WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

PITTSBURGH – For the first time in weeks, “The Face of WWE” is smiling. Or, inasmuch as you expect Randy Orton to be smiling, even after a victory like the one he pulled off at Royal Rumble Sunday night. Seemingly cracking under the specter of a pure, no-frills defense of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena, The Viper faced his demons and came out fresh on the other side, defeating the former World Champion in what was billed as a “traditional” wrestling match, albeit with a very un-traditional assist from Bray Wyatt at the moment of truth.

The task at hand was, all things considered, a fool’s errand for Orton. In addition to facing excess pressure to live up to his Authority-appointed status as champion – a task that from the get-go has been harder for him than he seemed to think it would be – he went on to poke the proverbial bear by attacking Cena’s father two weeks ago on Raw, to the dismay of his handlers. With practically everyone but the voices in his head turned against him, The Authority seemed content to throw Orton to the wolves; whether the challenge fortified him or not seemed of little concern in their last meeting.

When the bell tolled at Royal Rumble, the Cenation leader didn’t waste any time in rectifying his (failed) bid at payback six days earlier. The Viper was besieged from the beginning by Cena, who for all his strength, has never been considered much of a brawler, yet seemed quite at home throwing boulder-sized fists into Orton’s head and torso. Spurred into action, The Viper retaliated with a plunging stomp to Cena and a trio of bone-rattling headbutts.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

The tone of the match shifted quickly after that, and both champion and challenger seemed to buy more into the throwback style of the match. An attempted Boston Crab from the Cenation leader was followed by Orton’s flawless suplex off the apron. The Viper’s preening attempts to mug for the crowd were met with hostility, as jeering taunts of “DAN-IEL-BRY-AN!” reminded Orton of the man he won his ill-gotten WWE Championship from in the first place.

Despite the head games, Orton – who was as thrilled with the chants as he had been at the prospect of facing Cena in this rematch– managed to stay in control, planting Cena with a DDT before striking a taunting pose atop the turnbuckle. The former World Champion picked his moment to strike then, toppling Orton with an Electric Chair and transitioning seamlessly into his signature sequence. The Apex Predator, however, seemed to have Cena better scouted than The Authority perhaps expected, cutting him off before the Five Knuckle Shuffle.

The Cenation leader recovered fast, plunging onto the back of Orton’s head with a top-rope leg drop that spurred both Superstars into another gear. Cena made a move for the Attitude Adjustment, but Orton dropped him with a hanging DDT from the apron to the concrete. The challenger’s typical comebacks seemed to run dry before they even began, and Orton appeared to be making good on his insistences that – despite conventional wisdom – one victory over Cena was all he needed to prove his dominance. Even a lightning-quick offset of the RKO into the STF couldn’t put the Champion of Champions away, thanks to a mighty reach for the ropes by the embattled titleholder.

The counter did, however, slow Orton down enough for Cena to finally get his steam rolling. Connecting with the Five Knuckle Shuffle, the former Champ had Orton dead to rights … until a failed Attitude Adjustment took the referee out by mistake when Orton’s foot was accidentally rammed into the official’s skull. The subsequent (and, all things considered, immediate) tapout from the STF went unrecorded, and The Viper stayed alive by clocking Cena in the head with the World Heavyweight Championship belt. The would-be finishing blow only bought Orton a two-count, and it nearly cost him more when Cena sprang an Attitude Adjustment on The Viper that almost earned him a pinfall.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

With the WWE Universe still jeering him, a reeling Orton countered with an RKO and very nearly had Cena in position for a punt to the head. When that went south, both champion and challenger decided to ditch their own playbooks and take a page out of each other’s. Orton locked in a wicked-looking STF and Attitude Adjustment; Cena lashed out with an RKO in response. At this point, there weren’t so much two Superstars left  as there were beaten shells of them, so there was nothing left to do but empty the arsenal. Cena, for his part, got the better of the ensuing exchange when he administered a tornado DDT from the top rope, locking in the STF again and stranding Orton in the middle of the ring, with no escape available to him.

That is, until Bray Wyatt delivered it. Suddenly appearing at ringside with Erick Rowan & Luke Harper, The Eater of Worlds took Cena’s focus off the Champion of Champions long enough for Orton to hit the pivotal RKO that spelled Cena’s doom. The Viper – wanting no part of the man whom he earlier referred to as a “‘Duck Dynasty’ reject,”– slunk out through the audience and left Cena to the mercy of Wyatt. The “Man of 1,000 Truths” directed his Family to discipline Cena, and, with the WWE standard-bearer left limp in his arms, proclaimed his clan “the creators of the new world” before putting Cena to sleep with Sister Abigail.

So that’s the way it ends for John Cena: Denied his glory and stripped of his strength. What would have been a vindicating win was instead a crushing loss, sealed with a kiss.

