“Tonight is history,” John Cena said twice before making his way to the ring Sunday night to face Randy Orton.
He was right. It was the kind of night that prompted folks to forgo buying their 29th Cena T-shirt at the merchandise stand and grab a WWE Encyclopedia instead.
Triple H joined wife Stephanie McMahon at the start of WWE’s Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view, and “The Game” quickly went 50 years into the past, bringing up the original “Nature Boy,” Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz. It was 1963 when Vince McMahon’s father, Vincent J. McMahon, created his own world title and crowned Rogers, leaving Thesz to carry the NWA title banner.
The lineage of those two titles came together in 2001 when Chris Jericho became the undisputed champion, but a year later the titles were split again as part of WWE’s brand extension.
Nostalgia notwithstanding, all those changes were made on a calculation of what was better for business. So it was more than a mild surprise when Orton grabbed both belts from the ladder during his tables, ladders and chairs match with Cena and became the “WWE world heavyweight champion.”
It would have been more predictable to crown Cena, who told Neil Cavuto last month on Fox Business that his brand grosses $100 million a year for WWE. He had just launched a “Never Give Up” boys clothing line for KMart.
But WWE chose to re-establish Orton's dastardly persona, and "The Viper" was up to the task.
After busting Orton open over his right eye with the ring steps and giving him an attitude adjustment onto the Spanish announcers' table, Cena looked as if victory was his. But as he climbed the ladder and grabbed the belts, Orton pulled away the ladder, leaving Cena swinging above the ring. Orton then smashed Cena in the back with a folding chair, sending him crashing to the mat. Several other chair shots followed. Cena responded by drilling Orton into a table set up in the turnbuckle, but Orton countered by grabbing a pair of handcuffs and restraining Cena to the ring ropes.
Orton then retrieved a ladder and looked as if he'd have smooth sailing toward the title. But Cena removed the rope from the buckle, climbed the ladder and knocked Orton off. But Cena was still handcuffed to the rope, and Orton was able to grab the rope and pull Cena off the ladder. Cena's head hit against another table in the corner, and Orton was able to easily climb the ladder and retrieve both belts to end the match. Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon then came to the ring to congratulate Orton.
* The Wyatt Family survived a spirited performance from Daniel Bryan to defeat him in a 3-on-1 handicap match. After Bray Wyatt pinned Bryan, he eerily held his lifeless opponent in his arms for several moments, a play off his past invitation for Bryan to join the family.
* During the preshow, Kofi Kingston confronted The Miz, who was on the preshow panel with Josh Mathews and WWE Hall of Famers Mick Foley and Booker T. Kingston upped the ante on his simmering feud with Miz by slapping the former reality show star. Foley and Booker T had to separate the two. Later it was announced the two would face each other in a no-disqualification match later in the night. During the bout Miz exposed one of the turnbuckles, which ended up costing him. When Miz tried to apply the figure-four leg lock, Kingston used his leg to push Miz into the turnbuckle. Miz hit his head, and the dazed former WWE champion was defenseless for Kingston’s trouble in paradise finisher and the pin.
* R-Truth (with Xavier Woods in his corner) got the win over Brodus Clay. Clay started the match with a corner of the Funkadactyls and Sweet T, who left due to Clay’s continued childish antics.
* Brothers Cody Rhodes and Goldust retained the WWE tag-team championship by surviving a Fatal Fourway elimination match against Ryback and Curtis Axel, Big Show and Rey Mysterio, and the Real Americans. The two heel teams were eliminated first, and after Rhodes and Goldust got the win they shook hands and hugged Big Show and Mysterio in the middle of the ring. The postmatch exchange prompted the most entertaining commentary of the night, with Michael Cole and Jerry “The King” Lawler complimenting the sportsmanship, and John Bradshaw Layfield countering that if viewers wanted to see people shake hands they would watch “Dr. Phil.”
* Intercontinental champion Big E Langston defended his Intercontinental title by defeating Damien Sandow with his big ending finisher.
* AJ Lee retained her WWE Divas title by beating Natalya. A distraction by Tamika Snuka allowed AJ to apply her black widow submission on Natalya. Natalya managed to roll out, but moments later, when Natalya tried to apply her sharpshooter finisher, AJ Lee used Natalya’s hair to grab her and roll her up for the three count.
* In yet another move that hints at a breakup of The Shield, CM Punk defeated “The Hounds of Justice” in a 3-on-1 handicap match. Punk sidestepped a Roman Reigns spear attempt late in the match, and Reigns smashed into Dean Ambrose. Punk then threw Reigns out of the ring and pinned Ambrose.
* Also during the preshow, Fandango used a distraction from Summer Rae to land his leg drop off the top rope and defeat Dolph Ziggler.