Randy Orton is an 11-year veteran of WWE.
He is a nine-time WWE and World Heavyweight Champion and has been featured in main event matches all over the world.
Orton has consistently been one of Vince McMahon’s best performers and has a very loyal fanbase who wants to see him do well in the business.
But, Randy Orton is currently in a holding pattern and I for one cannot predict where he is heading.
At first glance, the differences between Randy Orton’s WWE career now and just a couple of years ago do not really seem all that major. He is still one of the most popular Superstars in the company and his work in the ring is still top notch.
So what’s different?
As Arn Anderson might say, Randy’s waist is a “little bare.”
In 2011, Randy was World Champion. He was feuding with Christian, a favorite among WWE fans. After several successful years of tag team wrestling and a somewhat lackluster singles career that followed, Christian was finally getting his shot at the main event in WWE.
And that shot came against The Apex Predator, a Randy Orton who was an established main event Superstar. Orton was arguably the No. 2 man in the company, second only to John Cena. The program with Christian was very entertaining and the two men had a series of six quality matches that saw Christian lose, regain and then lose the world championship.
Randy emerged from the rivalry virtually unscathed and looked stronger than ever before. He was still confident, still very comfortable in his own skin and as good in the ring as he ever had been.
Randy Orton was on top of the world.
Until the World’s Strongest Man came calling. Mark Henry challenged and defeated Orton for the world title on September 18, 2011, and Randy has not been the same since.
To Orton’s credit, he put over a very deserving Mark Henry. Like Christian, Mark had been a loyal company guy for a long time and had always done everything asked of him. Although much of the crowd in Buffalo was shocked when Henry won the strap, the consensus among fans in the days that followed was that he had earned the spot.
Randy got his rematch at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view but was unable to win the title. Another chance came two weeks later on TV, but once again Randy came up short.
Randy’s first rivalry out of the world championship picture was against Wade Barrett and it looked as though Orton would once again do the job, this time to a rising star instead of to a veteran talent.
For me, the feud fell a little flat and did not truly gain any real measure of success. Randy won the rivalry and at the end of it all, Barrett did not seem as though he had truly gained any real ground.
I was left wondering what the point of it all was.
Randy’s work in the ring, however, continued to impress and he was still featured among WWE’s top stars. It appeared as though he could begin climbing the ladder back up to the world championship on any given night.
But then trouble came calling once again. Only this time, it was not Mark Henry.
Randy was suspended for 60 days from WWE for a violation of the company’s wellness policy. It was Orton’s second offense and suddenly the man who had been on top for so long was now one step closer to losing his job.
And therein lies where I believe some of his present issues now stem from. Because again, the Randy Orton we see today is nearly identical to the man we knew back in 2011 and in 2012, before he was suspended.
The talent is still there, the skill is still sharp and he remains a fan favorite. He very rarely loses on TV and at this point a victory against anyone other than The Shield seems like a foregone conclusion.
Is Randy’s past holding him back now? Why is he still not wearing one of the top two belts?
An easy answer is because the current world champion Dolph Ziggler has earned his place. It is his time now, his opportunity to shine, to carry the banner that so many fans believed he should have won a long time ago. To take it away from him now would surely seem like an injustice to a great number of the WWE faithful.
Then of course there is the WWE Champion John Cena, who is still the face of the company. He is Mr. WWE and provided he gets by Ryback at Extreme Rules, Cena could be looking at a very lengthy title run.
But, for a Superstar to be booked as strongly as Randy is and to succeed on nearly every level there has to come a point when he takes that next step. How long can he remain one of WWE’s best workers, continue to win match after match and still be no closer to headlining with a major championship?
Now it’s time for the million dollar question: Is it time for Randy Orton to turn heel?
The topic has been debated at great length among fans for a long while now. Those fans feel that Orton is at his best when he is the cold-blooded, heartless heel who has no friends, no allies, in WWE.
For them, Randy’s character is much better when he’s not playing up to the crowd and cares only about physically and psychologically dissecting his opponents.
They believe that there is no better time for Randy to make the turn and to be honest, they may be right.
CM Punk is WWE’s top heel and he is now on the shelf. While he takes a well-deserved break from active competition, The Shield, Ryback and Ziggler have stepped up to fill the void. But it is a very large void and may only be filled by the man who held it long before Punk did.
To be honest, I do not personally see another direction for Randy Orton.
I just cannot envision him challenging Dolph Ziggler for the title but I also do not believe that he should be associated with The Shield, as they have been operating just fine as a trio. If Randy were to become heel again, I believe that his primary target would be John Cena.
We have seen that feud before and honestly, WWE is not exactly ripe with top babyfaces right now. There is a distinct possibility that the company will leave Randy right where he is, in a role that just does not feel quite right.
Randy Orton is one of the most talented workers that WWE has ever seen. He has had a very successful career and consistently turns in one solid performance after another. He is a proven main event star in the company yet he seems to be in a holding pattern. When will he take a step above his current position in WWE?
Where is The Viper heading?