Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton from WWE 2017

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Against all odds, Randy Orton joining the Wyatt Family has been one of the best creative decisions WWE has made in recent years. It was a classic example of making choices to spotlight performers’ strengths and hide their weaknesses. The Orton/Bray tag team has been excellent and continued the bizarre trend of The Wyatts accidentally being one of the best in-ring teams in WWE history. It’s downright strange how well this had all been going.

The breakup angle led to a match here that managed to be satisfying while also not quite delivering on the promise of what it could have been.  The two big issues with the match were that it was worked at a “Randy Orton Pace” and that the story of the feud was not really conveyed effectively with the action.

The Randy Orton Pace has plagued countless matches of his over the years. It’s methodical for the sake of the methodical. It does not make the most of the time given. It does not set up much in the first half of the match to pay off in the second half. It’s just about reestablishing well-known face/heel roles and attempting to not actively lose the crowd completely before the finishers/reversals sequences kicks in.  It’s just an unsubstantial way of working matches.

Orton dictating the pace of course was related to the second main issue of the contest: where was the hatred? This was worked as if it was a Harper test balloon for future  WWE main event. While it may have very well been that to people in the company, the style of the match did not match up with the storyline. Harper felt that Orton stole his family. HIS FAMILY! Where was the hatred? Where was the frustration? Where was the violence? The bout lacked soul as a result.

Despite those two glaring and important issues here, the work itself was still just fun enough to call this match a success! It could have, and should have, been more. Harper came out of this looking strong though, and Orton got a decisive and competitive victory on the road to his Wrestlemania world title match. (***)

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