Randy Orton: From Legend Killer To The Viper To The Apex Predator

Randy Orton

Randy Orton is a WWE legend. He is one of the most decorated and accomplished superstars of all time. He is a fantastic in ring performer and great on the mic as well. Ever since he arrived on the scene, he had the complete package, looks, in ring skills and mic skills. He started off as a member of the Evolution faction alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista. However, WWE saw his increasing popularity among fans and pushed him till he won the World Heavyweight Championship in a match against Chris Benoit. After that, Evolution was dissolved and Randy Orton became a singles competitor and a face of the company. 

In between, he also had a very successful and memorable tag team run with another WWE legend Edge. The team was known as Rated R-KO and it was mainly formed to feud with the newly reformed DX (Shawn Michaels and Triple H). He went back to being a singles competitor again and has won the WWE/World Championship belts 14 times (10 time WWE Champion, Four time World Heavyweight Champion). His 14 titles place him joint third with Triple H, only behind the 16 titles held by John Cena and Ric Flair. He is a Triple Crown Holder and a Grand Slam Champion as well. 

Randy Orton has appeared in the main events of numerous WWE Pay Per Views and holds the record for most Pay Per View appearances in WWE History. Though he has had small runs as a “babyface” but most of his success has come during his “heel” runs. One look at Randy Orton and you can see why he is so much better as a heel. In this post, we will take a look at Randy Orton’s life, career and best moments. Let’s get started.

Randy Orton: All You Need To Know

When was Randy Orton born?

Orton was born on April 1st, 1980 to professional wrestler Bob Orton and his wife, Allen. His grandfather Bob Orton Sr. and uncle Barry Orton were also professional wrestlers. Orton attended Hazlewood High School where he was also a wrestler.

Randy Orton comes from a family of professional wrestlers and is a third generation superstar. His father Cowboy Bob Orton and grandfather Bob Orton Sr. were all pro wrestling legends. His uncle Barry Orton was also a professional wrestler. 

Randy Orton: WWE Career

First major injury

Around 2002, whether through his solo debut on Raw or on Smackdown, Randy was always a privileged person in WWE. He won his matches, often with the fashion, and even in 2002-2003, he had already had the right to a confrontation with the Undertaker. Switching to Raw, Orton was probably going to be booked to be the next big mid-card, clinch the IC title and everything. (He had beaten the Un-Americans on his own, chaining Storm & Christian back to back, in 2 games 1 vs 1) He was therefore always put more or less ahead. Except that, Orton got injured, and he who was Face, and became Heel, for the simple reason that during his absence, he had a regular segment where he spoke about his injury 

Evolution

Let’s start from the time of Evolution and his feud against Mick Foley with a particular match that will have marked some minds:

At this time (2004) Randy Orton was part of a REAL gang: Evolution. Orton had made his TV debut 2 years ago, so he was still considered a “Rookie”. 

During this period Randy was also called “The legend killer”. He had beaten numerous legends like Foley, Rock (WM20) S. Slaughter, Jerry the King Lawler etc. In short, everything is to say that Orton started in the best way in business and still made a name among the stars of the WWE.

Then in the same year the WWE decided (finally tried rather) to give him a new dimension by making him win the World Heavyweight Champion against Chris Benoit at SummerSlam. He became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history at that time.

Randy Orton won in a really watchable match and began his Face turn. During the Raw which followed Benoit asked for a rematch which he lost because of an intervention of Evolution which ended with Evolution attacking Randy Orton because “the pupil had exceeded the master”.

The Face turn was done, HHH really had a big heel heat at the time. The feud had to go at least until Wrestlemania 21 for the WHC but Randy’s face turn had failed, so the feud was over at the Royal Rumble and that’s how Batista took advantage.

Drafted to Smackdown!

But WWE didn’t leave Randy behind as he had the rare privilege of being able to face the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. A draft to the Smackdown! Brand followed, then a very big feud with the Undertaker which ended with a good Hell in a Cell of about 30min.

