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Ranking WrestleMania main events worst to best, #23: Randy Orton vs. Triple H

Ranking each of the 29 WrestleMania main events from worst to best. Up next is the one that had to follow a classic and never reached its potential.



The year was 2002 2009.

The day was March 17 April 5.

The time? Around 10:00 p.m. Around 10:00 p.m.

Triple H hoisted the Undisputed Championship WWE Championship over his head and snarled in victory over Chris Jericho Randy Orton.

If you haven't seen it in a while, you may have forgotten that the title match was not the one that followed Rock vs. Hollywood Hogan Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker.

That show-stealing bout occurred two matches prior. But where the WrestleMania X8 buffer match was a women's title match (though one featuring the top three divas in the promotion), the buffer match for WrestleMania 25 Anniversary(really, that's what it's called; look at the poster) was a largely forgotten world heavyweight championship match featuring John Cena, Edge, and Big Show.

THAT match led into the WWE championship bout where Triple H retained his title vs. Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton during the period where Orton was arguably at his hottest.

Seriously, this pay-per-view (PPV) was screwy.


To start with we go back to late 2008, and oh, what a convoluted mess the booking was back then. Somehow along the way the WWE Championship ended up being fought over by mostly-Raw superstars on SmackDown, meanwhile the world heavyweight championship was feuded over by mostly SmackDown superstars on Raw. That's a summary and not open to intense scrutiny; it paints a well enough picture for us to continue.

By the end of the year, Edge was WWE champion, having beaten Triple H for the belt at Survivor Series. He lost it to Jeff Hardy at Armageddon in December, but regained it at the Royal Rumble in January of 2009. Edge, of course, lost it to Triple H in the opening match of the Elimination Chamber PPV. Because some feuds and wins may be forgotten in WWE at the drop of a hat, but there is one constant in the universe:

Triple H will always get his win back.

Edge, by the way, would go on to win the world heavyweight title in the closing match of Elimination Chamber. Because why not. Let's not even get into John Cena getting lost in the shuffle on the silver anniversary of the WWE's Super Bowl.

So Triple H finally gets to do the one thing that has eluded him during his long career at the top of wrestling's mountain. He fought Undertaker, captured titles, dropped the belt and even lost a title challenge. But he never-to that point-had enteredWrestleMania as the WWE Champion and successfully defended his belt.

Except for 2000, but that was the WWF Championship. Totally different.

Meanwhile, Randy Orton had won the Royal Rumble, last eliminating Triple H. So you better believe that little factoid will come back into play. Orton then began feuding with the whole McMahon clan, taking on Shane McMahon in a street fight in January and punting both he and Vince in the head. Poor Steph also got into the action, though she was spared a punt and simply ate an RKO for her troubles.

All of this occurred before and after Orton's Rumble win but it wasn't until March that Orton officially selected Triple H as his opponent for the big dance. As if it wasn't obvious but like I said: screwy booking.

The feud dominated WWE TV, with each of the McMahon's trying to take down Orton. Naturally it would fall on the good son (in law) to defend his family honor. And by family honor I mean the spinner belt.

Can we just pause here and notice how great this feud is on paper? This has all the makings of a once-in-a-generation type blood feud, certain to be remembered in the same breath as Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant or Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels. This is great and epic stuff on paper.

It's such a shame that Orton has little charisma and Triple H has almost always sucked as a babyface.

As for the match, it's incredible how much it mirrored the Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania 18. The big notable exception was the build up, which was atrocious in 2002 (that match is coming, rest assured) but very good here.

Like the WrestleMania 18 match, this was a standard Triple H post-quads bout. A lot of brawling with no sustained-selling, broken up by Triple H's deep well of signature moves. The real story isn't this match, it's everything around the match that makes it fall so low. The bell-to-bell action isn't bad (if we were just grading matches on that scale it would be a littlehigher), though it was definitely about 5 minutes too long and never really gets out of first gear.

Here's the thing. This is one of those matches where you can't really criticize the booking, or the placement of the match on the card, or even the finish. It's all good on paper.

It just kind of sucked when all was said and done.

What would you change? The booking? The feud was money and certainly worthy of the so-called "25th Anniversary of WrestleMania." How could it not have closed the show, considering its importance going back several months? And there's no way Randy Orton, the vicious heel, doesn't get his comeuppance on the grandest stage.

Again, it's all good on paper, but it just didn't work when it was actually done.

The first thing working against it was the unbelievably great, instant 10-star classic, actually bonafide perfect match. You owe it to yourself to watch Santina win that battle royal.

More seriously, though, how could anything top the streak match between Undertaker and Michaels? Again, there's no reason, storyline wise, for it to close the show, but they had to know that neither title match would top it.

Another thing working against it was the fatigue of seeing these guys square off...again...for the title...again. Looking at the interwebs I counted well over 30 matches between the two of them (not counting the ones that followed this PPV). Most of them 1-on-1, many of them title matches, many of them Triple H victories and even many of them Triple H victories as champion.

This match... It's been done is all I'm saying.

Another thing working against it was the stupid "yes-DQ" stipulation. After all the build up, the least they could do was give Triple H a chance to get his hands dirty when he finally got to lay them on the challenger. Instead the match was forced to play it by the rules, when breaking the rules might have been the only chance to keep the fans invested.

One more thing working against it was the obvious finish, and therefore the feeling of "lolTripleHwins" that was palpable throughout the crowd. By the time the show was over (and this was a match that dragged and dragged), and Triple H got his win back over Orton...again...the crowd was mostly bored, half-cheering out of years of fan-programming and half out of common courtesy.

All of those factors added up to a match that just didn't live up to the honor of being the title match and show closing bout at WrestleMania 25.

What could have been done to save this main event? As it was, nothing. Again, how could you have let any other match main event? The only thing you could have done was redo everything from late 2008-onward. Forget the Orton v McMahon drama and never book Triple H vs. Randy Orton in the first place. You'd miss out on a great feud, but you'd be spared a horrible match. The only way to save the main event would be to give the fans something fresher than Triple H v Orton part 1000.

You could have booked Jeff Hardy as the Royal Rumble winner vs. heel champion Triple H and John Cena vs. heel champion Edge in a 1-2 punch befitting such a show. But that's just crazy fantasy booking, no?


Sound off, Cagesiders. How is the match as you remember it? Better than 23 worst? Should it have been higher or lower on the scale? What could have been done to save this main event?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Tomorrow, we step into the blue cage! See you then...



- Ranking Mania main events #24: Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice
- Ranking Mania main events #25: John Cena vs. The Miz
- Ranking Mania main events #26: Undertaker vs. Sycho Sid
- Ranking Mania main events #27: Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter
- Ranking Mania main events #28: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna
- Ranking Mania main events #29: Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow


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