Randy Orton has only been back in the WWE full-time less than three months, but the backstage discussions surrounding The Apex Predator have been swirling at a feverish pace. Orton missed out on this past WrestleMania due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of action for the better part of 10 months, and his first match back, of course, came against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
That bout ended in a ton of controversy after Brock bloodied Randy and inflicted a concussion upon him. The WWE kept that a secret for the next month, and despite a major build, scrapped Orton’s match with Bray Wyatt the day it was supposed to take place, at Backlash.
Last month, we reported that Vince McMahon was extremely high on Randy Orton, impressed with how he returned and didn’t complain about the brutal attack he suffered at the hands of Lesnar. At the time, Vince was lining up Orton for another run with the WWE World Championship. It coincided with several comments from AJ Styles, publicly clamoring for a match with Randy, who he labeled a dream opponent.
The stars seemed to be aligning perfectly for a showdown between Styles and Orton with the title on the line to add even more to the attraction. Once Styles moved on from Dean Ambrose, and Orton wrapped things up with Bray Wyatt, the next logical step was for a heel Styles to defend his championship against the babyface Orton. But then this past Tuesday happened.
As seen on the most recent episode of SmackDown Live, Randy Orton turned on Kane by hitting The Big Red Monster with an RKO during his match with The Eater of Worlds. Then in a promo backstage, Orton told Andrea D’Marco that “if you can’t beat them, join them,” obviously hinting at the idea of joining The Wyatt Family instead of continuing to battle against them.
While Randy gave the impression that he’d be aligning with the faction (which only features Wyatt and Luke Harper at present), Cageside Seats is reporting that The Viper will be distancing himself from the group, but it’s entirely possible that he will remain a heel after turning on Kane. The other theory floating around, however, is that Orton hit the RKO on Kane in what will be another mind game against Bray.
If you recall, Daniel Bryan joined the Wyatt Family for a couple weeks at the end of 2013, only to turn back on Bray to set up a match between the two at the 2014 Royal Rumble. There’s a chance that Orton could be pulling something similar, leading to the culmination with a match at SmackDown‘s final brand-exclusive pay-per-view of the year, TLC. This, of course, would delay (or completely scrap) any plans for Orton to square off with Styles for the title.
As noted, a conclusion between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt wouldn’t come until December. The other factor in that decision is because, according to Wrestling Inc, Orton is currently not scheduled to appear at the big cross-branded show, Survivor Series on November 20. Orton’s wife is pregnant with a baby girl and is expected to give birth two days after the pay-per-view. Randy is not advertised for Survivor Series or the SmackDown tapings the week before.
Chances are, Orton and Wyatt may not have been booked in a singles match at Survivor Series anyway. As noted, SmackDown and RAW are in the midst of forming three traditional Survivor Series teams, one of which will pit five of the brands’ top superstars against each other. Randy certainly would have qualified for that match, along with Wyatt and perhaps Styles, Ambrose and John Cena. It has yet to be determined whether the heavyweight championships from both shows will be defended, since Brock Lesnar and Goldberg will likely be the main event.
If Styles is booked to put the championship on the line, it will likely come against Ambrose, taking those two and Orton out of the mix, severely diminishing the talent level from SmackDown‘s side of things.
But the interesting thing to keep an eye on is whether they keep Randy Orton heel or not, as a full turn likely precludes the WWE from pairing him up with AJ Styles in what continues to be a much-anticipated feud.
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