Randy Orton making anyone else feel old (and other thoughts about his career)

Today is the anniversary of Randy Ortons debut on WWE television 20 years ago. Does this make anyone else feel really old! That’s over half my life.

In April 2002 I was a senior in high school. I was still obsessed with wrestling after discovering WWF in 1998. I worked at Wal-mart after school but never on Mondays or Thursdays so I could watch Raw and Smackdown. Wrestling had certainly cooled off from the height of the attitude era a year earlier. But I still had a couple of friends that followed it.

I don’t really remember Orton’s debut. It didn’t have the same impact as Brock Lesnar a month earlier. But the concensus on the early IWC was that Orton, Lesnar and a couple of others in OVW were rumored to be the next generation. Which I was conflicted about at the time because it seemed like they still had a ton of talent from WCW and ECW who hadn’t been given a real shot yet (like Lance Storm).

Since then he’s been ubiquitous with WWE and had a lot of terrific moments, matches and feuds. One of my favorite Orton matches that never gets talked about much is the Orton vs Cena iron man match which finally ended their first 3 year feud.

Anyone else have any memories of his debut? Thoughts about his long career? Favorite moments?

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Yup! I can’t believe that his debut was 20 years ago, I remember that match against Holly very well.

I remember that OVW class was one of the most hyped prospect classes ever, or at least it was the first class that I remember having any knowledge about before their debuts as places like The Law, BTR, PWInsider, and even The Ross Report talked about them all the time. If memory serves me right, the most hyped guys in no particular order were Orton, The Prototype (Cena), Leviathan (Batista) Lesnar, Benjamin, The Haas Bros, Nik Dinsmore (Eugenie) and Ron Waterman. Considering three of these guys are going to go down all time greats, I’d say it lived up to its potential.

I’ve always been a fan or Orton, pretty much since the RNN vignettes. People always talk about WWE wasting talent (and rightfully so), Orton is a guy you can put on the other end of that spectrum. He was the perfect fit in Evolution, and it was so obvious that he was going to be a star.

As for my favourite Orton matches…#1 is Foley street Fight, loved that match. The aforementioned iron man match with Cena was very good, the triple threat match against Batista/Bryan at mania 30, the match against HBK at I believe an Unforgiven, and I also remember really liking a match he had against I think Triple H where he sold the hell out of suffering a concussion. He’s not exactly known for his 5 star classics, but he’s been a very good performer for 20 years.

Oh and lets not forget, he was in the greatest match OF ALL TIME against Edge at the performance centre!

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Orton is solid but I think WWE had several opportunities to make him a mega star but dropped the ball.

The whole face turn with Evolution was a huge flop and he failed big time as the top babyface. Part of that was probably HHH and politics but it was bad.

I also think they dropped the ball when he wasn’t the guy to end Takers streak. Orton got reheated after the terrible face turn and that could have turned him into a made man.

The last time was around 09 when he was red hot and on top but it eventually led to a weak feud with HHH and more politics.

Overall the guy is a good worker but to me hasn’t been able to click ever as a tippy top guy.

I think his best matches were with Christian in 2011. Some of his stuff with HHH was just brutal

I think he’s about as big a mega-star as someone can get in WWE over the last 20 years without leaving. To get to that next level (which is really only Cena, Lesnar, Rock) they all left and raised their profile in Hollywood. For someone who has stayed with the company for so long he is about as well known and as well liked as ever. Everyone likes Randy Orton. He gets the biggest face reactions every week. If they do the heel turn against Riddle I think the fans will just be bummed instead of upset and drawing heat.

This is a very arbitrary way of looking at popularity but when I was walking around at WrestleMania the most common t-shirts were Austin followed by RKO shirts. From all different eras. Legend Killler shirts. Viper shirts. Wyatt era RKO hoodies.

Followed by Seth Rollins shirts, Reigns and then the USO’s.

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This is a pretty spot on assessment. People will always look at some of the halted pushes of his early career, but people tend to forget how young he was when he was pushed to the moon in 2004. Randy himself has gone on record admitting he was out of control back then, and a lot of the booking decisions were a result of his behavior. I think its fair to say it worked out for him lol.

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If you took Randy Orton and Samoa Joe and flipped them in the mid-2000s, I wonder where each winds up. Or better yet, what if it was Randy who left WWE and not Drew - how would that have played out. That to me is to say Randy Orton while having some name power is pretty replaceable and always has been.

I think Randy Orton largely owes his career and stardom to 2 things:

  1. John Cena
  2. Meme Culture

Randy had great rivalries but always with guys who I consider to be bigger stars than him. Even his Legend Killer run, was built off stars with more cache than him. He got a rub, he didn’t become the draw. That he became he ultimately became a bigger star was based on longevity and the change in culture and how one becomes a star these days (virality).

