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Between the Flips and Fists: McIntyre, Orton WWE Title Feud is Capturing Lightning in a Bottle

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  • Between the Flips and Fists: McIntyre, Orton WWE Title Feud is Capturing Lightning in a Bottle

    The Opening Bell

    There's a fair argument to be made that one of WWE's enduring, unwavering problems is their inability to tell long-term stories and let their wrestlers breathe and develop — and more importantly evolve — as characters.

    Since his main roster re-debut in 2018, Drew McIntyre kept a consistent heel presence, laying waste to his opposition and doing so with confident, stone cold precision not entirely dissimilar from a Terminator. They failed to capitalize on him then, instead he languished near the Universal title picture; a casualty in the endless Brock-Roman-Seth recycling routine. His heat waned, he fell back into the pack and became relegated to a series of throwaway feuds and alliances that we can now say amounted to little. His situation isn't, wasn't and won't be unique in the future. And as fans, as much as we like for our "stuff" to be all 'bout the wrasslin', it hasn't been for quite some time. And when creative direction falters, talented workers fall by the wayside and each fan can list 100 people easily who would fit that definition. However, sometimes they're allowed to breathe; sometimes they're allowed to open up, and when that happens — it's pure magic "outta nowhere."

    Magic in the Squared Circle

    When wrestling is done right, it's special. When workers can, well, work, it can draw you in and hold you, grip you, and bring you back to why you loved it as a kid and appreciate it even more now. Two recent examples of this are Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton's collective 2020. Character-wise Orton has been on a tear since a 2018 promo where he reestablished himself as the apex heel, proceeding to, for example, appear to tear Jeff Hardy's ear a new hole. We've again seen him in fine form throughout the year dating back to the earliest moments of his feud with Edge. While we can fault him in the past for being so good he appears detached, something clicked in him two years ago with his character work that hasn't gone away. Drew has been the same, and as good as both are in the ring, their mic work has never been questioned because they command your attention when they speak. That isn't something you can omit in 2020 where so much has been thrown into disarray by COVID-19, but on that screen on Monday nights, they own your gaze. Orton has always been a stellar old-school-style worker, and Drew has refined himself and his aggressive style these past years. Them colliding when they're both on their games was inevitable.

    McIntyre has been on fire throughout 2020. While it's hollow and quite difficult to say how his reign as WWE Champion should be judged without an audience present or with low viewership, what we can stick to are the simple subjective facts of his run this past half-year: He was over at the Rumble when he eliminated Lesnar. He was cheered when he won the Rumble, and it was clear week to week that fans were behind him heading into WrestleMania. Secondly, Drew has an innate quality to his promos driven by passion, articulation and a strong conveyance to the audience of what he wants to say, and he does so with quiet intensity; he casts his line, reels you in and brings you ashore. You're his and we saw that again this past Monday.

    In contrast, turning this coin from tails to the snake's head, Orton has been as vicious as a heel throughout 2020 as he was during his "Legend Killer" years when no one was safe, be they legend or Stacy Keibler. His promos with Edge and Beth are among the most captivating he's ever done because as a heel he's gone to that truly dark place where villains go where they altruistically believe that what they're doing is for the greater good. That's both chilling and remarkable, and he's executed it perfectly. You can drop a variety of additional criticisms onto the table he's set for us, ranging from he's squandered his 13 title reigns to he's boring, bored and/or unmotivated. Who can say? However, the latter is fuelled by those magical moments where he's undeniably on because he's that good, and it's arguable — and rightfully so — that Randy Orton as a heel has been the most consistent WWE performer since 2018.

    This is all without bringing their in-ring work into the conversation, because the story that is unfolding makes it secondary even though both can work a great match within their strengths. The physicality and cerebral viciousness. The passion and cold intensity. The rising inevitability as Drew counts down to the Claymore. Or just as impactful, the chilling realization of a reign ended by another RKO even before the count strikes one. Denying their talent is ignorant of the reality that wrestling at its best rests in the details, which is something Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton are exceptional at executing. Both halves work together within the confines of the story they're telling.

