The last “Real Stars” of the WWE are John Cena and Randy Orton. After Raw Reunion this past Monday and SmackDown LIVE involved the announcement of the WWE Championship, that became incredibly clear. WWE has the most talent signed to their company than they ever have. That is a fact. The in-ring aspect is at its best not just in the WWE, but in wrestling as a whole when it comes to the amount of promotions and great matches that go on every single week. But when it comes to all that “talent” that WWE has signed, one thing is for certain, not even Roman Reigns is a huge star near the likes of Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan or Shawn Michaels. It is more about the brand than ever before. Which makes Cena and Orton the last two “Real Stars”.
You may automatically roll your eyes when you read Cena and Orton’s name, but they are the last two guys to feel truly special. So many say we will never have another era like the Attitude Era of The Rock and Steve Austin as the top guys, which is 100% true. But we are getting to the point where we have to admit that the WWE will never have another era with the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton on top to be each other’s greatest most bitter rival.
So many think back to the special Ohio Valley Wrestling class of 2002 that consisted of Brock Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin, and the two men we highlight today, John Cena and Randy Orton. And here’s the even bigger factor to think about. While that class is one of the greatest to ever come in wrestling, two of those men didn’t stick around in WWE to help lead it as much as they would have liked, which led to Cena and Orton carrying the company for the past 15 years.
Like it or not, that’s the simplest truth to speak. They were and still are stars whenever they grace the screen. Look at John Cena at Raw Reunion, it feels special when that man comes back. Not because he is a movie star now, but because he is a 16x World Champion who stood on top of the mountain in the biggest company of the world for 15 years strong. And for Orton, you view SmackDown LIVE on Tuesday and realize the biggest opponent still in the company for Kofi Kingston to face at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship is the 13x World Champion, Randy Orton.
Some may say “well CM Punk and Daniel Bryan became pretty big stars”. Sure, you could say they were pretty big and have some of the biggest moments in recent history, but they weren’t homegrown like these two. They’re not necessarily known but a broader audience like Cena and Orton. “Big Match John” and “The Viper” carried the WWE as long as they could as the top guys on either brand or feuding for long enough to recognize them in the light of being a legend. Their careers will forever be intertwined from their days in OVW, to both being options as the face of the company, and all the way to their feud which is one of the most memorable in WWE history, like it or not. So, here is a brief overview of each man’s career and how they became the last real stars of the WWE.
John Cena has received plenty of flack through his career from the fans, even embracing it by just saying he loves the WWE Universe no matter them loving or hating him. From being the Prototype, to “Ruthless Aggression!”, and all the way to tying Ric Flair for the most world title reigns of all-time, Cena left his mark while being apart and eventually leading the company for 15 years. It was really just last year when his merchandise sales weren’t the highest and Roman Reigns really took that title. He helped head WWE and for that fans should be grateful.
Cena has always been one to be attacked by fans for his “5 Moves of Doom” or them just acting like he could not wrestle. The man you can’t see was far from that, having some of the best matches and rivalries in the past two decades. Whether it is his “I Quit” match against JBL at Judgment Day in 2005 and the 60-minute battle in London on Monday Night Raw all the way back in 2007 against Shawn Michaels in his earlier years. Or the more recent classics he has had with CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011 and AJ Styles in the summer of 2016 and the Royal Rumble of 2017, Cena knew how to work. We never really knew if Cena would be away from the ring like he is now, but it’s hard to feel anything but some despair without him being there.
He is one of the biggest stars in wrestling history and that is a fact that cannot be denied. Cena did what he could to improve and try to show he was more than just five moves and much of the time he accomplished that. Cena is the man that the WWE proclaims to be “The Greatest of All-Time”, and whether you agree or not, he is certainly missed and one of the two last real stars of the WWE.