But still, rumors circulated that at that time Randy was a little too sure of himself, of these qualities. There were several slippages which cost him many titles, in particular, that of Wrestlemania 22. (It was said that backstage the title was for him but given his behaviour, the decision was changed).

Shortly after Wrestlemania 22, Randy Orton was suspended for 60 days for “unprofessional driving”. But returning from this suspension, WWE offers him a feud with Hulk Hogan. WWE was proving their trust in him, they wouldn’t give that kind of feud to just anyone.

Rated R-KO

Then comes the alliance Rated-RKO. Randy Orton teamed up with the Rated R Superstar, Edge and formed one of the most formidable tag teams in WWE history. Most tag teams don’t usually feature such formidable singles competitors. Rated R-KO was mainly formed to feud with the reformed Degeneration X (DX) faction of Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

Feud with John Cena

Then, following a feud with John Cena for the WWE title Randy “won” the title at No Mercy 2008 which he defended twice in the evening against HHH. Randy Orton was not yet a REAL or BIG main Eventer, he still had to win. He had a long reign and defended against many opponents, Jeff Hardy, HBK, HHH, Chris Jericho etc. He even had the luxury of keeping his title at Wrestlemania 24 against Cena & HHH. However, he accidentally broke his collarbone during the One Night Stand pay per view:

It was a BIG turning point in his career, some might even say “luck” that he was injured during this period. Because he would have lost to ONS & after? Feud again and again with HHH for the title and so on.

His collarbone injury was a big shock because he had already had many problems with his shoulders (especially hypermobility) before and this injury caused a change of character that many really disliked since his return in September 2008.

Many fans didn’t like this Orton at all, he came back with his two arms totally tattooed like a cyborg, his closed face, his icy expressions, his new habit of hitting the ring with his fists to announce the RKO (especially that he built this finish on the mark of unpredictability), his lack of liveliness and explosiveness, etc.

Many fans believed that Orton didn’t have as much charisma as before. He had a lot more when looking at the entrance he had (Mercy Drive + taunt + golden rain), the speaking rate he was using which was much faster, his arms which were much less tattooed and which were less “dirty” and his muscle mass was more important.

Return from injury

In September Randy Orton returned from injury by having a mini feud with CM Punk in particular by causing him to lose his World Heavyweight Championship at Unforgiven, and when he came back Randy seemed to have taken a lot more insurance, seemed a lot more calm, felt like that he had a ;level of maturity that he had missed so much before. It was at this moment that the noises from the locker room that Randy was respected began to appear.

The Viper

It is then that he will become one of the “pillars” of Raw, he created The legacy. They will then nickname him The Viper, the guy who calculates, tires and exhausts his prey in order to be able to attack at the slightest weakness of the opponent. He took on a whole new dimension with his feud against the McMahons. The very big feud which continued even afterwards, which won the WWE title for Randy and which really established him as an accomplished main eventer.

End of Legacy and face turn

The dissolution of the Legacy brought the face turn (Not necessarily expected) of Randy Orton, the WWE saw the future in him. 

While Randy Orton might have been a pillar of Raw, but also as a “major” pillar of WWE with Cena, HHH, Taker, HBK etc. told Sheamus a few weeks ago to avoid being on bad terms especially with Randy Orton. Angering Randy Orton didn’t work well for Mr. Kennedy and Kofi Kingston.

Randy Orton’s constant character evolution is a big reason behind him being one of the pillars of the WWE during both the Ruthless Aggression and the PG eras.

Legend Killer

In 2004/2006, Randy Orton had this character of Legend Killer which gives him good first feuds, an excellent reign of Intercontinental champion, and perhaps wanting to create a new surprise main eventer, Vince gives him the title. But, despite good performances, we could see that Randy’s character was not yet mature enough, confident enough. Of course, the arrogant side of the young destined for glory pleases, but it’s still classic, not personal enough for a main eventer at the HHH, Hbk, or at the time Benoit. Orton may have had in-ring or mic skills, but his character’s charisma was not high enough, especially in the face. After if we look towards Wrestlemania 22, when he goes up to do his first main event  of the biggest show in WWE, we already saw more experience with him,

The Legend Killer is an attractive character and good to start, but impossible to install a rear main eventer in this gimmick.

