Randy Orton will wrap up his career-year inside of the ring a few weeks early thanks to a back injury. The Viper will reportedly move to the sidelines for up to six months, theoretically taking the second biggest full time star in the company off of WrestleMania 28.
The news broke earlier in the week yet details are still a bit fuzzy on it. Orton has reportedly had this back injury for the last week. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reports that this is why Orton hasn’t done much since the December 19 RAW show. The WWE reported on their Twitter account that Orton was injured on SmackDown in the Street Fight with Wade Barrett. The WWE has made formal announcements stating that Orton will be out six months with the injury.
Now I will say that the mystery surrounding the injury is dubious at best. The WWE is saying six months but who knows? This all could be a swerve and Orton could pop up in the Royal Rumble, similar to what happened with Cena a few years ago. I doubt it, but it wouldn’t completely shock me.
[ad 6]This is a huge blow for the company. Orton and Cena are the two biggest full time stars the company has. Now the company rests on Cena’s shoulders, which comes at a time where fans are more polarized about Cena than ever. The move also takes away SmackDown’s top star ending an injury-filled year for the brand which saw the biggest star of the brand Edge retire immediately after WrestleMania.
It really is disappointing news on a lot of levels, especially when you consider the year Orton had in the ring. In our Camel Clutch Blog WWE Year End Awards blog, I gave Orton the WWE Wrestler of the Year nod due to his outstanding year inside of the ring with a variety of opponents. It was obvious after watching the Randy Orton DVD that he has matured over the last year and it showed in the ring with tremendous to just outstanding matches against Christian, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes, and Wade Barrett. Is the injury a result of Orton taking his game to a higher level? I doubt it, but it is likely a question being asked in the Titan offices throughout the holiday week.
The WWE can really learn a lesson from this. The absence of Orton leaves SmackDown without a megastar to carry the brand. This whole idea of booking parity is nice, but it has turned everyone on the undercards (& even a few headliners) into just average WWE wrestlers, taking away the “bigger than life” persona guys like Cena, Orton, The Undertaker, & Triple H have. It is easy for us to sit here pontificate about promoting this guy or that guy to Orton’s spot, but honestly it doesn’t even matter. Nobody would buy it and you’d probably hurt the brand more by shoving a guy down the fans’ throats that they think is mediocre at best.
Orton’s injury takes him out of WrestleMania, barring a speedy recovery. The payday that someone at Orton’s level has at stake for WrestleMania 28 is one that will likely push him hard to come back early. It isn’t as if the WWE isn’t willing to putting guys in the ring before they are fully recovered. John Morrison returned from a neck injury months earlier at 60% during the summer.
I predicted big things for Orton in 2012. I had him as one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble. I expected him to challenge for one of the WWE championships at WrestleMania 28, a match he certainly earned with the quality of his work in 2011 and his maturity in putting guys over left and right throughout the year. It could still happen but I highly doubt it.
The pink elephant in the room here is Orton’s history of injuries. Orton is arguably the most injury prone WWE megastar in company history. Orton has had numerous back, shoulder, and neck injuries throughout the course of his career. He has missed time at least once a year due to some kind of injury. It isn’t as if the WWE has the luxury not to push Orton even with his injury-prone history, but you do have to wonder how much longer Orton is going to want to chance fate at this stage in his life.
[adinserter block=”1″]The timing may allow the WWE to plug a top draw immediately into Orton’s slot without missing a beat. The videos for “IT Begins” will culminate into a new star returning or debuting on RAW on January 2. The betting line seems to be that Chris Jericho will be the man behind the videos, returning to the WWE. If so, the WWE could send Jericho to SmackDown, avoiding a potential disaster of the program without a top megastar.
If it isn’t Jericho or another big name, I’d expect someone CM Punk or John Cena to do some double duty for awhile.
Update: WWE.com has an update and they have revised his down time at just a few weeks. “WWE Superstar Randy Orton suffered an injury at SmackDown in Indianapolis that could keep him sidelined for a few weeks, and will prevent him from competing at upcoming WWE live events.”
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