Ranking SummerSlam #10: 2007 - John Cena vs. Randy Orton

Or...the one where Cena won out of out nowhere

No, not that one were John Cena took a beating for 20 minutes only to win out of nowhere. The other one. No, not that one either. The one where Randy Orton beat the crap out of John Cena and still lost. No, the other one like that.

It is easy to look back seven years and God-only-knows how many Cena-Orton matches later and reflexively recoil away. It may be the most overdone feud of the past fifteen years. That being said, in the summer of 2007 it was both fresh and the match itself was pretty good.

Let's set our stage.

At The Great American Bash, John Cena overcame the odds and beat Bobby Lashley to retain his WWE Championship. This had been a familiar story for WWE fans.

Cena, who had won the title the prior September, had beaten, at pay-per-views since then: Edge, Umaga (twice), Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, Edge, Great Khali (twice), Mick Foley, Bobby Lashley (twice), and King Booker. With Triple H sidelined due to a torn quad suffered early in the year and just about everyone else being thrown under the wheels of the Cena juggernaut there was a bit of a void at the top of the card.

Cena needed an opponent who was credible and could carry a feud. He had been champ 24 of the past 27 months leading up to SummerSlam. After disposing of Lashley, Randy Orton was tabbed to be the man to challenge Cena for the belt. Let’s talk about Randy Orton for a bit.

Looking back with 2014 eyes, it almost seems like the 2014 version of Randy Orton is a totally different person from the 2007 version of Randy Orton. The more recent Orton is leaner, tanner, has more tattoos, shorter hair and a beard. He even has different entrance music. The only thing that’s the same is his moveset.

Anyway, Orton was going through his Legend Killer gimmick, an entertaining persona where he’s beat the crap out of guys like the American Dweam Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter, culminating with a punt that would put them out of actions for months.

Orton himself had become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion by beating Chris Benoit in the main event of the 2004 edition of SummerSlam. I’ll be writing about that particular match in-depth for a later article, so I’ll save my thoughts for that article.

After beating Benoit, Orton got kicked out of Evolution and dropped the Big Gold Belt (WWE Edition) a month later. Thanks for that Triple H! Orton would sort of flail around in the upper-midcard for a while and ended up getting suspended for sixty days due to "unprofessional conduct." Word around the campfire was that Orton had heat backstage and was kind of a tool. Orton himself stated that it was because he was smoking pot.

He came back, jobbed to Hulk Hogan, formed Rated-RKO with Edge (two of my all-time favorites teaming up? Yes please!) and eventually made his way to SummerSlam.

Before we get to the main event portion of the article, I full accept and acknowledge that Randy Orton’s in-ring style isn’t for everyone. He wrestles a bit like his dad, one of the great heels of the late Territorial Era. Orton is methodical (or boring, depending on your perspective) and uses a lot of rest holds and other moves that some fans might not like. Me? I love the guy’s wrestling, but again, I know he’s not for everyone.

So when reading this if you aren’t an Orton fan realize that it was written by a guy who has been an Orton fan from just about Day One and take that into account. People are biased, I’m no different.

All that being said, let’s talk about the match,

Main Event Time!

When people talk about the importance of a good crowd in a wrestling match this match is a good reason why. The crowd (East Rutherford, NJ, in the shadow of New York City) was white-hot for this crowd. They hated Cena. But, in a contrast to some crowds, not only did they hate Cena, they loved Orton. Sometimes you get crowds that chant for and against Cena while seemingly paying his opponent no mind. This wasn’t one of those crowds. They were anit-Cena and pro-Orton.

At the start of the match, after a long collar-and-elbow tie-up Cena put on a simple side headlock. The crowd booed him out of the building. A few minutes later, Orton put on the same headlock, and he was cheered like he was giving away free money. Just passionate heat for this match, and the crowd never let up.

Being an Orton-led match, we got a lot of headlocks and reverse chinlocks and even a rear-naked choke. Jim Ross was superb at making Orton look dangerous – "his soul is filled with malice!" – and Cena look resilient – "the heart of a champ beats in Cena’s chest!" Needless to say, this elevated the match even more. Orton looked fluid and engaged and even Cena did a solid job selling during the beatdown part of the match.

When Cena finally made his comeback the place erupted. The girls/kids were passionately pro-Cena while the menfolk were just as passionately pro-Orton. Cena went for the FU but Orton elbowed him really hard in the jaw. Cena shook his head a bit and threw a vicious-looking punch right at Orton’s jaw in retaliation. I loved this. This was great both at the time and when I watched the replay a few days ago. Another random note: I could be wrong, but this was the first time I remember Orton doing the rope-assisted DDT. Everyone brought it as a finish too and people were devastated that Cena kicked out.

Anyway, the two traded moves, Orton escaped a STFU by barely getting the bottom rope. Again, the crowd popped huge. Randy Orton wishes he got this much heat when he was an actual babyface. Orton hit an RKO but Cena kicked out (much to the crowd’s dismay), Hulked Up and hit the FU for the clean win. Good match made great by the crowd.

So why did this match, which I praised over and over again, only make it to #10 on the countdown? To me the matches ahead of me are either better in the ring, have a better buildup/follow-through, or both. That being said this one is well worth your time to watch.

Curtain Jerker’s Star Rating – 3 ¾ to 4 stars.

Up next –Two guys who were former tag champs battled it out.

Also in this series:

#11 - Triple H. vs. Mankind vs. Steve Austin

#12 - Punk vs. Cena

#13 - The Rock vs. Booker T

#14 - Michaels vs. Vader

#15 - Elimination Chamber

#16 - Cena vs. Edge

#17 - Michaels vs. Hogan

#18 - Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

#19 - Hogan/Savage vs. Andre/DiBiase

#20 - Team WWE vs. Team Nexus

#21 - Rude vs. Warrior

#22 - Hogan/Beefcake vs. Savage/Zeus

#23 - Luger vs. Yokozuna

#24 - Hogan/Warrior vs. Slaughter/Mustafa/Adnan

#25 - Diesel vs. Mabel

#26 - Undertaker vs. Undertaker

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