grappled with many times before. I think the WWF likes to tease these combinations and not deliver on them, so I have to go with Benoit here.

Plus, who's more likely to stay fresh after one or two matches in a night?

Winner: Benoit

Match four: Val Venis vs. Eddie Guerrero

Given the logic that Val Venis won't advance and face Rikishi, we can almost dismiss any chance he has to advance at all. Eddie Guerrero versus Chris Benoit almost falls into that same category of teased-but-probably-not-delivered King contests, because that would be an interesting and fitting match-up, what with the recent break-up of the Radicalz. I presume Chyna will be a factor here, but the question is for whom? My gut tells me, again, that Eddie Guerrero is the better athlete, with better endurance, and that he'll last longer.

Winner: Guerrero

With that, our second round brackets:

- Kurt Angle vs. Bull Buchanan
- Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

How anyone could let it get to this is beyond me. With Rikishi, Chris Jericho, and others already eliminated (I presume), there's no way Bull Buchanan should still be in. A lot of the marquee match-ups are happening too early in this tournament, I think. Or maybe that's the point.

Regardless, here are the second round picks:

Match five: Kurt Angle vs. Bull Buchanan

What, are you kidding me? If Bull advances past this, he'll (a) have pulled off a major upset, (b) ruin the finals, and (c) prevent Kurt Angle from rightfully winning the crown. That's enough for me.

Winner: Angle

Match six: Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero

Normally, I'd also call this one a gimme. Eddie Guerrero is a great wrestler, but I question whether he's at that level. Or should I say, I would have questioned, except that he's just so over as Latino Heat. Though our poll certainly doesn't indicate it, I would have thought a few people would pick Heat to win the whole show. That's enough to make me doubt an easy Benoit win and have to think about this some more. Both men are over, in their own way. Both men would make suitable opponents for Angle, though Benoit has history with him. Eddie Guerrero has that Chyna sub-plot, which could play out either here or in the finals. I think the bottom line is, if Angle has to go through someone to win the King of the Ring, it should be someone significant. Chris Benoit can be a killer, and a final match between those two, displaying their respective endurance, would be fantastic.

Winner: Benoit (but not by much)

Match seven, thusly: Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit

As much as I may have been tooting Angle's horn the entire time up to now, I have to admit that this particular match-up is probably the most that makes me most doubt his chances. Chris Benoit is the one other guy I'd have picked for King of the Ring, and the only reason I haven't is that I don't really think a crown would suit him. He's more of a title kind of person. Problem is, after at least ten minutes of wrestling, maybe fifteen -- I assume -- and two matches under each of their belts, I don't see Angle being able to actually persevere here. Chris Benoit seems to get better as time goes by in his matches, and closer and closer to that devastating finishing move. With Angle all tired, and Benoit's adrenaline pumping, I don't know if the Olympic slam will be enough to put Benoit away. The question is, then, what will? Well, Angle is a former Olympic athlete, so I don't want to count him out just yet, but he is a heel so he's not going to just kick Benoit's butt. The two ways I'd have Angle down for winning are first, the less likely one, that Stephanie or someone related to her (I don't mean family) feels for him and lends him a hand, which would also set up a great feud for Angle's newly-won title match for later. Second, and more likely in my opinion, Angle will fight a hard match, come close to losing more than a few times, but persevere just enough to get his hands on Benoit's Intercontinental title and lay him out with it.

Winner: Angle (closest match of the night)

But that was a foregone conclusion, wasn't it.

Sure, there are flaws in my logic. The finals, it seems, are heel versus heel. Well, maybe Benoit will turn face in the fight, or possibly even Angle. One of them is bound to soon, anyway. Regardless, these are my picks and I look forward to watching the whole thing pan out. I love the King of the Ring for that very reason.

If you disagree with me, and with all the possibilities I imagine everyone does, send me your picks now, before the show, and we'll see if anyone's able to nail it next week.


The capital one !!, from, writes:
"Hi, am I the only person in Canada that thinks X-Pac is the least believable wrestler in the WWF?? His wrestling skills have much to be desired and a 190+ lb guy fighting all the heavyweights is getting real stale. The only reason I can see him staying with the WWF is he probably works cheap and helps set up and tear down the ring at shows. He is a midcarder at best. What do you think?"

I think X-Pac can be a great wrestler. For the last little while, though, he hasn't been. Maybe Vince McMahon has him working differently since he's fighting heavyweights now. Whatever the reason, it sucks. X-Pac also has neck and head injuries, I believe. That could be seriously reducing his mobility. Personally, I think hanging around Road Dogg is making him lazy. He's a mid-carder, and I hope he never goes beyond that if this is what we'll get. I doubt he works cheap, though.

Brook Compton, from, writes:
"Hi, I'm an American fan of this site and have a question for your mailbag. I am curious as to what exactly Shawn Michaels' status is as a pro wrestler? I know his last TV match was Wrestlemania 14, where he apparently aggravated a back injury, but beyond that I'm not sure. A response to this would be much appreciated. Thank you."

Shawn Michaels' last match was technically a title match in his Texas Wrestling Alliance federation. Apparently it wasn't too much of a match, but he did bump and everything so it counts. His last big league or nationally televised match was definitely his Wrestlemania XIV match against Steve Austin, where he lost the WWF title for the last time.

At that point, Michaels was already in horrible shape. Years of taking monster bumps had taken a serious toll on his body, and he suffered specific injuries in two matches against Undertaker in late 1997 (Hell in the Cell) and early 1998 (Casket match). He could barely wrestle, at that point, but stayed on to pass the torch, he says, as a favour to Vince McMahon and the WWF.

He's pretty much retired for sure. He's still under WWF contract, for now I believe, and appears on their television once in awhile, as he did leading up to and on their Judgment Day pay-per-view, refereeing the iron man main event. I hope that helps.

That's all for this week. Do yourself a favour and check out King of the Ring. Looks to be one of the greatest in recent memory. Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in. Have a great week!

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