Randy Orton once again finds himself stuck in no man’s land.
With his feud with Alberto Del Rio apparently over and no other rivalry lined up for him at the moment, he’s back to being the top WWE star without any real sense of direction.
That’s been the case for Orton throughout most of 2012. Although he’s put on some entertaining matches with guys like Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio, he’s spent most of the year in feuds that have neither elevated nor pushed him down the card.
Instead, Orton’s just been teetering on the borderline between the upper midcard and the main event. We’ve been waiting for him to get back to his usual spot as a top World title contender, but at least so far, that hasn’t happened.
Orton fans need not fret, though. His time is coming.
Although many seem to think that Orton’s two Wellness strikes will prevent that from happening, the fact of the matter is that the WWE needs him back in the World title picture.
There are tons of possible scenarios that could play out in the World Heavyweight Championship scene for the remainder of 2012 and into early next year, and plenty of them could involve Orton.
After all, with all of the chatter surrounding a potential heel turn for “The Viper,” there are tons of ways to elevate him back to that elite level within the next several months.
Let’s say, for example, that Orton does indeed turn heel in the immediate future.
If Sheamus wins back the World Heavyweight Championship at WWE TLC, we have an instant first rivalry for a heel Orton. He and Sheamus have a ton of history with each other, and as SmackDown’s top two stars, a Royal Rumble or WrestleMania rivalry between the two makes a ton of sense.
There’s no doubt that these guys could tear the house down with an epic World Heavyweight Championship match on pay-per-view, especially if it’s Orton’s first major match after his heel turn.
Even if Orton doesn’t turn heel within the next several months, however, there’s still no shortage of ways to elevate him back to the main event level.
If Big Show walks out of WWE TLC still the World Heavyweight Champion, odds are that his feud with Sheamus will be done and that he will need a new challenger for his title. That’s where Orton comes in.
Orton and Big Show have crossed paths a few times in recent months, but they haven’t had a real rivalry since Show turned heel earlier this year. If Show is going to make it to the Royal Rumble as World champion, Orton figures to be at the top of his list of potential challengers.
Of course, there’s absolutely no guarantee that Big Show will leave WWE TLC as World Heavyweight Champion. In fact, many are almost expecting Dolph Ziggler to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase (if he retains it against John Cena, that is) and leave the pay-per-view as champion.
That would open the door for Orton to step up as Ziggler’s first challenger because there wouldn’t be a ton of interest in a heel/heel feud between Ziggler and Show.
The WWE would likely want Ziggler to have a fresh babyface challenger, and given the recent history between the two, a feud with Orton seems like a very logical scenario. These two put on an absolutely phenomenal match at Night of Champions, but didn’t have the drawn-out rivalry that some expected them to.
As two of the WWE’s top stars and in-ring performers, Orton and Ziggler could definitely put on a must-see Royal Rumble or WrestleMania rivalry over the World Heavyweight Championship.
Yes, there are plenty of “ifs” when it comes to the future booking of Orton and the entire World Heavyweight Championship picture, but most of the WWE’s top stars are tied up in major angles at the moment. Orton isn’t.
Whether or not the WWE is willing to risk putting someone with two Wellness strikes in a World title feud is still up for debate, but if the company decides to give Orton another chance, then there’s no reason to think that he won’t be a major threat going forward.
“The Viper” could fit into the World title scene in so many ways. It’s up to the WWE to make it work.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!