Randy Orton to me symbolizes WWE moreso than any of his peers. Be good enough to hang around long enough to become great based on being one of the only games in town long enough to be believed as great. There are some other guys who benefited to lesser degrees than Randy, perhaps their viral fame is ahead of them.

Don’t forget that feud with Shane McMahon which pretty much killed any heat he had.

I was a fan of Orton since he first showed up on SmackDown. I was a religious viewer back them and I knew that he would be a star from the moment he was talking to Vince in the same debut segment. It’s weird, but I always though that he would be were Cena would ended up being, but his attitude, injuries and bad booking did derail his momentum.

I will say this. Bald Orton is, was and forever will be a MENACE! :rofl:

EDIT: I will be forever salty that WWE NEVER FULLY CAPITALIZED on the “RKO OUTTA NOWHERE” online meme in 2014.

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I believe Jim Ross and FTR say he’s the greatest wrestler in the world right now. He’s doing something right to get that praise from those guys

There aren’t many epic 5 star Orton matches but he always has crowd heat, and exciting finisher and looks the part.

Say what you will but even AEW cut Marko Stunt and Jelly. Looks do matter and he has the look.

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What programs was he responsible for generating the heat in and not benefiting from somebody else having immense heat with the crowd? His top feuds?

Looks matter. He has had a look for 20 years. He’s a nostalgia act before our very eyes. He just never really left to be missed and endeared. He’s a constant and for that an all timer. I feel he deserves a career achievement award and not actually an Oscar or Grammy if that makes sense.

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Seth Rollins and AJ Styles off the top of my head. I also think back in 2009 he was outperforming guys like Edge, Cena, Big Show, etc.

Orton to me is someone who is good but always works to the level of his opponent and never had the drive to be the best. He’s solid, reliable and doesn’t injure others but never has taken that next step.

He’s more known as a meme than a wrestler.

Had terrible chemistry with guys like HHH, Batista, Cena and Taker and he never made a star himself. His matches with actual good workers (Styles, Bryan, Punk) are never that great either.

He has a look, works safe so he doesn’t get hurt and has been pushed big time. Orton is good but never became anywhere close to great IMO

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Exactly and with all the years of him being pushed, who did Orton help make into a star? Nobody.

Here is how I look at it…Randy Orton epitomizes “WWE”. He is a third generation wrestler who came up through a WWE developmental, and has wrestled on the WWE main roster for 20 years and as far as I know has never stepped foot in an Indy ring or the ring of any promotion outside of WWE/OVW.

I try to keep a fair perspective on the wrestling industry by looking at opinions from many different platforms . This board is has to be the most anti WWE platform that I have ever came across. Nothing wrong with that, but it is what it is. I don’t expect Randy to get the respect from the majority of posters here that he deserves, I equate it to the reaction he and Sheamus got on the Raw after mania a few years back, this is just not his audience. Best Post Wrestling example I can give, if I wanted an opinion on The Young Bucks, I’m not going to listen to Bubuz, someone who obviously hates AEW. Its bias.

However, if you ask the average fan, you will get a much different story. To use Tik Tok for example, I can’t tell you how many videos I have came across with people calling guys like Cena and Orton “The Goats”, now, I don’t think he is (I don’t think he’s close TBH) but I can’t ignore that there is a large contingent that feel this way, especially those that grew up during the Cena/Orton era.

Has he elevated a ton of talent? No. Do I blame him? No. I blame Vince for that. What I do know, is that he has been able to get an insane reaction from the crowd for a very long time while physically doing very very little, and when he needs to step it up and have great feud, he usually comes through. I admit he doesn’t have many 5 star classics, but thats not what makes someone a star in WWE.

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Historical fiction is always fun.

If Samoa Joe started in WWE in 2002 he would have likely been let go by 2003 as someone who doesn’t have the look they want. Maybe he’s able to stick around not doing much and gets pushes during those small time periods where Heyman was in charge of Smackdown or WWECW. But he would never become anything until he left WWE and would then work RoH and TNA. At which point he would mainly be known as a low-mid card ex-WWE guy and be treated a lot like Christian or Matt Hardy on the indy scene.

If Randy Orton started on the indy scene in 2002 and popped up in TNA as soon as anyone from WWE saw him he would have been on their radar as having a lineage and look they are interested in. He probably would have been in WWE by 2003 and had a similar career path.

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That’s not how I’d play the replacement game but you’re probably right

by far one of the best talents on the roster. Just now hit his prime. could have a top run again but needs to be soon…

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I feel that when other workers praise someone, it speaks to how safe and easy they are to work with. Things we, as fans, don’t see. Things that are still important, none the less. Randy was always a solid B+level, a credible threat to the top guy, but never the flavor of the month fad. Still, a great career