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.
One of the many reasons why I loved WrestleMania 31 was because similar to WrestleMania 17, it had a little bit of everything to offer: a hard-hitting main event (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns), a special attraction (Triple H vs. Sting), a feel-good story (John Cena vs. Rusev), a train wreck opener (the Intercontinental Championship Ladder match), a solid women's match (AJ Lee and Paige vs. The Bella Twins), and a wrestling clinic (Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins).
I think most people recognized that Rollins vs. Orton had a great match, but when the screen faded to black, the focus was on Rollins' WWE World Heavyweight Championship victory and not the instant classic he contested with Orton earlier in the evening. Thus, I understand if you think this match is ranked a little high on my list, but in addition to match quality, I'm taking into consideration several other factors including build, atmosphere, finish, and overall impact.
Similar to Triple H vs. Roman Reigns this year, Orton and Rollins had much more history than what was touched upon in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania 31. I'm well-aware this is quite a stretch and I didn't expect them to allude to it, but if you can recall, Orton spent some time feuding The Shield in the first few months of 2013, crossing paths with Rollins on occasion in tag team competition. It wasn't until June of 2014 that they joined forces when Rollins double-crossed his Shield brethren and aligned with The Authority.
In the remainder of the year, Orton got pushed aside as Rollins became the centerpiece of The Authority with his Money in the Bank in tow. Seeing that Rollins was being groomed as the future of WWE, Orton refused to admit that he was no longer the present and rallied against his Authority stablemates in the fall. The weeks of bad blood between them came to a head in November when Rollins beat Orton in one-on-on action before taking him out with a Curb Stomp on the steel steps, exiling from The Authority in the process.
Rumors ran rampant for months as to when Orton would resurface, and it got to the point where it was almost a running gag. After not coming back in the Royal Rumble match or on Raw, he finally returned at the Fastlane pay-per-view and took the fight to The Authority. The crowd went nuts for the returning Viper. WWE had the perfect ready-made rivalry for WrestleMania, yet they managed to botch the build by having Orton rejoin the group for a few weeks. He eventually turned on them (again), but what was the point?
I managed to forgive that because Orton's ultimate attack on Rollins in mid-March was aggressive enough to get me excited to see them do battle on the grandest stage of them all. There wasn't anything on the line yet there didn't need to be: it was simply a case of two longtime rivals looking to settle a score. A No Disqualification match might have been more fitting, but I liked how it was a standard singles match because it allowed them to have the best wrestling match they could.
Even with J&J Security at ringside, Orton was able to dispose of them quite quickly by delivering a pair of RKOs to each of them. He soon dropped Rollins with an RKO as well, but the self-proclaimed future of WWE valiantly kicked out. Rollins with retaliated with a Curb Stomp of his own but only for a two count. He went the extra mile by attempting a Phoenix Splash to no avail as well as a second Curb Stomp, but was met with one of the most amazing mid-air RKOs I have ever seen. It was well-deserved win for The Apex Predator, and Rollins didn't lose a shred of credibility seeing as how he was holding championship gold by the night's end.
SEE ALSO: "WrestleMania Recall, Match #6: Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Jericho, WrestleMania 19"
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