Having just returned recently from a Wellness Policy Violation suspension, Orton may find himself suspended again.
While a suspension would certainly be an overreaction, WWE has proven in recent months that it is fully capable of overreacting. Chris Jericho was suspended for kicking a flag and Abraham Washington was fired in large part due to a bad Kobe Bryant joke.
Wrestlingnewssource.com reports that Orton’s inappropriate gesture was sparked by his annoyance with this particular fan. Whatever this fan did or said, Orton's reaction was bush league.
WWE wrestlers have to be more professional than that.
Orton later apologized via his Twitter account.
Had a blast tonight. Great crowd in Boston, sorry if I offended anybody with that inappropriate gesture!
— Randy Orton (@RandyOrton) September 17, 2012
An apology, sincere or otherwise, doesn't remove the finger from the live pay-per-view.
There was of course a time when a protruding middle finger was standard fare on WWE TV. Stone Cold Steve Austin made the double bird one of his trademarks.
As much as fans would like to step into a time machine and relive the Attitude Era, this is a different time for the company. A middle finger may not seem like a big deal to many fans, but you can be sure it is to Vince McMahon.
The only question is, will McMahon address the issue behind closed doors, or will he suspend Orton?
Orton's reputation for having a short fuse hurts him here. This isn't a one-time situation that can be ignored; it's is a testament to Orton's volatility.
Few would be surprised if something like this were to happen again.
What will save Orton from missing time now is his star power.
Were he not as great a wrestler as he is, were he not as popular with fans as he is, we would definitely not see him on WWE programming for a while.
An Alex Riley middle finger, on the other hand, might get him a permanent home in the WWE doghouse.
For Orton, it will probably mean a stern talking to from McMahon and a slightly shorter leash than he had before.
Even as big as Orton is, enough of these incidents will have him sitting on the bench.
Whatever punishment WWE decides to dole out to The Viper, it won't change his hot-headed nature. Employing Orton comes with certain risks.
Ask Kofi Kingston how quickly Orton can snap.
WWE knows that and is clearly willing to roll the dice, even if that means a few non-PG fingers and curse words on live television.