For those of you who may remember, I used to be known on Bleacher Report as the unofficial President of the Randy Orton Fan Club.
Years ago, I coined the term “Ortonite”; and there was a time when missing The Viper’s exploits on an episode of Raw or Smackdown would have been unthinkable.
As recently as 2010, I remained a somewhat loyal follower of the product.
No, I didn’t tune in each and every week and no, World Wrestling Entertainment was no longer a respectable part of my weekly regimen. Often times, even the most un-entertaining of Monday Night Football games would hold my attention so long as Nexus or The Miz remained front and center on the television screen.
An abundance of over-pushing, an exposure to under-qualified talent running rampant ad nauseum, this was what my once-favorite weekly program evolved into.
Randy Orton was my only savior.
At first, his face-push was a little refreshing, albeit for the wrong reasons.
For years, I had grown disgusted with the WWE’s utter misuse and abuse of the Orton character, rarely affording him the opportunity to showcase his dominance on account of stereotyped character roles.
Randy Orton was a heel. And no matter how superior he was in comparison to his level of competition, it was a prerequisite to make his character look weak and incapable of wiping the mat with his subordinates.
That of course was nothing new to heels in the Pro Wrestling business. It just seemed as though the Orton character received too much of the cowardice brunt while past heels were able to showcase greater degrees of dominance.
Randy Orton as a face afforded him the opportunity to “Cenize” his way through the competition.
It felt good to see him within one night’s time, do away with Christian’s first charity-case championship reign.
In the new era of Smackdown, superiority and marketability would take precedent before rewarding those who “paid their dues” and I loved it.
True, Orton’s new face character was not interesting enough to keep me tuning in week after week. But then again, if Orton couldn’t do it, you could rest assured that nobody else (not even The Rock) was able to hold my attention either.
I simply enjoyed a degree of personal satisfaction in seeing Orton rise to the top (in spite of charity-cases) to claim the company’s No. 2 spot as Smackdown’s champion.
Rewarding his legacy with multiple championship reigns was a start. No doubt, Orton has the potential to become one of (if not THE) most decorated superstars in WWE history.
Nine heavyweight title reigns later, Orton is just now reaching the age Ric Flair was when we won his first of 16 World championships.
But all of his success cannot mask the more serious issue at hand.
Yes, Randy Orton is marketable (far be it for me to tell the WWE not to make more money).
Yes, the fans will cheer for whomever they’re instructed to cheer for. Especially when the WWE points their finger at the most talented man on the roster, sleeved with tattoos, equipped with addictive entrance music and the most exciting finisher in the business.
One look at the cover for this November’s WWE 12 and you can understand exactly why the WWE is utilizing their greatest talents’ services in different ways.
I hate to generalize (as this is purely subjective on my behalf), but it has come down to the issue of “masses vs. the enlightened”.
The “masses” adore the new Randy Orton; the cool, tough, tattooed, superstar whose catchphrase appears to be (for the love of God, please tell me I’m mistaken) “My name…is Randy Orton”.
While “the enlightened” yearn for the return of The Viper.
Monikers be damned, Randy Orton has become the furthest thing from a viper.
T-Shirts, pre-finisher fist pounds, and baffled announcers salivating as they proclaim their face to be a “venomous and dangerous viper” does not make Randy Orton even slightly reminiscent of what he once was.
Jim Ross used to refer to him as the “viper-like Randy Orton” because the man was dangerous.
Randy Orton used to hurt people, not just beat them up.
Not even the RKO or the “punt” mean as much anymore; they’ve become tools to feed the WWE’s creative-machine.
When Randy Orton used to punt someone in the skull, you knew that their character deserved it; even if it be by Orton’s own twisted sense of logic and morality.
I miss that Randy Orton.
I miss hearing the boos.
I miss the slow, calculated, slithering walk to the ring, culminating in the most arrogant pose known to man. Randy Orton used to really pose. Those who see it today know that it is not the same pose it used to be.
Orton used to take to the corner of the ring at the height of his egotism, and pose to the fans who hated him, demanding their worship by exposing them to a greatness they failed to appreciate.
Throwing up one arm in the air, striking a cheap version of the classic pose, and subjecting us to the “my name, is Randy Orton” line is not going to hold my attention for longer than five seconds.
I watch what I watch out of respect for Orton as a performer.
This creative degradation is not reflective of Orton’s greatest gifts. Nor do I feel that the intangibles that once made him the most exciting performer in professional wrestling have left him.
It’s more like watching a dead man walking.
Randy Orton is still with us.
But “The Viper” died long ago.
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