Randy Orton is the WWE world heavyweight champion, the top titleholder in the company. His gimmick is that of a man presented as the face of WWE, which means he represents the absolute best that the industry has to offer. He is booked in main event matches and headlines events all over the world.
Yet Randy Orton is perhaps nothing more than a lame duck champion. For many fans, he is doing nothing but keeping the title belts warm until WrestleMania 30, which makes him the most overlooked champion in WWE.
It seems somewhat ridiculous to think of Orton as anything other than the top talent that he is. After all, Randy has been at or near the top of the WWE card for much of the past few years, so seeing him there now is nothing new. In fact, at this point, most of the WWE faithful likely expect him to be there.
And Orton has paid his dues in WWE as well. His initial entry onto the company's main roster back in 2002 may have come at the side of Triple H in Evolution, but Orton had to work very hard to get what he was being given. At the end of the day, The Viper may have been handed the opportunity to succeed, but it was up to him to actually make it work.
Twelve years and 12 WWE and World Championships have proved it was that work ethic, that desire to succeed, that has solidified Orton as a major player in the business. Orton has definitely earned the moniker of "top guy."
But none of that changes the fact that from the moment he won the WWE title at SummerSlam in 2013, Randy Orton seems to have been operating on borrowed time. And the reason for that lies with the man he defeated at SummerSlam, Daniel Bryan.
Bryan has become perhaps the biggest breakout star that WWE fans have seen in years. The "yes" chants have become a craze that has spread beyond the confines of the industry, propelling Bryan up higher than anyone likely ever expected.
Virtually every time he's on TV, Bryan's pop is louder than the week before. The crowds are chanting during segments that Bryan is not even featured in. And from a storyline perspective, the fact that Bryan is still fighting the corporate machine despite being beat down by The Authority since day one has just elevated him even more.
And while fans continue to watch the drama of Daniel Bryan versus The Authority, Randy Orton is just to the left of the angle. The WWE World Championship has not changed that.
When Batista recently returned to the company after a four-year absence, the first man he targeted was Randy Orton. The Animal made it known that the WWE world title was what he wanted, and he earned the right to challenge for it by winning the Royal Rumble.
Crowd reaction for Batista has been mixed at best, mostly due to Bryan having not been included in the Rumble itself. Basically, many WWE fans wanted Bryan in the winner's circle that night and not Batista.
However, there is no denying that Batista has a ton of momentum on his side right now. WWE seems committed to him in the time that he's there, and there is every possibility that he will leave WrestleMania 30 as the new WWE world champion.
And while fans are truly beginning to love hating Batista, Randy Orton seems to be once again just to the left of the drama. Being WWE world champion has made him a serious target, but he is not the focus.
Brock Lesnar has recently put in his bid to become the new top dog in WWE. With Paul Heyman by his side, Lesnar has made his presence felt in the company and seems intent on destroying everyone put in front of him until he reaches Orton and the title he's wearing.
Even The World's Largest Athlete could not stop Lesnar from steamrolling upward in the company. Big Show put forth a valiant effort at the Rumble but was unable to stop The Beast. Despite having not been on WWE programming recently, Lesnar is a very viable contender for the belt, and the company could always choose to go with him as champion.
And while the camera is trained on the brutality that Lesnar displays, set to Heyman's narration, Randy Orton is left clutching his championship belts with a firm grasp. The target on his back is doing nothing but growing more and more in size.
Three different challengers in three different storylines and in every instance, Randy Orton seems to be somewhat left out of the equation. The fact is that he should be the focus, but oftentimes that just does not seem to be the case.
At this point, it seems very unlikely that Randy will keep the championship past WrestleMania 30. And there may be very little chance he will keep it past the Elimination Chamber on February 23. His own storyline involving The Authority has portrayed him as something of a paranoid personality that believes his title reign is being sabotaged.
Orton was once supported as the face of WWE, yet that status is up for debate as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are just not happy with his attitude and actions. Orton's booking has been somewhat unimpressive lately as he dropped two losses on Raw to both Bryan and John Cena.
Is Randy Orton the most overlooked WWE champion in recent memory?
The combination of all these factors does not bode well for a lengthy WWE world title reign for Randy Orton.
A great number of fans want Daniel Bryan to be champion. Some are anticipating Batista winning the gold and becoming a strong heel champion as a result. Still others are hoping that Brock Lesnar finds himself in the title picture and wins the belt.
But very few believe that Randy Orton will somehow manage to remain champion. Call it weak booking on WWE's part, call it bad timing due to the strength of his challengers, but Orton is still the most overlooked champion in the company. And that trend does not seem to be changing anytime soon.