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 WWE and Raw in 2008, 2010 and 2015. 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 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan in May 1989. "King Hacksaw" then lost it in September 1989 to "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 and Jerry Lawler 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. Triple H alluded to his King of the Ring victory as part of his integrated gimmick starting 2006 as the "King of Kings". 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.
After a four-year hiatus, the tournament would return in 2006, the first since the 1991 edition that was not on pay-per-view, which was won by Booker T, who faced Bobby Lashley in the final at Judgment Day. The tournament would return in 2008 on the April 23 episode of Raw, which was won by William Regal, who faced CM Punk in the final, and in 2010 on the November 29 episode of Raw, which was won by Sheamus, who faced John Morrison in the final. After a five-year hiatus, the tournament returned in 2015 on the April 27 episode of Raw, with the finals taking place the next night on the WWE Network. Bad News Barrett defeated Neville in the final round.
From 1993 through 2002, King of the Ring was produced as a pay-per-view event. In 2006, the tournament finals were featured as part of the Judgment Day pay-per-view. In 2008 and 2010, the tournament was featured as a one-night tournament that aired on Monday Night RAW. In 2015, the tournament was started on Monday Night RAW and then concluded the next night as a WWE Network exclusive.
^The finals of the 2006 King of the Ring were held as part of the Judgment Day pay-per-view, which emanated from Phoenix. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches were conducted at various other venues.
^The 2015 King of the Ring was held over two nights. The quarterfinal matches were broadcast on Raw, which emanated from Green Bay, Wisconsin, while the semifinal and final matches were broadcast on the WWE Network, emanating from Moline, Illinois.