WWE Role Reversal Vol.5: Heel Orton vs. Heel Christian, Who Has More Potential?
For those that have been following this series, you may be confused that this volume isn't quite following what was suggested at the end of Volume 4. That article is someplace safe and will be released at the appropriate time. For now, we have bigger issues to deal with.
Last week was incredibly powerful in WWE news. Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules 2011, waiting an alleged 17 years before acquiring such an accolade, and only days after achieving such a dream, he lost the title in an impromptu match with Randy Orton on last Tuesday's Smackdown tapings.
These events have led to a firestorm of negative response from all angles, and after posting two articles of my own here on why Christian's loss could be good in the long run, I'd like my Role Reversal series to take a deeper look at both Randy Orton and Christian's potential in the coming weeks.
After all, most of the time, when a face is kind of "coasting," as Booker T put it on Smackdown, many fans clamor for said face to turn heel, as their new found attitude has the potential to take them to greater heights.
However, right off the bat, when comparing Christian and Orton's times as heels, one has clearly accomplished more than the other when it comes to such a turn.
The Details of Last Week's Smackdown
In order to establish a baseline to work from, let's quickly recount the relevant details of last week's Smackdown episode.
Christian emotionally kicked off the show by sharing how important it's been to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time at Extreme Rules, how proud it's made him feel that Edge texted him in congratulations shortly before the show and how every dream he's ever had of his first World Title win in WWE paled in comparison to how it felt to win it on that night on those terms.
Mark Henry interrupted demanding a title shot, followed by The Great Khali demanding a title shot, and after Christian called both of them freaks, Randy Orton came out demanding a title shot as well, still sporting a lot more facial hair than he did last year.
It may seem completely arbitrary but when John Morrison started sporting a beard, lots of people here began making claims that it was a guaranteed sign that Morrison was turning heel. It didn't happen, but why is it that people saw that as a marker that Morrison was turning heel, but no one sees Orton's new fuzz as a mark that he could turn heel?
Anyway, once all those folks were in the ring, Teddy Long came out and let the WWE Universe decide who "they" wanted to face Christian. No surprise, fans in attendance chose Randy Orton.
Fast forward to the match itself, after numerous back and forths, Christian makes a reckless mistake (that many have before him, conveniently enough), leaping off the middle rope and eating an RKO on the way down, leading to Orton winning the match and the title.
While it wasn't surprising that fans chose Randy Orton, it should also be highlighted that Michael Cole, by now a well-established supporter of heels, seemed to be fervently behind Orton in the encounter.
I understand that Cole tends to make minor exceptions to his blind support of heels in favor of guys like John Cena, but if Orton was truly the face we should be rooting for in this particular situation, the one we were supposed to support, why didn't Michael Cole put his weight behind Christian, in favor of blasting Smackdown's newest acquisition and imply that Christian would turn heel soon himself?
In the last minute of the broadcast, Christian was left alone in the ring, saddened, defeated and titleless. Some fans tried to start a "Christian" chant, to little luck, and his stroll up the ramp showed a somber, depressed and beaten down former World Champion.
Thus, those of us who are eager to see this situation from both sides appear to have grounds to predict both Randy Orton and Christian have reason to make a massive heel turn.
Potential for Heel Christian's Future
This seems to be the most likely outcome.
WWE has quickly gotten used to protecting Randy Orton as being invincibly hard to defeat cleanly, much like John Cena has been on Raw. So, it's not out of the question that Christian's somber sadness at the end of Smackdown last week is a sign that Captain Charisma will become a bitter, enraged, sore loser who will take his frustration, from losing his belt fair and square the week before, out on Randy Orton.
Despite the massive support Josh and Booker gave to Christian's 17-year wait for his chance to score the World Heavyweight Championship, this outcome will end up leading to the commentators throwing their support behind Orton, suddenly claiming that Orton won the belt fairly, the WWE Universe made the choice and that Christian basically has no right to be upset, ultimately throwing all the talk about his 17 years right out the window.
Truthfully, though, how much potential does Christian have as a heel at this point? Some fans claim he's great as a heel, but his time as a heel can basically be compared only to his best buddy, Edge.
Edge's most successful time as a solo wrestler can be seen during two periods:
1) As the massive heel known as "the Ultimate Opportunist," chasing after top tier titles in WWE and winning them no matter how many look-a-likes he had to pull out of the woodwork, no matter what consultants he had to get in bed with and no matter how many Money in the Bank contracts he needed to steal from other wrestlers.
2) As a massive babyface holder of the World Heavyweight Championship leading up to his retirement.
He took a cheating, cowardly legacy that was immensely hard to get away from and turned it into a fantastic way of leaving the company on the best terms possible.
