5. Triple Threat WWE Championship (also involving Triple H) – WrestleMania XXIV

Randy Orton seemed the logical opponent for two different grapplers as WrestleMania 24 season approached.  The renewal of his long-term rivalry with Triple H immediately took a backseat to The Viper’s more 2008-current story involving John Cena.  When Cena began his routine of returning far earlier than expected from major surgeries by winning the Royal Rumble match at Madison Square Garden, it put him on a collision course to give Orton payback for “putting him out of action” in the fall of 2007.  It would have made perfect sense to go Orton vs. Cena at WrestleMania.  Given the nature of the story, it might have even put “The Golden Boy” in a role that the WWE has so often desired him to occupy but that he has rarely been believable in playing – that of the “comeback kid” triumphantly overcoming the odds.

Obviously, the WWE went in another direction, keeping Orton as the focal point and surrounding him with two big name opponents to cement him as a major player with a huge victory at Mania.  As triple threats tend to do, it watered down the effectiveness of the drama, but it was important in making Orton’s 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania main-event happen.  Winning is more important in wrestling than many let on, as credibility can be won or lost with a victory on a stage that matters.  The other half of a WrestleMania closing match looks a lot more appropriate when he has high profile wins.  Prior to 2008, Orton had lost every major bout at one of the “Big 3″ WWE PPVs since defeating Undertaker at Summerslam 2005.

As far as match quality goes, the triple threat was an admirable effort from all involved.  Most assumed that they would main-event Mania 24 and some could have assumed that, when they were told that they were not, they could have phoned it in.  Instead, the three of them came out motivated to prove that they should’ve been the last match.  Working a fast-paced, but smartly executed bout full of the psychology often lacking in a triple threat, the three top Raw stars pushed the envelope with their conditioning and pulled off quite an addition to the card.

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This article was first posted on December 15, 2013