It was around 2007 that he took on a much more serious character, in particular by “finishing” careers thanks to attacks on Hbk (Judgment Day 07) or RVD. He became more violent, more psychopathic, more unpredictable, rumors had it that he will become a new Cerebral Assassin after HHH. This is where we started with an Orton who used mind games, and who was surprised with the violence of his attacks. He even became champion for a while, and won his first Wrestlemania main event. Despite a character improvement that was more worthy of a world title, it lacked a captivating side and a little charisma.

And there as you say, his injury and the return that follows is a turning point in his career. He comes back with a crazy charisma in my opinion, a new look (tattoos in particular), and even injured WWE used it with small altercations against CM Punk in particular. He was becoming really important, and you can feel that he had gained a lot of experience and maturity over time. He was getting big enough to make a clan anyway, and we knew what he accomplished next. But there, we felt that he had become very important for Raw, and he became more psycho than ever, we then know the real character of Viper who appeared.

A pillar for the WWE

What made him a real pillar, an essential element was his second face turn. First time out, he was not a bad Face, but a rather bland Face, no more special than another. Today he’s badass, he has a tweener attitude (a bit like Austin), he can RKO against anyone he gets acclaimed, and hell what popularity he’s gained. He has everything to make a face of the most interesting character level since Austin, Rock. And this ability to be as good in every status, face or heel, is the mark of the greats (Austin, Rock, HHH, Angle, HBK, Y2J to name a few).

Many fans didn’t like his feud with Triple H for Wrestlemania 24, nor his feud with Batista afterwards, nor the Legacy and nor the new turn of the so-called “face” which is in the process of adopting (apart from receiving cheers by fans who respect RKO tremendously for his past accomplishments; he doesn’t have the one-sided attitude at all). His entrance theme has also stayed unchanged since 2008 and a lot of people believe that it’ll be good to change it.

Coming back, he rejoined the Evolution for a short time, and it is obviously there that it begins, a first part, to take off. The thing was, the booking of the evolution was remarkable, nothing to do with what we got next. But hey, logically, it contains Triple H, and neither more nor less than Ric Flair. Not to mention little Randy Orton, whom the WWE seemed to have already taken under its wing. As well as a named Batista, impressive size. During this part, Orton had a title, a REIGN (I speak of a real reign), and above all … RIVALITIES! These are essential elements to establish solo, Orton had a huge rivalry with Foley which took him to Mania as well as Backlash, then a rivalry with Edge, see Shelton Benjamin in the meantime. He had a real career, atypical, it is still surprising, when you see what Rhodes & Dibiase have been, in comparison, for 1 year. The booking of evolution members was awesome.

This was indeed accentuated by what followed. Giving the title to a 24 year old kid, it was yet another mark of WWE’s incredible confidence in young Randy Orton. He has had hardly any moments of glory since his arrival in WWE, if we look back in the context of 2002-2003-2004, and this is not the case for all young people. Randy Orton was a privileged one. His reign will not go down in history, although all of his segments with HHH during the one month period were marked.

Then, it’s a bit of a drought, we didn’t really know where he was going, and finally, after an injury there again, he returned as a heel around 2005. 

WWE trusts Orton, favors him, but despite everything, aside from his Face Turn, Randy gives him back to Vince McMahon’s company. But the problem of any talented young person is knowing how to keep their head on their shoulders. His character was over-arrogant to go beyond television screens to settle backstage. However, he was only 25-26 years old. Youthful mistakes, we all make them. In any case, his booking continues to be good (he beats the winner of the Rumble, and steals his privilege for Mania! Even if this will be reinstated later) and Orton delivers a “Main Event Match” at WrestleMania.

