Lost in the controversy of Daniel Bryan's losses and the chaos surrounding Triple H and Big Show is that Randy Orton is nailing his performances as villainous champion.
WWE's elite talkers—The Rock and CM Punk, for example—will always rank up above Orton, but The Viper has been engrossing and convincing on the microphone. In that category, Orton is highly underrated, underappreciated by fans who mock the speed of his delivery and label him "boring."
He has seemingly stockpiled intensity in his years with WWE and it now wafts off him like smoke.
Orton's feud with Bryan has seen a number of non-clean finishes, some good matches, some disappointing ones and a ton of moving parts around the two rivals. It has also been home to Orton's mostly unrecognized success with his promos.
Orton has found somewhere to roost and thrive in between those extremes. He is equal parts believable, intimidating and irksome, everything you want from a wrestling heel. In spite of that, much of the conversation from fans about Orton revolves around his lack of mic skills.
Tweets like these are ubiquitous.
Orton has never been that good and always need to carried, his promo skills are beyond sub par— BigBadMrB (@BigBadMrB) October 29, 2013
BRUH RANDY ORTON SUCKS AT TALKING BRUH— YOUNG TACOGOD EMILIO (@TACOSONTHELOW) October 29, 2013
Looking at two of Orton's recent verbal showdowns and one from before his rivalry with Bryan involved the WWE Championship reveals that The Viper is prospering in his promos, regardless of the opposing perception held by many fans.
During his latest championship coronation, he certainly held a slow pace in his speech, but it was a powerful and effective one.
Orton's short promo here shows off the single gear that he drives in, one of seething intensity. While the upper-echelon promo workers of today and yesterday are more versatile, few Superstars can play angry and smug as well as Orton does.
When he says, "Being WWE champion makes me, simply put, better than you," it feels as if he's being genuine.
He won't remind anyone of Marlon Brando in his prime, but he accomplishes what is expected out of a heel. He makes you want to snarl in your living room or better yet, reach through the TV screen and punch him in the mouth.
Orton faced off with Bryan before Battleground and The Viper hit a double, if not a home run with his personal attack.
Beyond being a convincing creep here, it's Orton's facial expressions that stand out. When it's Bryan's turn to talk, Orton is certainly not just a faceless piece of the background; he delivers a searing glare to his foe.
This is an intense segment that helped build toward the pay-per-view.
For that, credit has to go to Bryan and to the fight that erupts, but also to Orton's promo ability. His mic work is often dismissed, but this is a performance that a large percentage of the WWE roster wouldn't be able to pull off.
He's been doing this opposite Bryan for months now.
Flash back to the early part of their feud where Bryan was still out to prove that he wasn't the weak link of Team Hell No and you see Orton being just as intense, just as commanding.
Critics will point to his excessive pauses or some other flaw, but there is plenty to applaud here. The purpose of this segment was to increase the animosity between these two and make their upcoming match more exciting.
Orton's performance helped accomplish that.
His words create tension while both selling himself as a dangerous foe and Bryan as a worthy opponent. He's not spitting out poetry here, but "I'm going to hurt you" is plenty potent in spite of its simplicity.
The Apex Predator doesn't offer the kind of promos worth pulling apart to examine their literary power like something from Jake Roberts, Mick Foley or Bray Wyatt, but he doesn't need to. Pro wrestling's great talkers are working with chiaroscuro while Orton sticks to using flat color.
It's what he does best, though. He's able to maximize his abilities with these short, punchy promos.
The question is, will his detractors ever give him the credit he deserves? There are still fans who chant "you can't wrestle!" at John Cena despite the growing list of good matches he puts on. Orton is getting that same treatment, dismissed as a quality mic worker despite growling and glaring his way to compelling promos.