Randy Orton is best suited to take CM Punk's spot atop WWE's hierarchy of villains.
Punk walked out on the April 15 episode of WWE Raw and will reportedly take time off (h/t PWInsider via WrestlingInc.com) to let his body heal. That exit creates a vacancy for the position of the king of the heels.
In the near future, men like Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro will assume that role, but for now it’s Orton's throne to sit in. His intensity, experience and precision in the ring make him the top candidate.
WWE fans have been hearing rumblings (h/t WrestlingInc.com) of an Orton heel turn for months.
His current tension with Sheamus feels like a hint that he will soon make a character change. Should the company make that expected move, it suddenly has a proficient heel to plug into the top spot.
Many of Orton's best moments have come when he is enraged and merciless. He has kicked a long list of victims in the head, including John Cena's father and Mr. McMahon. He spat in Mick Foley's face and set Undertaker on fire.
A return to this version of himself would bring out his best.
As a heel, he's a snarling psycho who captivates at a high level. As a face, he's just not nearly as effective. Sliding Orton over to the dark side is the best way to utilize his talents, giving WWE a proven, elite villain.
There are, however, two potential issues with that move.
First of all, an Orton turn shifts the balance of big-name heels and faces. WWE doesn't have a long list of highly popular good guys behind Sheamus, Orton and Cena. Turning Orton might mean that another heel makes the opposite change.
Is someone like Dolph Ziggler an option to take Orton's current spot? Maybe Daniel Bryan can replace him once Team Hell No disbands.
The other issue is that WWE's top face, a man whom one would assume its top heel would collide with, is a man Orton has faced ad nauseam. WWE would have to create something to freshen that revisited feud or have Orton go after someone else as his primary target.
Turning Orton is not an effortless switch, but one that begs to be made. A few dashes of creativity could make the move work.
WWE has a chilling predator in waiting. Whatever needs to be done to unleash him should be done to fill the void left by Punk.