Randy Orton is less than a week away from challenging for the WWE Championship against Bray Wyatt on the grand stage of WrestleMania in Orlando. If Orton is successful, he will become a 13-time world champion, breaking a tie with Hulk Hogan for the most title reigns in WWE history. The only stars ahead of Randy Orton would then be Triple H, John Cena, and Ric Flair.
Technically, the feud between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton ignited all the way back in the fall of 2015. An attack from the Wyatt Family was used to help write Orton off of television as Randy was forced to undergo shoulder surgery. Subsequently, Orton missed the next 10 months and was one of several marquee superstars to miss WrestleMania 32. Wyatt, too, was unable to be involved in a ‘Mania storyline but did appear in a segment with The Rock.
The program between Bray and Randy resumed toward the back half of 2016 after Orton’s mega-feud with Brock Lesnar concluded at SummerSlam. Orton suffered a concussion in that match, so he and Wyatt didn’t officially have their pay-per-view singles match until October when the two main-evented No Mercy. It’s pretty rare to book a WrestleMania main event between two superstars who feuded in the months prior, but the storytelling was weaved in an unorthodox way that resulted in just that.
Randy Orton has let it be known in multiple media apperances that the angle with the Wyatt Family was one of the more refreshing stories he’s been a part of. In a new interview with IGN, Orton acknowledges that long-term storytelling is not all that common this day and age, and is excited that the company is letting them play it out naturally.
“Whenever you get that four or five months to tell a story, and maybe a title changes hands a few times, whatever you’re doing, you’re married to that guy for that amount of time. And some people may fall off, may lose interest, but I think the biggest mistake we can make is to get scared, get cold feet, and then stop that storyline because we think it’s not what the fans want to see. With the Wyatt thing, when I first jumped ship and joined the Wyatt Family, fans were like ‘Oh, I’ve seen this before.’ They’ve done that before. They’ve kidnapped guys and cast their spells and all that stuff. Daniel Bryan was a member of the Wyatts but that only lasted a few weeks and then he turned on them. So a lot of people, I think, thought this was going to be short-lived and it just started the buzz a little bit.”
Randy Orton would go on to explain how, initially, his live event matches with the Wyatts (they began working with American Alpha and Apollo Crews in six-man bouts) weren’t getting over the way they were supposed to. Fans would cheer him, even though Orton was supposed to be the heel and Alpha or Crews were working babyface.
“So as a performer, that sucks because I want the babyfaces to get sympathy. I want the crowd to blow a gasket when the babyfaces turn around and start beating me from pillar to post. But that wasn’t happening. And at first it would freak me out because you have a certain historic way that a match goes and that would get thrown out the window because you have a popular babyface with a heel team. That was fun to play with, you know, getting back to me having more fun than I’ve had in a while because it was a learning experience for me too.”
As noted, Randy Orton missed last year’s WrestleMania but was re-positioned into a key role this time around. Back in September, we reported on how high Vince McMahon was on Orton. The boss felt Randy recommitted himself to sports entertainment and little nuances helped improve his character. Backstage, officials believed it wouldn’t be long before Randy Orton was back in the title picture and it played out as they had thought.
“Yeah, you know it’s never nice to miss a WrestleMania and that’s the first one I’ve missed since I started here. I think WrestleMania XX would have been my first one, yes, and then I had 12 in a row. Twelve years in a row. So it did suck to miss last year’s but I had an injury and, on one hand, it was kind of nice to go to WrestleMania in that big of a venue — I think there were close to a hundred thousand people there, I’m not positive — but it was great to go because I got to just go there as a fan. I hadn’t really been keeping track of what was going on with the build to the show so it was exciting to see.”
Keeping track of the RKO is essential to any opponent’s game plan when facing Randy Orton. It’s one of the more popular moves in the WWE today, one that Orton says has a bit more finesse than it did a decade ago. Coincidentally, he was just watching old matches with his kids and amazed himself with how its improved.
“Now it’s completely taken on a life of its own. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m able to hit it, yes, out of nowhere, and then also the internet and social media. Whoever started those little memes of me sneaking in and taking someone out with it. Like the guy proposing to his wife and he falls off the deck of a boat or something and there I am. It doesn’t get old. It’s just funny. I think the resurgence that you speak of because of that internet memes and the fans putting me in those videos. So gratitude to whoever started that up.”
This coming weekend, of course, is WrestleMania, with the weekend getting underway with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony set for Friday night. Randy Orton is a surefire first ballot Hall of Famer, but with a stacked lineup for the 2017 class, the person he’s most looking forward to watching Friday may surprise you.
“Well, I’d say until a few days ago, Kurt Angle was the guy who I was most curious to see get inducted this year. But a couple days ago, I heard that Jim Cornette is going to be given a live microphone and so I’m going to have a bag of popcorn, maybe a little flask of some good stuff in my breast pocket, and I’m going to sit back and listen to Jim Cornette and just cross my fingers that it’s as good as I think it can be. Because he is amazing on the mic, he doesn’t hold anything back, and I think it says a lot about WWE and whoever made that final decision — I’m sure it was Vince — to have Cornette induct the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Because there’s some bad blood there. I don’t know what it is. I know as far back as 17 years ago when I first signed there was some kind of weird backstage heat thing going on where Cornette never went up north and didn’t like interacting with the guys in the office. You never really knew what it was, though I’m sure if you did some digging you could find out. I’m not interested in that though, I just think it’s cool that he’s being allowed to come and induct these guys into the Hall of Fame. These guys who are both very deserving in their own right.”
[Featured Image by WWE]