If you’re a reader at Voices of Wrestling, you probably aren’t looking forward to John Cena vs. Randy Orton at October 26th’s WWE Hell in a Cell 2014. The narrative amongst hardcore fans is the matchup has been done to death and moreover the two competitors have been in the conversation as most heavily pushed stars since 2004. Sure, Orton had a few years away on Smackdown but for avid Friday night watchers, he was the central focus of that show. The point being — you’ve seen Orton a lot over the past 10 years, you’ve also seen Cena a lot over the past 10 years. The two? Oh, you’ve seen them A LOT over the past 10 years.
I’m not going to use this space to moan or complain about the matchup, it’s happening and there’s nothing we can do. So, let’s make the most of it! You all like numbers, right? If not, too bad because we’re going to break down the numbers on Cena vs. Orton, the feud that seemingly never dies.
There have been 315 total matches involving John Cena and Randy Orton together, against one another, on the same team, six-mans, Royal Rumbles, Elimination Chambers, etc. This counts House Shows, Television, Pay-Per-View and in this case, Ohio Valley Wrestling where the then-Prototype (Cena) and Orton fought a few times in 2002 and HWA where the Prototype faced Orton at the 4th annual Brian Pillman Memorial Show.
The very first match featuring Cena and Orton on the main WWE roster was a September 7, 2002 house show that saw Cena and Orton team with Mark Henry to take on Rico, Billy and Chuck.
This is the total number of PPV/TV-Show matches involving Cena and Orton. Again, this counts tag matches, Rumbles and basically any match type. The very first TV appearance of these two was a singles match on the November 13, 2005 episode of Raw. If that date sounds familiar, you aren’t nuts — this was the Eddie Guerrero Memorial Show. Cena defeated Orton via disqualification at the 3:38 mark. Their first PPV appearance together? The 2004 Royal Rumble won by Chris Benoit.
Cena vs. Orton has happened 120 times. Yeah, that’s a lot but let’s add some context to this by looking at some other gaudy singles match numbers. Note that this includes TV, PPV and house shows. We’ll start breaking this number out shortly but for now, let’s look at some others. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage happened 92 times while both were with WWE, Ric Flair vs. Sting happened an insane 111 times if we combine NWA and WCW and Bret Hart faced his brother Owen 106 times, surprisingly, the first being their historically great WrestleMania X showdown. What’s more, Cena and Orton did this over a 10-year span. Bret and Owen are only from 1994-1997, Hogan vs. Savage from 1985 to 1991. Of course, Orton and Cena pale in comparison to Flair and Sting who’s match-ups span from 1987 all the way to 2001.
This is the total number of TV, PPV and special event (OVW) singles matches between the two. Going back to our previous three comparisons, we see why there’s some fatigue with Orton vs. Cena to the mass audience.
Hogan and Savage tallied 11 PPV/TV singles matches, roughly 11% of their match history occurred on television. Bret/Owen singles matches were only televised five times (~4%). Sting vs. Flair, even with their historical catalog of singles matches only had 16 televised…16! That’s a little over 14% of their career match-ups on television.
With Cena/Orton that number jumps to 16%. Sure, this has a lot to do with the growing landscape of professional wrestling and the lack of reliance on house shows as a big part of the business but that’s not really the point here. The point is, people are definitely justified in their fatigue with Orton vs. Cena on television or PPV.
Here’s the breakdown by year:
- 2002: 1
- 2005: 1
- 2007: 4
- 2008: 3
- 2009: 5
- 2010: 2
- 2011: 0
- 2012: 0
- 2013: 1
- 2014: 3
12-7 (1 no-contest)
John Cena’s win-loss record against Randy Orton in televised singles matches. I assumed it would be a bit closer but Cena has a fairly substantial edge. Here’s a visualization of their wins and losses to get an idea of individual momentum through time. We see Cena begins the series winning four in a row and five of the first six. Orton makes up the lead with a better run from 2009 until the present winning six of the next 10. Cena has two in a row and I’d venture to guess he’ll be adding another notch next Sunday.
Holy shit! This is Cena’s career record against Orton counting house shows, tag matches and all that other good stuff. 203 wins! Obviously, this is house show driven as heels rarely if ever prevail in house show main events so this number isn’t too ridiculous. You want ridiculous? Bret Hart is 152-6 all-time versus his brother Owen, a win percentage of just over 96%.
The average star rating of the 10 Cena vs. Orton singles matches that were rated by Dave Meltzer. Honestly, I’m surprised. Not because I thought Cena/Orton would do better, I’ve personally never been a fan of their chemistry although I do enjoy their individual matches (more so Cena). To me, the two have always had a weird chemistry and never seemed to work well together, it’s part of the reason their legendary feud seems so mundane. Their matches should feel like something special but they never do. I enjoyed their original “big” match at SummerSlam 2007 as well as their Breaking Point 2009 match but that was followed with one of the worst Hell in a Cells ever. Since that point, I’m not sure I’ve emotionally invested negatively or positively in any of their matches, they are just there.
