For Randy Orton, his WWE Backlash pay-per-view match with Edge being labeled "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever" before they ever set foot in the ring has added an extra layer of pressure. But the WWE superstar said there are no two men better equipped to live up to those lofty expectations in a conversation with CBS Sports this week.
There were similarly big expectations when Orton and Edge met in one of the featured matches at WrestleMania 36 earlier this year, Edge's first singles match since ending his lengthy retirement. The match went more than 35 minutes before Edge scored the feel-good victory, far too long in the minds of many. For some fans and members of the media, the match was a disappointment, largely because of that length.
Anyone who took issue with the length of the WrestleMania match, Orton told CBS Sports, is not someone he wants to count among his fans.
"I think if you take the Boneyard Match out of it and you take what Bray [Wyatt] and John Cena did -- both of those were fantastic -- but if you don't compare us with that, I think we stole the show," Orton said. "I did hear some bitching and moaning from the media and the fans about how long this match was. I just laugh, because I saw a couple matches, I think even the world title match, if you include entrances and the post-match celebration, they might have gone 4 minutes.
"If you want a 4-minute match where you see five different finishers back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back with zero facial expressions? If that's the kind of fan you are, then I don't want you to be a fan of mine because you don't appreciate what we are trying to do in telling a story.
"At WrestleMania, I think we stole the show. At WrestleMania, I think we had the best story going into it, which definitely helped. The promos were killer, and it's only going to get better and better. Now, at Backlash, are we doing to have 'the greatest wrestling match ever?' Eh. That's subjective. I kind of painted myself into a corner and the pressure is definitely on, but if anybody is capable of it, it's myself and Edge."
The program between the two men is a product of Edge managing to get cleared to return to in-ring action after nearly a year out of the game. Edge made a shocking return as a surprise entrant into the Royal Rumble in January before kicking into a full program with Orton, a former tag partner and longtime friend. The result has been a program Orton said may be his favorite in his storied career.
"I can't imagine being in that position, especially if you were cleared and reached that goal of coming back to the ring after a decade of being retired because of your neck," Orton said. "There would be that concern that, physically older, who are they going to put me in there with? I don't know that Brock Lesnar would have been the best fit, for instance. There's a lot of guys who could go out there and kill it with Edge in a safe manner. That comes down to the art that we do.
WWE Backlash airs Sunday at 7 p.m. ET and streams live worldwide on the WWE Network.
"I was honored and really taken aback that he chose to work with me. In hindsight, it's a different time with the pandemic and the no fans and limited fans and running shows out of the PC every week. It's a different time. But I think, given the circumstances, this might be my most favorite personal run I've ever been involved in in coming up on 20 years of being on TV. I'm just honored that he was cleared and chose to come back and help me tell this story."
There has been a lot of weight in the Backlash marketing placed on "The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever." The feud between Edge and Orton has taken an unconventional path. At WrestleMania, the two battled in a Last Man Standing match, something usually reserved as a blow-off match to end a feud. Instead, WWE moved from the gimmick match to Orton challenging Edge to a basic wrestling contest, claiming Edge couldn't keep up with him hold-for-hold after Edge's time away from the ring.
Orton claims the secret to them being able to use this angle and the hype over the greatness of the match is in both men being able to do all the "little things" right.
"We stand out in our storytelling and the way we use our faces," Orton said. "Edge, I think has done 100 episodes of television and maybe a couple movies in the time he was gone. He was already good at registering and showing facial expressions. Now, I think there's nobody better when it comes to those little things. That body language that is so important to what we do, how a guy stands there before the bell rings, how a guy looks into the eyes of his opponents, how a guy gets up every time in the match at 10, 15, 20 minutes and how it's different every time because he's wearing himself down physically, mentally and emotionally.
"Those are the little things you can't see in a 4-minute match. I think me and Edge are definitely capable. Like I said, if anyone is capable of putting on a great match, it's me and Edge. Will it be the greatest match? That'll be subjective.
"There are fans out there that like 3 minute squash matches. They ain't gonna get that. No matter if it takes me 40 minutes, 5 minutes or an hour and a half. I'm going to go out there with Edge and we're going to tell a story.
"You ever read a book in 3 minutes? Watch a sitcom or a movie that lasts 3, 4, 5 minutes? No. It takes time. For the fans that want to sit down, grab a bowl of popcorn and get ready for some seriously good f---ing wrestling? I'll see you at Backlash. For the ones that want to go see a 3-minute match with five of the same moves back-to-back-to-back-to-back? Don't tune in."