As we approach the end of 2012, Randy Orton finds his WWE career at a crossroads.
Sure, he’s as popular as ever—remaining one of the few established stars the company has left—and remains a crucial part of SmackDown.
However, his once-thriving career seems adrift in recent times, as he engages in one mundane feud after another (does anyone really care if he and Alberto Del Rio hate each other?), and WWE seems at a loss for what to do with him.
The heavy push of Sheamus has undoubtedly been a factor in Orton’s demotion. WWE are eager to turn the Irishman into their next big star—they’ve plastered him all over SmackDown and given him a lengthy run with the World Heavyweight Championship.
The results have been decidedly mixed. Sheamus isn’t really over to the extent you would think, but WWE seems determined to push him, even prioritizing him over Orton.
Orton’s suspension in May—for his second violation of the company’s drug policy—is probably also a factor. Per the policy, if he fails one more test WWE will be forced to fire him.
Considering this, it isn’t at all a surprise the promotion would be reluctant to get behind him as strongly as they once were.
He has also been off filming a movie—12 Rounds: Reloaded, the straight-to-DVD sequel to 2009’s 12 Rounds, starring John Cena—another reason his profile isn’t as high as it once was.
So, with all this in mind, what’s next for Orton?
Well, a heel turn is one possibility.
The star has mentioned before on Twitter that he prefers this role and certainly he seems better suited to it. Indeed, his babyface character, while over with a large part of the fanbase, comes off as too bland and goody-two-shoes-like these days.
He has also, arguably, gone as far as he can as a face—for example, he’ll never usurp Cena’s status as the No. 1 babyface—and he has been on top too long to be the next up-and-coming star like Ryback.
So, with WWE still intent on making Sheamus a main event attraction, could a feud with a newly turned heel Orton be on the cards? Certainly, it’s an intriguing prospect, with the two having never worked a program together before.
It may also help the floundering Sheamus get over with the fans better.
Indeed, most of his current run has been bogged down by boring, mediocre feuds with The Big Show and Del Rio. No wonder he can’t become the massive star Vince McMahon wants him to be.
However, feuding with Orton—one of the best bad guys the company has ever had—could surely helped revitalize his stale career and make him the star WWE is so desperate for him to be.
In summation, there are a few options for Orton in 2013, provided the company can properly utilize him and gave him a much-needed character change. In fact, after years as a babyface, now would be the appropriate time for the former World Heavyweight champion to take another trip to the dark side.