Royal Rumble
Royal Rumble
Get WWE Network

Featured Superstars

Royal Rumble
Royal Rumble
Get WWE Network

Featured Superstars

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

PITTSBURGH – For the first time in weeks, “The Face of WWE” is smiling. Or, inasmuch as you expect Randy Orton to be smiling, even after a victory like the one he pulled off at Royal Rumble Sunday night. Seemingly cracking under the specter of a pure, no-frills defense of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena, The Viper faced his demons and came out fresh on the other side, defeating the former World Champion in what was billed as a “traditional” wrestling match, albeit with a very un-traditional assist from Bray Wyatt at the moment of truth.

The task at hand was, all things considered, a fool’s errand for Orton. In addition to facing excess pressure to live up to his Authority-appointed status as champion – a task that from the get-go has been harder for him than he seemed to think it would be – he went on to poke the proverbial bear by attacking Cena’s father two weeks ago on Raw, to the dismay of his handlers. With practically everyone but the voices in his head turned against him, The Authority seemed content to throw Orton to the wolves; whether the challenge fortified him or not seemed of little concern in their last meeting.

When the bell tolled at Royal Rumble, the Cenation leader didn’t waste any time in rectifying his (failed) bid at payback six days earlier. The Viper was besieged from the beginning by Cena, who for all his strength, has never been considered much of a brawler, yet seemed quite at home throwing boulder-sized fists into Orton’s head and torso. Spurred into action, The Viper retaliated with a plunging stomp to Cena and a trio of bone-rattling headbutts.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

The tone of the match shifted quickly after that, and both champion and challenger seemed to buy more into the throwback style of the match. An attempted Boston Crab from the Cenation leader was followed by Orton’s flawless suplex off the apron. The Viper’s preening attempts to mug for the crowd were met with hostility, as jeering taunts of “DAN-IEL-BRY-AN!” reminded Orton of the man he won his ill-gotten WWE Championship from in the first place.

Despite the head games, Orton – who was as thrilled with the chants as he had been at the prospect of facing Cena in this rematch– managed to stay in control, planting Cena with a DDT before striking a taunting pose atop the turnbuckle. The former World Champion picked his moment to strike then, toppling Orton with an Electric Chair and transitioning seamlessly into his signature sequence. The Apex Predator, however, seemed to have Cena better scouted than The Authority perhaps expected, cutting him off before the Five Knuckle Shuffle.

The Cenation leader recovered fast, plunging onto the back of Orton’s head with a top-rope leg drop that spurred both Superstars into another gear. Cena made a move for the Attitude Adjustment, but Orton dropped him with a hanging DDT from the apron to the concrete. The challenger’s typical comebacks seemed to run dry before they even began, and Orton appeared to be making good on his insistences that – despite conventional wisdom – one victory over Cena was all he needed to prove his dominance. Even a lightning-quick offset of the RKO into the STF couldn’t put the Champion of Champions away, thanks to a mighty reach for the ropes by the embattled titleholder.

The counter did, however, slow Orton down enough for Cena to finally get his steam rolling. Connecting with the Five Knuckle Shuffle, the former Champ had Orton dead to rights … until a failed Attitude Adjustment took the referee out by mistake when Orton’s foot was accidentally rammed into the official’s skull. The subsequent (and, all things considered, immediate) tapout from the STF went unrecorded, and The Viper stayed alive by clocking Cena in the head with the World Heavyweight Championship belt. The would-be finishing blow only bought Orton a two-count, and it nearly cost him more when Cena sprang an Attitude Adjustment on The Viper that almost earned him a pinfall.

WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton def. John Cena

With the WWE Universe still jeering him, a reeling Orton countered with an RKO and very nearly had Cena in position for a punt to the head. When that went south, both champion and challenger decided to ditch their own playbooks and take a page out of each other’s. Orton locked in a wicked-looking STF and Attitude Adjustment; Cena lashed out with an RKO in response. At this point, there weren’t so much two Superstars left  as there were beaten shells of them, so there was nothing left to do but empty the arsenal. Cena, for his part, got the better of the ensuing exchange when he administered a tornado DDT from the top rope, locking in the STF again and stranding Orton in the middle of the ring, with no escape available to him.

That is, until Bray Wyatt delivered it. Suddenly appearing at ringside with Erick Rowan & Luke Harper, The Eater of Worlds took Cena’s focus off the Champion of Champions long enough for Orton to hit the pivotal RKO that spelled Cena’s doom. The Viper – wanting no part of the man whom he earlier referred to as a “‘Duck Dynasty’ reject,”– slunk out through the audience and left Cena to the mercy of Wyatt. The “Man of 1,000 Truths” directed his Family to discipline Cena, and, with the WWE standard-bearer left limp in his arms, proclaimed his clan “the creators of the new world” before putting Cena to sleep with Sister Abigail.

So that’s the way it ends for John Cena: Denied his glory and stripped of his strength. What would have been a vindicating win was instead a crushing loss, sealed with a kiss.