Randy Orton def. Ali

SACRAMENTO — Earlier this year, Ali was on top of the world … until Randy Orton stopped his momentum short, leading to Kofi Kingston’s meteoric rise.

Ali has been fighting to get back in the swing of things ever since, and in a perfect world, he’d have done so with a big win over Orton in an impromptu match at WWE Hell in a Cell. Unfortunately, that’s not the world Ali lives in quite yet.

Instead, The Apex Predator claimed the momentum — something which, despite his bravado, he arguably needed as much as Ali did. Orton twice failed to take the WWE Title from Kofi Kingston, and he’s looking to lay the groundwork for his captaincy of Team Flair at WWE Crown Jewel. As such, he left little to chance against the former WWE Cruiserweight Champion, overpowering the highflyer and making quite the brutal statement.

Ali kept himself in the fight by sheer force of will. Even though being thrown ribs-first into the ring post slowed him down, he still sent Orton tumbling over the announce table with a lawn-dart suicide dive in the late part of the match. As Ali continued his press, what seemed like a long-shot victory suddenly became a real possibility. He even countered an RKO with a handstand.

But his follow-up attempt at a diving facebuster landed him straight in the jaws of a second RKO that hit its mark and ended the match. Orton seemed fairly impressed by his foe’s showing, offering Ali a head nod and a chest bump in what seemed like a show of respect. Despite the result, that’s about as big a co-sign as the young star can get. Clearly, Ali’s woes are temporary in the long run. He will find his groove, and he’ll get to the promised land eventually. Just not tonight.