Saturday, August 31, 2013

Heel Turns: Tracing Orton's evolution

Randy Orton was born to be a champion.

As Daniel Bryan says, Orton has the look of a champion. He has the looks, the body and the wrestling ability necessary to be WWE champion. That's why Orton is, as Triple H says, the face of the WWE.

We know that's not exactly true outside the storyline world. Orton is certainly an important player in WWE, but C.M. Punk and Bryan are selling a lot of tickets. And when John Cena returns from elbow/triceps surgery before WrestleMania XXX, his face will also return as part of WWE's Mount Rushmore for current wrestlers.

But, as I wrote in last week's Heel Turns, Orton is a terrific choice as champion. Making Orton champion and turning him heel was, to quote Triple H once again, the right move for business. Leaving Bryan as the underdog pursuing his dream - a dream that was ripped away from him at SummerSlam - against all odds is better for business.

There is an element of the anti-boss sentiment prevalent in the celebrated Steve Austin-Vince McMahon storylines. But that is secondary to another angle. Bryan presents himself as having to overcome so many obstacles to get to WWE, let alone to become WWE champion. In relative terms, Orton had a much easier road to the WWE and WWE Championship. And that includes cashing in his Money in the Bank championship opportunity after Triple H nailed Bryan with the pedigree.

In Bryan's eyes, the manner in which Orton won the championship symbolizes his entire career. Doors were opened for Orton. Bryan had to knock those same doors down.

Who is Randy Orton and why has he seemed to live such a charmed wrestling life? Before I explain why Orton is so successful, the Greek god of wrestling wants to make it clear that Orton deserves credit for being at the top of WWE. He may have been given wonderful opportunities, but he took advantage of those opportunities. Orton is one of Achilles Heel's favorite wrestlers.

Orton, of course, is a third-generation wrestler. His grandfather, Bob Orton, and his father, Bob Orton Jr., were both pro wrestlers. Also known as Cowboy Bob Orton or, when he was affiliated with Roddy Piper, as "Ace," Randy's father was a terrific ring technician. Orton comes by his ability naturally.

Orton has tremendous natural talent, but he also developed that talent. Instead of relying on his talent and resting on his laurels, Orton worked to get better. And he continues to get better.

I recently watched some matches from the "Randy Orton: The Evolution of a Predator" DVD. I concentrated on the matches from earlier in his career to see how Orton developed.

Orton was thrown on the big stage very early in his career. He was called up to WWE at 22 years old. That's a huge opportunity. But it's also a difficult challenge to prove you belong.

About a year after joining WWE, Orton was placed into Evolution, where he and Batista learned from Ric Flair and Triple H. I watched Orton's matches against Shawn Michaels (Sept. 2003), Rob Van Dam (Dec. 2003, win Intercontinental title), Mick Foley (April 2004) and Edge (July 2004).

What struck me is how each of these matches was different. Orton's match with Michael was different than his match with Van Dam. Those matches were different than his match with Edge, a long match that started slowly and built toward a tremendous finish. And those matches were certainly different than Orton's unforgettably vicious no holds barred match with Foley, a match that Foley has said is his favorite match in his storied career.

By working with such a wide array of talented wrestlers, Orton had the opportunity to soak up their different styles. He seemed to learn from each of his opponents, in addition to learning from Flair and Triple H.

All of these matches built toward Orton defeating Chris Benoit in August 2004 to become the youngest World Heavyweight champion in WWE history. You won't find that match on the DVD, for obvious reasons, but it was yet another step in the evolution of Orton.

As is suggested on the DVD, the 24-year-old Orton may not have been emotionally ready for the challenge of being champion. But he's more than ready now.

Between his first title reign and his current title reign, Orton continued his "legend killer" persona, established "Legacy," in which he mentored Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr., combined with Edge for a successful yet short-lived tag team and won numerous championships.

Orton's list of opponents range from Undertaker to Triple H to John Cena to C.M. Punk. He's faced monsters like Mark Henry, brawlers like Sheamus and smaller wrestlers such as Christian. He has seemingly continued to soak in knowledge from each of his opponents. Consequently, he is able to adjust his style in order to work well with virtually any opponent.

Because he is so versatile, Orton almost always has a good match. He has a series of signature moves, yet his matches don't seem to be the same. Orton also has an uncanny knack for executing his moves at exactly the right time.

With Cena needing surgery and Bryan being the prime contender, Orton may once again have been in the right place at the right time.

Orton may have been born to be a champion. But he deserves credit for developing himself into a fantastic wrestler who is perfectly suited to lead the company as WWE champion.MISUSING THE SHIELD: Achilles Heel enjoys just about everything about the Randy Orton-Daniel Bryan rivalry except the use of The Shield. Triple H is using the Shield as bodyguards and as the group to deliver beatdowns to those who cross him.

The Shield came into WWE as an outsider group. They should remain an outsider group rather than act as the enforcement arm for WWE's CEO.LEGACY UNFULFILLED: Ted DiBiase Jr., who was part of Legacy with Randy Orton had Cody Rhodes, has left WWE. DiBiase had barely been used since recovering from an injury.

Injuries hindered DiBiase's career, but WWE missed the boat with DiBiase. It would have been interesting to see if his WWE career would have been different if WWE had turned him into a fan favorite when he was starring "The Marine 2." I hope DiBiase gets another opportunity in WWE.START MAKING SENSE: You can almost always count on TNA to screw up a good idea. The Bound for Glory Series, a round robin tournament that would determine a challenger for TNA's World Championship, was a tremendous concept. It gave meaning to matches that would otherwise not have much meaning to fans.

This year TNA came woefully short of completing the round robin series of matches. Last year not all wrestlers had the same number of matches - can you imagine one NFL team playing more games than another? - but the planning, or lack thereof, for this year's BGS took incompetence to a new level.

I won't spoil next week's Impact Wrestling by telling you who the four semifinalists are in BGS, but, for those of you scratching your heads about how Sting could have a match against Bully Ray next week after losing a match in which the stipulation was that he would never have another title match, I will tell you that the match between Sting and Bully Ray is non-title.UNLIKELY PAIRINGS: Before facing each other in the world championship tournament on Sept. 20 at Death Before Dishonor XI in Philadelphia, Adam Cole and Tommaso Ciampa will team up next Friday in Chatanooga, Tenn. Their opponents will be Michael Elgin and Kevin Steen, who will face off in the other semifinal on Sept. 20 in Philly.TOTALLY INTO DIVAS: Achilles Heel finally watched a full episode of Total Divas on E! and was surprisingly entertained. The Greek god of wrestling is not a fan of reality TV, but the tension between the Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron) was strangely compelling. And it never hurts to look at the Bella twins for an hour.TARGETING DIVAS: A.J. Lee delivered a memorable promo on RAW in which she blasted the rest of the Divas. For a young professional, Lee has an amazing presence.HEEL OF A TIME: You know that Achilles Heel loves having two heels, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio, as WWE's major champions. With Dean Ambrose holding the U.S. Championship, Curtis Axel holding the Intercontinental Championship, A.J. Lee holding the Divas Champions and Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins holding the tag team championship, all of WWE's championships are held by heels. That makes Achilles Heel very happy.
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