    McIntyre and Orton's match at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship will likely be the bout that has the best build for that very reason, and that's both an acknowledgement of their overall skill sets as wrestlers and a condemnation of the majority of the remaining product outside NXT. Beyond Sasha-Bayley-Asuka, perhaps the Mysterio-Rollins feud and Bray-Braun (which just keeps getting weirder and more like Highlander 2 than Highlander 1 — look it up), mostly every other storyline is convoluted and overproduced. For example, are we clear why MVP wasn't US Champion and Apollo still was? What's AJ doing? How are the tag title chases, same as usual? And that's the unfortunate realization of the product as a whole, that it's been endemic to the programs for some time where WWE creative gets tunnel vision on their main event programs and doesn't build the midcard like Bret Hart was built leading into SummerSlam '91. Comparatively, is there anyone to seriously challenge AJ Styles for the IC title, that won't be cobbled together two weeks from now in random fashion? That's the point, and it's why we need to appreciate what Drew and Randy are doing right now. Every action, every word, every syllable of every word, every stare... they all have purpose.

    Monday's Raw was a mess. Viewership is still woefully low. Segments are muddled, Fight Club's genesis makes no sense narratively (for example, has this been going on for weeks under our noses? Why did it start now? Why isn't Heath Slater fighting for his kids when Erik is fighting for his unborn child, apparently? etc.) and above all as many have commented, the much anticipated "new faction" was on-screen for mere seconds. Flickering lights do not count, nor does dumped technical equipment. Once again, this is why what Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre are doing is important, why it's critical to the (formerly devalued) WWE title in reestablishing it optically as the top championship over the Universal title. That singular segment was the best produced, most coherently conveyed part of the show, and by the end of August will mean the most because in the vein of traditional pro wrestling it's the most old school storytelling. The way they're interacting, the callbacks to their pasts, it's setting the table for their showdown by implying there are both professional and personal stakes, thereby establishing they have something to fight for — glory and domination for its own sake.

    The Hot Tag

    While both men are "on" right now, and this feud somehow has found refuge from the WWE dumpster-fire-booking protocols, it will end. Savour it. To no fault of Drew's, his reign has been underwhelming insofar as his booked opponents have been suspect. Big Show should not be challenging for a world title in 2020, nor should Dolph Ziggler. Enter Orton, who will most likely secure his 14th title at (or near) SummerSlam. From there, they could continue for a few months until Surivivor Series. Perhaps Orton will pivot to another challenger, such as Kevin Owens, since almost every other face is occupied similarly to how we've defaulted into the current WWE title match-up. Although still several weeks away, there's an air of inevitability in the result — an Orton victory. No matter how well Drew has done (or hasn't you may argue), no matter whether the feud continues past SummerSlam with Orton defending, the reality is that Edge will return. Sooner than later, and to no fault of Drew's, that's the money feud building towards next year's WrestleMania. And it's the right call; however it's a double-edged sword for WWE's long-term health. What makes Orton and Drew special is that it feels organic, as though it's evolving directly in front of us.

    Who's to say how Edge's injury affected the feud's trajectory. Regardless, it's still an unfinished story that needs an ending, not just a first act. Therefore based on past precedent, Orton will win the title at WrestleMania, because as is often the case WWE is telegraphing their endgame. This has rarely ended well. However, these past few years WWE has been at its best when it captures your imagination and reels you toward them. Pro wrestling thrives when you forget what you're watching is scripted and you're caught up in the moments. Think Dusty Rhodes winning the NWA title, Austin's 3:16 speech, Rock-Hogan at WrestleMania 18, Kofi and Bryan winning world titles at WrestleMania or that night in September 2018 when Cody Rhodes added his own name behind his dad's to the NWA title lineage. When workers work, when stories are personal, when stakes appear high; that's when the magic happens. And it's not to be discarded; you respect it and cheer for it like the young fans we all still are.

  • #2
    I assume this is your debut column? If so, this is impressive work and a big welcome to the CF.

    I’ve been out of the loop with WWE in 2020 - the last thing I watched was the Rumble - but you’re not the first person I’ve seen moot a Randy Orton Renaissance, and you’re not the first I’ve seen praise the programme with McIntyre either. I’m almost interested enough to check it out for myself.