Does Christian deserve that same send-off? Perhaps not exactly, but what would WWE really gain from turning him into the same cowardly, annoying, grating heel that every other heel in WWE is? He cuts decent promos as a heel, but as a contender, Heel Christian just looks foolish.
Like many have speculated, if Christian turns heel, Orton will either crush him decisively or Christian will cheat to take the title away and neither of those outcomes look good for either person involved.
Orton will come out looking like an ass for sitting comfortably atop his pedestal and not calling for Christian to get his chance in the sun, and one of Christian's last remaining chances at getting a respectable World Title reign will go up in smoke, all so Orton can have a weak opponent to annihilate.
It's fun when he looks to the Peeps in the crowd and gets cheers, because the crowd enjoys being "the Peeps." When he's a heel talking about the Peeps? It's depressing, ridiculous, silly and deserving of a release.
Yes, he turned such talk into gold in TNA, similar to how Family Guy ignited a cult following on the Adult Swim block of Cartoon Network and even nurtured it a bit in WWECW, but Christian's had to go through a lot in order to get to the very position he's in now.
Whether because of Edge or not, he has the support of the fans as an underdog, battling against a rival that's been established as a main event draw for some years now. The Cinderella story of Christian's struggle for the title practically writes itself, especially in the wake of Tough Enough returning and contestants on the program getting eliminated hand over fist.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. There are few competitors left in WWE that can lay claim to such a journey along their career. There are few veteran competitors left in WWE that can tough it out at this point and struggle for a top tier championship and have it mean as much to them as it would mean to Christian.
You have guys like Wade Barrett, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan and Sin Cara, who are either too new to the company or aren't seen as main event contenders at all. You have guys like The Rock, Stone Cold, Triple H and Undertaker floating around in bits and pieces, who have all held top tier titles numerous times in their careers and couldn't need a new reign as champion any less.
Randy Orton's Past
And then, of course, you have Randy Orton.
Orton's the 31-year-old youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, has won a total of eight world championships and was victorious in the 2009 Royal Rumble. To say this guy's practically a child star who's peaked far before he should have is a considerable understatement.
However, one thing that Orton can say, that I actually enjoy about watching him, is that he's done a fair amount of jumping back and forth across the ideals of the heel-face spectrum. He started as a rookie upsetting Hardcore Holly in his debut match on the April 25, 2002, episode of Smackdown (take note of Michael Cole as a heel bashing rookie Orton, by the way, a prelude of things to come), got drafted to Raw and injured, later joining Evolution as a heel.
He continued his winning ways and after acquiring a World Title, became a face enemy of Evolution. After that, however, his head continued growing until he adopted the Legend Killer moniker. Incidentally, years later, in February 2005, after starting an on-screen relationship with Stacy Keibler, Orton had a brief feud with Christian and Tyson Tomko.
If you take a look at the video, you'll notice Orton wasn't putting Christian over all that much back then either.
Later on, he'd be a heel alongside Edge in Rated-RKO, a face again when splitting from Legacy and hasn't gone much of anywhere since that particular gradual turn. He had a short run as WWE Champion last year, after winning the belt in the six-pack elimination match at Night of Champions, but holding the title pretty much destroyed most of the momentum he was building.
Potential for Heel Orton's Future
Randy's new image as the Apex Predator/Viper was really gaining strength and fast early in 2010. The obvious comparisons were made between Randy and Stone Cold, as they were both modeled after reptiles and were both incredibly untrustworthy as far as being reliable tag partners. Randy would tag team with someone, only to RKO them at the end of the match.
Honestly, even I was becoming a fan of Orton really quick seeing actions like that. He was a loner, destroying everyone all by himself. I really saw big things if that's how he was going to act. However, after he won the title, all those things that made him appealing quickly slipped away.
He wasn't cutting interesting promos anymore. His speeches were robotic, monotone and largely uniformative (which is funny, because from a character perspective, it would've been much better for him to enter, be silent, destroy people and leave).
And his win-loss record, while somewhat unpredictable as a young upstart rookie, was becoming more and more sparkling and perfect, just like John Cena and Rey Mysterio, meaning that despite the fact that his RKO "can come from anywhere," the fact that Randy was pretty much guaranteed to win, was making his matches more predictable by the week.
There wasn't any of that unique intrigue to his matches anymore. It's not "if" he'll win these days, it's "how?" As an aspiring novelist, I can tell you. One thing that absolutely destroys the lasting interest of a long-term character is how long their success stays spotless.
Guys like Sheamus and Swagger need wins because they're losing far too often. Randy Orton, John Cena and Rey Mysterio win far too often.
Which is exactly why Randy Orton will work better as a heel in this situation. He promised at the top of the new year, "no more Mr. Nice Guy." Well, I suppose his punting all the Nexus members before Wrestlemania was seen as a bit mean, but now they're all back, so his mean streak is much less poignant.
