On the latest edition of the Grillin’ JR podcast, WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross discussed how Vince McMahon wanted to turn John Cena and Randy Orton into the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson of the Ruthless Aggression era.
As quoted by Wrestling Inc, Ross claimed that company officials were pleased with how both superstars conducted themselves in the ring and behind the scenes, which is what led to them receiving major pushes.
“We hoped they would be Austin and Rock for sure no doubt about that but it’s just hard to replace those two dudes. Neither guy had locker room issues, neither guy had a problem keeping their commitments, they were both very professional and they were company men. There were no negatives or downsides to those dudes in that regard. They were the guys and I was proud as hell of them.”
Orton and Cena were both promoted to WWE’s main roster in 2002, and it didn’t take long for them to receive pushes. Cena had his debut match against Kurt Angle, and despite losing the bout, it was evident from the beginning that the company had big plans for the superstar.
Orton, meanwhile, was handpicked by Triple H and Ric Flair to be a member of their Evolution faction, which also included a young Batista. The stable was very successful during its tenure, and it led to Orton becoming the youngest World Champion in the company’s history at the time.
Similar to Austin and The Rock, Cena and Orton didn’t start feuding until a few years after their debuts. The first rivalry commenced in early 2007 when Cena and Shawn Michaels took on Rated RKO for the Tag Team Championships.
After that, they feuded over Cena’s WWE Championship later that year. The storyline featured a memorable moment that saw Orton attack Cena’s father with a vicious kick to the head. Since then, the former World Champions have remained steady rivals, and when Cena was a full-time performer, their paths would cross regularly due to both of them being consistent main eventers.
Both superstars’ careers are perhaps more associated with other storyline rivals, but the feud between Cena and Orton has proven to be one that WWE returns to every so often. The pair last faced each other in 2017 in an “I Quit” match. However, it’s surely only a matter of time until they cross paths again.