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Randy Orton: The icon that never was



27 January 2005

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So Triple H won the title again. Tiresome, entirely expected and really bad for the WWE. We know this. Figures won’t pick up until this obvious preferment ends, and not just in storyline either – watching Raw at the moment is like flicking to the last page of a book.

But HHH’s recent success was bad for one man in particular. Think Randy Orton is being pushed to the moon? Think again. Orton is being reverse pushed. His push doesn’t rely on him winning matches; it relies on him losing them. This is also known as the underdog push. By pitting Randy against the despicable Evolution 3 on 1, he is weak. It doesn’t matter that the tactics are unfair, we see him as a loser.

Orton is no longer a WWE Icon. The top man in the company can show no weakness, they have to be winners – even if he does win the title at the Rumble, he’ll be seen as a weak champion; the underdog just doesn’t have the kind of invincibility that an Icon needs. A heel Icon may be able to get away with it, but a face Icon must be spotless – this is one of the reasons why Eddy Guererro’s Icon face push never worked, we just don’t want to see them steal a win, they must do it clean.

There is one major reason for the humbling of Orton – the influence of HHH. There is only room for one Icon on Raw, and Hunter gets what he wants. He has taken Orton’s push and used it for his own ends – he wanted a rival, and chose the man with the most heat, irrevocably wounding his own group in the process and taking away Randy’s protection. Protection that an inexperienced wrestler needs – alone, Orton is left to sink or swim, and HHH cares not.

Trip may have done more long-term damage than even he realises. Now Randy has been taken down a peg or two, now that he’s been denied the Icon status that seemed his for the taking, where does he go from here? He’s been to the top, so there’s only one way to go, and it not up. He’s damaged goods, a failure as a marquee player, and I’m betting that when Hunter has taken everything he needs from little Randy, he will cast the empty husk back into the roster.

Expect The Legendkiller to be given the Benoit treatment – declared a WWE “superstar” but given nothing to work with, allowed to capture the tag titles in a meaningless tandem only to lose them a couple of weeks later, made to wander aimlessly, until becoming a curtain jerker.

And Mr Steph is already getting bored with Randy O – he’s lining up his latest feud. Dave Batista is on the turn – it’s been teased so hard, it must happen. He will feed the HHH machine and then slip away too, except that he’s got less to lose – Batista was only a top liner by someone else’s will, on his own he’s nothing but a pumped-up mid-carder. Orton was briefly the top man, the moneymaker, and it’s a long way down.

So, like soap stars who are recruited when they are 10, and then can’t adjust when someone replaces them at 15, Orton has been given the opportunity and rejected. He has a long and possibly fruitless career ahead of him. He has had no time to develop resilience, or a persona to fall back on when times are hard; these are his first years in the grappling business, and he has been a casualty of the WWE’s short-termism. They are so desperate for success that anything the crowd cheer is lionised (oh, just look it up!), and as they don’t make time to develop characters or storylines, Orton went from new starter to Rock in training within 6 months. Of course, when the company didn’t post an immediate huge profit on the back of his work, he was junked.

The Era of Orton has come…and gone. Blink, and you might have missed it. I hope he’s savoured every second, because he’s going to have a long time with those memories. So raise a glass to Randy Orton, just a small one, and let’s talk about his reign, alright, just a quick chat. Then let’s sit down and watch the highlights of his time at number 1 – well, how long can you spare? 10 minutes? Perfect!

The Cynic

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