Hello and welcome to another edition of The Main Event. I am your host, Don Franc, back with another column that you will all hopefully enjoy. Long introductions aren’t really my thing so let’s get right to…
THE MAIN EVENT
The man formerly known as The Legend Killer is my favourite wrestler of all time. I know Orton has gained many detractors over the years and despite his favourable booking for the longest time, WWE has stunted Randy’s growth on numerous occasions. I can totally understand that the above statement might be controversial, but hear me out.
Randy Orton was arguably the most promising midcarder of all-time. Once he won the Intercontinental Championship from Rob Van Dam at Armeageddon 2003 you knew that you were in the midst of watching the beginning of a great career. And boy, did that title look good on him. Despite only having one I.C Title reign, I consider it one of the best reigns in history based on the memorable matches and moments he had during that time period.
For all the good that was done in the early stages of young Randy’s career, it was all undone by Orton becoming the classic case of too much, too soon. WWE knew they had greatness in The Legend Killer but they blew their load way too soon. He still needed more time in the midcard as he was not ready for the main event at the time. We all knew that. Well, all of us except for WWE that is. What happened next was WWE practically setting Orton back years (three years to be exact).
For this we have to rewind back to 2004 for the first instance of WWE’s negligence with Randy Orton’s career. After being booked fantastically as a midcarder things started going downhill for him when he won his first World Heavyweight Championship at Summerslam 2004. He made history by becoming the youngest World Champion in WWE lore. However, that achievement was tainted. As soon as they made him WHC they put Randy Orton in an untested role as a babyface. In hindsight we all now know that Orton is a natural heel, but at the time we gave WWE and Randy Orton the benefit of the doubt.
You know who didn’t give Randy Orton the benefit of the doubt? HHH. The Game inarguably, undoubtedly and unceremoniously ruined that young man’s initial babyface run. From defeating him in his first title defense at Unforgiven 2004 to finally putting the nail in the coffin at Royal Rumble 2005, HHH did no favours for Randy Orton. Yes, Orton was surely not ready for the role that was given to him but because of HHH he wasn’t even able to give us a chance to prove himself in that role. That pop Orton got when he spit in HHH’s face and hit him with the belt is one of my favourite wrestling memories of all time. Unfortunately, HHH screwed Orton over and he just couldn’t recover as a babyface. This wouldn’t be the last time HHH tampered with Orton’s moment in the sun either, but we’ll get to that later.
Now don’t get me wrong. At this stage Orton’s babyface run was completely shattered but because of his natural talent he couldn’t be held down for long. Shortly after his loss to HHH at the Rumble in 2005 he turned heel and was able to build himself back up with a fantastic feud alongside The Undertaker. During that feud he was really able to reinvent his old persona as the Legend Killer and show us that he would not take his burial at the hands of HHH lightly. It’s ironic, then, that he went after The Undertaker soon after.
After re-establishing himself as an upper midcarder Randy Orton became the first – and only – man in WWE history to be the sole survivor at three consecutive Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Elimination Matches to close out 2005. But yet gold eluded him… It seemed that at this point, despite re-establishing himself against The Undertaker, we still saw a man damaged by his trials against HHH. WWE tried to rectify this in 2006 and he was put in a good position challenging for the WHC at Wrestlemania 21. However, shortly thereafter he was suspended for sixty days.
Now let’s take a moment to look at Randy Orton’s behaviour during this time period. Randy was suspended for the public nature of his marijuana use and in hindsight it wasn’t so bad. However, Orton also had many other behavioural issues that were unbecoming of someone who was, in essence, a main-eventer. He was constantly playing the fool and being a jerk. At 26 years old you could chalk it up to being young and stupid. But it appears the issue goes deeper.
According to an article that I read which was published in 2012 (https://www.cagesideseats.com/2012/5/30/3053571/randy-orton-suspended-60-days-for-second-wellness-policy-violation), Randy had a huge temper problem which was quite possibly due to having a serious drug problem. It got so bad that Orton overdosed on sleep medication. Hell, Randy even claimed that he hated himself so much that he “wanted to kill himself”. From being a dick to everyone and smoking weed backstage to trashing hotel rooms and shitting in the bags of his colleagues, Randy Orton was out of control.
We will never know what the cause of this behaviour was – whether personal or professional – but I’m happy that he was able to catch himself before going too deep down the rabbit hole. A wrestler’s life can be extremely torturous and only the strong can truly survive that lifestyle. He was way too young and way too talented to screw his life up with childish shenanigans. And lucky for him, he more or less got his shit together. Because unbeknownst to him, he would finally reach the level he was destined to be at a year later.
In the middle of 2007 everything would change for Randy Orton. He adopted a much more sinister outlook, kicking people in the head (including Dusty Rhodes and John Cena’s father, amongst others). This was exactly the change that Randy needed in order to up his game and the menace that he became aided him in finally becoming a World Champion again. Randy Orton was on a roll and he finally headlined his first Wrestlemania in 2008, winning the match and becoming only the second heel to win a headlining match at Wrestlemania (at the time). Things were finally looking up for Randy Orton, but apparently HHH didn’t like it.
