A Return To Royalty: WWE’s King & Queen Of The Ring Tournaments

Introduced in 1985, The King of the Ring was a staple of WWE programming for over 15 years. The tournament and the event didn’t just deliver many iconic matches. It provided the opportunity for WWE to turn participants into generational Superstars.

The birth of “Austin 3:16”, Brett Hart’s back-to-back wins, Triple H’s vindication (albeit a year late), and many more incredible tournament matches were made possible by this event. After the 2002 edition of the tournament, the fan-favorite event was sunlit. However, after over 20 years, WWE will host its King & Queen of the Ring PLE in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. 

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From The Ashes, Royalty Returns

While the King of the Ring tournament did continue in various forms after 2002, it never quite recaptured the same magic. While the WWE Universe was treated to fun reigns from the likes of Booker T and William Regal, these were the exceptions rather than the rule. The reward for winning King of the Ring became nothing more than bragging rights, and over time, along with weaker barracks and underhyped tournaments, the King of the Ring theme lost its luster. 

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Things changed in 2021, with WWE bringing back the tournament and introducing the women’s version of the contest called “The Queens Crown.” The 2021 King of the Ring and Queens Crown finals would take place at that year’s Crown Jewel event; this marked the first time since 2006 that the tournament finals were held on a major PLE. While imperfect, this 2021 iteration was certainly a step in the right direction. 

During Night 2 of WrestleMania 40, WWE announced the long-awaited King & Queen of The Ring PLE date. WWE had originally planned for the event the previous year. However, the company ultimately decided to revive Night of Champions instead. 

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While the initial rounds would take place on Monday Night RAW and SmackDown, the Finals would culminate at the event’s namesake PLE. The first time WWE has done so since 2002. This is not just in any venue but inside the Jeddah Superdome, which instantly propels the importance of each tournament. 

2024 King & Queen Tournaments: 

The brackets also saw a massive upgrade in overall quality, consisting of a strong mix of young up-and-coming talent and established stars. This combination created a fun tournament, notably because of the tournament’s unpredictability. 

Fans saw multiple potential outcomes to the King & Queen of the Ring tournaments for the first time in years. Off the bat, Superstars Gunther, Tiffany Straton, LA Knight, Jade Cargill, Iyo Sky, and Carmelo Hayes were flagged by fans as tournament favorites.

Unfortunately, during the initial round of the tournament, several Superstars in both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments were replaced due to various medical reasons:

On May 23rd, WWE’s CCO Triple H announced that the winners of each tournament would receive a championship match. This again helps set this year’s tournament apart from others that came before it. 

Despite these changes and substitutions, each tournament’s  16 participants, all had their opportunities to shine, even if their time in the tournament was short-lived. While every match had its highlights, there were certainly several that stood out above the rest. 

1) Gunther vs Sheamus (Round 1) – This match was the first time these two had shared the same ring since WrestleMania 39, but as expected, their chemistry was incredible. The match was an intense and hard-hitting affair and even included an additional layer of story with The Celtic Warrior battling self-doubt. As expected, the bout was a certified BANGER. 

In the end, Gunther defeats Sheamus and, eventually, finds his way into the finals of the tournament. 

2) Ilja Dragunov vs Ricochet (Round 1) – Here, we found one of the many matches where the WWE Universe was sincerely unsure of what direction WWE would go in. Illja Dragunov had just been called up to the main roster and was coming fresh off a historic NXT Championship reign. However, Ricochet was the newly-crowded WWE Speed Champion and had just begun to gain momentum on his own. 

The high-flying style of Ricochet beautifully clashed with Dragunov’s stiff ground-and-pound approach. The Mad Dragon would emerge the victor, but the duo’s match certainly had everyone on Monday Night RAW talking. 

3) Bianca Belair vs Tiffany Stratton (Quarterfinals) – Following some social media controversy from earlier in the week, Tiffany Stratton looked to put the past behind her as she squared off against Bianca Belair on the May 17th edition of SmackDown. The two women are widely considered some of WWE’s most talented female stars, setting up for an interesting bout, to say the least.  

In the end, Belair’s raw power was too much for Stratton. However, the exciting match had the WWE Universe buzzing. “Tiffy Time” is truly getting closer and closer!

4) Iyo Sky vs Lyra Valkeryia (Semifinals) – Iyo Sky had just been WWE Women’s Champion going into WrestleMania 40, with the Genius of the Sky proving that she belonged in the main event seen as the face of Damage CTRL. It seemed only fitting that WWE would want to push her to the finals of the Queen of the Ring tournament, however she would find a major roadblock in recent NXT call-up, Lyra Valkeryia. 

