One of the brutal matches in WWE historyIn 2004, Randy Orton was a rookie. He had a strong attitude that earned him a bad reputation backstage, and he hadn't had a huge moment in his career so far. Of course, at one stage, we're all young, eager and obnoxious. At WrestleMania that year, Randy Orton, Batista, and one of their mentors from Evolution, Ric Flair, took on The Rock 'n' Sock Connection, consisting of part-timers The Rock and Mick Foley, in a 2-on-3 handicap match. Orton pinned Foley to pick up the victory in that match, which, in quite a hit-and-miss WrestleMania, delivered as much as it should have, but the history of their rivalry dates back much before that. Arguably, Foley was Orton's first 'Legend Target', in a long list, as he hadn't yet acquired his 'Legend Killer' gimmick at the time. One thing for certain, though, was that this match was absolutely brutal.
#1 The build-up
In June of 2003, on an episode of Raw, following a segment which was supposed to be a tribute to Mick Foley and his achievements, Ric Flair and Randy Orton, established members of Evolution, attacked Foley and he was sidelined (kayfabe) for six months, returning in December.
In the attack, which was backstage, Foley was thrown down a flight of stairs (similar to Orton in his feud with Wade Barrett many years later. Karma maybe?). Upon his return, he was placed in as Raw co-General Manager, as a replacement for Stone Cold Steve Austin, and he made himself the challenger for Randy Orton’s Intercontinental Championship.
Instead of participating in the match, Foley surprisingly walked out, after a sign of disrespect, when Orton spit in his face. When Austin returned as General Manager, he inserted Foley in the Royal Rumble match, in which he would eliminate Orton, and in the process, himself. The two would brawl on all the way up the ramp and backstage.
Along the line, close to WrestleMania XX, The Rock returned, in similar fashion as he would now, for one match only, and reformed The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection. The duo challenged Orton, Batista and Flair to a match at the event.
The numbers game caught up with the two, and as mentioned earlier, Orton pinned Foley for the win, which furthered the rivalry towards Backlash. Two weeks after WrestleMania, Foley challenged Orton to an Intercontinental Championship Hardcore match at Backlash (A Raw-Exclusive event), and on the same night Orton accepted. It would be a huge milestone in the career of Randy Orton.
#2 The match
Evolution was banned from ringside, as was a stipulation to which Orton agreed.
Mick Foley, in correlation to the type of match, wrestled in his Cactus Jack gimmick, and he delivered. Both men delivered.
Orton entered first, with a barb-wired two-by-four, and Foley entered with a barb wired baseball bat. While Foley was on his way to the ring, Orton’s barbed wire got caught on the top rope, and he was immediately on the defense, using a trash can as a shield to defend against Cactus’ barbed-bat. Soon, a chase began, and Orton turned the tables by catching Cactus off guard and striking with the trash can. After a few more shots, Cactus stole the can and began using it as his weapon.
For a while, neither man used a foreign object, and instead brawled inside and outside the ring, until Orton introduced the barb wired bat again, only to get kicked down low. Foley took control and began to make Orton bleed with the bat, and continued to annihilate his face with it. This continued for a while, with Foley now in complete control. The bat was placed between Orton’s legs and used in the groin region, and he was also hit in the head with some kind of metal slab.
Foley would introduce a barbed-wire-filled board, only to have Orton blow some kind of powder in his face and backdrop him onto it. Now, the control was with Orton, who used the board to his advantage yet again, and continued to do so. Eventually, Orton introduced the dreaded thumb-tacks, and attempted to deliver an RKO to Foley on to them, but failed, and ended up with a back littered with the little pins, a spot which remains popular even to this day.
After this, Orton attempted to walk away, but Foley followed him and the two brawled on the entrance ramp. Foley threw Orton off the stage, and through a table that lay below. While doctors attempted to attend to Orton, Foley delivered an elbow drop off the stage and attempted a pin. To everyone’s surprise, Orton, thumb-tacked, blooded, thrown off the stage, elbowed, kicked out.
The action returned to the ring, where Foley delivered a Double-arm DDT, only to have Orton kick out again. The barbed-wire bat returned, as Orton assaulted Cactus with it, and then Orton was hit with the Mandible Claw, Socko included. Orton quickly reversed it into an RKO, but Cactus kicked out as well. As soon as he stood up, Orton delivered another one, this time onto the barbed-wire bat. Yes, Foley’s face fell on barbed wire. With this, Orton picked up the victory.
What a beating both men took, especially Orton. Above is a highlight video of the match.
#3 The aftermath
The next night on Raw, Orton cut a promo thanking Foley for their match, and recounted the events of the previous night. Foley did not show up, of course. Edge would interrupt Orton, and Orton, who now called himself a “Living Legend”, said he didn’t have time for the Rated-R Superstar, who was returning from a severe neck injury that night.
Edge then attacked Orton, who was saved by the other members of Evolution, except Triple H, when Chris Benoit evens the numbers. Triple H then came down and Evolution took care of Benoit. This led to Edge and Benoit forming a tag team, and Eric Bischoff, who was Raw General Manager, announced that the main event would feature Batista and Ric Flair putting their World Tag Team Championships on the line against Benoit and Edge, who would become champions that night, Benoit, of course, being a double champion, along with his World Heavyweight Championship.
This led to a feud between the two teams, and eventually, Benoit dropped the World Heavyweight Championship to Randy Orton at SummerSlam, making Orton the youngest World Champion ever. Following, Triple H would kick Orton out of Evolution, and The Apex Predator would begin one of the most illustrated singles careers of all time.
The verdict from all of this? Mick Foley vs Randy Orton at Backlash 2004 elevated Orton to unprecedented heights.