From roughly 2006 to 2009, they were positioned as the top two stars in the WWE, and as one might expect, they feuded countless times during that span as a result.
In fact, it’d be hard to count just how many times these two crossed paths during that four-year span and even into 2010, when they found themselves involved in the same angle once again thanks to The Nexus.
Because Orton and Cena seemed so inseparable at the end of the last decade, many fans have hoped and prayed that they’d never have to see those two feud again.
Luckily for those fans, “The Viper” and “The Champ” have largely stayed away from each other since late 2010. But perhaps unluckily for those fans, the time has come for Orton and Cena to renew their historic rivalry.
After all, three years is like an eternity in pro wrestling. So much can change in that amount of time. Hell, CM Punk has turned face, turned heel and then turned face again in less than two years.
Maybe that’s why it seems like enough has changed for both Orton and Cena that it’s time to take one more spin around the merry-go-round.
Admittedly, this feud was done to death four or five years ago. But that was exactly the problem: It was done far too much in too short of a span.
A lot has changed in the last few years, though.
Orton is not a heel anymore. He’s no longer consistently in the main event scene or World title picture. He’s not even winning as much as he used to.
As for Cena, things haven’t changed as much for him. He’s still the same guy now that he was three years ago and the same guy that that guy was three years before that.
But for the first time since 2011, Cena does have one thing that Orton deserves—or at least deserves a shot at: the WWE Championship.
In surprising fashion, Orton hasn’t been a factor in the WWE Championship scene for more than two years now. The last time that he competed in a PPV match for the WWE title was at Elimination Chamber in February 2011.
Orton, of course, has hit some bumps in the road since then, most notably being suspended in the spring of 2012 for his second violation of the WWE’s Talent Wellness Program. But a little more than a year later, Orton is back where he belongs: on top.
Although, in terms of main events and challenging for World titles, he may not be at the level he once was, Orton is—aside from Daniel Bryan—the most over superstar in the entire WWE right now.
Whatever “it” is, Orton has it, and all you have to do is watch one episode of Raw or SmackDown to see that. The crowd loves the guy, and whenever he’s making his comeback or setting up for an RKO, that’s rather obvious by the fact that the roof nearly gets blown off the building.
As Orton gets more and more over, the WWE is going to have no choice but to catapult him back up the card to where he should be, which is in the WWE Championship scene.
Cena is going to need new challengers during his current WWE title reign, and as we know, Mark Henry will be that first new challenger. But once Cena dispatches of Henry (yes, he will), more new challengers are going to have to step up.
Why not Orton?
Don’t use the “they’ve feuded a thousand times already” argument. Cena has feuded with just about everybody a thousand times, and for the most part, he’s feuded with the vast majority of the company’s current top guys within the last few years.
He’s had some sort of rivalry with Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk (a lot), Big Show, Alberto Del Rio and countless other guys—and he’s feuded with most of them more recently than he has with Orton.
Wrestling is a cyclical business, so it was always virtually inevitable that Cena and Orton would feud again. Now, the stage is set for that to happen.
Orton is over like rover. Cena is the WWE champion. Orton is due for a WWE title opportunity and another run in the main event picture.
All the ingredients are there for the Cena/Orton rivalry to be renewed. We’ve had a big enough break from it.
Now, it should happen...one more time.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!