We are two nights removed from WrestleMania 36. Without a shadow of a doubt, the most divisive match on the two-day affair was the Last Man Standing Match between a returning Edge and Randy Orton.
If you read commentary from most people, you’ll find people who thought it was a great brawl and others who believed it was a long slough that was boring and meandering. You likely won’t find an in-between from those two sides.
I have since rewatched the match, and initially, I thought it was very drawn out, but a good fight. Upon rewatching it, I’ve soured on it a bit. This pains me to say because Edge and Orton are the two superstars that got me into wrestling to begin with. So it pains me to break down why this match missed the mark, but here we go anyways.
Let’s address the 37-minute elephant in the room. If you ask most people who hated the match, they’ll first direct your attention to the length of this match. Folks, this was the longest match in WrestleMania history if you don’t count Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ Iron Man match.
Does a match featuring Randy Orton’s methodical offense and a 46 year old 9 years removed from wrestling sound like a match that needs to go nearly 40 minutes? Of course it doesn’t. Regardless of how good Edge looks (and for someone near 50, he looks fantastic), this was not a match that needs to go that long.
Matches that go long for the sake of being long often go nowhere quickly. A part of me is actually thankful this wasn’t done in front of a live crowd because they may have trashed it or have fallen asleep for Edge’s first singles match in 9 years.
It’s almost like this match only went long to show us that Edge can go and that he’s fully healthy. While there’s no doubt this match proved that, I think the Royal Rumble showcased that already. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be taking the bumps that he did.
This was the first time Triple H didn’t compete at WrestleMania since 2007, but you could definitely tell that his presence was here in this match, because boy did it drag. The timing of this match coincides with my next point.
Next, let’s address the Last Man Stipulation. Folks, I’ll be blunt. I hate Last Man Standing matches. At least, I hate WWE’s modern version of it. The reason why modern Last Man Standing matches suck is because they go on for too damn long and halt the action way too frequently.
A hallmark of the modern version of this match is the referee counting at the top of his lungs after EVERY transitional move, and they’d often come within 2 minutes of each other. We don’t need the ref counting after every elbow drop, suplex and Irish Whip.
In the past, the referee would only count after high impact moves to keep things going. Another reason why LMS suck is because it’s a lesson in time padding. The match was 37 minutes long, but there was realistically only about 20 minutes or more worth of action because the rest of the time was spent either setting up spots or the referee counting.
So to summarize, you have a 37 minute match with only about 20 minutes worth of action that felt like it was an hour long. That’s the conundrum this match faced. A match like this could work with Tomasso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano because they are younger, more nimble and therefore have the capability to do more creative spots.
There’s nothing creative about walking about the entire Performance Center just pushing people into equipment and doing the most basic brawling.
I’d also be remiss not to mention Randy Orton. This pains me to say, because once again, Orton’s one of my all time favorites. HOWEVER, it must be said that there’s a disturbing trend that’s occurring with Orton all too often.
Randy is what I describe to be a “journey more than the destination” kind of performer. What do I mean by that? When it comes to Randy, the match that’s supposed to pay off a feud is never as entertaining as the build to the feud itself. In other words, the destination is never as fun as the road we took to get there.
We’ve seen this frequently with Orton. Remember when he punted Vince McMahon in the head and made out with Stephanie after giving her an RKO just to mess with Triple H’s psyche and get a mental edge? He was a phenomenal psychopath. Then, what happened at WrestleMania 25? It was one of the most boring main events in WrestleMania history.
This was compounded by the fact that match was chosen as the main event over Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, which many consider to be the greatest WrestleMania match ever.
Remember when Orton set Bray Wyatt’s house on fire and did his signature pose in front of it after turning on him? What did we get at WrestleMania 33? A boring, lethargic match with disturbing visuals on the mat that didn’t result in anything.
Or even last year’s feud with Kofi Kingston. That was a feud with 10 years worth of history and was supposed to fully legitimize Kofi as WWE Champion material and that never happened.
So fast forward to this year. Orton puts on some of the greatest character work of his career into this feud. From the shocking way he assaulted Edge, to his deluded reasoning and RKO’ing Beth. It was fantastic to see, and his acting carried the feud when Edge was selling the injury.
But when the lights are on, we get a match that had many asking when it would end as opposed to how it would end. For someone of Orton’s talent and family history, that’s not how you want to be remembered.
Make no mistake about it. Orton is a first ballot Hall of Famer off the strength of his accomplishments alone. However, despite the accolades, Randy Orton will never be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Rock, Austin, HBK, Taker or Flair because Orton all too frequently doesn’t rise to the occasion.
This match not working isn’t entirely on him. But considering this isn’t the first time it has happened with Randy, it’s hard not to point fingers.
To summarize, I don’t think time will be kind to this match. Personally, I rated it ***1/4, but now I believe I might have been generous because I love these two superstars so much. What these two were going for was great in theory. In practice, it missed the mark. I didn’t even address the visual of Orton hanging Edge.
My final conclusion is that the match is still somewhat good, but not what it should have been. What do you guys think?