Looking back in retrospect, HHH truly was a stain on Randy Orton’s career. He lost his second World Championship to guess who? Yes, HHH. In fact, HHH owned him in the following encounters and to prove to you that HHH was a curse on Randy Orton’s career, in their blowoff championship match HHH countered a RKO by throwing Orton over the top rope causing him to break his collarbone! I should have named this column Randy Orton and the curse of HHH! But wait, there’s more. You see; Triple H was not done playing around with Randy Orton’s career…
Nevertheless, Orton returned from injury, formed The Legacy and eventually went after the McMahons. Orton was picking up right where he left off before his injury and it was good on the part of WWE to allow him to do so. He became the top heel in the company at the turn of 2009 by doing dastardly things to the McMahon family (my favourites being handcuffing HHH to the ropes and kissing Stephanie McMahon and also the RKO to Stephanie McMahon). He eventually won the Royal Rumble match which added fuel to the fire. This feud was bloody brilliant as Orton was dismantling the entire McMahon family and just causing havoc. This was my second favourite incarnation of Randy Orton but once again HHH had to screw things up for Orton. Hell, during the feud Orton even says that Triple H ruined his life!
Randy Orton truly was the best that he was ever going to be in this heel run. He would never capture this greatness as a heel ever again. The cherry on top would just be for Orton to defeat HHH at Wrestlemania to solidify this as a potential top five heel run of all time. But still Triple H stood in Randy Orton’s way. As we all know he lost to HHH at Wrestlemania 25 and his heat cooled off substantially because of this. Imagine if Orton were to win. Sure, the storyline dictated that the face should win, but this time around it was not the right move to make. Fans would have jumped at the opportunity for Orton to get his comeuppance if he were to beat HHH but it was just not meant to be.
Because this column is mainly about how Orton had his momentum killed by WWE, we have to skip ahead to 2010 to the third and final time WWE stopped Orton from realizing his full potential and becoming a bonafide megastar. He had just rid himself of Legacy and it was now the lead up to Money In The Bank. Somehow Orton became super over after he turned face. Alot of this can be attributed to the RKO. Orton was RKOing everyone in sight, whether they were heel or face and the fans were eating it up. It reached a crescendo when Orton countered Evan Bourne’s Shooting Star Press into an RKO (my favourite RKO of all time). Orton was red-hot and it was during this time that the RKO became arguably the most over finisher of all time.
The best part about this run was the fact that Orton didn’t even really change his character. He barely spoke and he was just an all-round badass which the fans loved. He didn’t interact with fans and never played up to them. The fact that he was RKOing good and bad wrestlers alike made him an anti-hero and fans absolutely love anti-heroes. He was receiving the loudest pops in the company and with the amazing reactions Randy Orton was getting he was on the cusp of becoming a megastar but WWE thwarted him by… letting him smile.
Once he started smiling, taking the fans hands and only fighting with the good guys he became just another cookie-cutter babyface and his heat died considerably. That was the final nail in the coffin for Randy Orton to fully reach the potential he was destined for. The rest, as they say, is history.
Yes, he will go down as a legend. But his legend could have been so much more if WWE just did what was best for him in 2004, 2009 and 2010. And that’s what it’s all about. Alot of people will point the finger at Randy Orton and say he got way too many opportunities. Well, he deserves them for WWE not allowing him to reach his full potential. All the opportunities Orton has gotten can never make up for the damaging things WWE did to Orton at key moments in his career. And besides those setbacks for Randy Orton, it could have been beneficial to WWE as well.
Many of us wonder why Randy Orton lacks motivation in the ring unless he wants to be. Well, with a company ruining your biggest opportunities, wouldn’t you be too? I don’t care what anybody says about Randy Orton. He is a first ballot hall of famer and most deserving of it. Say what you will about The Viper, but he will go down as one of greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots. Therefore I’m dedicating my 100th column to Randall Keith Orton, my favourite wrestler of all time.
I thought the best way to finish off this column was to provide you with what I think are the top five matches that defined Randy Orton’s career.
5. Rob Van Dam vs Randy Orton for the Intercontinental Championship (Armageddon 2003)
This is the match that really made me take notice of Randy Orton. Perhaps the same can be said for many others. To think, I was a RVD fan at this point but Orton slowly started turning me into a fan of his from this match onward. What a great match between two great wrestlers. Definitely a midcard classic.
4. John Cena vs Randy Orton for the WWE Championship (Summerslam 2007)
This is the first real World Title match Randy Orton received where you believed he could win since having to recover from the shenanigans of 2004. Nobody really speaks about this match but I personally feel this is underrated. This match truly set up Orton as a formidable foe and a bonafide main eventer.
3. Randy Orton wins the 2009 Royal Rumble
Randy’s first Rumble win and what a great win it was. Finally a stable was able to dominate the Rumble where their leader actually gets the win. This win and the subsequent feud thereafter was a very important chapter in the legacy of Randy Orton.
2. Randy Orton vs Triple H vs John Cena: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship (Wrestlemania 24)
This is probably the crowning match of Randy Orton’s career. Retaining the title as a heel in the headlining match of Wrestlemania is no easy feat but Orton was able to do so (only the second heel to do so I must add). The “Were you expecting somebody else?” promo from Orton the next night is just as memorable.
1. Randy Orton vs Cactus Jack: Hardcore Match for the Intercontinental Championship (Backlash 2004)
If you didn’t know that this would be the number one match then you’re clearly not a Randy Orton fan. This match MADE Randy Orton and he showed in this match that he could hang with the big boys. This is also one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship matches of all time and arguably the greatest Backlash match if all time.
And that does it for this edition of The Main Event. What do you think of Randy Orton’s career? Do you think HHH had a hand in Randy Orton not reaching his full potential? Is the RKO the most over finisher of all time? Please leave a comment below. You can also pop me an e-mail at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @donfranclop. Any and all feedback is always much appreciated. But until next time folks…
This is Don Franc signing out.
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