For the first time in his illustrious career, Randy Orton has survived and won the Money in the Bank ladder match. With the victory, Orton now has the right to cash in at any given moment and compete for the WWE Championship.
The question is, what's next for Orton after winning the Money in the Bank briefcase?
This critical event helped Orton snap a recent cold stretch in which he drifted to a place of Superstar obscurity. Still in the main event, the nine-time world champion had become an event-headlining jobber.
Orton, who last held a world title on September 18, 2011, now has the opportunity to return to his perch as one of the best in the world.
Before he can climb the mountain and cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase, however, the WWE must build Orton back up in the proper manner.
Fortunately, Orton is one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of professional wrestling. More importantly, he's one of the most versatile Superstars of his generation, being able to play a wide variety of roles within a feud.
Here's how the WWE should handle his transition back into the ranks of the world's elite.
Heel Turn, Part I—The Stuff of Legends
Be honest with yourself—how badly do you miss the heel Randy Orton? If your answer is anything less than a Triple H thumbs down followed by a Batista electric chair drop, then please stop reading this section.
For the rest of you, how could we possibly justify Orton holding the Money in the Bank briefcase as a face?
Orton is one of the greatest professional wrestling villains in the history of the industry, mixing chilling body language with intangibles that few have ever possessed. From the snarling stare to the possessed look in his eyes, when The Viper strikes, we see it coming.
Somehow, it still takes us by surprise.
Few, if any, wrestlers in the world today are capable of drawing the type of heat that Orton can. From crossing boundaries with Rey Mysterio about the death of Eddie Guerrero to his time as The Legend Killer, Orton finds the thin line between acceptable and disturbing and opts to cross over.
With CM Punk set for a complete face turn—how else can we describe Paul Heyman turning on him?—the WWE needs that type of presence.
Heel Turn, Part II—The Only Rational Option
As it presently stands, the reigning WWE champion is none other than super babyface John Cena. Some diehard fans will dispute his deserving the title, but Cena draws as much attention, if not more, than any active wrestler on the planet.
Unless the WWE decides to finally turn Cena heel—and this would be quite the inopportune moment to do so—Orton must be the one to go evil.
If Orton had won a No. 1 contender's match, thus setting up a clash at SummerSlam, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Cena could conceivably go heel with Orton and Punk stepping up as the top face draws in the company.
Unfortunately for those in favor of that scenario, Orton is the one who controls destiny—having Cena be the heel simply wouldn't make sense.
Much may change down the line, as Cena could lose the world title, but the simple question right now is to who? Punk is involved in a feud with Curtis Axel and Paul Heyman, while five of the top stars in the WWE lost to Orton at Money in the Bank.
For the sake of ratings, teasing at a clash between Cena and Orton is simply too attractive for the WWE to ignore.
Orton, the most opportunistic and heartless Superstar since Edge's heel turn and Triple H's days as The Cerebral Assassin, is the perfect Money in the Bank briefcase holder. His menacing stare, cold face and slithering movements are what the Money in the Bank contract was made for.
So why throw all of that away by keeping him face? Why create a character that appeals to the masses when Orton will draw more cheers as a heel than some of the WWE's most over faces?
I'll wait for you to formulate a plausible response.
Heel Turn, Part III—Where Are the Villains?
Mark Henry's legendary status is underrated, anything Paul Heyman touches turns to gold, Ryback can do some damage and The Shield will go down in history as the most influential faction of our time. With that being said, there is one unavoidable truth in today's WWE.
Unless it believes a member of The Shield is currently ready to make the leap to leading the company as world champion, the WWE truly doesn't have a dominant heel figure for Cena to feud with.
Cena can continue his battle with Henry for another month, or even enter into a feud with a losing member of the Money in the Bank ladder match. When it comes to viable threats for the world title, however, they're all either faces or tied up in an extensive storyline.
So why not bring back the character that has helped define the past decade of professional wrestling?
Until wrestlers such as The Shield and Bray Wyatt reach the level of world champions—and signs point to them doing so some day—the WWE must work with what it has. At this point, that's far too many Superstars built up to be babyfaces and not enough heels.
Seeing as Orton's draw power as a villain amounts to roughly three of the WWE's current "Superstars," it's safe to say he'd fill some voids.
The WWE going face-heavy made sense, as it gave a strong commitment to building up The Shield against its top talent. Now that Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns are established, however, the WWE must act quick.
If it continues allowing its top heels to be strong but hardly spectacular Superstars, the days of saturated storylines and PG-related criticism will return.
With the company turning over a new leaf—or just returning to what worked in the first place—Orton's heel turn becomes critical. Punk is a face, both Damien Sandow and Alberto Del Rio are involved with the World Heavyweight Championship, and too many Outsiders are with the Socs, and not enough the Greasers.
With Orton finally in a position of power, it's time he returns to the side of the coin that made him a nine-time world champion—the heel character that defined a generation of professional wrestling.