In fact, Randy's seen as a face these days, but quite honestly, not spending more time congratulating Christian on his first World Title win and interjecting himself into even a remote chance at a World Title match not even guarnateed on Smackdown, I'm seeing Randy more as an arrogant, jerk heel now than I ever did as the Legend Killer.
Think about it. Most young upstart wrestlers can poke fun at aging Hall of Famers and deliver signature moves to guys in their 60's. That didn't make Randy Orton special. Much as I like him, it didn't do much for Miz wrestling Jerry Lawler in match after match either.
Randy failed at getting rid of Undertaker, so it only made sense for him to shed the Legend Killer moniker. Eventually, that angle was going to vanish and having the Phenom put a stop to it was a fantastic idea.
It takes a lot more of a mean streak to be the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, see a guy who's been with the company longer than you wait 17 years to win it for the first time, sneak in and snatch it away and then defend yourself on Twitter by saying, "Well, the fans asked for it."
No, Randy, the fans didn't ask for it. They don't like Heel Mark Henry, and they don't care enough ballet-dancing Khali right now to want him to be anywhere near any championship. Teddy Long gave fans the most obvious of choices, and the fans in attendance, like sheep, went wherever the sheepdog wanted.
Additional Factors, Like John Cena!
It's fairly common consensus that Randy Orton was moved to Smackdown to balance out the star power between both brands.
John Cena is once again WWE Champion, and the assumption is that he'll keep the title until Wrestlemania 28, however, I have my doubts about that. What I don't doubt, however, is how much Creative and Management really know about the Cena/Rock match next year.
There can't be a lot of people who believe that John Cena has any chance of walking into his match with Rock next year to any level of cheers from the Miami crowd.
When the match was first made last month, my immediate reaction was that the match is going to be on our minds all year. Every time John Cena appears, we're going to be thinking about how what he's doing on-screen is going to effect the match with Rock next year.
It's going to be a saga, no doubt, and the chances for Cena to turn heel are slightly higher now than they were a year or two ago.
Provided John Cena's heel turn doesn't come for months and months and months, if at all, they do still have Randy Orton to fall back on for that.
Among the top three babyfaces currently in WWE, it comes down to Cena, Orton and Mysterio. Rey's rumored to possibly not be re-signing a new contract, so keeping him in a babyface situation up until his last match, whenever that happens to be, makes perfect sense to me, and although it will likely slow progress of anyone who faces him in a match, I'm fine with him staying as he is.
That leaves us Cena and Orton. Between the two, Orton is seen as the No. 2 guy and Cena is the number 1 guy. Thus, why is it so out of the question for Orton to turn heel? Because there isn't anyone to replace him as the top babyface on Smackdown?
First of all, if R-Truth is going to turn heel, Mark Henry is going to turn heel and Orton follows suit, what stops WWE from turning guys like Sheamus and Alex Riley into faces? They don't have to be massively successful as far as wins and losses, they just need to maintain the fans' interest and be entertaining, which is something both those guys can do.
Randy's heel turn doesn't even have to last long, especially if it's to Christian's benefit.
Orton turns heel, Christian maintains a lasting feud with him through Over the Limit, possibly through Summerslam. At some point, Christian wins back the World Heavyweight Championship, defends against a handful of opponents, drops it to someone else. Meanwhile, Orton gets involved in a feud with another superstar or two and depending on circumstnaces, Randy could turn face by year's end.
Christian gets a somewhat lengthy title reign, and Orton gets to nurture his violent side and finally be the fully operational, vicious, bloodthirsty monster Viper he was last year. Will he get cheers for it in that circumstance? Not right away, but at least we'd have a better foundation of his personality to lean on than just a nickname and a theme song that talks about "voices."
Christian gets the big feud and recognition he deserves as a great superstar and Orton gets to be more of the Apex Predator we appreciated last year, who was motivated by action and initiative and not just coasting when the fans need a hero to beat the bad guys.
Like most storylines in WWE, it shouldn't necessarily be judged in the earliest stages of gestation, but the temptation to judge is just too strong. However, instead of judging the beginning of the story as a bad move before it goes anywhere, the places the story travels from here is far more important than how it began.
At the very least, I think many of us can agree that if Christian sees his loss to Randy Orton as his biggest loss ever, tucks his tail between his legs and goes home for good, or if Randy himself simply moves on to "greener pastures," either of those scenarios would be the biggest, most transparent storyline flop in wrestling history.
No matter how much potential Randy Orton has as a powerful babyface on Smackdown, scenarios like those would destroy the fans' faith in WWE literally for good.
Whether you support Christian or you support Randy Orton, no matter which one you want to see come out the face or the heel, all of us that have discussed this situation this past week, want to see Christian and Randy Orton battle it out again.
We can agree on that much, right?
You can visit FightLife Magazine for more reads.