4. Randy Orton vs Chris Benoit – Summerslam 2004
Despite the horrific tragedy committed by Chris Benoit, we cannot simply rewrite him out of history. And he is a big part of Randy Orton’s history. Chris Benoit was the World Heavyweight champion going into Summerslam 2004, with Evolution member Randy Orton the challenger. Orton was added to the match due to political reasons.
Brock Lesnar was the youngest ever World Champion in WWE history. However, he had left WWE under a cloud after Wrestlemania XX, and WWE wanted to remove him from their history books. Randy Orton was younger than Lesnar at Summerslam 2004, so the decision was made to give him the World Heavyweight title.
Chris Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XX. He was a veteran wrestler who was a fan favourite who had never been world champion. He won the 2004 Royal Rumble and defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania for the World Championship. Chris Benoit was one of the best WWE wrestlers of all time, inside the ring.
However, WWE never bought into him as a champion, and his title run did worse business than those before him. For all his incredible, intense in ring talent, Benoit was not great on the microphone, and outside the ring did not have a great presence. He thoroughly deserved his World Championship, but his title run was a disappointment.
The match the pair had at Summerslam was great, and one of the best matches in the career of Randy Orton. Benoit’s incredible technical ability was on full display, with Orton’s style complimenting him greatly.
Benoit’s selling of the neck in the match was masterful, to the extent that you weren’t sure if he was selling or really injured. With some of the bumps he took, I’d have said the latter.
The story of the match was that Benoit was technically outclassing Orton, but his injuries let him down. The surprise RKO for the win added to the “Outta Nowhere” factor that the RKO is famous for. It’s clear most of the work to make this match work was on Benoit’s part, but Orton played his part perfectly, and earned the number four spot on the list of Best Randy Orton Matches.