Randy Orton: Why His WWE Career Is Standing Still

Tom Clark@tomclarkbrFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

photo by wwe.com
photo by wwe.com

Randy Orton is the Viper, one of the top talents in WWE.  For years he has been one of the company’s best hands, giving his all in the ring every time he steps through the ropes.  Since his days working in Evolution with Triple H, Batista and Ric Flair ended, Orton has been on the steady path upward in the house that Vince McMahon built.

Now, however?  Not so much.

The fact is that Randy has achieved everything a worker can hope to accomplish in the largest pro wrestling company in the world.  He has done it all and for anyone else, a history of past successes in WWE may be enough.

But how about for Randy Orton?

While John Cena is still the face of WWE, CM Punk is currently enjoying one year-plus as champion, and an unproven talent like Ryback is getting his shot at the big time, Orton is basically standing still.

For some fans, this has everything to do with Randy’s role as a babyface.  

When they look at him, as he works overtime to curry the crowd’s favor, it just becomes too much for some of them to handle.  Orton is the Apex Predator after all, a cold and merciless individual whose icy stare and heartless approach made him one of the best heels that WWE has seen in years.

But now he’s a hero to kids, a fan favorite who is a friend to any babyface that he encounters, and all of that character change has put him in a state of flux.  

To put it another way, for some of his critics, Randy Orton has become boring.

Here’s the problem I have with that argument.  It seems as though anytime a successful heel turns face, he has that initial buzz, getting over with the crowd in a very big way.  Fans can’t get enough of him, the popularity that he usually gains while still a heel carries over to his transition as a fan favorite.  But before long he suddenly begins to lose traction, and that’s when the whispers begin.

“He’s too nice.  He smiles way too much.  No one care about him anymore; he has to turn heel again!”

We have seen it before, most recently with Sheamus, who some fans feel fits that description perfectly.  

But Randy Orton has been idling for quite a while now and I am beginning to wonder when and if he will finally be bumped up to that next level once again.

However, there are two issues that are perhaps stopping that from happening.

One is the most obvious, as Randy Orton was suspended from WWE for 60 days back in July following a violation of the company’s wellness policy.  Considering its PG status and the public face it has been trying to build for the product, it could be that perhaps Vince McMahon is hesitant to do anything that would appear to be rewarding Orton for what he did wrong.  

Maybe WWE is waiting, biding its time and allowing the story to completely die down until it becomes a non-issue.  Not to excuse Randy for what he did obviously, but why should he be held down because of a mistake, a mistake that he was punished for and took on the chin?

The second possible reason why Orton’s return to full-time main event status has not yet happened could be that Monday Night Raw is becoming somewhat overloaded with talent on that level.

WWE champion CM Punk, John Cena, Sheamus, World champion Big Show and Ryback, are all Superstars who are nearly always utilized in the last match every week on TV.  Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, the Miz, Team Hell No, Kofi Kingston and Wade Barrett are all on deck.  Each one is hot enough, especially when paired with one of the other main event talents, to take the spotlight on any given Raw or SmackDown.

Then there’s the Rock, Brock Lesnar, the Undertaker and Triple H, who will all surely be used at next year’s WrestleMania.  When they begin appearing on WWE programming once again, even more time will be taken up, time that seems to be growing more sparse with each passing week.

Where does Randy Orton fit into this equation?  

For me, Randy Orton is a WWE Superstar who can go in either direction right now.  He could very well stay where he is, taking the spotlight whenever the opportunity arises, turning in a solid performance every time he’s in the ring.

Or he could be slid right back into main event status, his character demanding attention and respect, despite who is considered to be the top tier of the company.

And yes, he would most likely have to do that as a heel.  I have to admit, it would be a real shot in the arm for him and could potentially turn him around.  

But with Punk as the top heel in WWE, is there room for Randy on that level?  Are we seeing a Superstar who has reached his plateau in the company?  Or are plans perhaps on the table to bring him back to full force in the near future?

How long will he continue to stand still?