If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, I’ve mostly become known for my weekly reviews of RAW, Smackdown, and AEW. But now, it’s time for something completely different. In this piece, I’ll be examining how and why Randy Orton’s the best at what he’s doing right now, which is being the most reprehensible pro wrestler of today and easily for the last 15 years.
To do this, I’ll be using specific examples throughout his career to support my points. The idea for this article was one born out of pure frustration. After his match at Backlash against Edge, it seems that now, and only now, people are starting to realize just how good Orton is. While I’m glad that others are finally seeing the light, I’ve been saying this for years! Let’s take a look at the first example everyone sees.
His Family Name
Just the name Orton conjures up mental images of Randy’s father doing top rope suplexes. Don’t forget, he’s also the same man who wore a cast on his arm for SEVEN YEARS just to get an unfair advantage over his opponents. Randy was born to be a bad guy in pro wrestling! Recently, the internet wrestling hive mind has come up with the theory that because of his last name, Randy’s been able to get away with things most wouldn’t be able to. I’m not here to speculate on things I can’t prove, but if I can discredit any negative things said about Orton here, then I’ve accomplished my goal.
Any time a second or third-generation wrestler comes to WWE (but nowhere else it seems), the internet will go crazy coming up with excuses why that person has been around for so long after they haven’t washed out in six months. Let’s explore this briefly because I only need one example: The Rock! He’s a third-generation guy and I’ve never once seen anyone complain that he got to where he did in pro wrestling or in film because of something one of his relatives did in the past. Maybe it’s the times we’re living in now, but these guys couldn’t be more wrong.
Randy Orton was signed to a developmental contract with WWE when he was just 19, and he’s now 40. That’s a pretty long time to be kept around just based on what your last name is. In that time, there’s been a lot of other guys who came from wrestling families who didn’t make it in WWE. Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase Jr., and Cliff Compton come to mind. They were all brought in, but for one reason or another, it didn’t work out for them in WWE. Meanwhile, Orton is still there. It can’t just be a case of nepotism. While I will grant that his name may have given him an opportunity in pro wrestling, it’s his natural ability, consistency in the ring, and above all his GREAT heel work that’s kept elevated above those guys. Have I not opened your eyes yet? That’s ok, I have a few more examples to get through.
His Physical Size & Personality
Another important part of Randy’s heel work is his size. JBL has said multiple times that if you build a wrestler from the ground up, you’d get Randy Orton. He’s not wrong! If you’re a new viewer, or you’ve just forgotten, allow me to remind you: Orton’s every bit of 6’4 and in the neighborhood of 260 pounds. That’s huge compared to any normal man, but he takes it a step further. He’s willing to do anything it takes to win, which is the same reason I admired Triple H as a young kid. Everybody in the world knows how I feel about MJF, but he’s not in Randy’s league. Where MJF comes off as a weasel because he’s much smaller than Orton is, Orton is a guy who’s big and strong enough to beat his opponents face to face without much trouble. Unfortunately for them, he also thinks it’s fun to bend the rules when he sees fit. This adds an element of danger every time he’s in the ring with someone. While it can be fun to watch a smaller wrestler cower in the face of an impending beatdown, in Randy’s case it’s much different. You genuinely feel bad for his opponent because he’s highly unpredictable. He’s dangerous, cunning, and utterly ruthless any time he sets foot in the ring. This makes him a formidable adversary for anyone who stands across from him.
His Various Misdeeds
This goes hand in hand with his personality. We’ve all been conditioned to think of Randy as a conniving snake who would just as soon stab you in the back as look at you, but he didn’t earn this reputation overnight! If you’ve been watching for as long as I have, you’ve seen Randy Orton do some terrible things. Of course, I was cheering and/or laughing the entire time, but that’s beside the point. Who can forget the time he systematically targeted and nearly destroyed the entire McMahon family so he could win the WWE title? His punt kick alone deserves an entry in this article on its own! Just the idea that one grown man would get a full running start and kick his opponent in the head as hard as he could just to win a wrestling match is totally inexcusable. Let’s take a look at just a few of his victims.
These are including, but not limited to Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Ric Flair, Vince McMahon himself, and most recently Edge and Christian. He’s taking the name Legend Killer literally at this point! Also, I’d be remiss if I left out the thing Randy did that made me a fan of his: giving the first rope assisted to DDT to Stephanie McMahon while Triple H watched. That’s one of the most brutal things I’ve seen him do, but it’s still not as bad as when he tried to rip Jeff Hardy ear off with that screwdriver. No matter what incident you bring up, Randy looked like he was having a blast during all of it. Are you guys getting the picture yet?
No, not the group with Cody and Ted. I’m talking about the lasting impression Randy has made on the WWE fan base. I know he had some lukewarm runs as a babyface, but ignore that. We’re talking strictly about heel work. With everything he’s done, you’d think it would be hard to top his last act of malice, but he always finds a way. How about his RKO on an unsuspecting Beth Phoenix? You get the idea. When it’s all said and done, nobody will remember his babyface runs, and I’m just fine with that! But his legacy as a bad guy goes even further than that! Every hero needs a villain, and Randy’s usually that guy these days.
Hulk Hogan had Roddy Piper. Sting had the New World Order. Steve Austin had Vince McMahon! And John Cena had Randy Orton. The Orton/Cena rivalry that lasted for years has become a meme at this point, but I believe Cena wouldn’t be as popular as he is now without Randy Orton. They’re two sides of the same coin. It’s almost like a comic book rivalry! Orton is the Joker to Cena’s Batman. One doesn’t exist without the other. But the fact that Orton has been in this position for so long and consistently delivered needs to be appreciated more!
What would we have right now without Randy Orton? He and Edge are carrying the show right now and have been for months after half the roster tagged out. But you can always count on Randy to be there and put on great matches with the greatest of ease. Some people say he’s coasting, which he recently admitted in a promo, but I argue this: When you’re as good as Randy Orton is, and you have his natural ability, and you’ve put in work for over 20 years to put yourself in this position, why does he need to try harder? These people don’t understand in-ring storytelling and psychology. They’re called marks and they piss me off. Wrestling isn’t about the moves. It’s about making you care about who wins and loses. When Orton targets your hero and puts him in the hospital, does it make you mad? That’s the point! If anyone else was doing it, nobody would care.
So, where do you guys stand on this? Do you agree with me wholeheartedly? Have you still not grasped the concepts I’ve put in front of you? Have I changed some of your minds about Randy Orton? I’m genuinely interested to see if I was able to get through to some of you. For most of you, it seems like you may never learn, but I’m feeling optimistic today. Give me some feedback! What are your thoughts on the greatest heel of this generation? Did I nail it or have I missed the mark entirely? If you agreed with me all along, or I’ve successfully converted you, join me tomorrow for my review of AEW!