It is then, as you say, that he ran out of steam anyway, he left the title picture and despite some rivalries, nothing comparable with what he had against Taker, so he became “Banal”, and the privileged aspect he had seems to have faded. It was necessary to relaunch him as a team, and which team. They had a good period, with a big feud, Randy is a little less put forward than Edge (having in parallel, too, delivered big matches), but the team won the title (and will only lose it against Cena & HBK, another Dream Team).

All the while, WWE was looking for a gimmick for their workhorse, which, after the breakup of Rated RKO, was slowly going to take a different turn, and it was obvious that we were in the process of creating one who would beat the unconquerable champion, John Cena, reigning for a year. Their rivalry was very good, Orton became a real predator, he only lived for the title, and seemed obsessed with it, and managed to do what no one had done, bring Cena down. He attacked him just before No Mercy 2007 so that the title was finally attributed to him, in a crazy PPV, with no less than 3 defenses of the same title (Randy Orton (c) vs Triple H, Triple H (c) vs Umaga, Triple H (c) vs Randy Orton), in short, great art.

Mark again, of the privilege which granted him, Randy Orton will have the right to an Overbooked reign (but so good) with a return of Shawn Micheals, a return of Chris Jericho (feud ended prematurely, unfortunately), a rivalry with Jeff Hardy who will have scored from his Bumps on Raw (10-meter Swanton, Whisper from the top of the cage), Cena’s comeback at the Rumble, who wanted revenge on the person who injured him, then a fairly interesting three way rivalry (Randy Orton & John Cena vs Raw Roster) which resulted in a match won by the champion, Randy Orton, who now had a long reign, appearing at all PPVs (without winning), at WrestleMania 24, and once again, Orton retained in what ended up being one of the biggest victories of his career.

Then, what had to happen happened, the loss of the title to Triple H. As soon as he returned to Raw after losing the title, Randy Orton had changed his attitude. Orton’s gimmick had been based on the title since October 2007, and in April-May 2008 it was the same, although he now didn’t have it. He was becoming a predator again, with huge moments again (RKO just after the light, which Regal turned off, came back on) and was really going to become a good big challenger. However, the injury intervened.

Unlike what many people claim, the injury had not been a blessing for him, because it was still from his reign that Randy began to gain confidence and to be “respected” for his work and his attitude (even if he still had setbacks, especially just before Backlash 2008 where he, it seems, degraded his hotel room). There were stories surrounding DX & Umaga, in which Orton was the lawyer of the Samoan Bulldozer against the two “tyrants “from the late DX. (It was even said that it might cost him the title because HHH & HBK had a huge influence at that time, but it ultimately did not happen)

After the injury, Randy Orton’s return was serene, affirming that he was back to be champion, and everything came together, he had gained ground, it showed, despite a defeat at Armageddon 2008 against Batista, he won the Royal Rumble 2009 and took off, once and for all, because the rivalry that followed, its permanent inclusion in the title picture and its many titles won, made 2009, the most successful year for our ex-Legend Killer, as you also underline it.

Over the course of his career, Randy Orton has become a true legend of professional wrestling. His golden contract promises us big, HUGE things for him and for his future. He can settle in an Austin type role with his gimmick and his recent fabulous pop, he has the attitude, the experience to do it. He cuts great promos and performs very well in the ring. His finisher, the RKO is one of the most popular and iconic finishers of all time. He has been one of the most consistent performers in WWE history and he has always been on top. Even when he held the United States Championship in 2018, he added a lot of prestige to it. Randy Orton has completed a successful journey from being a “Legend Killer” to a “Living Legend”.

Who is Randy Orton’s wife?

In November 2005, Orton announced his engagement to girlfriend Samantha Espao, the couple married on September 21, 2007. On July 12, 2008, a daughter was born to them, whose name was tattooed by Randy on his left hand. After divorcing Espao in 2013, Orton announced his engagement to Kim Marie Kessler in July 2015.

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