Drew McIntyre deserved better.
Normally, losing to a modern legend like Orton wouldn’t be so bad—but the surrounding circumstances stink of here we go again from WWE.
It’s not that it wasn’t a hard-fought match or that Orton isn’t capable of putting down McIntyre. Clearly, he is. But the feud had been going on for far too long as it was, and McIntyre had consistently put down Orton. It doesn’t help that it was blatant the feud only materialized in the first place because Edge got hurt and Orton had nothing else to do, too.
Maybe it’s fitting WWE had the two do the slow climb up the side of the cage, then back down before one gently tossed himself through the table (that’s the missed-spear-breaks-barricade of Hell in a Cell matches now).
Let’s feel free to add in that this was borderline predictable once it was clear this particular Hell in a Cell match was closing the show. If it main-evented over Roman Reigns-Jey Uso and Sasha Banks-Bayley, it had the feel of either some sort of interference again or Orton straight-up winning. That’s the only reason to put it on last.
It’s a little groan-worthy to now think that a feud which only started because of an injury to a third party, and went on for far too long as it is, will get extended as McIntyre seeks to get his title back. Maybe the idea is that McIntyre is better in chase mode.
And hey, that’s true—when he’s hunting down Brock Lesnar. Unless WWE has a crystal ball and can pinpoint exactly when fans will be allowed to fully pack stadiums again, this version of chase mode for McIntyre will never be able to match his amazing sprint last WrestleMania season.
WrestleMania is part of the problem too. This smacks of WWE starting to eye ‘Mania and moving those chess pieces around the board. Knowing how Vince McMahon likes to book things, getting Orton win No. 14 just in time for the feud with Edge is the move.
But, as always, McMahon and Co. have a habit of slapping a title on things that don’t really need it (very personal feuds like Edge-Orton don’t need fancy gold belts). That’s why Charlotte Flair has been oddly inserted into perfectly fine feuds in the past and a returning Goldberg has unnecessarily torn through guys like The Fiend. It’s why Brock Lesnar brutalized Kofi Kingston so he could have a dud with Cain Velasquez.
Edge-Orton doesn’t need a title to be a draw. Slapping one on there for the sake of doing so does a massive disservice to McIntyre. The company just bent over backward to establish him as the very top guy on Raw, crafting an entire Royal Rumble around his journey that led up to his taking down Lesnar.
Even better, he then had an amazing run, exceeding most expectations in the strange audience-less era. He never got his big win moment in front of a live crowd, yet he made feuds with the likes of Dolph Ziggler as captivating as it gets despite the oddities of the real world and its impact on the product.
Instead, McIntyre takes a bow Sunday night and if he’s not getting a chance to try and get his title back, he’s going to get relegated to the midcard while Orton heads to Survivor Series for a date with Roman Reigns (maybe?). Why that spot can’t belong to McIntyre is hard to say and if WWE isn’t careful, all that hard work to establish McIntyre could go down the tubes if he becomes just another guy on the roster again.
The way WWE built McIntyre, it felt like only a returning Lesnar could be a serious threat to his era. Instead losing to a guy he’d already whipped multiple times, including throwing him in the back of an ambulance, just feels anticlimactic at best and disrespectful at worst.
WWE didn’t try to save it much, either. There wasn’t an Edge, The Miz or somebody else coming out to hint at what’s next. The pay-per-view just ended. Orton with the top title sounds good, but he had already been losing serious steam without Edge around to serve as his sadistic victim. Any quick attempts to make this right and put the title back on McIntyre will have fans asking “what was the point?” of Sunday night.
Unfortunately by now, WWE fans know the point—it’s a short-term vision sort of company approach, even with McIntyre and all it had invested in him as the top guy.
McIntyre’s run always had to end, but to see it end on a whimper like this just hurts.