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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: April 6, 2014 - One Year After Randy Orton Defeated Brock Lesnar
By The Doc
Mar 16, 2013 - 2:25:18 PM

April 6, 2014

“He is the chosen one; you must see it.”

There were a lot of people that questioned the decision to go with Randy Orton last year when it came time to choose a return opponent for Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania XXIX. Numerous other choices with bigger names were available, from The Rock to John Cena to Undertaker to Triple H, but the WWE gave the nod to Orton. The criticism was justified, at the time. For all of his skills, he had fallen far from the top of the company ladder. It was not a question of productivity, but rather a doubt in his ability to draw the maximum amount of money necessary for the WWE to achieve a return on their multi-million dollar investment in Lesnar. If they had put the former UFC and WWE Heavyweight Champion against any of the other aforementioned stars, then no inquiries would have been necessary.

If the clock were rewound back to 2009, such a query might have been viewed as silly, overly critical jargon to fill dead space on the cyber waves. Orton was having a career year. He had risen to the zenith of the industry, had a stable family life, and was a respected member of the locker room after many years of being one of its biggest knuckleheads. "He had finally matured," some pundits suggested. A deeper look, however, yielded a different view of the Viper. Apropos, it was, that Triple H was his opponent at that year’s Wrestlemania. In the main-event, Orton’s former mentor disposed of his title dreams in notorious fashion. That relationship had been such a major factor in his professional existence. 2009 was supposed to be redemption, but it wasn’t. Sure, he defeated Hunter later on, several times in fact. It did not matter. Beating a rival in wrestling's regular season does not carry a weight even on the same stratosphere as doing so on the grand stage. Orton would spend the second half of that year firmly establishing that he was no more than a strong number 2 to John Cena.

From the turn of the decade to January of 2013, Orton had drifted further and further away from even the number 2 spot in the industry, surpassed by others who lacked his combination of physical attributes, psychological understanding, and wrestling skill. It was a far cry from the role that he was supposedly destined to play. Ten years prior, he was the hottest rookie on the scene, an integral member of the WWE’s most dominant faction, and on the cusp of being put over by one of the industry’s most legendary figures. Every ounce of creative effort was being poured into ensuring his success as the future of the company.

Randy Orton was “The Chosen One.” Like Anakin Skywalker in the Stars Wars films was to destroy the dark side and bring balance to the Force, the Viper's destiny was to lead the WWE out from the depths of despair – the ravages of the wrestling scene after the end of a War conducted on Monday Nights – and bring a balance between the racy television seen during the Attitude era and the family-friendly product that the WWE was always intended to be. The Game, merely the holdover bridging the gap between booms, would serve only to prepare Orton and let him loose, clearing the path for the young man to eclipse every legend that came before him so that the WWE could soar to new heights. The difference between the intended and actual stories is a lesson in the dangers of “power.” It corrupts. Through mitigating circumstances, Orton fell before he ever had the chance to rise. Blame his childish behavior on the road all the critics wanted, in a land of adulterers, alcoholics, and drug addicts, a young man learning to deal with the trappings of success and the corresponding pressures yelling at a fan or relieving himself in a woman’s travel bag were forgivable offenses. Something more substantial was at play.

Through the events of late 2004 and early 2005, the 24-25 year old man once known for “killing” Legends was reduced to a wrestling tragedy. On the precipice of becoming one of the all-time greatest stars, with aspirations of nothing else, he had his legs cut out from underneath him. He learned a hard lesson about life, his innocence lost and his once clear future in doubt. Inward he searched for how best to deal with it, but in his quest for absolution, all that he found was pain. Carrying around a sense of deception that weighed the equivalent of a one hundred pound sack, he trudged onward. The darkness crept in and took over and, while he was lauded for his character development when he turned to his viperous ways, the world misjudged his transformation as emotional growth. Orton had not learned anything more than to suppress all of his ill feelings toward the trauma that had defined his career and what we saw on television was the outward rage that was a by-product of the subconscious energy.

