In keeping with the Wrestlemania theme, I will make a couple of lists ranking the best matches of several of the superstars set to compete at Wrestlemania 27. First up, is the former legend killer and current viper: Randy Orton. Here's to hoping that his match with CM Punk exceeds expectations and also that most of these matches make it to his upcoming (long-overdue) DVD.
Orton was coming off of a big set-back with a loss the previous month to Hulk Hogan and it almost caused him to lose direction. This was the transition period between that and his forming of Rated RKO. It also had Orton return to the place where he defeated Benoit for the World Title. Orton caught a boot from Carlito to the mouth and was cut the hard way. It ended with an impressive Carlito slingshot off the second rope that was countered into the RKO.
Orton was on fire at this time having just come off his feud with Mick Foley. So even though Orton was heel at this time, he still received plenty of cheers. This was also around the time that Benjamin was hot as well, having just come over to Raw and beating Triple H several times. Orton continued to use his opponents as spring boards as this was just a minor stop for him on his way to the top.
This match also included John Cena, Shawn Michaels and Edge. It was a showcase for all four men instead of just Orton which is why it is placed so low. It was a tremendous match with a tremendous finish that saw everyone hitting their finishers and Cena falling on top of Orton after being kicked in the face by Michaels.
This was another showcase for all four men, instead of just Orton. Orton was drowning on Raw until Edge swooped in with the lifesaver. Edge initially ripped on Orton on his Cutting Edge segment but it ended up being a challenge for Orton to step up and join him in order to take apart D-X. That would happen in a tag match involving these same four men a couple months later at the 2007 New Year's Revolution PPV when Triple H suffered his second quad injury.
Randy Orton had regained his momentum after being the man chosen to take HBK out of action a month earlier. He was once again chosen to be the man to sideline a top superstar, this time the man was Rob Van Dam. Van Dam's contract was up and Orton's reputation quickly began changing as he started using the punt to the head. This was his slow transformation into the viper and even though Van Dam was victorious, it was his last match as full-time wrestler with the company.
This was a three stages of hell match and Triple H's return after being away for a couple months. Orton finally got his redemption in a singles match against Triple H for the debacle that was the Wrestlemania 25 main event as well as for the losses to Triple H at Backlash, Judgment Day and Extreme Rules 2008. With the win, Orton moved on to John Cena.
Not only was the PPV event titled Hell in a Cell, but this was also one of the matches that was contested in the Hell in the Cell. The fall of 2009 saw these two men go back and forth with the Championship as Cena won a submission match at the Breaking Point PPV, Orton won the title back at this event and then dropped it back to Cena a month later in an Iron Man Match. The feud cemented their status as the top guys in the company.
The stipulation was chosen by the fans and this was during Orton's Legend Killer gimmick. Since there aren't too many bigger legends than Flair, it made sense. It was also a month after Orton dropped the title to former stable-mate Triple H and Orton was now feuding with his former group. The result was a bloody steel cage match that saw the veteran fall prey to the young lion.
Young Orton was only a month away from his destiny so this match was set-up to take the I-C title off Orton to get him ready for the big gold belt. The crowd was hot and both men had their share of fans. Edge promised to take apart every member of Evolution one man at a time and while Triple H prevented him from doing that (since he did it himself), on this night Edge defeated Orton and walked away with the Intercontinental Championship.
Orton was suspended soon after Wrestlemania 22 and Angle was given credit for taking him off TV. When Orton returned a few months later, the feud was ready to be jump-started. Angle was no longer a part of the Smackdown roster having joined the new ECW a few weeks prior and Orton was now part of Raw. The first match between these two took place at One Night Stand where a vicious crowd begged Angle to break Orton's ankle once again. Angle was victorious that night but at Vengeance, Orton gave Angle his receipt and emerged with the win.
The stipulation was that the winner would receive control of Raw for a couple weeks. As Orton countered Triple H's pedigree into an RKO, it also continued Orton's impressive streak of being the sole survivor at the Survivor Series.
The reason this match is so low is for the simple fact that Orton lost. It was also their fourth and final match in their feud that had started at Wrestlemania 21 that year. While they went 2-2 against each other in their PPV bouts, The Undertaker won the two most important bouts, however, Orton proved he belonged with top-level superstars such as the Undertaker.
These three men were a part of the group known as Legacy and for months the tension between the three continued to grow. The only question was which type of match would the three be involved in at the big event. A triple threat match was chosen, but it ended being more of a handi-cap match. The fans hatred of Ted and Cody almost forced them to cheer for Orton. The result of the feud was Orton turning face without changing too much.
