Over the past few weeks, several scenarios have been tossed around for WrestleMania XXIX—Cena vs. Rock, Cena vs. 'Taker, Punk vs. 'Taker, Punk vs. Rock, etc.—but it's a pity that the man who could sell a main event alongside any of those names hasn't even been mentioned as a possible contender.
Randy Orton has been stuck in the WWE doghouse since his return from a 60-day suspension for violating the company's famous wellness program.
When he was first handed the ban in late May, rumours swirled that he could have even been fired for his poor attitude.
At the time, F4WOnline reported that there were "discussions of Orton not being brought back at all after his suspension concludes," and that WWE may have been "looking to terminate their partnership with Orton since he's considered difficult to deal with and due to the belief that his value has plateaued" (h/t Wrestling Inc).
Since his return, his only PPV match—a thrilling back-and-forth fight with Dolph Ziggler at Night of Champions—showed that Randy is better than ever.
No gimmicks, no cell, no tables, ladders or chairs; the match was just two guys telling a story to the best of their technical ability.
Orton's current feud with Alberto del Rio seems like it will be far better for the Mexican submission expert than his long, drawn-out battle with Sheamus.
Orton is already looking like he will be able to put del Rio over far better than his previous opponent could, and the same could be said about Ziggler.
It must pain Orton to see CM Punk's recent heel turn, though, for it is well known both within the WWE and outside of it that it has long been his desire to change to the role of villain.
But Punk's new bad-guy persona makes it vastly less likely that Orton can do the same, considering the company's current lack of top-draw babyfaces.
And make no mistake, Orton is a top-draw babyface; he's bigger than Sheamus and arguably bigger than Punk was before the switch.
I would argue vociferously that he is second only behind John Cena in that respect—all you have to do is listen to the crowd pop.
So why does it seem like he's nowhere near the frame for a big push before either the Royal Rumble or WrestleMania.
Of course, a lot can change in the next six months or so, just think back to Daniel Bryan's stunning rise for proof, but in terms of a marquee match for the WWE Championship against The Rock, Cena or Punk, or even a prestigious attempt to end The Undertaker's streak, the chances look slim to none.
He could still compete for the World Heavyweight Championship at this point, but in all honesty, that belt has lost so much credibility over the past few months, Orton may as well rekindle his rivalries with Kane or Ziggler for what it's worth.
I would also imagine that Ryback's meteoric push of late must rile a lot of the guys in the dressing room.
"Big Hungry" has never fought in a worthy PPV match, can't speak for his life on the mic (although, admittedly, that has always been Orton's weak point), is still very green in the ring and used to go by the name Skip Sheffield not too long ago, and yet he's been shunted into the main event picture before the likes of Ziggler, Orton and even Wade Barrett, three superstars who have all paid their fair share of dues.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Ryback hater; I think he's got great potential, and he could be a huge asset for the company somewhere down the line. But by pushing him so fast and so hard, the WWE are backing themselves into a corner from which it is very difficult to emerge unscathed.
But still, there's Orton, at the back of a very long queue of waiting superstars who all no doubt feel deserving of a shot of their own.
He'll have to bide his time, making do with huge pops on the first or second hour of Raw rather than the opening or final promo.
The heel turn he so badly desires will have to wait months before there is any chance of it coming to fruition, as will his shot at the main event.
But when the WWE suits do open their eyes, they'll see a fully formed superstar ready to bail them out of trouble if either one of the Ryback or Sheamus experiments blows up in their faces.
What do you think the future holds for Randy Orton? Is he deserving of better?
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