Randy Orton has been a main-event mainstay, a multi-time World Champion, and a guaranteed first ballot WWE Hall-of-Famer. It’s been well-documented how the class of 2002, featuring Orton alongside John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and Batista, may go down as the greatest in the history of sports entertainment. But even though he may have been born into the business, there wasn’t always such a clear path to superstardom for the WWE’s Apex Predator.
When he was first brought up to the main roster, Randy Orton was portrayed as a white meat babyface, finding it difficult early on to separate himself from the pack. In fact, even though the WWE billed this past SummerSlam‘s main event as “15 years in the making,” Orton first faced Brock Lesnar during their debut year with Lesnar, essentially squashing Orton on an innocuous episode of Smackdown.
Injuries also stunted Orton’s progress early on, but Randy certainly made up for lost time when he was aligned with Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista to form the Evolution faction. His path to greatness was paved at that point, with his ascension designed to create a generational superstar. Soon enough, he was booked as the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever to help erase the stigma of the same notoriety that Brock Lesnar achieved, but Orton was a lifer while Lesnar was just passing through.
Ironically, it’s Lesnar that may have directly, or indirectly, solidified Randy Orton’s employment status with the WWE for as long as he desires. In a report from 411 Mania, the finish to the SummerSlam main event between Orton and Lesnar may have given Orton a WWE job “for life.”
— TheSPORTbible (@TSBible) August 27, 2016
It was noted that many people behind the scenes were extremely surprised that Vince McMahon green lit the ending to their match that saw Lesnar brutally attack Orton, causing Randy to bleed out and result in a TKO decision. That’s a decision that’s quite rare in sports entertainment, but because the attraction that is Brock Lesnar has crossover appeal, they booked the ending to mimic the world of MMA.
The feeling is that, if he wants, Randy Orton could hold the WWE over his knee if any head issues arise down the line. Even if he pretended that he was experiencing difficulties, the company would be at a major disadvantage based on the available video of the match, and the backstage stories that have come out in the days following.
The argument that past superstars never had a chance to file a similar suit didn’t hold much water because the information about concussions wasn’t nearly as available as it is today. While the TKO finish went as planned, there was never supposed to be that much blood. For the most part, the WWE has not allowed wrestlers to bleed in matches anymore, but Lesnar matches are an exception.
— Al¤k Ary@n (@AlokAryan8) August 23, 2016
Before the match, Orton was told that Lesnar knew how to graze his elbow against Randy’s forehead, which would cause some bleeding. However, Brock went slightly off-script when he connected with a stiff forearm, opening up Orton’s forehead, and we all know the rest. The injury required 10 staples and even sparked a backstage incident between Lesnar and Chris Jericho to the point Vince McMahon and Triple H had to break things up and convince Jericho that it was all a work.
The company kept Orton off the following weekend’s house show events for two possible reasons. Keeping him off (and not getting physical on the two ensuing episodes of Smackdown) helped sell the beating from Lesnar, but there was some fear that wrestling could cause the staples to open in a match. However, there have been many guys that have wrestled with staples in the past with no reservations from them or from management.
A couple of years ago, Randy Orton was in danger of having his contract terminated thanks to a second violation of the WWE Wellness Policy. He was booked accordingly, kept out of the main event for fear he might relapse and force their hand concerning one of their top superstars. Now, it appears that the Legend Killer might have the upper hand.
[Image via WWE]