By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on SummerSlam Recall, I will be ranking my top 20 favorite matches in WWE SummerSlam history. A new installment will be posted every day leading up to SummerSlam 2016, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Saturday, August 20th. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
I have gone on record multiple times in the past in saying 2005 is one of my favorite years as a WWE fan. Not only did it feature the meteoric rises of John Cena, Batista, Edge and others, a number of ruthless rivalries transpired in 2005 both on Raw and SmackDown. Among them was The Undertaker vs. Randy Orton, which peaked at WrestleMania 21. It appeared Orton's sole motive in targeting 'Taker was to end his historic undefeated streak at WrestleMania, but the bad blood between them ran deeper than that as we soon discovered.
Obviously, Undertaker emerged victorious in their premier battle at WrestleMania, and with the two on separate brands at the time, that seemed to put a premature end to their angle. It wasn't until Orton was sent to SmackDown in the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery that he rekindled his rivalry with Undertaker by laying him out on an episode of SmackDown that June, sending the message that their feud was far from over and was rather just getting started.
Again, it wasn't all about Orton ending Undertaker's streak at WrestleMania. That was part of the plan, sure, but moreover, he was hungry to make an immediate impact on the blue brand and reclaim his top spot in the company by taking out the most respected veteran in the locker room. He may have fallen short of doing so at The Show of Shows, but just barely. Now, he had a chance to redeem himself by facing off against his adversary in a rematch at SummerSlam.
I feel this match tends to get overlooked in the multiple matches these two had over the course of 2005. Their WrestleMania match is undoubtedly an instant classic that helped put Orton on the map in WWE, even in defeat. Meanwhile, their No Mercy and Armageddon matches are remembered for their Casket and Hell in a Cell stipulations, respectively, so their SummerSlam match is regarded as their "worst" encounter. That may be true, but it was still a solid addition to a stacked SummerSlam card that year.
Without The Streak or anything else on the line, the fans weren't as engaged in the action, but that isn't to say they had a poor wrestling match. In fact, they showed for a second time that their in-ring chemistry was second to none, and despite not being on the same level as The Deadman in the beginning, Orton was looking to prove he could be in time. A win over Undertaker on the biggest stage next to WrestleMania would surely accomplish that as well.
The second half of the bout was more exciting than the first, and while some may argue that the entire matchup was a bore fest, I thought they did an effective job of maintaining a consistent pace throughout, building to a fun final few minutes. Another aspect of their program that I liked a lot was the inclusion of Randy's father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton, who officially returned to WWE TV on this night. He was disguised as a fan who ran in the ring and distracted the referee long enough to allow Orton to capitalize and score the huge victory.
Now, would it have been even better if Orton won cleanly? Of course, but this is Undertaker we're talking about here, and clean wins over him aren't given out like candy. Besides, having Bob help his son conquer The Phenom added heat to their act as they became one of the focal points of the SmackDown brand in the remainder of 2005. Exactly one year removed from when he captured his his first ever World Heavyweight Championship, it was fitting Orton returned to the mountaintop at SummerSlam by beating one of the greatest of all-time.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #20: Randy Savage vs. The Ultimate Warrior, SummerSlam 1992"