The turnaround time for the 2015 King of the Ring Tournament- WWE’s first such tournament in five years- could break your neck. From the time the tournament was announced on Sunday to the conclusion on the WWE Network on Tuesday will be a total of about 48 hours. Given that short timeframe, it’s no surprise that there is some confusion about the timing and structure of the tournament. Nevertheless, WWE has given us a list of the four first-round matches to take place on tonight’s episode of Raw. Based on those matchups, here are the likely odds for each participant.
King Mabel Division – The Lowest of the Low
R-Truth – While Truth’s comedic rebirth in the run-up to Wrestlemania was fun, no one ever had any illusions about his long-term future. He has been a valuable wrestler for WWE over his time in the company, but it’s hard to imagine him as much more than an enhancement talent at this point.
King Billy Gunn Division – Don’t Get Your Hopes Up
Stardust – How the mighty have fallen. Cody Rhodes once looked like a sure thing to become a future world champion in WWE. Now, it’s hard to imagine how WWE is going to get him out of this weird parody gimmick of his own family. The feud with Goldust unfortunately flopped, and I don’t see WWE doubling down on this character with a win here. It’s interesting that he faces fellow longshot R-Truth in round one, so that one of them will at least make it to the semi-finals, barring bracket shenanigans.
Sheamus – Despite his recent heel turn, it makes little sense for Sheamus to defend his crown from the 2010 KOTR Tournament. He is more likely to continue the rivalry with Dolph Ziggler that intensified when he welched on his promise to kiss arse after his surprise loss. Bret Hart is the only two-time KOTR, and I do not see Sheamus adding his name to that list.
Luke Harper – As funny as Harper would look in a cape and crown, he is facing an uphill battle. He has to wrestle the red-hot Neville in round one, he seldom actually wins big matches, and he doesn’t need much status to remain big and scary. The Harper-Neville match in the first round could be a show-stealer if given enough time, and that will have to be enough for the big man.
King Edge Division – So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance
Bad News Barrett – In some sense, it makes perfect sense for the British Barrett to assume the role of monarch. In another sense, it’s hard to see where yet another secondary honor would get Barrett. The five-time Intercontinental Champion still feels overwhelmingly mid-cardish, and only a real challenge at the main event can change that perception.
Neville – Speaking of capes, WWE could save on wardrobe costs since Neville already wears a royal purple one to the ring. I would name Neville the favorite for the tournament except that WWE has been judicious about his results. Despite tremendous matches every week, his W/L record is fairly pedestrian. Take his win over Barrett on the Extreme Rules pre-show, for instance. It would take three wins bigger than that one in a row for Neville to win, which would be a reversal of WWE’s strategy with him so far.
Macho King Randy Savage Division – The Cream of the Crop
Dean Ambrose – Did Ambrose’s win over Harper at Extreme Rules signify the start of something bigger? Ambrose has been left in the dust as Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have put a strange-hold on main event spots. As of last summer, Ambrose appeared to be the one on the fast track to the top of the card. A win here could help wash the taste of many losses out of fans’ mouths and remind them that Ambrose is a breakout star.
Dolph Ziggler – Perpetually on the cusp of something bigger, Ziggler seems like a natural heir to the KOTR throne. WWE has typically used the tournament to honor wrestlers who are great technicians (Harley Race, Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, Bret and Owen Hart, Kurt Angle). Even if Ziggler never breaks through to the absolute zenith of the wrestling world, wins like this and at last year’s Survivor Series would help cement his reputation as a great of his era.