The Bald White Guys with Stubble Edition
With all due respect to Damien Mizdow’s comedic genius, there were two wrestlers who created the most memorable moments in the ring over the last week. Both Cesaro and Randy Orton were busy throughout the week and keyed tremendous matches at Night of Champions. Cesaro’s loss to Sheamus for the U.S. Title reminded everyone that he is one of the best wrestlers in the company and needs very little to jump to the top level of the card. Orton is already at the top of the card and proved that he deserves to stay there as long as he wants with an incredible win over Chris Jericho at the same show. Neither Cesaro nor Orton is involved in a hot feud at the moment, neither has a persona that jumps off the screen, and neither gets all that much time to express himself on the mic. For those reasons, it’s easy to forget how valuable they are to the company. On a show like Night of Champions, though, we see that the lifeblood of a wrestling company is the occasional match that is so great that it makes it worthwhile to sit through bad comedy, misfired promos, and pointless matches.
Cesaro was one of the most active wrestlers in WWE through the last week. He wrestled on Smackdown in a tag match with The Miz against Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus. I already dislike the blurred lines between the U.S. and Intercontinental Titles, so it bothers me even more to see the champions and challengers mashed together in the same match. Nonetheless, the match set up the PPV confrontations as well as could be expected. Despite the lackluster build, Cesaro and Sheamus wrestled a fantastic match at Night of Champions. It was extremely physical and showed a variety of styles. Cesaro once again came across as very likable because he is so tough and has the ability to stand toe-to-toe with anyone in the world of wrestling. Sheamus eventually won with a very sudden Brogue Kick, but Cesaro acquitted himself wonderfully. He followed it up with more dominance on Raw when he teamed with the Dusts against Sheamus and the Usos. It came off feeling like Cesaro and Sheamus might continue their rivalry over the U.S. Title, which would not be a problem for me. If they continue to wrestle matches on the level of their Night of Champions match, any storyline entertainment will be a bonus.
While Orton was not active on Smackdown, he more than made up for it at Night of Champions and on Raw. His PPV match against Jericho received similarly limited build-up and went far above and beyond with its delivery. Orton and Jericho have worked together so many times through the years that they do not need an extended run to familiarize themselves with one another. In fact, they are so comfortable working together that they can think two or three counters ahead on their signature moves. The way Jericho avoided the hangman’s DDT and turned it into an attempt at the Walls of Jericho was clever and made sense. There were examples of similar tit-for-tat throughout the match, so much so that I did not even see the catch RKO coming when Jericho went for a cross-body off the top rope. With his matches against Bray Wyatt and Orton the last few weeks, Jericho made good on his most recent WWE run. Orton, though, had more work to do. He and John Cena got the main event slot on Raw for a match that has probably happened even more than Orton-Jericho. Cena more or less sold fatigue from his match with Brock Lesnar and Orton dominated for a long stretch. Some storyline theatrics resulted in a run-in by Seth Rollins and Kane, an appearance by Dean Ambrose out of a box of what were supposed to be cinder blocks, and a brawl that left Orton and Kane laid out. For his part, Orton carried a long match in a relatively interesting way. He was given a very difficult task: he had to overcome the beating he took in a long match the night before, carry a match that had virtually no hint of a surprise, and keep it entertaining for upwards of 20 minutes. Orton-Cena was in no way as impressive as Orton-Jericho, but Orton deserves credit for even making it passable under the circumstances.
Interestingly, Cesaro and Orton started out the year with one of the best free TV matches we have seen in 2014. Cesaro beat Orton on Smackdown during the build toward Elimination Chamber in February in one of his best WWE wins to date. Since that time, they have gone in separate directions. Orton slowed down after his main event run at the end of 2013, played a supporting role in Evolution into The Authority, and has spent more time wrestling good matches than developing big stories. Cesaro hit a career high point with his Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal win at Wrestlemania, split with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger, briefly associated himself with Paul Heyman, and has spent more time wrestling good matches than developing big stories. Guys like Orton and Cesaro are essential for a wrestling company. Comedy, pageantry, and high spots are all nice, but there are other forms of entertainment that can deliver them. At the end of the day, WWE needs quality wrestling and nobody delivers it as consistently as these two.