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.
Whenever I'm asked what my favorite feud of all-time is, I waste no time in saying Randy Orton vs. Christian. The stellar storytelling combined with the amazing matches they had over the course of 2011 made it such a remarkable rivalry, and in my opinion, it marked the last time SmackDown was worth watching on a weekly basis (up until recently, anyway). Thus, it was only fitting that their multi-month program culminated in a No Holds Barred bout at SummerSlam.
But first, it is important to revisit what led them to that point. For months, Christian struggled to win back the World Heavyweight Championship he lost to Orton on an episode of SmackDown in early May, coming up short at Over the Limit and Capitol Punishment. In what would have been his final title shot at Money in the Bank, he resorted to desperate measures to regain the gold by spitting in Orton's face, causing The Viper to go off the deep end and get himself disqualified. Per the stipulation of the match, Christian was crowned the new world champion.
With Orton in chase mode, that was when the feud really started to heat up, and Orton was relentless in his pursuit of the World Heavyweight Championship. Christian dodged him at every turn, but there would no escape at SummerSlam when they collided for a final time in a No Holds Barred match. During this period, Orton was flying off the handle on a seemingly regular basis, and thus the lack of disqualifications and count-outs in their latest encounter would surely work to his advantage.
Two days prior to the pay-per-view, Christian promised Orton on SmackDown that he "had the best thing going" at SummerSlam, and so rumors ran rampant as to who he could possibly be referring to. His old "problem solver" Tyson Tomko? The returning Chris Jericho, perhaps? Ultimately, it was revealed to be Edge, who was last seen celebrating with Christian when he won the world title the first time at Extreme Rules. But instead of aiding Christian in his onslaught against Orton, he arrived in Los Angeles to tell Christian how much of a whiny bitch he had been.
As Edge promptly walked off never to be seen again for the remainder of the night and Orton made his entrance, a worried look came across Christian's face: what was he to do now? Without a back-up plan, Captain Charisma was forced to fend for himself. While Orton did dish out an immense amount of punishment on his heated rival, Christian fought back and scored quite a bit offense over Orton as well, nailing him with a slew of Signapore cane shots and blasting him with a steel chair.
As an Apex Predator, Orton absorbed the pain, not staying down for long before bouncing back with more vigor than ever before. It was almost as if he fed off that extreme environment, and the fans were loving every second of his methodical attack on Christian. The crowd wanted tables and they sure as hell got them with Orton pushing Christian through a table at ringside before putting him through another in a corner turnbuckle. It was everything one could ask for from such a match.
Orton was in the driver's seat for a majority of the match, but Christian had his fair share of hope spots as well. He planted Orton with a Killswitch at one point, but it wasn't enough to put him away. He then dug deep and found it within him to jump off the top rope, only to be caught by Orton in mid-air with an RKO... on the steel steps, no less! That was the same exact move that won Orton the world title months earlier, so it was the perfect way for him to reclaim the championship at the biggest party of the summer.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #5: John Cena vs. Batista, SummerSlam 2008"