Many WWE fans considered their match to be the best women’s match in the tournament, with the two giving it all they had. In the end, Valkeryia would secure the surprise win. Leaving Iyo Sky shocked that she allowed the NXT stand out to best her.

Fun fact: Lyra Valkeryia and Iyo Sky’s match time was a little under 20 minutes, more time than EVERY match in the 2021 Queen’s Crown tournament combined. 

 5) Jey Uso vs Ilja Dragunov (Quarterfinals) – This bout between Jey Uso and Ilja Dragunov certainly came with lively debate amongst the WWE Universe. It was one of several scenarios where fans were sincerely split on who should win. Truly a Yeet or No Yeet conundrum

Based on the tournament’s bracket layout, fans noted that there was an opportunity for WWE to have Dragunov clash with Gunther. The Mad Dragon’s sworn enemy since the days of NXT UK and a match that the WWE Universe has been begging to see on the main roster since the moment Dragunov arrived. 

However, no one could deny the unmatched wave of momentum that Jey Uso had been riding. Even in defeat by World Heavyweight Champion Damian Priest at WWE Backlash, fans only remained high on Main Event Jey Uso. 

Would WWE give Jey Uso a much-needed win following his setback in France? Or would they seize the opportunity to push Ilja Dragonuv? 

Ultimately, WWE decided to save a clash between The Mad Dragon and The Ring General for a bigger moment. Instead, giving Jey Uso one of the most impressive single wins in his entire career. The match was phenomenal, with the fans on the edge of their seats for every move and pinfall attempt. 

Our New King and Queen of the WWE Realm:

After two excellent matches at Saturday’s King & Queen of The
Ring, we now have our 2024 King and Queen of the Ring: Nia Jax and Gunther! 

In a true David vs Goliath match-up, finalists Lyra Valkyria and Nia Jax went one-on-one to decide who the 2nd Queen of the Ring in WWE history would be. The story of the match was what you would expect: Jax used her strength to brutalize Valkeryia, while Valkeyria’s resilience and speed were showcased. In the match’s final moments, Valkeriya made a fatal mistake, allowing herself to get stuck in a corner. Thus allowing Jax the opportunity to hit her Annihilator, with the ring vet picking up the 1,2,3 moments later.

While Nia Jax is far from being “beloved” by the WWE Universe, her dominance since returning full-time in September 2023 cannot be denied. Picking up victories against some of the biggest names in WWE, including Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, Raquel Rodrigez, and Jade Cargill. It was a cool moment to see Triple H crown Jax as Queen, with Michael Cole reminding everyone how much Jax had gone through over the past several years. 

In the co-main event, a significant match in the history of the King of the Ring unfolded, featuring the future Hall of Famer Randy Orton against WWE’s rising star Gunther. 

The match itself was everything fans of both men could ask for, with Chops and RKO’s coming in from every direction possible. Ultimately, Gunther’s vicious assault on Randy Orton’s back and knee was too much for The Viper to overcome, with The Ring General becoming the KING General in a nearly 30-minute classic. 

The match did have some slight controversy, as fans online noted that Randy Orton’s shoulder was definitely up during the roll-up pinfall. Whether this leads to any additional storyline developments down the road is not clear at this time. 

Overall, Gunther and Nia Jax were the correct choices for the PLE. Now, both will get to reign as King and Queen, eagerly awaiting their guaranteed upcoming championship matches at Summer Slam in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Way Too Early 2025 Predictions

Following two epic and memorable tournaments, the WWE Universe is already thinking about the future Kings and Queens that may rise. 

In WWE, a year into the future might as well be millions of lightyears away, as change is as common in WWE as dropkicks. However, given everything we know about the current state of WWE, we can make some educated guesses on potential favorites.

As WWE did this year, one should think of a good mix of rising stars, established names, and fresh new arrivals. The picks above check all those boxes, with Flair, Belair, and Rollins serving as the well-established names who are more than deserving of royal recognition, 

The Montez Ford pick may seem surprising to some, but it’s made with sound reason. WWE has shown a clear interest in making Ford a bigger star, well beyond his role as one-half of The Street Profits. The multi-time tag team champion oozes with both in-ring talent and charisma, even getting his own show on HULU with real-life wife Bianca Belair. The King of the Ring tournament could be perfect for Ford to have his breakout moment. 

Carmelo Hayes and Tiffany Stratton represent the future. The two are young blue chip stocks with tons of upside potential. Fresh out of NXT, they are ready-made for the WWE main roster. Seeing either of them with a crown on their head one day would surprise no one. 

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