    I think the one opinion I’d take issue with is that Orton has been on great form since 2018. To me, he’d taken a step back physically, although I did enjoy the Styles match at Wrestlemania 35, and it’s difficult to see him as anything but a guy whose time has passed hanging around. I thought the partnership with The Revival had promise, but we all know how WWE stupidly nixed that. Still, I’m pleased that he’s got a groove with McIntyre, and you laid out why it’s working well extremely clearly.

    A really enjoyable read - not much to say from a critique point of view, you wrote and organised this very cleanly. Welcome, and I hope to see you writing here regularly!

    Comment


    • #3
      First of all, welcome.

      Second, I'd echo a lot of Maverick's comments here. This looks like the work of an experienced writer and I think we'd all like to see more. A strong start towards the main page, if that's your goal. I certainly think this is the kind of thing that looks like it'd fit well in that environment.

      I don't really get a whole lot out of wrestling anymore - walked away last year, though I did have one last fling with the Royal Rumble matches this year - so I'd probably have a more pessimistic reading than a lot of the content here. Nevertheless, I wanted to stop by and say good job, and hope you carry on.

      "The worst moron is the one too stupid to realise they're a moron."

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Maverick View Post
        I assume this is your debut column? If so, this is impressive work and a big welcome to the CF.

        I’ve been out of the loop with WWE in 2020 - the last thing I watched was the Rumble - but you’re not the first person I’ve seen moot a Randy Orton Renaissance, and you’re not the first I’ve seen praise the programme with McIntyre either. I’m almost interested enough to check it out for myself.

        I think the one opinion I’d take issue with is that Orton has been on great form since 2018. To me, he’d taken a step back physically, although I did enjoy the Styles match at Wrestlemania 35, and it’s difficult to see him as anything but a guy whose time has passed hanging around. I thought the partnership with The Revival had promise, but we all know how WWE stupidly nixed that. Still, I’m pleased that he’s got a groove with McIntyre, and you laid out why it’s working well extremely clearly.

        A really enjoyable read - not much to say from a critique point of view, you wrote and organised this very cleanly. Welcome, and I hope to see you writing here regularly!
        T'is my debut column indeed. Thanks for the kind words, it's appreciated because I'm pretty rusty. I feel like I need to run some ropes or something.

        I think 2020 has been a weird year all-around. Right around the time COVID really spiked part of what I looked forward to was watching WWE, NWA, NXT and AEW every week, sprinkled with Impact, ROH and NJPW. I consumed it all. However, like most I'd assume, right now I think I find it harder to sit through full shows unless I'm totally invested, so I find I'm still dialed into "channel flipping" NXT and AEW with an AEW lean, and Raw/Smackdown for as long as they keep my interest. Otherwise, I keep an eye on NJPW and Impact with NWA on the sidelines.

        In my opinion Orton and Drew's work this year has been one of the brighter spots, but if you've been sort of out of the loop all year you'd probably be better served going on YouTube and watching the snippets, specifically Orton's promos with Edge and Beth to catch up rather than jumping in wholesale. I think if it hooks you, it's easy to come back. Luckily we have YouTube or the Network if that's available to you to help catch up. YouTube certainly helped me and there was a period when I just didn't watch anything.

        I'd counter that with: sure he doesn't move or look like he did 5 years ago, but he's almost 40 and in the "less is more" stage of his trajectory. But it still works for him, maybe even complementing his character's mean streak even more. I just look at what he's done since he returned to being a heel, and his Hardy program was fine, his stuff with AJ was great, I thought his feud with Kofi was a nice bookend to their story (so as to say Kofi overcame his biggest detractor and foil....you know, only to jump onto some guy's shoulders to help him execute his finish in 7 seconds... but THAT'S a story for another day, sir.) and he started off the year explosively with Edge. I really feel like he's on again, for however long this lasts. But I do believe the endgame we're looking at is Edge-Orton for the WWE title. That'll be something to watch. I just feel like Drew will be meandering again if I am actually right though, and that isn't good. But at least for now, I'm sure they have the segment online, so I'd give it a look. My point is simply this: It's very easy to become despondent with WWE. Sometimes what they do doesn't make any sense. Sometimes they're outright insulting your sense of logic and intelligence. And I think if you're a detractor and not a die-hard, it's easy to overlook them when they're on. And at least with Drew and Orton right now, that's the case, perhaps largely because Orton does have quite the laissez-faire rap sheet.


