The tournament endured a four-year hiatus until its return in 2006 as an exclusive event of the SmackDownbrand. The tournament returned as an inter-brand event for both Raw and SmackDown in both 2008 and 2010. WWE released a best of King of the Ring DVD in late 2011.
Although the King of the Ring tournament was not made into a pay-per-view event until 1993, the original King of the Ring tournament was held in 1985. Don Muraco was the first King of the Ring in 1985.
The second winner, Harley Race, is noted for parlaying his King of the Ring victory into his King of Wrestling gimmick by wearing a crown and regal gown. This served as a driving force for feuds with Race, even after new kings had been crowned in the annual tournament. In 1988, Race suffered a hernia injury and during his absence his manager Bobby Heenan awarded the crown to Haku in July, rechristening him King Haku, even though Randy Savage had won the tournament by that point and Ted DiBiase would also win the tournament during this storyline. Race eventually returned from his injury and briefly feuded with King Haku, but was unable to regain the crown at the 1989 Royal Rumble. King Haku then lost the crown to the "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan in May 1989. "King Hacksaw" then lost it in September 1989 to the "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who rebranded himself "Macho King". Savage abandoned the "Macho King" gimmick upon his retirement in 1991, following which only wrestlers who had won the tournament would use the gimmick.
Randy Savage ("Macho King"), Owen Hart ("King of Harts"), Mabel ("King Mabel" ), Kurt Angle ("King Kurt") (Edge ("King Edge the Awesome"), Booker T ("King Booker") and Sheamus are all wrestlers that also took on "King" nicknames after winning King of the Ring tournaments, with varying amounts of indulgence in the regal gimmick. William Regal won the tournament while serving as General Manager of Raw and began displaying King Lear signs of tyranny and delusion. In addition to the King's crown, various female wrestlers were portrayed as Queen while they were aligned with Kings, including "Queen of the Ring" Fabulous Moolah (aligned with King Harley Race at Wrestlemania III), Sensational Queen Sherri (manager of "Macho King" Randy Savage), and Queen Sharmell (manager of King Booker).
The King of the Ring was an event in which typically sixteen wrestlers wrestled in a one-on-one single elimination bracket. When a wrestler wins a match in the bracket, he advances to take on another wrestler who has also won. The final few matches would then take place at that year's King of the Ring event. The winner of the final match is officially crowned the King of the Ring. There were also other matches that took place at the King of the Ring event since it was a traditional three hour pay-per-view.
It was announced in April 2006 that the King of the Ring tournament would be returning after its four year hiatus. The 2006 tournament was the first tournament since 1991 that had not been shown on pay-per-view. The 2006 tournament was won by Booker T, who faced Bobby Lashley in the finals at the Judgment Day pay-per-view event. After a brief hiatus in 2007, it was announced on the April 14, 2008 episode of Raw, that the tournament would be held the following week on a special three hour edition of Raw. The King of the Ring returned again on November 29, 2010.