Currently, the future of Randy Orton is up in the air, and his status as a main-event star may suffer a severe blow after the recent 60-day suspension, his second thanks to the Wellness Policy.
Nonetheless, over the past 10 years, Orton has developed from a promising rookie into one of the top stars in the WWE. He has held the WWE Championship six times and the World Heavyweight Championship three times, along with winning the 2009 Royal Rumble.
During his career, Orton has been involved in quite a number of feuds. While some are forgettable (and are probably already forgotten), some have been great, and they are pivotal to the rise of the Viper and his dominance during the latter half of the last decade.
Before his suspension, he was considered one of the top stars in the company right next to John Cena, who has his own slideshow of best opponents at this link. While it remains to be seen where Orton will go from here, there is no doubting the impact he has made in the WWE so far in his career.
Here are the greatest and most important opponents of Randy Orton since his debut on Smackdown in 2002.
The first singles championship that Orton obtained was the Intercontinental Title, and he got that from Rob Van Dam at Armageddon in 2003.
RVD can make a great match with just about anybody, but in these contests, he did not have to carry the rookie. Orton was proving that he could hold his own inside the squared circle, and he got the chance to prove his worth when the company entrusted him with gold.
From 2003-2006, the two men would sporadically meet until RVD had to leave the company thanks to some drug issues.
Although RVD gave Orton the first big push of his career, most people probably think of this vicious RKO when putting these two names together.
It's amazing to think that just over a year ago, it seemed like Orton wasn't getting much attention by being placed into a feud with CM Punk. If this match happened currently, it could easily headline a PPV.
Still, at a time when Punk vs. Orton was considered the fourth-biggest match on the WrestleMania card, both men made the most of their spot by delivering a feud with a bit of a personal touch.
It all started back in 2008 when Punk was enjoying his first reign as the World Heavyweight Champion. At Unforgiven, he was ambushed and punted in the head by Orton, making him unable to compete in the main event. Two years later, Punk was out for revenge.
The two had a good match at WrestleMania and a great one at Extreme Rules in a Last Man Standing environment. Although Punk lost both contests, he was made to look Orton's equal, especially in the latter contest.
The feud allowed Orton to show his more brutal side, and after two wins, it propelled him to the World Heavyweight Championship scene.
Although they joined together as Rated-RKO in late 2006, Orton and Edge were just as good as opponents before the tag-team again.
Specifically, 2004 was when Edge returned from serious neck surgery, and he set his eyes on the Intercontinental Championship. Orton was busy bringing prestige to the secondary title, holding onto it for over half a year and defeating formidable opponents along the way.
At this point, Orton was ready to move on to the main event scene, while Edge was still a year or two away from that spot. They met at Vengeance for the IC title, and a great match followed.
Both men were out to prove something: Orton wanted to make sure the company knew he wanted heavyweight gold, while Edge wanted to prove to everyone that he could still bring it after the injury. They left it all out there in the ring and delivered a great contest.
After losing to Edge, Orton moved on and won a battle royal to face ....
It's a shame this feud will never be mentioned in WWE circles again, because it was a great moment for the young superstar.
At just 24-years old, Orton was given the opportunity to headline the company's second-biggest show of the year against Chris Benoit, who was enjoying his own reign that was a long-time coming. Orton was a part of Evolution at that point, so he was still a heel.
At the match, however, Orton and Benoit showed sportsmanship after everything was said and done, and the fans seemed pleased about Randy's historic victory. Of course, Triple H and company weren't happy about that, and combined with plenty of jealousy, they turned on Orton.
It was another great showing by Randy, who was in the midst of a great streak of matches and feuds at such a young age. This could be the crowning moment of his career, and he became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history.
It's no shock to find Shawn Michaels on a list like this, and he and Orton went at it in singles competition both in 2003 and 2007.
In 2003, it was HBK who was helping to build a young star, and this feud led into Orton's defeat of RVD for the Intercontinental Championship. Orton won their match at Unforgiven with the help of Ric Flair, and it was the beginning of the "Legend Killer" gimmick that would last for a number of years.
After their Rated-RKO vs. DX feud dissolved, Orton and HBK stayed bitter rivals. Randy delivered a punt to Shawn to give him a little break from the travel, and when Michaels returned, he targeted Orton.
They would proceed to have a very good feud over the WWE Championship, with Orton prevailing thanks to the stipulation that HBK could not use Sweet Chin Music during the contest.
At that time, Randy just captured the title after a hectic night at No Mercy. Michaels helped to establish Orton as a legitimate champion and set him off on a six-month title reign.
