WWE: Randy Orton's Evolution as a True Professional

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2012

photo by fanpop.com
photo by fanpop.com

He’s selfish.  He doesn’t put anyone over.  He runs to the top brass backstage when he doesn’t get his way, and he’s responsible for keeping other WWE Superstars at midcard status, or below.

He’s Randy Orton, and he is nothing more than a prima donna.  

Been a while since we’ve heard that buzz about the Viper.  In fact, you could say that the Randy Orton we see now is not the Randy Orton we knew then.

And it was just last year.

It’s funny, how much the perception of many fans has changed since then.  Even those who hated the guy at that time are now giving him respect, thinking of him as a true pro, and someone who is working within the WWE system to provide the best product possible.

That’s right, kids.  Randy Orton is now a team player.  And all it took was Mark Henry to make it happen.

At WWE Night of Champions last year, Randy stepped into the ring to defend his World Heavyweight Title against the World’s Strongest Man.  To say that Henry had a lot of momentum going into the match is to say that John Cena has some critics.

It’s a huge understatement.

Henry’s ride began in July of last year, when he went ballistic on Monday Night Raw, destroying the offstage set, and presumably hurling a sound guy to his death.

At least, that’s what it looked like.  Don’t worry, he’s fine.

Later that month, he beat the Big Show at Money in the Bank and then “injured” the giant with a steel chair, an act that he repeated on Kane that Friday on SmackDown.  Storyline-wise, Mark’s attacks were the reason that both men took some time off.

He then did the same thing to Vladimir Kozlov, and a month later, he won a battle royal on SmackDown, earning the right to face Orton at Night of Champions for the World Title.

The guy was on a serious roll, with a huge push that sent him straight to the main-event level in the company.

But you didn’t expect him to beat Randy, did you?

There were a lot of fans out there who, knowing Randy, and believing him to be the self-absorbed Superstar that he had the reputation of being, were convinced that Mark not only wouldn’t win the strap, but that he didn’t have a chance.

As I watched the match, I have to say, I was more than a little surprised.

I was hoping for the best, as I was one of those fans who actually wanted to see Mark get his due.  He had been with WWE for quite a while and had always been a dependable worker who embraced whatever role he was given, no matter how big or small.  A title run would be a good way to reward him and give him a chance at the top.

But I have to admit that I too was of the mindset that it was probably not going to happen.

So when Mark basically dominated Randy at virtually every point in the match, and then gained the pinfall to become the new World Champion, I was floored.  It just seemed to happen so easily for him, as if he was meant to do it, as if all the stars had aligned just right for him.

As if someone made it happen.

That someone was Randy Orton, who, when asked, did the job to a deserving guy who was finally getting his shot.  Just like a professional would.

It seems an easy proposition, for Orton to do business when the moment calls for it.  But the reality is that Orton is a veteran with a certain respect, and a certain amount of stroke, thanks to his position in the company.

If he had an issue with Mark going over, or any argument with the way he was to be manhandled during a large portion of the match, then he surely would have said something.

Randy could have refused to do the job, and the entire game plan would have needed to be changed.  Henry would have lost his chance, and Randy would likely have remained World Champion.

But not only did Randy lose this match, he lost the rematch against Henry at Hell in a Cell.  He then entered into a feud with Cody Rhodes, in which he lost a match, and then began his feud with Wade Barrett.  It was a rivalry that saw him drop the pin in a traditional Survivor Series match at that pay-per-view.

OK, so Randy ultimately won the feud with Cody and Wade, leading some fans to criticize that his position had really not changed that much at all.  Both Cody and Wade are considered by many to be the proverbial “future” of the company and would have been helped more by Randy if he had actually lost each feud in the end.

But the point is, Randy did business in both instances; he never came off looking invincible or heroic in any way.  He looked like a regular, hard-working, unassuming WWE Superstar, who, again, was doing his part to bring the best quality to not only his matches, but to the overall product as well.

The same could be said for his program with Kane, in which the Big Red Monster got the upper hand on more than one occasion, even defeating the Viper at WrestleManai 28.  Randy did defeat Kane at Extreme Rules, but in this case, Kane is not thought of as a future star, he is regarded in much the same light as Randy—a veteran doing his part for WWE.

Evolution.  It’s not just the faction the Viper was once a part of.  It is the story of his career.

Where he is now, compared to where he once was, is like night and day.  No longer is he sitting at the top as World Champion, reigning over a roster who simply cannot get a leg up.

Other Superstars have stepped up their game and have been allowed to shine, including the current World Champion Sheamus.  WWE is all about parity when it comes to the midcard workers, so when the time comes to move one of them up the ladder, it is a believable move for their characters and for the fans watching them.  

Part of that move involves getting the rub from established Superstars, and until Randy truly puts one of the younger talent over, by losing a rivalry in the end, when it counts, he may always have that voice of opposition from some of the WWE faithful who will not concede his importance in the company.

But for me, Randy Orton is right where he needs to be, and right where he should be.  He is slowly but surely approaching that Shawn Michaels status in his career, the level on which he cares more about giving back than holding onto his own place in the WWE hierarchy.

He is part of the WWE machine, not someone sitting atop of it.  Randy Orton is coming full circle, and that level of comfort is evident in not only his character, but his ring work.

From prima donna to professional.  Who would have thought it?