Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Can Randy Orton still be a main event player for WWE?

The latest Lutz's blog entry on DOT NET was titled, "A motivated Randy Orton can still be a main event level player for WWE.

As a huge fan of WWE's Apex Predator, I could not agree more. I do not completely agree with Lutz though, let's take a look at some of the article.  The rest can be read at the link above.  These are only some selections from the entire piece.
Still, most of the reason I enjoyed the handicap match on Raw last week was due to Orton's performance. He seemed to have more energy than in the past, even uncharacteristically playing to the crowd on one occasion. I became hopeful that Orton could finally turn the corner to become a babyface character that could truly connect with the audience, rather than one who gained popularity because he's been around a while and won a bunch of championships. Of course, his renewed enthusiasm is probably a precursor to a heel turn, so I won't get my hopes up too much.

Orton's decline into basically an upper-midcard act has had many culprits, but Orton himself is mostly to blame. His long-expressed desire to become a heel has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as he's gained virtually no babyface tendencies during his multi-year run as a fan favorite. He's been in the mold of Stone Cold Steve Austin in keeping most of his heel characteristics even as a good guy, but Orton either doesn't possess or refuses to exhibit the charisma that allowed Austin a smooth transition from villain to hero. He doesn't need to be Austin, but Orton has more to offer in the charisma department.
I think Orton handled his turn correctly. He is like Ole Anderson. As a poster on WCMB said a while back (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Ole never changed, he was just mad at someone different." That is a bit of an overstatement, but you get the idea. What made Orton work as a face is that he didn't suddenly start shaking babies and kissing hands. He was essentially the same guy. He just had a different set of allies and toned down the brutality a bit. He simply chose the more honorable way. Where I really disagree with Lutz is this....
Remember the "ONN" updates Orton gave on his physical condition after his debut but before he joined Evolution? Those were entertaining and they didn't keep Orton from being a heel. I know Orton has personality because I saw it first-hand when he was a guest on a radio show I work on in Wichita. He's engaging and smart and funny, but for some reason he refuses to deviate from the loner persona he has cultivated. Fans were drawn to that initially, but his lack of character development has forced Orton slowly down the pecking order.

Orton's inability or refusal to tap into those elements of his personality has likely made it easier for WWE's writers to keep him away from the main-event picture. It's difficult to make Orton a top star because his two strikes against WWE's wellness policy have him one mistake away from termination, but if Orton was as popular as John Cena, WWE would have no other choice. It's probably too risky to put Orton in a top match at WrestleMania, but during the rest of the year he could be in the title hunt if his performance warranted that.
On a minor note the segments weren't "ONN" but "RNN" for Randy News Network. I have embedded one of those segments below. As for the rest I would say that Lutz has flipped the importance of the two things he mentions. The Wellness violations probably have a heck of a lot more to do with his situation than the character or his perceived charisma deficiencies.
A heel turn is not the answer; Orton still has a lot of ground to break as a babyface character. He could start by embracing the role, as he appeared to begin to do with an energetic showing last week. Turning Orton heel would force him back into the habits he's already had difficulty breaking. Yes, he's playing a heel even when he's a babyface, but as a good-guy he can explore the parts of his personality that can connect with the fans he's lost over a refusal to change.
My opinion on this is mixed. Yes, Orton has more ground to cover as a face. On the other hand there is something to be said for playing to your strengths. Sadistic, cold, calculating heel Orton is a much better fit. The underlying issue I haven't really addressed is that I don't really think Randy's recent performance was any more energetic than usual. The whole premise of the article seems to be, "IF he could be like THAT more often he'd have something." The thing is I have no recollection of his performance being any different than most of his face work which I feel is underrated anyway.

Ultimately, I feel Orton is better utilized as a heel, but he seems plenty over to me as a face. He is also an excellent example of the idea that you don't always have to win to be over. He seems to be fairly bulletproof as the fans react to him regardless his recent win/loss record. All of that is a good thing.

Now enjoy a different Randy Orton from early in his career giving us an update on his shoulder injury.

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RNN 3 by PWF

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