In the NBA, there are a number of all-time legends with nowhere to really call home. Gary Payton, for example, starred for many years as an All-Star point guard for the now-defunct Seattle Supersonics. They’ve since relocated to Oklahoma City and become the Thunder. While Payton had brief stopovers in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Miami, he has no real place to go back to. In essence, as the old phrase goes, he’s a man without a country.
Randy Orton is a great professional wrestler. He was essentially great from the beginning according to most. He’s got the decorations of a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and has been pushed as a top star since 2004 with a few exceptions when he kind of gets forgotten about or injured.
So what is the issue?
Randy Orton is a 13-time champion with no real ride or die fan base, and when compared directly to Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Batista, it feels like he’s not in the same class at all despite a decade of top-tier protection, and being over for most of that time.
It’s not often that you’ll come across a vocal Randy Orton superfan. I’ve always wondered why that was. He’s fought the “boring” label through much of his career when positioned as a babyface, and adopted a wrestling style that tends to get over more with wrestlers than fans at this point.
He’s spent much of his career with the best finishing move in wrestling, and that paid off for him by becoming a meme. I don’t know if that’s the best or worst thing to define his career with, but it brought Randy Orton more attention than anything else has.
With his recent return and subsequent heel turn on Jeff Hardy, he cut a crusty old man promo where he chastised the fans for not loving him because he didn’t do dives, switch his merchandise colors to take our money, or throw up too sweet signs. (We’re off that Orton.)
He pointed the finger at fans in a promo that made him sound like an old guy yelling at a cloud. In reality, much in the way the 3pt shot has overtaken the game of basketball and left players that couldn’t adapt behind, Orton is dead set on settling for midrange jump shots with his wrestling style, and overall appeal in 2018. That’s when I thought. Who really loves Randy Orton? I didn’t know the answer despite hearing about him still getting mammoth reactions at house shows. I guess you can chalk that up to being on TV for the last 16 years.
He’s become a relic without trying. Orton comes across like he knows the way and has been successful in a certain style for so long that he will continue that style until he decides otherwise. In keeping up with the basketball theme, Randy Orton is Carmelo Anthony, however, WWE isn’t about to put him on the bench, they are setting up for his next run right in front of your eyes.
It’s long been said that Randy Orton is better as a heel. He’s off to a blazing start, ripping at Jeff Hardy’s gages in a way that ranks up there with any sadistic heel Orton action ever. It looks like Orton is set on the typical path that he takes when he turns. Get over as a heel, win the title, lose it, start getting cheered for, then turn back face.
With Samoa Joe and AJ Styles set to do battle, watch out for Orton lurking as the next opponent for AJ Styles should he get past Joe. If that sounds insane to you, remember this is the same company that decided that Randy Orton should win the WWE Championship as a BABYFACE at Wrestlemania 33, via the route of winning the 2017 Royal Rumble. Of course, they’d have no issue on putting the championship back on Orton, and using him to needle the popular wrestlers and style of today not only in WWE, but outside of it.
I once thought of Randy Orton as the alternative to John Cena. The guy with the wrestling to offset Cena’s perceived weaknesses in that area. Once Cena closed that gap, Orton just got left in the dust historically. Their 3 world title difference might as well be 10. He didn’t become a guy that people got romantic about where an injury ended things early like Edge, nor did he become the chameleon that Chris Jericho became. He’s just Randy Orton, who he always was.
I’ve heard some folks pontificate that it sounded like Road Dogg ghostwrote his promo the other week. To me, it was the WWE equivalent of Clout Chasing, and another example of WWE railing against an audience that is said to be so small but is making WWE/Orton reveal their own shortcomings a day at a time. The classic line about Randy Orton was always, “If you build a sports entertainer from the ground up, it would look like Randy Orton.” But what about everything else?
Why is Randy Orton not more beloved?