EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – John Cena was supposed to be a dead Champ walking. After he took three vicious RKOs – including one on a steel chair – in three days from Randy Orton, questions about the WWE Champion’s health swirled. The Legend Killer believed the WWE Championship he so coveted was practically gift-wrapped for the taking at SummerSlam. With memories of his World Championship win at SummerSlam three years ago burned in his head, Orton was convinced he would experience déjà vu Sunday night.

Unfortunately for Orton, the Biggest Party of the Summer turned out to be the Biggest Disappointment of the Summer. As he has done so many times in his nearly year-long reign, Cena found a way to defy the odds. He fought through the pain of a stiff neck and lingering dizziness from multiple RKOs to defeat Orton. The third-generation Superstar’s eyes bulged; he shook his head in disbelief and grinded his teeth. Many of our fans at the Continental Airlines Arena stood in unison and pumped their fists as Cena hoisted the WWE Championship. The Champ was still here.

Afterward, Cena conceded that he had been pushed to the limit. But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s what this is all about,” he said. “On paper, the statistics don’t always work in my favor. Randy’s been on a streak of not only winning matches, but ending careers. I enjoy being WWE Champion – it has a lot to do with defining my existence. I like to lead by example. When your back’s up against the wall and you’re getting the snot kicked out of you, you can either fight or give up. I keep fighting.”

Our fans were abuzz at the Continental Airlines Arena. Cameras flashed beside signs that read, “If Cena wins, we riot” and “If Orton wins, we riot.” Though Orton had shown no remorse for ending the careers of several Superstars and legends – and had shown no love for our fans, he seemed to have admirers in New Jersey. But so did Cena, and dueling cheers for The Champ and his challenger echoed through the arena during their battle.

Cena’s championship reign nearly ended at several points during the match. Orton, fully aware that Cena was still suffering from the effects of the RKOs, targeted his head and neck repeatedly with headlocks and skull-crushing fists and stomps to his temple. The Champ’s eyes were glazed; at times he stumbled around the ring and appeared disoriented. Orton tortured Cena by stomping all of his appendages.

Still, Orton appeared to grow frustrated when Cena refused to be pinned. That frustration, along with Orton’s sheer bloodlust, may have cost him the WWE Championship. At one point, Orton was preparing to punt Cena in the temple and end his career like he did with Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Dusty Rhodes and Sgt. Slaughter. But Cena avoided the kick and trapped him in the STFU. Orton did not submit, but he paid a heavy price as Cena injured the third-generation star’s knee. This became evident when he flattened Cena with what he thought was a WWE Championship-winning RKO.

Orton’s icy blue eyes trained on Cena just before he coiled like a snake and struck the champion. But Cena reached down deep and refused to lose. Just as the referee was about to slap the mat for the third time, Cena lifted his shoulder. The sold-out Continental Airlines Arena gasped and sighed in unison as Orton’s jaw dropped.

Moments later, Cena slammed the breath out of Orton with his patented FU. The 17,000 fans counted 1-2-3 in unison as The Champ turned back yet another challenge.

Before the match tonight, Orton said he would end Cena’s fairy-tale-like championship reign. For now, there is another chapter in Cena’s reign. But how much longer can the fairy tale continue? And has he seen the last of Randy Orton?

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