October 4, 2007
Guest column: Making a case for Jericho vs Orton
By BRIAN ELLIOTT - SLAM! Wrestling
The author Napoleon Hill, who was one of the pioneers of self-help/personal success books, once wrote that "opportunity often comes in disguised in the form of misfortune." In the case of WWE, misfortune is a mild word to describe the long-term injury to John Cena, but they must heed Hill's words and give the new champion a great opportunity to shine.
The last time that a WWE title had to be held up for an injury, The Great Khali won a Battle Royal to succeed the injured World Heavyweight Champion Edge. That, however, was not opportunity, it was lazing booking; the occasion was there to elevate someone into main event contention, and instead the belt was hand delivered to the single worst, yet biggest, wrestler in the company.
Upon hearing of Cena's injury, my initial thought was that the booking of an eight-man single elimination tournament would be useful to get a new champion over. Bret Hart's King of the Ring tournament win in 1993, for example, is well-remembered nearly 15 years later, such was the way that he triumphed over Razor Ramon, Mr Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow. Also, it has been some time since a single-elimination tournament decided the destiny of a championship.
Unfortunately, the WWE roster, never mind on RAW alone, does not have the talent depth to make such a tournament work. The babyface side in particular is weak, with only Triple H and Jeff Hardy notably popular. Furthermore, the eventual winner would not have three quality opponents available to him, as Hart had on that day.
Therefore, we are left with a singles contest as the only effective option to crown a new champion. Invariably, the finishes to Triple-Threat matches and the like do not feel conclusive, because someone can lose a match by neither being pinned, nor submitting.
In addition, to make the bout last in the memory, as Hart's non-title tournament win does, three things must be accomplished. Firstly, it must be a bout which the fans are eager to see. The match must also end by clean pinfall or submission. And finally, the bout must be at least 35 minutes in duration.
To meet this criteria, which I'll explain in a moment, there is only one bout which I believe will work: Randy Orton versus Chris Jericho.
Built correctly, making it more obvious each week that the "Save_us.222" symbols refer to Jericho, I believe there would be great interest in Jericho returning in a title match. Though it should be made obvious to that it is Jericho, the bout should be booked as Orton facing a mystery opponent. That should allow for a huge pop for Jericho, and for the excitement to carry through the match. Orton should certainly remain in the match -- which must be changed to a regular bout from a Last Man Standing match -- as he has been Cena's most recent credible challenger.
The idea of a clean finish should be easy to implement, and it is not difficult to envision a Lionsault victory for Jericho.
Lastly, Orton and Jericho should easily be capable of putting together a quality, long match, which builds to a babyface-winning crescendo. The encounter must last an unusual amount of time, to show the effort that the new champion has had to go through for the honour of being WWE champion. Such booking would also mean that the bout should remain memorable for quite some time.
To my mind, the bout could build to Orton attempting his "concussion kick", which has been built well on previous shows. Laying on the ground, seemingly prone to the attack, Jericho should be seen to raise an arm as Orton strikes him, partially blocking the attack. Jim Ross would also note this on commentary. When he is thus able to escape a pinfall at two, it will be time for Jericho to make his final comeback.
As part of a simple post-match angle, to build a potential feud down the road, Triple H should afterwards appear in the aisle, creating a far-off staredown with Jericho, who is standing the ring. After several tense moments, Triple H should begin to applaud Jericho for his efforts, in an act of respect for his ability. Such an action would denote that Triple H has his eyes on reclaiming the title, and can build to a short series of matches between he and Orton, after which Triple H could receive his shot at the new champion. In the meantime, also building to the Triple H showdown, Jericho could gain a credible win over Umaga.
To apply the above would not seemingly take a great deal of effort on the part of WWE. Jericho is a ready-made superstar, whose return is being build as such already. As with my introductory example of The Great Khali, WWE must avoid previous mistakes by offering a title opportunity to someone who has the ability to carry the title.
Khali's win was boring, lazy, and obvious. Chris Jericho is the direct opposite of all three adjectives.
Brian Elliott is British journalist covering pro wrestling, fight sports,
and soccer. He is the sports editor for Zodiac Lung magazine, and can be
visited online at http://spaces.msn.com/brianelliott.