On the 25th of April 2002 a new up-and-coming Superstar made his debut on Smackdown!, beating veteran Hardcore 'Bob' Holly. There was something about this Superstar that got me thinking, "This kid is going to be big; I know it."
His name was Randy Orton, a third generation Superstar from St. Louis, Missouri.
Drafted to Raw and his first heel turn
His feud with Hardcore may have seemed insignificant to those viewing at the time, but it would set in motion a series of events that would last seven years. Following his feud with Hardcore, Orton was drafted to WWE's flagship show, Monday Night Raw.
On his debut on his new brand, Orton defeated Stevie Richards. Within weeks of his debut, Orton was injured and sidelined for many weeks, but still appeared on Raw with his Randy News Network vignette in which he talked about his improving condition. He interrupted many other segments with this, thus turning him into a heel.
Evolution, The Legend Killer and the Intercontinental Championship
Orton made his return to Raw, becoming a member of Triple H's new stable, Evolution. Along with Trips, 16 time World Champion Ric Flair and new recruit Dave Batista, Orton looked set to make an impact on Raw until he was injured again in February 2003.
On the May 26 episode of Raw, Orton returned as a masked man, interfering in a 2-1 Handicap match between Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H. He un-masked himself and re-joined the stable.
Later in the year, Orton started a new gimmick known as "The Legend Killer", a name he is still known by to this today. Orton challenged many legends to matches and won. Those who he did not face in matches were either spat on (e.g. Harley Race) or received his finishing maneuver the RKO (e.g. The Fabulous Moolah, Jake "The Snake" Roberts).
In the first "Legend vs. Legend Killer" match, Orton defeated Shawn Michaels via help from his mentor, Ric Flair.
Orton also helped Triple H with his World Title defences against the likes of Bill Goldberg and Scott Steiner. He was involved primarily in the Sumerslam Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship.
At Armaggeddon on December 14th 2003, Orton successfully took the Intercontinental Title from Rob Van Dam, this being Orton's first singles title.
Losing the Intercontinental Title
Orton soon went on to feud with semi-retired Mick Foley. This is one of the feuds which made Orton's career what it is now, with matches taking place at both Wrestlemania 19 and at Backlash.
At Wrestlemania 19, the team of Randy Orton, Ric Flair and Batista beat The Rock and Mick Foley in a 3-2 handicap match. Orton won for the team by scoring the pinfall on Foley after a RKO.
Foley then challenged Orton to a "Legend vs. Legend Killer" Hardcore match for the Intercontinental Title at Backlash. After having thumbtacks stuck into his back and being covered in blood, Orton defeated Foley, ending the feud.
Orton the feuded with Edge for the Intercontinental Title and in July at Vengeance, Orton dropped the title to Edge. This would only lead to better things for the "Legend Killer"...
Becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion and a Face turn
Orton went on to win a 20 Man Battle Royal to become the Number One Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. The match for the title would take place at Summerslam. Orton overcame the likes of Kane, Chris Jericho, Edge and Evolution teammates Batista and Ric Flair in the match.
On July 26, Orton made wrestling history by becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion at the age of 24. He defeated the late and great Chris Benoit whom he shook hands with after the match.
On the next edition of Raw, Evolution turned on Orton after he successfully defeated Chris Benoit in a rematch for the title. This started a feud between Triple H and Orton. Orton dropped the title to Trips at Unforgiven after a month long reign. Orton tried to regain the World Title at New Years Revolution and at the Royal Rumble but failed in both attempts.
Feud with The Undertaker, Heel turn and Return to Smackdown!
On the Feburary 28 edition of Raw, "Superstar" Billy Graham made an appearance, advising Orton to "go where no wrestler had gone before." Orton then produced a copy of Smackdown! magazine which featured The Undertaker on the front cover.
Orton announced that he would set himself apart from other wrestlers by ending the Undertaker's undefeated Wrestlemania Streak. In up coming weeks, Orton would turn heel by RKOing on-screen girlfriend Stacy Keibler and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Orton would go on to lose to 'Taker in a thrilling match. After a match with Batista on Raw the next night, Orton was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
On June 16th, Orton returned during a match between JBL and the Undertaker, RKOing 'Taker and costing him the match. He then announced that he was Smackdown!'s second pick in the 2005 Draft Lottery.
