The summer of dream matches continues Sunday, Aug. 21, when Randy Orton returns to the ring to lock horns with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. The blockbuster encounter was made official on the July 7 edition of SmackDown.
Despite being two perennial main eventers who trained side-by-side during their formative years at onetime WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling, The Apex Predator and The Beast Incarnate have only competed against each other once before in a WWE ring. It happened in September 2002, when both were still WWE rookies. Lesnar, already a month into his reign as WWE Champion, took the victory that night.
Much has changed since that lone, fateful bout, of course. Lesnar has since emerged as a true world-beater and the conqueror of The Undertaker's WrestleMania Streak, a fearless, 286-pound juggernaut who packs dynamite, and bad intentions, in his fists. One of the most dangerous men in combat-sports history, Lesnar remains the only individual to have ever captured the WWE Championship, UFC Championship and NCAA heavyweight wrestling championship.
The Viper, meanwhile, bears little resemblance to the gifted, if inexperienced, shaggy-haired Superstar who stood across the ring from Lesnar 14 years ago. Since his one and only match against The Beast, Orton has gone on to win an incredible 12 World Titles, establishing himself as one of the most decorated Superstars of his generation. Orton has also exhibited on more than one occasion a disconcerting ability to turn sinister at a moment's notice. Such a dark, remorseless attitude may prove invaluable against a monster like Lesnar.
Adding further intrigue to the clash is that it is Orton's first match since injuring his shoulder late last year. Having been out of action since November, Orton is assuredly interested in reasserting himself as WWE's Apex Predator. There may be no better way to accomplish that goal than by taking down The Beast Incarnate. Yet, the question remains: Will Orton's shoulder end up being a weakness against Lesnar?