Sunday, 23 December 2012

Year of the Snake

This has not been a good year for Randy Orton. The man I ranked as the second best wrestler of 2011 has had an uninspiring, underwhelming 2012 thanks to a lack of interest from the booking team, fan apathy and a poorly timed suspension.

That last problem was very much ‘The Viper’s’ own fault. It was discovered he had broken the rules of WWE’s stringent Wellness Policy, which is in place to protect in-ring performers from abusing themselves with harmful substances, and given a sixty day suspension. This was ‘The Apex Predator’s’ second strike. A third strike, should it occur, will lead to dismissal.

Orton made a stupid mistake that cost him two months of his career and necessitated changes to WWE’s programming plans. Orton had been heading into a feud with Chris Jericho. That was immediately canned, leaving WWE without one of their biggest names and with a gaping hole in their PPV line-up. They were also left without the best headliner they have when it comes to helping elevate lesser talent. WWE’s roster has been in severe need of a revamp for a while now. Had Orton been around over the summer I have no doubt a use would have been found for him.
It’s not all been his own fault. Back in January the rumour was that Orton was being considered for a World Heavyweight championship match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXVIII. That spot ended up going to Sheamus. It’s believed the booking was changed because WWE management were unhappy that their plans had been revealed.

Orton was an innocent victim of that situation. He ended up taking on and losing to Kane at the supershow. It was as unmemorable as it sounds.

Since returning from his sixty day suspension Orton has mainly been used to make others look good. He lost to Alberto Del Rio clean on an episode of SmackDown in order to setup another clash in the boring Del Rio v Sheamus programme and he lost clean to Dolph Ziggler in the ten man tag semi-final of Survivor Series. He achieved his goal, making his opponent look good, on both occasions but it was still a far cry from his success and lofty position on the card in 2011.

It was to be expected though. Having failed a drug test Orton was never going to march back into his old spot. WWE have been wary of relying too heavily on him for fear of another failed test. Should that happen the promotion would be left without one of their most reliable grapplers. The slow approach was the only logical way for the company to handle the situation. ‘The Viper’ had to regain their trust.

Having played a babyface since the early months of 2010 Orton is in desperate need of a fresh direction. Not only has he clashed with everybody of note in his current role he’s also a natural fit as a bad guy. His cold sneer and deliberate promo style are the hallmarks of a villain, not a hero. Even his good looks mark him out as a bad guy: most fans won’t take much convincing to want to see him get his face punched in.

The early part of 2013 seems like a good time to instigate Orton’s return to the dark side. He would have fresh rivalries waiting for him with main event stars Sheamus and Daniel Bryan. He could also fill his time with elevating WWE’s mid-card babyfaces, something he’s been relied upon for with the mid-card heels for a while now. As noted, he’s very good at such tasks.

Turning Orton to coincide with WrestleMania Season could encourage an increase in viewing levels after the big show. Timed and executed right the Orton turn could keep casual, part-time or lapsed viewers hanging around into the summer. He’s better as a bad guy. I’m looking forward to the inevitable switch.

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