Pro Wrestling Community Leader Shane Howard and I have been known to disagree from time to time.
So while I don't feel that either one of us has ever taken anything personally, I did feel that it would be interesting to exchange views on my personal favorite subject—Randy Orton.
I am of the opinion that Orton is underrated and I imagine that Shane is of the view that he is overrated. So, I contacted Shane directly, and he was more than willing to exchange views.
The following is what we had to say about the subject (Ryan's answers are in bold; Shane's are not).
1. You feel that Randy Orton has had the business handed to him. How much of a factor do you feel his lineage has had on his success in the WWE and where do you think that the same Randy Orton would stand today had he not had the same heritage?
I definitely feel that Orton's name is the reason why he is where he is.
This is what is said on Randy-Orton.com: "Being a third-generation Superstar, Randy Orton’s arrival in WWE was seemingly inevitable. After all, he was practically raised in the business that both his father and grandfather excelled in. It’s no wonder he has quickly ascended to the higher echelons of the RAW roster and eventually became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever."
I don't think I really need to say anything else, but I shall. He wrestled for one month in the Indies before signing with the WWE. Within a year he was out of OVW and up on Smackdown.
Let's not also forget that he was pretty much hand-selected by HHH and Flair not too long after coming onto the main stage. So, he goes from being like the Mayor's kid to also being the Teacher's favorite. How could he not succeed?
If we are talking 2002, than I would agree with you in saying that Randy Orton was the beneficiary of his own family's legacy. But in all due fairness, there is a reason for that and it stretches beyond name-recognition.
Having the last name "Orton" helped but at the same time, there is an added value to men of pedigree. Not only because of their name but because often times they inherit a large degree of talent. That makes them more valuable than the average blue-chipper working next to them in many instances.
If that was a gamble on WWE's part back in 2002, it more than paid off in a short period of time.
In my view, Randy Orton would be a top star today had his last name been "Smith."
While he once lived off of the third-generation gimmick, he's his own man today with the only reference to his lineage being in the basic concept of his Legacy.
So to sum up my thoughts, I feel that Randy Orton was initially given some big breaks but those breaks eventually ended up benefiting the WWE as much as they did Randy Orton.
I certainly don't think he gets much preferential treatment today because of his lineage, he's made himself untouchable through hard work, god-given talent, charisma, and ability to entertain the fans.
2. You've talked about Orton's mic skills and lack thereof. What do you think of his current work on the mic (let's say since he returned from his injury) and where would you rank him among other Superstars today in terms of ability to cut promos. Who is he better than and who is better than him?
Orton is decent on the mic.
He's not on the Jericho, or HBK level, but Orton is not Jeff Hardy or Matt Hardy, for that matter. I'm pretty sure if Orton wasn't monotonous on the stick, he wouldn't get the flak he gets. You can be a determined heel without speaking at the same tone, with no inflection.
Trust me when I say this isn't the fan-boy in me, but Orton is great on the mic. The fact that he speaks in a monotonous tone of voice fits his character perfectly in my opinion.
While some people might find it boring, I find it to be entertaining.
He can be more intense than anyone I've ever heard (during instances when his temper blows up) and he can be as justifiably cocky as anyone I've ever heard. When Randy Orton speaks, his words carry great meaning.
Take a guy like Chris Jericho, for instance.
His vocabulary is impeccable and he does a magnificent job of delivering his lines and playing his role. The problem with Jericho is that he's just not significant enough for me to care all that much.
He probably hit his peak during his rivalry with Shawn Michaels and even then, I felt that he was far out of his league competing with the likes of the Heart Break Kid.
I don't mean any of this to be a low-blow towards Jericho, whom I consider to be the very best at what he does. I just don't think that what he does is as great as he makes it out to be.
3. What kind of impact do you feel that myself and fellow Ortonites have had on Randy Orton's overall perception (at least here on B/R), do you feel that the result of our works have pushed his status beyond where he truly belongs and if so, where would you appropriately rank Randy Orton right now?
Orton is the hottest thing in the game right now.
It is only natural that his fans will be the most vocal. The thing is, with someone as popular as he is, you will have many bandwagoners as well. It all just suddenly makes Orton seem as if he's a wrestling deity right now.
