I have been thinking about the similarities between these two for the past couple of months, and last night at Fatal Four-Way, it hit me even harder.
Now, I will admit up until about a year ago I had no interest in Randy Orton. It never had anything to do with his wrestling ability—because he is a great wrestler—but he was just another self-absorbed punk, and since he lost to Hulk Hogan at Summerslam 2006 he has done absolutely nothing with his "legend-killer" gimmick.
Between then and somewhere late last year he had practically no personality whatsoever. Even when he was first labeled as "the Viper," he was still just a guy.
Once he fully embraced the Viper gimmick, at least in my eyes, Orton became much more interesting. The slithering around the ring, the crazy convulsions, the cold, psychotic stares. These new mannerisms of his were finally able to draw my attention to the third generation superstar. And with his recent face turn, it has made me notice similarities between the Viper and the Texas Rattlesnake—Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I am sure that many of you have noticed that the RKO and the Stunner are very similar moves (even though the RKO is a modified Diamond Cutter), and both get a huge pop after executing their respective finisher.
But even more interesting are the way the careers of Austin and Orton coincide with each other. Stunning Steve Austin and the Legend Killer were both cocky upstarts who were both successful but never really left the midcard scene.
Once Stunning Steve was released from WCW and the Legend Killer lost to Hulk Hogan, there was a transitional period before they took on their more famous personas. And not long after that, they earned the respect of the fans and became one of the top faces of the company. They've both even beaten up Mr. McMahon.
There are of course some differences, the major one being that Stone Cold Steve Austin became the face of the WWE, while Orton plays second fiddle to John Cena.
In Orton's case, however, this is a good thing. When a wrestler becomes the face of a company, they have to embody the direction that the company is taking at that time. Austin was the perfect man for the job during the Attitude Era because, well, he pretty much started it (see Austin 3:16 for details).
But right now we are immersed in the PG Era of the WWE. Cena was the top guy before the switch to PG happened, but he was able to make the transition and maintain his spot, and clearly embodies WWE's new direction, something that I believe Cena has seriously suffered from (I might write on that later).
Without the pressure of being the WWE's poster boy, Orton doesn't have to be the all-around nice guy, the boy scout, the never-dirty wrestler. In his current position, Randy can maintain his status as a tweener (or turn back to a heel) and take out anyone who crosses his path with a thunderous, crowd stimulating RKO.
Many times I have thought that Orton may be a good replacement for Cena as the top superstar, mainly because of his closeness to the toughest SOB in WWE history, but I have since realized that Orton would suffer the same change that Cena did, and thus ruin his incredible persona.
As a side note, if you guys would like some even more wrestling in your week, check out the Lords of Evolution radio show at http://reallordsofevolution.proboards.com/index.cgi . The show airs every Tuesday night at 9 pm eastern time, 8 central, 6 pacific. It's hosted by Chad and Ed, two guys who really know their wrestling, and they cover both WWE and TNA. You can also follow them on facebook and twitter.