SummerSlam 2013 should have been the start of something beautiful.
Randy Orton, after a year of staleness significantly affected his relevancy within World Wrestling Entertainment, cashed in his Money in the Bank title opportunity and defeated Daniel Bryan to capture the WWE Championship. Not only that, he also revealed a business relationship with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
As the so-called "Face of the WWE," he would certainly become the company's top heel, its corporate champion and the man fans paid to see get beat. He would unsheathe an all-new viciousness and increased aggression in an attempt to retain the title he had worked so hard to regain. After years as a babyface, The Viper would be unleashed on an unsuspecting WWE Universe.
Or so we thought.
Somewhere along the line, the definition of the "Face of the WWE" became lost in translation. Orton was not the top villain, the guy the entire show revolved around. He was not particularly aggressive, vile or vicious. The fans did not really hate him, nor did they really love him.
Everything that made The Viper so appealing in the first place was stripped away. What fans were left with was a neutered lapdog for The Authority.
The once-proud Orton, who would answer criticisms with a swift, decisive RKO, allowed Triple H and Stephanie to talk down to him. He allowed them to treat him as a petty employee. He lost all his ability to think for himself and whined and complained like a petulant child when things did not go his way.
Worst of all, he became an afterthought.
The Authority sucked any bit of heat away from the character that may have been there, and Orton became a faceless pawn in master game of chess being played by those in power. He was the avatar for Triple H, the man who did the COO's dirty work for the better part of six months, during which he won more than he lost but consistently had the help of others in doing so.
He and the WWE Universe were constantly reminded of these facts by Triple H, who should have been more concerned with protecting the guy he handpicked to be the franchise player.
Now, nearly a year after he turned heel and fell into a deep, dark abyss of irrelevancy, there is only one way to adequately rehabilitate Orton so that fans can take him seriously as a threat rather than The Authority's plaything: a feud with Triple H.
The COO benefited from having Orton under his control because it gave The Authority the bargaining chip that is the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It also gave the power couple a man who could compete against any Superstar they deemed an enemy without making Triple H lace up a pair of boots and do it himself.
Everything that Orton did was at the service of his bosses. Meanwhile, they pushed him further and further into obscurity for their own benefit.
For Orton to rediscover the edginess, the attitude and persona that made him a huge star in WWE in the first place, he must rid himself of the cause of his downfall. He must put this yearlong stretch—an unmitigated failure—behind him.
He can start by dropping the sledgehammer-toting King of Kings with an RKO and reminding the WWE Universe just who he is—that he is an unpredictable competitor capable of striking at any time and whose demeanor is that of a venomous reptile.
If he does not and settles for being a glorified stooge for the two most powerful people in professional wrestling, he may never recover from the obvious lack of enthusiasm fans have for him at this point. Given his status as a future Hall of Famer and one of the best wrestlers of his generation, that would be a sad state of affairs for The Viper.