Randy Orton meets Edge tonight at Backlash.
The match, promoted by the WWE as “The Greatest Match Ever,” is immensely important to both performers. But not because Orton and Edge are weighted by the unrealistic expectations of delivering the best match in wrestling history. Rather, this represents a rare second chance to deliver upon what they started at WrestleMania.
Their Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania was a fantastic display of heart, determination and fortitude. But running over 36 minutes in an empty Performance Center, it failed to connect with the audience at-large. The match failed to seize the moment in what was supposed to be an epic encounter. Somehow, Edge’s magnificent return was slightly spoiled.
“A lot of people bitched and moaned that my match with Edge was too long,” said Orton. “But then you had Goldberg and Braun, or Drew and Brock, and they go two minutes and each do their finishing move three times each. How could you be happy with that? We went out there and busted our asses for close to 40 minutes.
“With Backlash, the last thing I’m worried about is time. I’m not going to go, ‘Oh, 16% of the WWE Universe thought my match with Edge was the s--- because we went too long.’ F--- that. If it takes an hour, it takes an hour. If it takes 30 minutes, fine. We own the Network and however long it takes to put on the greatest match, or what could potentially be the greatest wrestling match ever, I’m going to do it. As far as the time goes, those fans don’t matter to me. The fans that matter to me are the ones that are going to watch us tell a story, one that I think has been the best story going this year.”
A 20-year veteran of the pro wrestling business, Orton is a master of his domain. He innately understands the ebbs and flows of a successful match, but he also knows how to read the landscape. Just like wrestling has evolved during the course of his career, it is certainly different amidst the empty arena era.
The Orton-Edge match for Backlash was filmed in advance, providing an opportunity to correct any disconnect from WrestleMania, which took place in the infancy of wrestling’s empty arena matches in the pandemic.
“Mania was weird,” admitted Orton. “I had that House of Horrors match with Bray Wyatt a couple years ago, and we got a lot of s--- for it ‘cause it was so different. There was an arena full of people for the House of Horrors match, and it was hard because they were watching the big screen. That kind of took you out of the moment. Then AJ, Taker, Bray, and Cena, they do the cinematic gimmick and it’s over like a million bucks.”
The WrestleMania match did not lack in emotion, but success in wrestling is often determined by the match a way is presented. Orton plans to capitalize and improve upon the Last Man Standing match, especially in the more traditional setting of a wrestling ring. And there is inherent pressure in this match, extending far deeper than the promotional tag line. After Edge was forced to retire nine years ago, Orton wants to deliver the most compelling showcase forum for his wrestling brethren, a man that specifically chose to work with him in his return program.
“This is a guy who was out almost a decade because of his neck and was told he had to retire,” said Orton. “He had a bike accident a year ago, and when he got up after crashing, that’s when he realized he could do this. He went back and saw doctor after doctor after doctor, and they all cleared him. Finally, he saw the WWE doctors. They cleared him. Then who does he want to work with, who does one of the best talents ever want to work with? Me.
“The pressure is on for me. I’ve got an old friend who wants to steal the show. At WrestleMania, it’s hard to compare us to the Boneyard match or the stuff that Cena and Bray did, but I thought it was great, too. I thought we had the best match on the card, and we’re going to have the best match at Backlash, too.”
On paper, the idea that the greatest match ever can be promised ahead of time is outlandish. This has undoubtedly crossed Orton’s mind, especially considering he will not have the benefit of 15,000 passionate people amplifying his moments of brilliance in the ring.
“Is it going to be the greatest wrestling match ever?” asked Orton. “That’s a lot of pressure. When Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had the first of their two-match series at WrestleMania 25, nobody went in thinking, ‘This is going to be the greatest wrestling match ever.’ When it was done, that’s when people said it. That’s how it usually goes, but it’s subjective. Some people like one style, other people like a different way. Some people like crashes-and-burns and talent breaking their neck for them, some people like a good story. Some people like a short match, like Lesnar vs. Drew or Braun vs. Goldberg, and some people like a long match because you need time to tell a story.”
Orton extended his gratitude for those that have provided with him unconditional support throughout his career, guaranteeing them a captivating match against Edge. He also promised that this will serve as a must-see moment in wrestling for even non-WWE fans.
“Everybody that has been in my corner for 20 years is going to be happy with what we do at Backlash,” said Orton. “Though it’s not a very original thing to say, I wouldn’t be where I’m at in my career without all those people that have always been in my corner. And I sent a tweet that said something like, ‘Tune into Backlash, whether it’s the greatest wrestling match ever or a s--- show.’ If you’re a wrestling fan, even if you’re not a WWE fan, there is no way you don’t watch this match.”
Orton is even-keeled. He does not spend a disproportionate amount of time on the microphone, nor is he necessarily wrestling’s most charismatic follow on social media, but he is an extremely talented performer with an acute spirit for his profession. There is also an intense determination to be the best, an opportunity he plans to make the most of at Backlash.
“We’re going to tell a story in that ring, and we’re going to use our bodies, our minds, and our emotions,” said Orton. “I wouldn’t doubt that this match is great. Although the pressure is on and I think it’s mildly ridiculous to call it ‘The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever,’ we are going to try. I think that right there sells the pay per view alone.
“Sink or swim, you’ve got two guys, with almost 50 years of experience between the two of them, going out there under that much pressure. That’s when you see how good two talents are. That’s what you’re going to see at Backlash. Win, lose, or draw, we’re going to go out there and tear it the f--- down.”