The biggest thing is that all the hoopla by the Ortonites seem to mask the fact that Orton is good but not great.
I've often spoke out in the sense that I know the day will come when many Ortonites will fall off the bandwagon. That, however, is not relevant to a guy like me, who built the bandwagon.
While I do agree that the legion of Ortonites have made Randy out to be a wrestling-deity, I don't think the fact that a number of bandwagoners adopting the truth makes the reality any less factual.
Meaning, I feel that the pedestal Orton has been placed on is where he belongs and he would deserve that spot even if he didn't gather a huge following at this point in time.
4. Can you name one thing that you think people feel about Randy Orton that might be incorrect while also providing us with something that you think about Randy Orton that you don't feel many people are aware of?
I think folks need to know that Orton is a student of the game. He has had some great mentors and I feel he has been receptive to it all.
What I think folks might be incorrect about in thinking of Orton is that he is the next Stone Cold.
Sure, Austin was called The Rattlesnake (Orton is the Viper) and both men squared off against the boss, but they should not be compared. Their paths are not the same, their characters are not the same, their fanbase is not the same.
I see where you’re coming from on this one but I think that I agree with you for different reasons.
Randy Orton and Steve Austin are two very different people. I think that many Attitude-Traditionalists would not feel the comparison is warranted because they feel that Orton is an inferior superstar competing in an inferior era.
Austin is one of the all-time greatest, no question about it.
My issues are more with why he's considered to be so great.
That's not to say that he didn't almost single-handedly revolutionize the business, because he did. But I feel that a great deal of Austin's success was due to the appeal of his relatable character.
Many people could relate to an alcoholic who beats up on his boss but I personally see no appeal in such antics. That is, I don't like his character, even though his character was great.
Orton's character is far too deep for many people to relate to beyond the fact that they like his entrance music and feel that the "RKO" is a cool move.
So they really shouldn't be compared but I do feel that Orton has so much on Austin that he'll never get proper credit for.
5. What kind of impact do you feel that Orton's role or portraying a "cowardly heel" might have on the overall perception of his accomplishments? Does the effect stemming from his character role do him justice or an injustice?
It's not so much him being a "cowardly heel" that does him injustice, rather the writers continually shifting his character.
One week he is cowardly, the next week he's ruthless. It's all rather confusing to most viewers. Heels can be cowardly, there have been some that did it well: Honky Tonk Man, MVP (versus Matt Hardy), even Austin was a cowardly heel at some point.
It doesn't demean Orton's accomplishments; it just pisses the fans off with the constant switching.
On this topic, I feel that we are in total agreement. It is clear that the creative team seems to be left and right at the same time and are struggling to establish a consistent take on Orton's character.
Seeing him go from cowardly to ruthless at the drop of a dime is frustrating, so I feel the fan's displeasure.
On another note, I think that the sheer fact that Orton is a heel makes his accomplishments more impressive in many instances. For example, how often does a heel win the Royal Rumble? How often does a heel retain the Championship at Wrestlemania?
A babyface could do it, but it doesn't hold the same significance as when a heel does it due to the sheer nature of character roles in my opinion.
1. Do you think that Orton might have hit his peak? Is there any other level that he can possibly go?
That's a great question, Shane.
If you asked me six months ago, I probably would have told you yes. But watching Orton as of late as lead me to believe different. Every time I say to myself "that was the most insane thing I've ever seen, you can't go lower than that, etc." Orton ups the ante and does something worse.
The "Punt Heard Round The World" was a point that stuck out to me as being a climax of one's career. But what I saw him do to Stephanie, when I saw him break Triple H's heart to the point where he had to cry, that was something completely different.
So even though he might be the hottest thing in wrestling today, I think that there is still room for evolution. Especially during a time when the script-writers are up one week and down the next, I feel that Orton will eventually become a great beneficiary of stable script-writing.
If the writers can come up with even better material, if they can push The Legacy to the point that I feel they deserve, and if they can let Orton be as dominant as someone of his magnitude should be, then the sky will become the limit.
I feel that the ultimate answer to this, as you got at, is what happens with Legacy.
