Unless WWE’s booking gurus have a change of heart, victory at the 2017 Royal Rumble has secured Randy Orton’s in the main event of WrestleMania 33. And should John Cena successfully defend his title in the Elimination Chamber, the two veterans will be on course to clash once again at the grandest stage of them all.
Orton vs. Cena has been done so many times over the years that to do so again in Orlando in April would be a mistake in the eyes of many a fan. With no immediately obvious reason for a rekindled feud between Cena and The Viper and – let’s be honest about it – no real excitement behind it, WWE needs to get very creative to make us care.
The current train of speculation suggests that Cena will lose the belt in the Elimination Chamber and Bray Wyatt may win his first ever WWE Championship, setting up a potential match against Orton at WrestleMania. The Wyatt Family may not seem so tight-knit anymore with Luke Harper having finally turned against The Eater of Worlds. And if at some point prior to WrestleMania, Orton also breaks up with Wyatt there are solid grounds for a feud. However is such a feud worthy of the main event stage at WrestleMania? Or will WWE go down the beaten path and aim for a triple threat match instead?
Fans have seen way too much John Cena vs. Randy Orton for their liking. Orton’s recent comments on WWE Talking Smack about a match against Cena being something fans “want to see again” whether they know it or not seems to indicate that WWE is indeed toying the possibility of yet another confrontation. According to Cagematch, Cena and Orton have faced off on WWE television or pay-per-view in 21 singles matches from 2001 to 2014. And when Cena and Orton last locked horns they received little to no interest from fans; their WWE World Heavyweight Championship matches in December 2013 and January 2014 were far from stellar and lacked true ambition.
Orton and Cena main-eventing WrestleMania 33 would probably sell tickets but if no additional stipulations are added in an effort to showcase the two legendary superstars, WWE would be making a huge mistake and the feud would seem fresh only to fans who’ve been watching the product since 2015.
A stipulation is key here in making Orton vs. Cena must-see television.
There was mixed reaction to John Cena’s victory at the Royal Rumble, as he dethroned AJ Styles for the WWE Championship to tie Ric Flair’s record of 16 world titles. In fact, not much has been communicated about tying Flair’s record at all. WWE Creative would be wise to step up the focus on that angle and use it as a means for compelling story-telling in the weeks prior to WrestleMania. Ric Flair could become a pivotal figure in the Orton-Cena feud, and why not be the special guest referee in their match. Flair could also be the person to make the stipulation, using his own personal history.
Now let’s rewind nine years, all the way to WrestleMania 24 – when Ric Flair’s 35-year-long in-ring wrestling career ended, curtesy of Shawn Michaels. Ric Flair’s “Career Threatening” match against Shawn Michaels stipulated that Flair would have to retire from wrestling if he lost. At the end of the bout Michaels said to Flair “I’m sorry, I love you,” before executing a final Sweet Chin Music on Flair and pinning him for the three-count. After the match, Flair got a standing ovation. An emotional Flair embraced his family at ringside and thanked the crowd for their support.
Now back to the present. John Cena is already working a part-time schedule with WWE and is seeing the momentum growing for his career outside of WWE. He has carried WWE for over a decade and his reign is eventually going to have to end. What would be more fitting than losing to Randy Orton with an assist by Ric Flair, thus making sure that Cena will not wrestle again in a WWE ring, and by extension never beat the record of 16 titles. Weaving Shawn Michaels into the match in a non-wrestling capacity could also be a valuable addition.
Let’s hope WWE are considering such options. The company would be smart in showcasing its rich history, bringing WWE legends such as Flair and Michaels back into the spotlight, and providing Cena with a plausible and highly-entertaining pretext to end his in-ring career and pass the torch to the new generation of WWE Superstars.