Orton was coming off impressive wins at the previous PPV's against Triple H, Michaels and Jericho while Hardy had won a number one contender's match against Triple H. Prior to the match, Jeff Hardy continued to raise the bar, it seemed every week he attempted to out-do himself. The match itself was average when it could have been so much more. In an impressive finish, Orton countered Hardy's twist of fate into an RKO to end the match.
This was a significant milestone for Orton for numerous reasons. As he defeated Van Dam for the I-C title, it was the first time Orton won any type of Championship in the WWE. It was also a night where each member of Evolution walked away with Championship gold. It was only a stepping stone for Orton as obviously, greater things lay ahead.
After losing to Undertaker at Wrestlemania and then being out for most of the summer, Orton returned to even the score with the phenom. In the end, he did need a little distraction from Papa Orton, but as many announcers would say, a win is a win, and the score was now tied at 1.
A feud was brewing on Smackdown between World Champion Batista and Randy Orton, but on this night they were on the same side as they represented Smackdown. While the world champ was eliminated early, Orton proved once again why the Survivor Series was his event. Orton and Michaels were the last two standing and an RKO later, Orton picked up the victory for his team. Orton's celebration did not last long as the Undertaker returned to show Orton that he would not be that easy to dispose of.
This was Orton's first win at the big event since his debut at Wrestlemania 20, he had previously lost 3 straight times. Triple H and Cena were too concerned with each other so when the perfect moment presented itself, Orton capitalized and successfully defended the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania, a feat only a handful of wrestlers have accomplished.
The feud between the two men started a month prior at the Royal Rumble when Rey eliminated Orton to win the event. Mysterio agreed to put his title shot at Wrestlemania on the line after Orton had taunted the memory of Eddy Guerrero. Orton pushed all the right buttons as he defeated Mysterio and punched his ticket to compete for the title at Wrestlemania.
I was a bit stumped as to where to place this one since it wasn't just Orton's match and so many contributed to it. Orton has just kicked the boss in the skull and so the win cemented that he could not be fired. The aftermath of the rumble was more of a burial than a push as he was rewarded with a match with Shane McMahon at the next PPV then he was forced to stare at the lights at Wrestlemania as Triple H walked away with the title. As far as career development though, it's hard to argue how important this match was for Orton.
These two men were on a collision course ever since debuting with the company and since Cena interrupted Orton's promo at Summerslam three years earlier. This was also their first PPV match against each other. Cena was the reigning champion for 11 months and most fans were ready for Orton to dethrone him. Orton was unable to capitalize on an RKO and fell to the F-U moments later.
This was a two-on-three match and it was also very entertaining. Orton and Foley were feuding for a while and Foley finally grew tired of the gang beatings so decided to bring The Rock into the mix. It was the first Wrestlemania for both Orton and Batista, though at the time Batista was simply Evolution's enforcer. Orton was clearly being presented as the star on this night and picked up the win for his team after an RKO to Foley. The encounters between Orton and Rock only left me wanting a one-on-one match between the two, but of course that would never come to pass.
Shawn Michaels had just returned from injury and wanted retribution against the man who took him out. HBK's sweet chin music was banned and he was forced to look to other moves such as the ankle lock and the crossface to pick up the win. Michaels was all set to attempt his super-kick, but as he hesitated for a second, it back fired on him as he ate an RKO instead.
This is proof that one can look good even in defeat. Orton matched Undertaker, step for step and stride for stride and several times it seemed that the young legend killer had the match won. Orton's cockiness took over as he prepared to beat the Undertaker with his own move. Taker reversed Orton's tombstone attempt and continued the streak. Orton, however, gained a lot from the loss and this was only the start of their year-long feud.
This was a last man standing match and their second encounter of the night as well as Triple H's third match overall. As the PPV started, Vince McMahon awarded the title to Orton, however, his reign was short lived as he fell victim to the King of King's mind games. Orton demanded an instant rematch that night and the result was a brutal, hard-hitting last man standing match that saw Orton finally take down his former mentor.
This was a violent and bloody hardcore match filled with thumb-tacks and barbed wire. Foley was at his lowest weight in years and was determined to make Orton a star. Randy sacrificed his body as his bare-back was put through the tacks two years before Edge did the same thing on a bigger stage. Orton shook off his pretty-boy image and started the momentum which led him to his best match ever...
Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever on this night at 24 years of age. This was a one-on-one wrestling match, there was no outside interference whatsoever, it was as clean as you can get. Benoit had his share of fans in the crowd that night in Canada, but the people in Bizarro Land (as Lawler put it) were ready for the reign of Orton to begin. Orton beautifully countered a crossface attempt into an RKO and three slaps of the mat later, Hebner was handing Orton the big gold belt. We can ignore everything that happened the next night or next month, this was Orton's perfect night and he has never had a better wrestling match than this one.