For Randy Orton, it’s no longer if he will turn heel but when he will turn.
The Apex Predator seems to believe it’s coming. And when it does, he thinks it will be a very big deal.
Speaking on the satellite radio show Busted Open (and reported by WrestlingInc.com), Orton says that an eventual heel turn will be huge simply because he has been working so hard as a babyface to get the crowd behind him:
Well the more over I can get as a babyface, when I turn, the bigger the heel I’ll be. So if they wanna keep me a babyface, I’ll just keep doing my thing. And keep my five or six or four, whatever it is, moves. Keep them crisp and see what happens.
Big heel turns always get major reactions from the crowds. However, it is possible that any big crowd reaction Orton gets from a heel turn will come after the turn, not as a result of the turn.
Why? There is no appearance of spontaneity in it
Remember back in 1996 when the ultimate wrestling hero, Hulk Hogan, suddenly went bad and joined the heel stable New World Order? The Bash at the Beach crowd went absolutely ape, booing, catcalling, even throwing things into the ring. On that night, Hulk Hogan turned his back on the fans and became “Hollywood” Hogan.
Many consider that the Mount Everest of face-to-heel turns. Why was it so successful? Because no one saw it coming.
It was shocking to see the man who once encouraged children to say their prayers and take their vitamins exchange the red and yellow for all black with a gosh-awful feather boa and an even worse shadow beard.
Would Hogan's turn have been as successful in today’s era? Probably not. With the 24-hour news cycle, the social media and all the online punditry out there, there is no way Hogan’s turn would have been the surprise it was.
Orton’s heel turn will be big news, but in the grand scheme of things, it will not be as big as the Hogan turn. His turn has been teased, tossed around and talked about for so long that when it finally happens, people probably will find it more of a relief than anything else…more of an exhale than a take-your-breath-away-type moment.
Orton was never a Hogan-type character who played to the crowd much, aside from that Greek statue pose on the ring ropes that always draws big cheers. At least until now.
Now he does seem a little more engaged with the crowd, pumping them up with a wave of his arms or looking around as if to seek the crowd's approval before he drops his next move. If you believe what Orton says in the radio interview, that, too, is an act to intensify the pending heel turn.
Heel turns do not have the shock value they once did. Nowadays, a turn is seen more as part of a character's development than anything else. It's done to give the character an edge that might have been lacking before.
Hogan's turn was more headline-making than anything else. It was yet another way of WCW trying to compete with the surging WWF.
These days, there is not that much competition between big-league wrestling promotions. TNA may have gained some ground, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with WWE.
The latest speculation about Orton’s heel turn time has him changing sides before SummerSlam and facing frequent tag team partner Sheamus. That seems to make sense now because neither man has a major feud ahead of him at the moment. Partners facing each other is a tried and true program.
Besides, an Orton heel turn could be the best thing for Sheamus as WWE tries to push him as the top babyface on SmackDown.
In the Busted Open interview, Orton tries his best to dispel rumors that he has repeatedly asked for a heel turn and has been rebuffed each time. He says he will make suggestions about his character from time to time, but it is ultimately up to WWE to decide if he turns heel. As he puts it, “I get paid well to do what I love. They (WWE) tell me to do this, they tell me to jump, I’ll jump.”
Not exactly the words of a heel. Then again, maybe it’s all part of that master plan to remain in the fans’ good graces only to watch that trust shatter into a million pieces. Babyfaces do what WWE and the WWE Universe expects them to do, and that is to do right by the fans.
And when has Randy Orton’s character ever struck you as someone who always will do the right thing?
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.