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Who will claim the elder wand?

21 Aug 20 | Re: Making sense of wrestling history | Link-U-Post

Sunday night at Summerslam will mark the end of a wrestling story almost ten years in the making. Yes, Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton are wrestling for the WWE Championship, but there are other, hidden stakes involved that make this one of the biggest matches of all time from a certain point of view.

To explain. It's not often that a pro wrestler retires at the top. For one thing if you're at the top of any profession it's hard to stop just when the money's getting good. Plus there's an honourable tradition that wrestlers should lose their last match, giving their prestige as fuel for the next guy's career. So strong are these two impulses that the last time a wrestler retired, for real, while truly on top of the world was in 2011, when WWE Champion Edge had to retire due to an unexpectedly severe neck injury shortly after defending his title at the biggest show of them all, Wrestlemania.

That was a huge deal: tearful send-off, hall of fame induction. But it was an even bigger deal than most realised, because as well as being WWE Champion, Edge was also the undisputed lineal champion. If you trace the lineage of both the WWE (WWF) or WCW (RIP) championships from back in the mists of time, through Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, victory to victory, both of them had ended up with Edge. So his retirement represented one of very few breaks in that continuity. (The main comparable one was Bret Hart, who had to retire at the start of 2000 just after winning the WCW Championship, along with that side of the title lineage. But he was only a claimant to the lineal title; Edge was undisputed.)

Edge seemed to be completely retired for almost a decade, but at the start of this year he made an unexpected and fairly triumphant return. He was in good shape, he was well and fondly remembered, and he hit the ground running with a win in his first one-on-one match at this year's Wrestlemania. However, a month later he lost a match to WWE's current talisman of continuity Randy Orton. So, I make Orton the current lineal champion.

Or is he? After the 2011 Edge-retirement, the other option is to pick up the thread with the last guy Edge beat to become lineal champion, The Miz. (The Miz isn't super respected but results don't lie and he had beaten the near-impervious John Cena as well as one Randy Orton to get where he was.) Soon afterwards, Miz lost to Cena, who lost to CM Punk, and so on through various wrestling luminaries of the early 2010s, and then midcarders like Dolph Zigger for some reason, until it reached... Batista, during his 2014 return to the ring after a long absence. Fans will tell you that this comeback misfired, and Batista never won a title on that run, but he did have a win over the Irish wrestler Sheamus that by my reckoning brought him the lineal claim. Then he went off, without losing, back to Hollywood to become low-key one of the most successful wresters turned film stars in history. If it wasn't for the Rock, people would be going nuts about him.

So once again the lineal champ had stepped away. Until last year, When Batista returned for a one-off match against his friend and nemesis Triple H! H won the match but soon lost to Randy Orton (hi again!), who lost to Kofi Kingston, who got stomped by Brock Lesnar, who looked pretty much unbeatable until Wrestlemania 2020 when Drew McIntyre beat him to take the WWE title and that branch of the lineal claim.

Now, then, two lineal claims that had long lain dormant are active once more. The Edge version of the torch is held by Orton, while the Batista honours are with McIntyre. Soon the two will meet and tie together those ten years of waiting, speculation, uncertainty, and (I realise now I'm writing this) constant mentions of Randy Orton. May the best man win!

(What happened post-Batista, you may ask. To put it briefly, that 2014 lineage made its way from Sheamus through most of the current top guys as well as James Ellsworth and eventually hit a wall named Brock Lesnar, but he did occasionally lose and now the claim rests with WWE's other champion, the Universal Champion Braun Strowman. That means that if whoever wins McIntyre vs Orton can hold the title until November we can look forward to a likely champion vs champion match at Survivor Series that will finally tie up all the strands in this story. Can't wait for that one.)

Posted by MARCELO at 23:28

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