One year ago, Randy Orton was in the midst of one of the best feuds in his career: for four straight PPVs, he fought Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship, and the matches got better each time.
Since losing to Mark Henry at the Hell in a Cell PPV, Orton has not gotten a title shot, and has instead been trying to elevate young guys like Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett. Over on SmackDown, however, these feuds were not getting the attention and exposure they truly deserved.
This begs the question: Just how much of a top guy is Randy Orton these days?
Going by crowd reaction, not much of a change is necessary. He still gets very good pops when entering the ring and when hitting his big moves during the match. Even so, he has still fallen down the company ladder in terms of talent.
John Cena will continue to be the No. 1 face in the company, no matter how much the fans may boo him. At this point, it will take some apocalyptic event for a heel turn to occur, and until then, the WWE will keep him in the position as the top good guy in the business.
Randy Orton was considered the No. 2 face in the company last year, but while he was doing the same thing every week, a man named CM Punk passed him for that honor. Punk is getting more exposure as the WWE Champion and continues to garner great reactions week in and week out.
Now, Orton is No. 3, and he is competing for that spot with the likes of Sheamus (and even Daniel Bryan at times) over on the Blue Brand. Since losing to Mark Henry at Hell in a Cell, he has feuded with Barrett, Rhodes and Kane, all which have been most obviously upper mid-card feuds.
So is a character change necessary? One may have to be done soon in order for Orton to find himself back at the top of the card.
I would be frustrated right now if I were Randy Orton. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and is seemingly watching people like Punk and Bryan pass him by in the company without really doing anything wrong. Orton was trying to get young guys over, and there should be a bigger feud for him as a reward. If Kane was that feud, then Orton should be a little pissed.
On top of that, there is a roadblock on both championships. Punk and Sheamus have already been through extensive feuds with the Viper, and while Orton faced both men when they were heels, there are still people ahead of him in that race as well.
So where should Orton go from here? The most likely scenario, and one that should help him work back to the top, is a feud with Chris Jericho, who now finds himself with nothing to do since Punk has moved on to Daniel Bryan.
The back story is already set up, since it was Orton who punted Y2J out of the WWE in 2010. Jericho is a guy who can bring out the best in just about anyone, and Orton could really use some eye-opening performances to get some attention back.
A character change is not necessary just yet, but if this path continues for Orton, he is going to have to step up his game and get eyes back on the Apex Predator. Chris Jericho is the best option to help Randy Orton get out of his upper mid-card purgatory.