By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on WrestleMania Recall, I will be ranking my top 31 favorite matches in WWE WrestleMania history. A new installment will be posted every day in the month of March, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Thursday, March 31st, mere days before WrestleMania 32. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
All right, let's get it out of our systems now: WrestleMania 27 is one of the worst installments of all-time. There, I said it! And I'm not disputing that opinion, either, I tend to agree with it. I've said plenty times in the past that 2011 was my favorite year in wrestling as a fan (before 2015, that is), but that doesn't necessarily mean WrestleMania that year was great. In fact, it was quite awful, but I would be remiss to call the entire card complete trash. Say what you will about the mediocre main event between John Cena and The Miz or the train wreck that was Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler, but Randy Orton vs. CM Punk was terrific.
I remember reading shortly after the event that Orton and Punk were mad about getting pushed down the card, and it's hard to blame them. They had a hell of a match (which I'll discuss momentarily) and nothing else came close. It was also one of the few feuds on the show that I cared about and had been built rather well by and large. Punk said himself in his own documentary that he should have been in Miz's spot that year against Cena, but he definitely made the most of what he was given instead with Orton.
At the 2011 Royal Rumble, Orton was given one last shot at Miz's WWE Championship, but before he could regain the gold, Punk and the rest of The New Nexus intervened and cost him the contest. It was revealed the next night on Raw that the reason Punk targeted Orton was because he had lingering issues with him from almost three years earlier. Remember when Orton punted Punk in the head and forced him to relinquish the World Heavyweight Championship at Unforgiven 2008? Yeah, that.
I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Granted, Punk would have exacted revenge earlier in storyline and it was merely a way to make sense of the feud because Creative didn't have any other ideas, but it worked well and fit the narrative nicely. In the weeks that followed, Orton took out every member of The New Nexus in calculated fashion, kicking each and every one of them in the skull and ensuring it would just be them two in the ring at WrestleMania 27 and no one else.
Well, Orton got his wish. Come WrestleMania, it was down to him and Punk. I was convinced someone would come out and get involved, possibly a returning Skip Sheffield (who wouldn't come back to action for another year), but no such luck. In retrospect, I'm glad there wasn't any interference because it allowed them to produce the great wrestling match they were capable of contesting. For all of his trash talking, Punk backed up every word of it in the ring by putting The Apex Predator through absolute hell.
But like a true viper, Orton was resilliiant and fired back with clotheslines and powerslams of his own. He looked to put Punk away the same way he did his stablemates, but to no avail; The Straightedge Superstar managed to dodge that bullet. However, Orton seeking retribution was only inevitable, and it occurred when Punk least expected it. As Punk ascended the top rope for a flying clothesline, Orton retaliated with a WrestleMania-worthy RKO out of nowhere that led him to scoring the victory.
No championships or title shots were up for grabs, nor were they any stipulations attached. Rather, it was a straight-up fight between two ruthless rivals, which is what WrestleMania needs more of these days. Feuds that can be created out of pure animosity. Their next two matches on Raw and Extreme Rules, respectively, were equally excellent and are worth a watch as well. I'm not denying WrestleMania 27 was a disappointment, but you're lying to yourself if you say every match on the card fell flat. Look no further than Orton vs. Punk.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #25: Chris Jericho vs. Edge, WrestleMania 26"