‘The Viper’s’ show-closing, briefcase-snatching victory at Money in the Bank has set him firmly back on the track to the WWE championship. That’s a title he’s not held since November 22nd 2010. Funnily enough he lost it to a Money in the Bank cash-in from The Miz.
Part of what’s kept Orton away from the top is his history with WWE’s Wellness Policy. Having tested positive for banned substances twice Orton’s next infraction will see his contract terminated. Should that happen WWE would, by their own rules, be unable to rehire him until a year had passed and he’d passed a drug test. Naturally this sort of high risk situation is not something WWE have wanted to link to their top title.
Orton’s last brush with the top of the card came in 2011. He had the feud of the year opposite Christian for the World Heavyweight strap, winning it twice and leaving the rivalry with it. But as good as those matches were they were not for the company’s most treasured belt. Vacating the WHC or taking it off someone in a hurry would be an annoyance but it wouldn’t be a disaster. Getting the WWE title, the real world title, off someone in hurry would be.
Presumably ‘The Apex Predator’ has kept his nose clean for long enough (his last suspension came to an end on July 30th last year) to convince WWE that he can be trusted with the championship. That he’s been outside of the main event bracket for so long and thus can be involved in relatively fresh matches and feuds probably doesn’t hurt either. In fact his briefcase win has put him on course for what has to be considered one of the freshest pay-per-view matches WWE can currently present.
I’m talking of course about the potential Orton versus Daniel Bryan series.
We’ve seen the two men wrestle several times before. They first clashed on SmackDown at the beginning of last year. The match was good but it was a standalone incident, something to keep both men busy. They’ve met again this year and actually had a respect based TV rivalry that saw them exchange clean wins in regular and gimmicked matches. Those bouts were never anything less than thrilling.
The message those posing scenes have sent has been clear. Orton intends to add himself to the WWE title picture. And soon.
Orton's been doing a lot of this since winning the case
The obvious time for this to happen would be the SummerSlam main event. I’ve outlined in a couple of posts now how Bryan could win the title to a huge ovation only to lose it moments later to Orton. Cashing in on in the ultra-popular ‘King of Beards’ would not endear Orton to fans and would make a natural starting point for a heel turn. Even if he lost his cash-in attempt, which seems incredibly unlikely, a villainous streak could emerge: he could become eaten up by frustration at losing in what was considered a “can’t lose” situation.
Orton winning the MITB briefcase initially disappointed me. It painted a dreary picture of his 378th feud with John Cena. Thankfully WWE gave us a pleasant surprise when Daniel Bryan was awarded a title match at SummerSlam. Not only did that make use of a red hot talent but it also hinted at more Orton v Bryan matches, on pay-per-view and with one man playing a heel. If any changes could help them better their efforts of the last few months it’s an upgrade to PPV and one man playing an aggressive bad guy.
Further adding to Orton’s fortunes is the supposed elbow injury John Cena has suffered. I’m not convinced this isn’t a work to give Cena an excuse to tap out to the Yes Lock but whether it’s real or not it’s part of WWE storylines it hints that Cena will be taking time off in the next few weeks. That would leave Orton alone for a run opposite ‘The Dazzler’. Should Cena stick around we’ll see a three-way feud instead. That won’t be bad but I’d rather Bryan and Orton be left to tear it up alone.
Orton’s return to the main event could not have come at a better time.