Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #21 Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley (WWE Intercontinental Title, Hardcore Match, WWE Backlash 2004)

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(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: http://network.wwe.com/video/v31345329?contextType=wwe-show&contextId=backlash&contentId=67696346&watchlistAltButtonContext=series )

According to the WWE Network’s Best 100…List, this is Mick Foley’s best match. And who am I to argue with The List? Out of all the matches of Foley, is this really his best match? I’d argue that his match against Shawn Michaels is his finest in-ring work. But that’s at #44 (click here for my review). However, as a close second best from Foley, this one against Randy Orton is spectacular. Yes, it follows the beats of a usual ‘no holds barred’ Foley match, but there’s more than enough twists and turns to elevate it to something extremely special.

I have a theory about Randy Orton. He started out so promising. Third generation superstar, important even when injured (think of his RKO production promos), elevated the Intercontinental Championship. Was the youngest World Heavyweight Champion of all time. However, HHH and Evolution (of which Orton was a member) turned on him, thus turning Orton heel. But the crowd didn’t accept it. A month later, HHH defeated Orton for the World Heavyweight Championship. I think that was a pivotal moment in Orton’s career. Yes, he’s consistently good in the ring. But is he anything more than that? That early win/defeat demoralised him. Ever since, he’s treaded water. He’s only included three times on the Best 100…List. Looking back at this match, you’d swear he could be the WWE’s NEXT BIGGEST SUPERSTAR. But that never happened.

We saw HHH battle Foley in the guise of Cactus Jack at #26 in a career-defining match for The Game. Before that match, HHH was merely a one-time WWF Champion, nothing special. After that awesome and bloody match, HHH went on to be a legend. Foley made sure he put over HHH in the best way. He did the same for HHH’s supposed protégé, Orton, in this Hardcore match for the Intercontinental Championship. Before this, Orton was a wrestler on the rise, with some very good matches under his belt. But nothing that stood out. Foley made sure the youngster looked like a million dollars.

This is bloody, ultraviolent, and definitely hardcore. Foley’s “Barby,” a baseball bat wrapped in barbwire, is a clear and present danger. Along with chairs, tables and baking trays, there are also boards wrapped in barbed wire and thumb tacks. Foley even threatens to set fire to “barby” at one point, only to be foiled by General Manager Eric Bischoff. In many of the other Foley matches on the Best 100…List, Foley takes the brunt of the punishment. But here, he seems to dish out more punishment than usual. Orton is the one dumped on the thumbtacks, rather than Foley. For a good stretch of the match towards the end, Foley absolutely batters Orton. After hurling Orton onto thumbtacks, Foley’s assault only increases in violence.

Mick Foley and barbed wire: the greatest tag team in WWE history?

And it makes for gripping viewing. It simultaneously makes Foley look unstoppable and Orton look like a contender. It makes Orton look like he can handle the hardcore environment. I’d say it’s one of the best in-ring heel performances of all time. Orton goes toe to toe with Foley in Foley’s kind of match. Just like Foley did with HHH, Foley prepares Orton for the main event. Foley looks the part, as well, rather than looking out of shape like he did against Edge at #53 (click here for my review). It’s obvious that Foley wanted to make this match memorable. He succeeds, with the help of the young Orton. Here, Orton looks like a man who has been wrestling for years, rather than a relative amateur (he’d only been wrestling on Raw/Smackdown for two years beforehand).

I’d do some swapping of the Mick Foley matches on this Best 100…List. For example, I’d eliminate the Mankind/Undertaker Hell In A Cell match. It has a few moments, but is something of a bore in between those moments. His match against HBK should be in this place. But that’s not to say that this match doesn’t belong here. It’s a personal preference. Between this match, Cactus Jack vs HHH at the Rumble 2000, and Mankind vs HBK, it’s hard to choose a favourite. They are all of equal calibre. The latter shows that Foley is more than a hardcore legend and that he can actually wrestle a regular match. It shouldn’t be at #44. But for merely elevating a younger talent, and making that younger talent look awesome, this match deserves a high place on the Best 100…List.

VERDICT: 9/10. Mick Foley and Randy Orton put on what could be the greatest Hardcore match in WWE history. It’s bloody, ultraviolent and full of drama.

Click here for my review of #22 The Royal Rumble Match (WWE Title, WWE Royal Rumble 1992)

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