It was not until Triple H beat him at Wrestlemania 25 that Orton actually hit rock bottom. The critically acclaimed craziness that was seen in his matches with Cena was not the action of a sane man finding a better place in his life; it was that of an individual finally reaching the end of his cerebral rope. You can only bottle emotions up for so long before they erupt like a volcano. Mount Orton ostensibly lay dormant for years, evolving into the predator before our eyes and ascending near the peak as he had always been fated. Once the one-two-three signaled the end of his rise, with no title in tow as the world watched him slither backstage as Hunter stood triumphantly in the ring to close a show with seven digits worth of onlookers, the internal volcano erupted.

Study of the human psyche is fascinating. For some, the mental crack yields a violent external expression. That is the reaction that most people know of. Yet, there is also the effect that sees the figurative magma drain not into the open air, but beneath the surface. These interior leaks in the core are not obvious, but can be the most dangerous. The signs are less subtle, even to those that know the person cracking the best. Orton lost his mind – he lost himself – quietly. Withdrawn in real life, the signs were shown in his professional push. One Wrestlemania came without Orton anywhere near a position of financially earning importance…and then two…and then three.

What his feud in 2012 with former protégé, Cody Rhodes, had been for him was therapeutic. He saw himself in Rhodes. It forced him to seek help and to really work on the problems that had, instead of being dealt with, been pushed very deep within. Our pattern, societally, is to take a metaphorically full glass and pour it out all over the floor. The power of thought has been relegated to insignificant drivel. Where once the world knew that thinking goods things would yield good things (and the same truth of the opposite), today the world is full of people quick to judge, to find the bad and accentuate it to the point where the facts of the matter are beyond recognition to the common mind. Second chances, though, do exist; as do third and fourth ones. Orton learned that the root of his demons was the shame he felt in not seeing Triple H’s true motives; the guilt that he held onto and bottled up toward having spent all of that time with the devil himself, so to speak, but not recognizing the horns and the pointy red tail. It was not so much about what Hunter had done. It was the inner feeling that he had allowed it to happen.

Confident that his career was not over and determined not to allow the past to shape any more of his outlook, he went to Vince McMahon and pitched the idea of a match with Lesnar. He worked harder than he ever had before, both on himself and his craft, and subsequently became a well-oiled machine during the ensuing feud with Brock. The battle between the youngest World and WWE Champions, respectively, was the marquee headline required to sell the match on paper, but Orton diligently spent hours at home – everywhere he went – finding little things to help him nail down the right things to say and the right ways to say them in order to turn himself into a superstar not only worthy of being in the ring with Lesnar at Wrestlemania, but of convincing the office to allow him to defeat Lesnar.

By April 1, 2013, the night of both the final Raw before Mania and his 33rd birthday, he delivered the interview of his life. Never to be misunderstood as the greatest stick man, he had found inspiration in the wiser characters unleashed by the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, and put into the promo all of the emotion that he felt about unequivocally needing to win in order to have any chance of ever becoming the top drawing star that he had projected to be. It had been his unpredictability that had led the fans to begin cheering him, thus leading to the status as a “good guy” that he detested for so long, but it was the genuineness of his words that prompted the largest and most sustainable chant of “R-K-O” that he had ever received. Vince noticed. Everyone noticed.

After a twenty-two-and-a-half minute match at Wrestlemania, Orton defeated Lesnar. The crowd chanted his name even louder. One of the first people backstage to greet him was Vince. He gave him a hug and whispered to him that, “The greatest heroes in sports entertainment are the ones that know who they are and project that to the people.” For a long time, Randy thought he knew who he was, but all that he really knew was either who he was supposed to be or who he could have been.

So, as I report on him right now, watching him make his entrance in the main-event of Wrestlemania XXX, the featured attraction of arguably the most historically significant night in the history of the business, I cannot help but think that the prophecy foretold a decade ago was true…he was “The Chosen One” all along; he just took the road less traveled to become it.

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