Anyway, this number surprises me given Dave Meltzer’s bias towards WWE main events as well as Randy Orton. In this case I’m not using bias negatively, it’s merely something that comes about when we subjectively rate wrestling matches. Meltzer has proven over the years to rate WWE main events highly, just as he’s proven to rate Randy Orton matches higher than most others. It’s not a bad things, it’s just the truth. For these two huge stars, in big time main events a majority of their tenures including one that Dave routinely overrates compared to his peers, to hover just under 3 stars all-time. That’s not great and definitely speaks to my thoughts about their matches — they may be good on their own, they may be the biggest stars of our generation, but in-ring, they just don’t click.
I wanted to look at a different set of ratings for Cena vs. Orton and came to Cagematch.net’s user rating system. A full explanation can be found here on their website, but essentially this is a user-generated/crowd-sourced 1-10 rating of individual matches. Their rating system expands to events, individual wrestlers, tag teams and more but in this case we’re going to just look at the matches. We had a total of nine Cena vs. Orton matches in the dataset and honestly, the crowd-sourced ratings don’t differ much from Dave’s:
This scatter plot allows us to look at the differences in ratings between Cagematch and Meltzer. What we see initially is that there isn’t a ton of difference, in fact SummerSlam 2009 (rated worst by both Meltzer and Cagematch), TLC 2013, Hell in a Cell 2009 and SummerSlam 2007 are all very close in rating. We see a huge difference with Bragging Rights 2009 which Cagematch rated very high while Meltzer merely rated it as above average. Dave’s biggest outlier is Breaking Point which he rated above 4* but received just under seven from the Cagematch crowd. Royal Rumble 2014, while Dave rated it just over 3* got absolutely torched by Cagematch, rated below SummerSlam 2009, a little over four.
The conclusion here is that while a historic matchup in WWE narrative, it’s never done particularly well in-ring. I was unable to gather enough of Wade Keller’s ratings to add him into this conversation but I’d imagine he doesn’t deviate too much from the crowd-sourced Cagematch or Meltzer.
The average number of buys for a PPV with Cena vs. Orton in a top match. Without context this number means nothing so let’s take a look at how Cena vs. Orton did compared to the rest of the PPVs in that given year. Please note that I have removed WrestleMania from the overall average and that some of these years feature only one Cena vs. Orton match.
- 2007 Cena vs. Orton: 373,500
- 2007 Overall: 254, 667
- 2008 Cena vs. Orton: 329,000
- 2008 Overall: 279, 417
- 2009 Cena vs. Orton: 259,500
- 2009 Overall: 249,222
- 2013 Cena vs. Orton: 181,000
- 2013 Overall: 253,300
I’m not surprised by this data whatsoever, in fact, it fits with my thoughts on their head-to-head battles as well as the narrative from a lot of savvy fans. Most of us anticipated the battle of the titans in 2007 because it was fresh and new, mostly because they were fresh and new. Over time and especially in 2009, the intrigue in seeing the two face-off was completely gone. To make matters worse, the string of four straight PPVs with the two in 2009 killed any and all intrigue I would ever have again. It seems to have done the same to the buying audience. While the two were well above average draws until 2009, they’ve never came close since then, going as far as being well below average in 2013.
As I mentioned in the lede, I’m not looking forward to their Hell in a Cell match next Sunday. Their first Hell in a Cell match (2009) was one of my least favorite Cell matches ever featuring very little interaction with the Cell and simply wrestled as if the two were in a normal ring. The narrative surrounding it seems to be one huge sigh among our fans though I’m sure there’s a segment of WWE fans really looking forward to it. When you put into the context of other historical match-ups, notably Sting vs. Flair and Hogan vs. Savage, Cena vs. Orton isn’t as ridiculous. Sure, they are on TV a lot more but so is WWE, we can’t fault them for that. The problem lies in interest level and how the two perform together. They simply don’t grade out well in singles matches against one another, they are average matches occurring to Dave Meltzer, Cagematch.net users and myself but not nearly the once-in-a-lifetime/historic affairs they should be given their stature as all-time greats in WWE.
Unfortunately, we can’t look at buy patterns the same way we used to, what with the WWE Network and all, but it will be interesting to look at traditional PPV buys over 2014 and see where Hell in a Cell stacks up.
Let me know if I missed any statistics you’d like to see or if you want clarification on any others — most of all, enjoy Cena vs. Orton #121!