While there is no question that Randy Orton is still one of the biggest stars in the WWE, the past year hasn't been kind to him. It is clear that The Viper needs to make a change, and WrestleMania XXIX presents the perfect opportunity for that to happen.
Orton's character has certainly run its course. The WWE made the right call when it broke up Legacy and gave Orton a huge face push because crowd reaction dictated it. However, wrestling is cyclical, and it's time for Orton to start fresh. The only thing that I can see saving him at this point is a heel turn that allows him to revert back to his Legacy form.
I always enjoyed his "Legend Killer" gimmick most, but Orton has been around for so long at this point that it wouldn't make sense for him to reprise that role, especially since many view him as a legend in his own right. When Orton first became The Viper as a heel, though, he was a cold-hearted, no-nonsense heel, and that is something the WWE could definitely use right now.
Orton was even tolerable early in his face run, as his character remained largely unchanged with the exception of the fans supporting him. Orton has become a cookie-cutter face over the years and that simply isn't a good position for him to be in because he doesn't possess the mic skills that most of the top current faces do.
Staleness is obviously a contributing factor to Orton's fall from grace, but the fact that he violated the wellness policy this past summer and was suspended 60 days hurt him. He is nearly a year removed from that. It seems like the WWE is still being very cautious with him, as a third offense would presumably lead to immediate termination.
Since Orton's character isn't particularly compelling, it gives the WWE an excuse to keep him in the upper mid-card rather than having him chase a world title. It would be a different story for Orton if he were doing something groundbreaking, but he isn't. All Orton needs is an interesting gimmick and I'm willing to bet that the WWE higher-ups would forget about his past transgressions in an instant.
Fans have anticipated a heel turn for at least the past year, but it hasn't come to fruition. It has been teased a couple times, most notably during Orton's disagreement with Sheamus prior to the Royal Rumble. The WWE has backed off of it, which could mean that it isn't in the cards, but it could also mean that the creative team is setting up a swerve.
Based on the way things have played out as of late, it seems blatantly obvious that Orton will comprise one-third of a team facing The Shield at WrestleMania. He doesn't have any side feuds at the moment and hasn't yet faced The Shield in a match despite their constant attacks. Who his two partners will be is very much up in the air, though.
While Sheamus seems like a definite possibility since he helped provide the distraction needed for Orton to RKO Seth Rollins on Raw, Sheamus is also feuding with Wade Barrett. If Barrett doesn't face Sheamus at WrestleMania, then the Intercontinental Championship will most likely be left off the card. That wouldn't be unprecedented because the title has lost much of its prestige, but it's unlikely.
With that in mind, I would place Team Hell No in the match alongside Orton. Kane and Daniel Bryan have had issues with The Shield in the past, and faced The Shield at TLC along with Ryback. Kane and Bryan are still tag team champions and are on the brink of breaking up, so there are some things that could get in the way, but I don't see any viable challengers for them at 'Mania.
The ideal scenario would involve Orton, Kane and Bryan controlling much of the match until the heat between Kane and Bryan rears its ugly head yet again. Bryan eliminated Kane from the Royal Rumble and tried to pin him in the Elimination Chamber, so they are going to reach a boiling point sooner rather than later.
A miscommunication will allow The Shield to capitalize and win the match, much to Orton's dismay. In a fit of rage, Orton could RKO both Kane and Bryan after the match, signaling the official start of his heel turn. Some fans believe Orton should join The Shield after turning heel, but I don't view that as a viable option and would much rather see him go off on his own.
John Cena will need an opponent after he inevitably beats The Rock for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, and Orton is a definite option. If Ryback doesn't turn heel, which I also believe could work, then Orton makes sense as he has a main-event resume and has had plenty of issues with Cena in the past.
Perhaps I'm wrong and the WWE is perfectly content with Orton in his current role, but the company is short on main-event heels, and Orton would be able to step in immediately upon turning heel.
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