Seven years ago, Rey Mysterio fended off Randy Orton to retain the World Heavyweight Championship during an emotional period for WWE SmackDown.
Today, injuries have stalled Mysterio's career. He has spent more time in the last few years having surgeries on his damaged knees than he has spent wearing championship gold. Orton's career has seen a few bumps via suspensions, but has spent the majority of his time at or near the top of WWE.
2006 was the peak of Mysterio's WWE career, though it was certainly a rough year for him personally.
His close friend Eddie Guerrero died in November 2005. Losing Eddie left WWE fans a mess of raw nerves. It must have been doubly hard for Mysterio.
WWE decided to give Mysterio his biggest push with the company after Eddie's passing. Every match for several months felt like a tribute to his friend.
When he faced off against Orton on April 7, 2006, Eddie t-shirts and signs filled the arena. Eddie became a central figure in Orton and Mysterio's rivalry despite not being around anymore. Some called it "Eddieploitation" when the late star's name and image was used as storyline fodder, leading to the controversial moment where Orton said that Eddie was in hell.
Orton and Mysterio's battle on that 2006 WWE SmackDown shows that this feud didn't need to go down that road.
There was intensity between these two rivals and a chemistry in the ring that could have carried another storyline. Mysterio played the underdog after winning the title at WrestleMania 22 and Orton played the hungry, snarling dog chasing after him.
The match began with both champion and challenger staring each other down, awaiting the other man's first move.
This hesitation helped build anticipation. Tension seemed to amplify in the ring before either man landed a single blow.
It was Orton who struck first. He was enthrallingly sadistic, looking to choke and punish Mysterio. Orton glared at him after every move with a look of disbelief and anger. How could this man have beaten him at WrestleMania, he seemed to say.
Orton held Mysterio down with leg scissors, or by crushing his head in his arms.
With the way he attacked Mysterio, he looked to want to squash him like a roach. Mysterio, as we've seen aplenty over the years, had to rely on guts as he looked to survive.
Orton looked to be on his way to taking Mysterio's championship away as he controlled much of the action. He landed a beautiful dropkick to Mysterio, who was springing in from the apron to the ring. He later prowled behind the champ and spun him around for one final blow that was not to be.
The underdog began to mount a comeback.
He kicked Orton with enough force to twist his body around and make his eyes glassy. Mysterio started to buzz around the ring, stinging Orton when he could. Eventually, a dazed Orton stumbled around the ring, unsure where the dizzying star was at that moment.
The story of David once again finding a way to conquer Goliath was nearly over.
Mysterio hit two 619s and a flying legdrop to earn the victory. He raised the world title above his head with an amped up crowd cheering around him.
The chances of us seeing that sight again are slim. Mysterio could be forced to retire or else just have a few miles left in him.
This run as champ will always be seen as both his pinnacle and a product of WWE playing off Eddie Guerrero's death, a time heavy with mixed emotions.
For Orton, he’s followed up that 2006 match with great work against Christian, CM Punk and John Cena. There are many more titles in his future and many more matches like this one where he drew us in and didn't let go until the bell rang.
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