There is no path for Randy Orton to win the WWE Title. There isn’t a clear path for him to remain part of the mid-card and a contender for the United States Title currently held by Jeff Hardy. It may be two months before we see “The Viper” in action following surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee that will keep him out of action potentially until SummerSlam.
Orton could become WWE’s forgotten man – the wrestler who has given everything to this company, but time and booking have hurt his chances to remain on top of the promotion’s food chain. For Orton, a 13-time world champion, this might be a crossroads moment as this “New Era” of WWE continues to motor through city after city, pushing other top stars while he rests on the sidelines.
It’s not a fair situation for Orton, who became a grand champion by beating Bobby Roode for the U.S title. While John Cena still gets his way, as a part-time performer, the third-generation superstar isn’t afforded the same status or luxuries. If this were a crystal ball and Edge had not had to retire early in his career, you could make the argument all three performers defined the past decade of this company.
Still, not many will talk about Orton’s Hall of Fame career along the same lines as his two colleagues.
Orton has rubbed performers the wrong way over the years, been difficult to deal with and at one time or another, helped squash a wrestler or two. Ask Kofi Kingston why he hasn’t been part of the main event picture as a singles star.
The former Evolution member is still money in the ring and beloved by fans, but the addition of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura to WWE’s roster in recent years and the return of Daniel Bryan to the active roster will make it more difficult to define his place in a crowded locker room.
A feud with Samoa Joe may be entertaining, but it won’t put butts in seats. Selling for Big Cass has its merits, but Orton deserves better. A heel turn and a program with Bryan is something I could get behind, but I am not sure it’s a road WWE wants to travel.
To put it best, Randy Orton is a man without a defined role in this company. Like Cena, who is now a part-time fixture off television and Kane, who is at the tail end of his career and has politics to fall back on, Orton is looking to find his place in the wrestling world.
As my friend Chris Wayne said about Orton in another story I wrote over the weekend, “Personally, I think his character is completely stale, and “best for business” would be to send him to New Japan for a year or two. He’d make HUGE bank over there, and his style would work great for those fans. He could also freshen up his character, and upon his return, be a straight-up killer heel.”
It would work, but would Orton, once rehabbed and ready to go, accept this kind of assignment? There are only so many times we can see him in a program where he loses when he would have won in a different time and space.
Only Orton knows the answer to that question. Fans like myself hope there is still a chance he will be part of the world title program in the future and a potential heel turn. If not, the sand in the hourglass may run out and an icon in this business will lose more than his spot on WWE’s roster. He might lose a chance to be great once again in the wrestling ring.