As with the episode of Biography featuring Yokozuna from two weeks ago, which was not a new production but a repackaged episode of WWE Icons from the WWE Network, this week’s episode of Rivals features a lot of footage from another Network show called WWE Untold, which aired a look at the rivalry between Undertaker and Orton in October of 2020. At least this time we have a roundtable of voices to provide some new commentary. Except there isn’t much of that, either. Surely neither Undertaker nor Orton is too busy to add some new interviews to the show, are they?
This week’s roundtable, led by former WWE writer and he who thought Rachel Leigh Cook was “All That” Freddie Prinze, Jr., features D-Von Dudley, Natalya, Booker T, and JBL. It seems that JBL is the most consistent participant in these groupings, and it also seems that he’s always given the most screen-time. He talks about how Undertaker was the cornerstone of the WWF and then WWE, and that any up-and-comer looking to prove themselves had to cross paths with him eventually. Orton, meanwhile, is deemed an immediate natural upon his arrival, and the table was soon set for them to work together.
Now, it’s specifically the interview segments featuring Undertaker and Orton that are recycled, whereas Rivals regulars like Bruce Prichard and Paul Heyman do add some new material. Prichard talks about how Taker sought out Orton as someone to elevate, suggesting that Orton could be trusted as a third-generation wrestler. Heyman notes later in the episode that Orton more than held his own in a long storyline with a legend like Undertaker.
Of course, Orton was all about legends at one point in his career. After his auspicious beginning with Evolution and winning the World Heavyweight Championship, Orton began knocking off legends left and right with RKOs: The Fabulous Moolah, Roddy Piper, Sgt. Slaughter, Jake Roberts … all fell to the move from outta nowhere. Eventually, this road had to lead to Taker.
Prinze notes that when Orton identifies The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, and how he was going to break it, this was in the earliest days of even recognizing The Streak. The story allowed for the return of Randy’s dad Bob Orton, Jr. (also appearing in previous footage from WWE Untold), who was simply pleased as punch to have a chance to work with his son.
There’s a great deal of focus on Orton and Taker’s match from WrestleMania 21, with Kevin Owens recalling being in attendance and being firmly behind Randy Orton. After an impressive performance, they fight again at SummerSlam where Orton wins (with dad’s help) to even up their series. There’s an odd sequence of people complaining about the make-up that Bob Orton used to disguise himself, but I always thought it looked fine (and still did in the highlight clips).
The third chapter in the story takes place at No Mercy with a Casket Match. Orton, again in older footage, says he’d never been in a casket match. That seems obvious, as this is only his third match with Undertaker, and I’m going to guess he didn’t have a casket match with Max Moon in OVW (no offence intended to Konnan or Paul Diamond). The Ortons together win the casket match, and you may remember seeing Randy light the casket on fire using way too much lighter fluid.
Their journey finishes with Undertaker returning after being burned alive (which should have made him … Kane?) to hunt down Orton and challenge him to a Hell in a Cell match. Johnny Gargano calls Hell in a Cell the most dangerous match in the wrestling industry, which just means Gargano, like Ron Burgundy, will read an-y-thing you put in front of him to say. He knows full-well the most dangerous match in wrestling is a scaffolding match (or, name your most dangerous, fair readers).
With Undertaker victorious in the cell, Freddie Prinze credits their run as a complete story, which is truly was. It was a short-lived rivalry, but allowed for some back-and-forth advantage and built Orton up while keeping Taker’s mystique intact, which are not easy things to accomplish all at once. As the episode concludes with Undertaker and Orton meeting at Taker’s Hall of fame induction, the only thing this show needed was some new footage to continue hearing from the two legends involved as they look back on the year they battled one another.
- Slam Wrestling’s Orton family story archive
- Slam Wrestling’s WWE on A&E archive