He rekindled his feud with Undertaker, defeating him at Summerslam with the help from his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton. Two months later, the duo defeated The Undertaker in a 2-1 Casket Match. Orton reversed the casket through the stage area. Orton now believed that he had killed The Undertaker
At Survivor Series, Orton was the "Sole Survivor" for Team Smackdown! successfully winning by pinning Shawn Michaels. At the end, a casket appeared on the stage, much to Orton's horror. The casket was struck by a lightning bolt and set on fire, in which The Undertaker walked out of.
The feud was finally settled in a 2-1 Handicap Hell in a Cell match in which 'Taker offered to retire should he lose. The match ended with 'Taker standing victorious thus ending the nine month long feud.
Aim to Re-Capture the World Title
Orton entered the Royal Rumble Match as entry No. 13, but was eliminated by Rey Mysterio at the end of the match. Orton then feuded with Mysterio for his shot at a World Title at Wrestlemania.
At No Way Out, Orton won the match and got a shot at World Champion Kurt Angle at 'Mania. Rey Mysterio was added to the match, and at Wrestlemania, Orton was pinned by Mysterio.
On April 4th 2006, Orton was suspended for sixty days for "unprofessional conduct". This was covered up by a fake injury in which Kurt Angle broke Orton's ankle during a match.
Upon his return, however, his career was reinvigorated by a brief feud with none other than Hulk Hogan, followed by a union with "The Rated-R Superstar" Edge, in a feud against the returning D-Generation X—a stable featuring Shawn Michaels and Orton's old enemy, Triple H.
Edge and Orton, as "Rated-RKO," captured the World Tag Team Championship in late 2006—however, once Triple H received a debilitating quadriceps injury, the feud between the two teams was ended just as it was gathering steam, and Rated-RKO lost their belts to the makeshift team of Shawn Michaels and John Cena.
Return of the Legend Killer and The Birth of "The Punt"
Orton engaged himself in feuds with Rob Van Dam, Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and Sgt. Slaughter, all if which suffered the dreaded Randy Orton "punt." Opportuninty then came knocking on Orton's door once again.
Claiming the WWE Championship and The Age of Orton
When WWE Champion Cena fell to an injury in late 2007, Orton was finally given his chance. Having been narrowly defeated by Cena at SummerSlam in August, Orton was awarded the vacated WWE Championship at No Mercy in October, immediately losing and regaining it in the same night in two matches against—once again—Triple H.
In April 2008, following Orton's surprise title retention over both John Cena and Triple H at WrestleMania XXIV, he was given a new theme song, entitled "Voices," to fit his darker, edgier persona.
Despite losing his title at Backlash—to Triple H, yet again—Orton's popularity was soaring. His third feud with Triple H was cut short by a broken collarbone he sustained in June.
Road to Wrestlemania XXV
On his return in September, Orton became Raw's hottest property.
Having put former ally Batista on the injured list in December 2008, he gained two new allies, in second-generation wrestlers Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase - together, the three formed a new faction, named "Legacy."
Rhodes and DiBiase assisted Orton in winning the 2009 Royal Rumble—but not before Orton himself had created an iconic Raw moment, in viciously punting WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in the head.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon came to their father's aid in the following weeks, but after Shane met the same fate as his father and Stephanie was dealt a heartless RKO. Stephanie McMahon's husband and WWE Champion Triple H took matters into his own hands.
On April 5 in Houston, Texas, Randy Orton was defeated by Triple H at Wrestlemania XXV, thus failing to regain the WWE Championship.
On Monday 6 of April, Vince McMahon announced that it would be Triple H, Shane McMahon, and Vince McMahon vs. Legacy at Backlash. Orton the beat McMahon in a match later that night.
This saw the return of Batista, who Orton had put on the shelf. Batista replaced Vince McMahon in the match at Backlash. Vickie Guerrero also announced that this match will be for the WWE Championship.
Will Legacy successfully defeat the team of Trips, Shane O' Mac and Batista so Orton can become champion once more? We will have to see come Backlash.
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