If Legacy ultimately fails, then it is a reflection on Orton. I think being a successful leader of a stable will just build to his already impressive resume. It also solidifies him as someone who can lead the next generation of stars. He does that and he has ascended to perhaps the very peak of professional wrestling.
2. What will Orton's ultimate legacy be in professional wrestling?
I've thought about that many times. Wondering, where will Orton rank when it's all said and done and what will people think of his career after he retires.
I personally think that Randy Orton will become more respected after retirement than he is right now, and that's saying something. People will look back at the era we're living in and remember the top heels.
I think that Edge will be remembered for the entirety of his career, so there won't be a complete focus on what he's doing now.
JBL's legacy will not be as pretty as he'd hope. I'm sure that people will look back and say that he was one tough guy, but I honestly think that Brock Lesnar did more in his two-year career than JBL did in his life.
Chris Jericho will not be remembered as a great heel.
Like Edge, he has a complete career to be reflected upon. His prime of being a heel would likely be now and although he's great at verbalizing an eloquent vocabulary, no one is going to look back at his time doing so as a dominant force that was to seriously be reckoned with.
Randy Orton is this generation's ultimate heel. He's been a heel for most of his career so that if nothing else, will help his status as being one of the greatest.
We're talking about a guy who has defeated legendary figures such as Ric Flair, The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Mick Foley. He's also taken out this generation's finest by defeating the likes of John Cena, Edge, and Batista.
I couldn't think of another wrestler who has defeated so many "big names" although that's also in great part to his "Legend Killer" moniker. But even considering that, Randy gave these great legends a reason to lace their boots up one more time.
When you combine that will accomplishments such as headlining multiple Wrestlemanias (being one of the very few heels to retain a championship at the event), winning the Royal Rumble, being a four-time "Sole Survivor" and a multiple time WWE Champion, you have the career of a future Hall of Famer ten-times over.
Randy Orton will be remembered as not only the greatest heel of his generation, but one of the greatest competitors to ever step foot in the squared circle.
In the end, I think Orton will be forever seen as "The Legend Killer." Most people attach him to that gimmick and I think in the future, many will look back and see him as a guy who took out a lot of big names. As for your claim that he is this generation's greatest heel, that point is completely debatable.
3. Is he the greatest heel currently in the WWE?
Without question. I don't think there is even a close second. Edge would be his only competition and I don't even think there is one thing Edge does better.
People would say his ability on the mic but Edge needs to blow-up to reach half of the intensity Orton delivers in a monotonous manor.
Edge is great, don't get me wrong. He might even be my favorite guy outside of Legacy but he's of a completely different breed.
I don't think Chris Jericho even warrants discussion, for the reasons I stated before and countless more.
But I don't want to explain why Orton is the greatest heel in the WWE by simply tearing down his competition. I want to explain why he deserves the spot on his own merits.
If being booed the most makes you the greatest heel, than Orton does not fit that criteria. A guy like JBL could earn twice the boos for all the wrong reasons.
There is a difference between getting booed because your boring or pathetic, and being booed because you force the crowd to boo you.
Fans have every reason in the world to cheer for Randy Orton. Be it his entrance music, his look, his finishing moves or whatever.
And while some people always end up cheering for him, he can take an arena that would want to cheer for him and force most of them to turn those cheers into boos.
That's a special talent that I feel he doesn't get enough credit for.
Because people think the more boos the better, they don't understand that it's much harder for someone with appeal of Orton to get booed than it would be for a guy like JBL or Mark Henry who have no appeal whatsoever.
Be it his ability, his accomplishments, or his impact, Randy Orton is unquestionably the greatest heel in the business today if not the best there's ever been.
Of course not.
Orton should be happy that Vickie Guerrero resigned as he can now move ahead of her. The greatest heel currently in the WWE is without a doubt, Dolph Ziggler. Okay, I'm kidding.
Edge, I feel is a better and bigger heel than Orton. Why? Because of Edge's sneaky tactics. People tend to hate the weasels and Edge is a great weasel.
Mic work, in-ring ability, charisma, Edge has it all and I believe he beats Orton in those respects as well. The fact that Edge's character married Vickie Guerrero's, who many don't find attractive, just to get ahead tells you the depths the man will go to win.
Orton punted Vince in the head, but haven't we seen Vince and superstars disagree in the past?