        Originally posted by Prime Time View Post
        First of all, welcome.

        Second, I'd echo a lot of Maverick's comments here. This looks like the work of an experienced writer and I think we'd all like to see more. A strong start towards the main page, if that's your goal. I certainly think this is the kind of thing that looks like it'd fit well in that environment.

        I don't really get a whole lot out of wrestling anymore - walked away last year, though I did have one last fling with the Royal Rumble matches this year - so I'd probably have a more pessimistic reading than a lot of the content here. Nevertheless, I wanted to stop by and say good job, and hope you carry on.
        Thanks, it's appreciated. Yeah, I've done some stuff in the past, but it's definitely been a while.

        I understand where you're coming from, probably for different reasons, but nonetheless I get it. I actually outright just stopped watching around 2010. I still kept track of the news, Tito's columns here, I just didn't watch aside from briefly tuning in for Punk's pipebomb period leading up to Money in the Bank. It was odd, but basically I was a big Chris Benoit fan and that whole situation messed with my head. That combined with all my childhood favourites passing away left and right, by the time HBK's retirement came I was done. So when he was able to walk away on his own terms, I was good with leaving on a good note. It really wasn't until 2016 when AJ finally signed that I came back. I was a huge fan of his going back to about 2004, so it hooked me back in and it all snowballed. Next thing I know I'm absorbing everything. The other oddity of it all too was my dad passed away that year, and he was the reason I started watching so young. Watching Raw together every Monday up until I left for school was just routine. So there was a personal element to it as well. Now I just appreciate it all because I spent so much time away.

        I can't say if you'll experience the same at some point, but I think if (the general) you look around and watch closely, you start seeing little bits of magic or special moments, or something that reminds you of why you started watching. That hot Minnesota crowd before the AJ-Balor match. Cody and Aldis for the NWA title at All-In from start to finish, the descent towards the end of Omega's title clincher over Okada, or Ospreay just doing Will Ospreay things. Cody is honestly a huge reason I fell back in love with this too, because 2016 was also the year he left and went on his indie tours. I've always been a fan of his, so it was cool to see him outside the WWE bubble and doing well, culminating with that NWA title. I really do love that match. Anyway... I hope you come back at some point to this weird, niche, odd little corner of pop culture. And again, thanks for reading.

        Comment


        • #5
          Just for context, I’m a lifelong WWE loyalist (and former main pager on the main site, writing exclusively about WWE). That their modern day product drove me away says a lot, as I’d always been pretty forgiving. Certainly wouldn’t describe myself as a detractor, at least until very recently. I still keep the Network for the back catalogue though. From what I’ve heard, the stuff with Edge sounds like my worst nightmare wrestling wise - a part timer and a guy who is full time but on the back 9 wrestling for 40 minutes - but I’ll have a look at the stuff with Drew when I get a minute. I was a defender of Orton for a long time, so if he’s doing some good work, I’m interested.

          Comment


          • #6
            You hit a homerun from the start... Great title, great presentation, and great writing. Stick around and you'll get noticed fast.

            Comment


            • #7
              As the other guys have said, this was a great debut - I hope you keep it up with regular appearances here.

              I totally agree that Orton has been on a great run of form the past year or two (although that match with Edge at Mania was at least twice as long as it should have been) and is most certainly going to take the title of Drew sooner rather than later.

              Unfortunately, to me that makes this from one of your responses to the other guys possibly the most important point in the whole thread:
              I just feel like Drew will be meandering again
              This is where WWE have regularly failed people. They seem able to build guys up to championship level, but it's what happens next that is important. It's the booking which keeps them relevant and at the top of the card until their next turn with the title comes around again. All too often, once someone loses the title they fall too far back down the cardfor our attention on them to remain and they can never get it back enough for another (justified) title run to occur.
              New Column: Dynamite's Dynamite Thursday
              Past Column: Bulldog's Bottom Line: Speaking Out

              Comment


              • #8
                Hey man, really happy to see your post here! Welcome to LOP.

                it's clear you are already a polished writer technically. As the other have said your tone is very clear and straight forward but not boring. I'm not sure about the headings, they did break the text up but I'm not sure how needed they were; use your judgement on aspects like that, ask "do they help the message or confuse it?" In this case I don't think they confused so all good.