The saying for Randy Orton makes the mark of how incredibly he is already. “If you were going to build a wrestler from the ground up, it’d look like Randy Orton.” If that doesn’t say it all about Randy, then here is another quote from one of the greatest to truly ever do it. Back in late 2016, Rey Mysterio was interviewed by SI.com and was asked about “The Viper”. Mysterio responded by calling Randy Orton the best wrestler in the WWE. From his overall ability, to his overall presence and style inside the squared circle. The praise from someone like Mysterio cannot be overlooked one bit, which is why Orton is one of two when it comes to the last stars in WWE history.
Orton was and forever will be the chosen one in the WWE. When he said this past week on SmackDown LIVE that all he had to do was “be Randy Orton” to make it, he was not lying. Orton is a third-generation wrestler who had everything you wanted and more. Fans have looked as him as one not to care at times which would limit his matches to being boring, but what Orton does have is a love for the industry more than ever. He is somehow still in his 30s and while fans thought he may inch closer to being done in-ring, he comes back as he pleases and loves the hell out of it. Believe it or not, he may even be counting down the days until his contract expires, which would certainly have the WWE sweating bricks.
The equity put into Orton is incredible in makes all the sense in the world. The 13x World Champion is debatably their biggest draw that wrestles rather regularly on house shows and TV, and is now scheduled to fight for the WWE Championship at the second biggest PPV of the year. Love him or hate him, Orton has proven that his role in the WWE is still incredibly important after being one of the biggest heels and babyfaces in the past decade in a half. When you can have the crowd in the palm of your whether you are punting the fan-favorite or being the guy that hits the RKO and has the crowd going wild in some of the coolest moments in WWE history, he is certainly one of the last two real stars like it or not.
When it comes to John Cena and Randy Orton, it is hard to find a bigger rivalry in WWE history with more accolades between the two men. While they may have not competed against each other in the ring for a long time, when it is all said and done, the accolades will be viewed for both men in comparison because of how closely linked they are. Cena being a 16x world champion while Orton is a 13x world champion, Orton has accomplished Grand Slam Champion status while Cena has not, both have won two Royal Rumble matches and a Money in the Bank, and the list goes on for comparisons between the two men.
The first time these two competed for gold against each other in the WWE was actually for the World Tag Team Titles in 2007. Cena teamed with Shawn Michaels to defeat Rated RKO (Edge and Orton) and win the titles. It would be later that year that they would enter into their first feud for the WWE Championship, which resulted in Orton taking out Cena and injuring him. This would result in Cena vacating the WWE Championship and Orton eventually winning it to win his first in his illustrious career.
They had tons of matches that left fans on their seats to see if Cena could stop the villainous Orton who did all he could to be hated by the fans. Their best match possibly ever came at the 2009 Bragging Rights. The two men went to war in a 60-minute Iron Man match after trading the WWE Championship back and forth from the summer into the fall. Cena would stand tall over Orton with the last second pinfall that left Orton tapping out and Cena winning the championship back once and for all.
The two men would team up more so afterwards for the next few years, crossing each other’s paths very rarely. In 2013, their rivalry was renewed once again with the biggest implications yet. It would come down to the TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs PPV where the two biggest stars would face each other in the WWE Championship/World Heavyweight Championship Unification TLC match. Orton would get the best of Cena that night and possibly win their grandest one-on-one match in their rivalry’s history.
Cena and Orton never faced each other one-on-one at WrestleMania which remains a mystery but nevertheless made each other stars in the process.
Some people may disagree that John Cena and Randy Orton are the last great stars of the WWE, but it is hard to deny. Rarely have two performers ever been as big as this and considering WWE sells their brand more now than their wrestlers, it is difficult to disagree with these two not being the last real stars. Being two of the most successful stars in the history of the company only proves the point even more. The last two guys to really bring the special big match feel any time they are in a ring. And even the last two to have a special aura or feeling every time they’re in front of the fans. Cena and Orton are quite possibly the last two to make it main stream to the point where non-wrestling fans even know who they are, they have left a lasting legacy of being WWE’s last two true, real stars.
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