Added expectations and scrutiny come with being a third-generation WWE Superstar; Randy Orton has endured those burdens and become a remarkable wrestler.
Both Orton's grandfather and father wrestled. Both were champions, hard-edged and damn good at their job. For "The Viper," the Orton name served as both a means to open doors and a weight to carry on his shoulders.
Nitpick his flaws or point out what he lacks, but Orton is one of WWE's most reliable, consistent and talented Superstars. He has been for years.
One measure of how much he's lived up to and beyond his potential is that he has surpassed both his father and grandfather.
Eclipsing His Lineage
There is rarely a match in Tamina Snuka's career where the announcers don't remind us that her father is Hall of Famer Jimmy Snuka. The same was true for Goldust when he wrestled as Dustin Rhodes in WCW. He had yet to become his own man; he was always Dusty's son.
WWE announcers proudly display Orton's third-generation status, but he's long stepped out of his family's shadow.
His grandfather, Bob Orton Sr., was famous for driving his foes to the mat with a piledriver. He wrestled for promotions in Florida and St. Louis, for the American Wrestling Association and what was then called the WWWF. "Bulldog" Bob Orton was a bruiser who mixed in mauling forearms with mat wrestling.
Wrestling under the name Rocky Fitzpatrick, he challenged the legendary Bruno Sammartino for the WWE Championship in 1968, per TheHistoryofWWE.com.
He had two sons who went onto become wrestlers, Barry and Bob Orton Jr.
Like his father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton found success in the Florida territories. He wrestled for the NWA before joining WWE in the early '80s.
Cowboy faced then-WWE champ Bob Backlund in 1982 and won a battle royal that year that included Jesse Ventura, Mr. Fuji, Blackjack Mulligan and Tony Atlas, per TheHistoryofWWE.com. When Hulk Hogan later took over as WWE's top guy, Orton Jr. was there to challenge him as well.
At the first WrestleMania, Orton Jr. and his cast-covered arm played a pivotal role in the main event as he tried to help Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff defeat Hogan and Mr. T. He'd later get his shot at the Hulkster in a one-on-one match.
Both The Viper's grandfather and father had resumes worth bragging about, but when competing in one of the larger promotions, they were never "the man."
Orton Sr. was never AWA world champ, never the main attraction for them. Orton Jr. was on the periphery of the main event in WWE but never consistently on the higher rungs.
Randy Orton may be second to John Cena in many ways, but he's been a headliner, a world champ and a marquee star. In addition to his recent run of headlining bouts against Daniel Bryan and Big Show, Orton competed in the main event of WrestleMania XV, SummerSlam 2007 and Survivor Series 2010.
WWE has asked him to be the WWE champ eight times, sandwiched between Triple H and Steve Austin on the list of the 25 longest WWE title reigns in the last 25 years.
That kind of success is the sign of the confidence of a company, knowing that with "The Apex Predator" at the mountaintop, WWE could flourish.
The cache of having a famous last name can get you far; that alone doesn't get you where Orton is today, though. Ask Curtis Axel, who still struggles to escape his father's shadow. Ask Ted DiBiase Jr., who recently left the WWE after a disappointing career.
Orton has lived up to the hype born from his lineage and then some. Much of that has come from producing great matches.
Creator of Classics
Greatness for a pro wrestler is measured in a number of ways. Being a part of stellar matches is at the core of many Hall of Fame careers.
This is where Orton's excellence is most obvious. Since debuting in 2002, Orton has created masterpieces alongside brawlers, grapplers and showmen.
His resume includes an impressive number of bouts that earned a 4-star or higher rating from Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer.
|Randy Orton's Matches Rated Four Stars or Higher|
|Backlash 2004||Mick Foley||4.5/5|
|Raw, July 19, 2004||Edge||4|
|SummerSlam 2004||Chris Benoit||4.25|
|Raw, Aug. 16, 2004||Chris Benoit||4|
|Backlash 2007||John Cena, Edge, Shawn Michaels||4.5|
|Raw, April 30, 2007||Edge||4.25|
|SummerSlam 2007||John Cena||4|
|Raw, Oct. 16, 2007||Triple H||4.25|
|Breaking Point 2009||John Cena||4.25|
|Raw, July 19, 2010||Chris Jericho, Edge||4|
|Over the Limit 2011||Christian||4.25|
|Wrestling Observer via ProFightDB.com|
One could argue that Meltzer shortchanged Orton for his work against Undertaker at Armageddon 2005 and against Cody Rhodes in a Street Fight on SmackDown in 2011.
More recently, Orton has been the go-to wrestler for some of WWE's most important matches. When Triple H put Rhodes' career in jeopardy, it was Orton who served as the gatekeeper to Rhodes' future.
Goldust had an opportunity to get his brother his job back. He fought valiantly in a match against Orton, but fell just short.
The drama of that moment, the audience rooting for Goldust and loathing Orton, was made great in part because of Orton's ring ability.
The Viper helped punctuate Rob Van Dam's return, Bryan shedding the label of being "the weak link" of Team Hell No and Big E Langston's recent rise. The stumbling of the latest pay-per-views weren't a result of poor wrestling from either Bryan or Orton but faulty storytelling and poor booking choices.
As he has been since he tangled with Benoit and Foley, Orton has been the sturdy star WWE can lean on. Pit him against a giant like Mark Henry, a speedy underdog like Rey Mysterio or a headliner like Cena, and magic is sure to happen.
Gifted in terms of genetics and family history, Orton's success may not be as appreciated as men and women who had to construct their own doorways to WWE. That doesn't lessen the resume he's put together, though.
Orton has taken his silver spoon and dug out a legacy of his own.