                As to the actual content I won't be much help as I have watched very little WWE this year, I have caught all of Drew's title matches and they have all been very good. He really is a WWE dream, he has the look, his own kind of charisma, has developed into a serviceable hand on the mic and is very impressive when the bell rings without deviating too much from the WWE house style. I'm glad he has put the pieces together.

                Like Mav I have a bit of a harder time with Orton, even when he is firing I can't help but think of far more relevant wrestlers in 2020 stuck playing bit roles because WWE never gives them the time and dedication Orton bas received over the years. Yeah I'm a little jaded.

                Overall though this was a great debut column, it's great to have you here and great to have someone else who can write about WWE in a positive light, the wrestling world needs that.
                SIR SAM'S COURT
                An Ode To Judas + AEW Dynamite Notes
                @Sir_Samuel

                Comment


                • #9
                  Great debut, mate! I've heard tell of your skills, and you did not disappoint. I won't say you sold me on the idea of a Drew vs. Orton feud being interesting in 2020, on paper that is very much not for me, but you did a good job at least moving the needle of my interest a little bit. I will say I think Orton is great when he's really on, and I think it's unfortunate more of his career hasn't felt that way. As for McIntyre, he just doesn't seem to be my cup of tea. I don't watch a tremendous amount of WWE these days but I did check it out when Lashely challenged Drew for the title, because I'm a big Lashley fan. Personally I thought the big guy looked better by a mile, so I guess I still don't get on with Drew. But perhaps I'll give him another chance... sometime down the line. Stick around my man, and welcome to the CF!

                  The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by SirSam View Post
                    Hey man, really happy to see your post here! Welcome to LOP.

                    it's clear you are already a polished writer technically. As the other have said your tone is very clear and straight forward but not boring. I'm not sure about the headings, they did break the text up but I'm not sure how needed they were; use your judgement on aspects like that, ask "do they help the message or confuse it?" In this case I don't think they confused so all good.

                    As to the actual content I won't be much help as I have watched very little WWE this year, I have caught all of Drew's title matches and they have all been very good. He really is a WWE dream, he has the look, his own kind of charisma, has developed into a serviceable hand on the mic and is very impressive when the bell rings without deviating too much from the WWE house style. I'm glad he has put the pieces together.

                    Like Mav I have a bit of a harder time with Orton, even when he is firing I can't help but think of far more relevant wrestlers in 2020 stuck playing bit roles because WWE never gives them the time and dedication Orton bas received over the years. Yeah I'm a little jaded.

                    Overall though this was a great debut column, it's great to have you here and great to have someone else who can write about WWE in a positive light, the wrestling world needs that.
                    Thanks Sam and everyone else for the feedback, it's appreciated. With the subheadings, you'll probably see those exact ones again where it makes sense, but not all the time and oftentimes none at all. The "Hot Tag" one for example is extremely situational as a jumping point to an alternate point that still ties into the same subject. Overall, just where it makes it sense, because I'm not always going to have come up with a segway. I'm old and cranky enough as it is and I don't see a point in pigeonholing this.

                    As for the positive take, look, WWE isn't 100% awful all the time and I think it's important to highlight that fact when they do it. It's just as important to do that as it is to call them out, or any organization when it doesn't, whether that's WWE storyline A, B, C or D, or something like AEW Heels that's a good concept but shouldn't be charging $50 per member unless it's 100% going to a women's program of some sort.

                    Otherwise, once again, thanks everyone for the feedback. I'll definitely be around (perhaps again "sooner than later," perhaps in rapid succession. We'll see how Raw goes later).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Welcome to the CF!

                      I pretty much agree with your point on Orton. In fact I wrote column stating why Orton deserves the fire Orton is on fire right now and truth be told, as hot as Orton is now, if he wasn't any other wrestler the IWC would be clamouring for them to become champion. However, because of the negative stigma attached to Orton he can seemingly do no good.

                      As for Drew, I have to disagree with your comments on his character. He has his moments, but for the most part he has lacked the baddassery that his heel run presented and instead become the generic WWE Champion.

                      A very good debut here.

                      Comment

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