For four straight PPVs, these two men wrestled one-on-one for the World Heavyweight Championship. And for four straight PPVs, they delivered.
The talk about Orton being stale and boring has been going on for years, but for a few months in the summer of 2011, Christian put those voices to rest by delivering some great matches with the Viper.
The feud started with Orton taking the title off Christian on Smackdown, who won it just two days earlier by beating Alberto Del Rio in a ladder match. The decision caused some serious outrage on the Internet, but as time passed, it led to a slow-burning heel turn and a great series of matches.
Most notably, their contests at Over the Limit and SummerSlam were the best of the bunch. Orton was actually using moves that we never thought he knew about, and he had amazing chemistry with Christian, who could always get it done in the ring.
My only gripe about the feud is the absence of a single clean win for Christian. Nonetheless, the feud provided for some of the best wrestling matches of Orton's career.
They feuded from 2004-2005. They feuded in 2008. They feuded in 2009. And even if the matches didn't live up to expectations, the build was always fantastic.
The lead-up to the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania was particularly intense, with Orton hitting members of the McMahon family until Triple H was the only one left. After some scenes including a fight at Orton's home, they met in the main event of the evening.
Unfortunately, their contest was underwhelming, and nothing could follow Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker.
They also faced off in 2004 after Randy Orton won his first World Heavyweight Championship. He became a transitional champion by losing to Trips at Unforgiven, and even though he fought his way through Evolution to get another shot at the Royal Rumble, he could not deliver.
In 2008, they became rivals after a triple-threat WrestleMania match, but their One Night Stand bout ended abruptly after Orton broke his collarbone.
Along with their battle at No Mercy in 2007, this feud was on and off for almost five years, and the stories were always well-told.
The feud between the Undertaker and Randy Orton lasted almost all of 2005, and by the time everything was said and done, the Legend Killer looked better than ever.
It was Taker's match with Orton at WrestleMania 21 that could really be considered the beginning of "The Streak." It was the first time that Taker, being undefeated, was the center theme of the match, and Orton almost broke it with an awesome counter of a chokeslam into an RKO.
After a bit of a break, Orton, with the help of his father, would beat the Undertaker at SummerSlam and bury him alive at No Mercy. Still, Taker would step out of a flaming casket at the end of Survivor Series, and the feud would culminate in a Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon.
The Undertaker did wonders for Randy Orton in this feud, who made him look to be a more-than-formidable opponent. Orton would go on to finish second in the Royal Rumble and compete for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22.
On my list of John Cena's Greatest Opponents, Randy Orton only placed sixth. In this slideshow, however, the Orton vs. Cena rivalry makes it all the way to No. 2 because of its effect on the Viper.
Truth be told, while both men came up to prominence at very similar times, Cena has always been one-step up on Randy. Because of this, he has gotten some more high profile feuds and has developed a few better rivalries.
For Orton, however, this was his big chance to be in the spotlight with the top guy in the industry, and he did not disappoint. This feud started all the way back at SummerSlam in 2006 and continued on and off until their Iron Man Match at Bragging Rights in 2009.
One of the highlights of their feud was an excellent I Quit Match at Breaking Point. Even though it ended up being a typical John Cena performance, Orton put a hurting on Cena with such anger and viciousness that the bout had a different feel.
Some of their other matches were lackluster at times, but overall, the feud was heavily featured on WWE television and had some great build.
Orton really has not had many other greater opponents than John Cena. In fact, there is only one.
Shawn Michaels gave Orton a push with Evolution in late 2003. RVD allowed Orton to win his first singles gold. But it was Mick Foley who gave Orton all of the makings of a star.
In fact, Foley was the special guest referee for the match at Armageddon when Randy won the Intercontinental Championship. Orton would disrespect him in the coming weeks thanks to his Legend Killer gimmick, and it pissed Foley off enough that he would find a way into the Royal Rumble and take Orton out of the match.
This led to a 3-on-2 handicap match at WrestleMania and a Rock n' Sock reformation. Foley would take the pin, but the feud wasn't over just yet. He wanted the IC title, and he was going to get it by his means: a no holds barred match.
Orton grew up overnight at Backlash 2004. The shot of hundreds of thumbtacks stuck in Randy's back will stick for years to come. The amount of punishment Orton took in that match was inhuman, but he was able to prevail in the end.
After that night, it was obvious that Randy would be in many main events over the coming years. And he has Mick Foley to thank for that huge push.