WWE Backlash 2016: No John Cena, No Randy Orton, No Problem


Notably absent from Backlash was both John Cena and Randy Orton, and yet the show went off without a hitch. We look at why this is a good thing for WWE.

John Cena and Randy Orton, the No. 1 and No. 2 top stars in WWE the last decade, were both drafted to SmackDown Live for the brand split with the intention to draw viewers to struggling show as it competed with the company’s flagship program, Monday Night Raw.

With Cena and Orton on Team Blue, it was to be believed that their established star power alone would help balance out the wealth of future superstars on the Raw side. However, at Backlash, neither man wrestled on SmackDown’s very first PPV in the New Era. Cena has yet to be seen following his loss to AJ Styles in their SummerSlam classic the month prior, and Orton, while kept on TV after his controversial TKO loss to Brock Lesnar at the same event, was deemed medically unclear to compete.

Despite this, Backlash went along as planned and ended up being a very good wrestling show. The event was about the same length as a TakeOver from NXT, clocking in around a little over 2 hours. The small card gave way to some excellent matches that had time on their side, something that many main roster performers voiced their displeasure with. The six-pack Women’s Championship match, the Intercontinental Title match, and the WWE World Championship bout all benefited from being able to go more than 10 minutes.

During the PG Era, Cena and Orton not being on the card would have been considered disastrous for WWE, as they were the company’s biggest stars, along with Batista, who is often pegged as the third-man of that era’s top 3 guys. However, in this New Era, it has become quite clear that it is indeed a different time, with much of the dependence on established guys such as Cena and Orton no longer being necessary.

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Much of the Cena-Orton PG Era featured the two in countless battles, many of them for the WWE Championship, and thus they would often find themselves to be the marquee attraction. But for Backlash, the PPV was arguably sold on the Dean Ambrose-AJ Styles match for the WWE World Championship, which did not disappoint.

The paradigm shift has come to pass in WWE once again, as it had done over a decade ago when Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock would eventually make way for John Cena and Randy Orton. Much like Cena and Orton’s importance during the PG Era, having both Austin and Rock absent would have been cataclysmic for WWE, especially during the height of the Monday Night Wars.

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While WWE won’t be outright pushing Cena or Orton aside, it is to be expected that we will see less and less of them as the New Era rolls along in years to come. What we can confirm is that WWE no longer needs to depend on Cena and Orton or build a roster or a show around them.