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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: The Further Evolution of the Evolved Predator
By The Doc
Sep 24, 2012 - 8:50:11 PM

Little of interest came out of this week’s worth of television following a Sunday night with a big fight feel. I had figured that a combination of interviews from the top two athletes in the game today would spark an easy 1500 words or more and make it easy for this month’s post-PPV-event write-up. Unfortunately, the creativity was lacking and everyone was spinning their wheels, not really advancing any stories further to keep much-needed momentum going amidst stronger competition from rival programming (i.e. the NFL). While there is plenty of time to compel us into a late October purchase, there is a tangible quality missing from the initial week of hype. Personally, I feel like, the past being in the past already, there is not much point in doing much in the way of recap from one major happening on Sunday to the shows that follow it on Monday and Friday. What is the point, after all? Closure is fine, but can be achieved in a mere matter of 5-minutes or less. Such is why a network would actually work to their advantage, for they could actually feature a “Sportscenter”-style show that details what already happened. I think American football bears the closest resemblance because of its weekly nature. Games happen on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday and there are numerous recaps in the days immediately after. Once Tuesday and Wednesday roll around, it’s looking ahead to the next week’s match-ups. Wouldn’t it be nice to get something similar in place of so many ridiculous, monotonous, groan-inducing recaps of every little detail on Raw and SD from the show before?

Monday provided little in the way of substance for me to sink my teeth into and you’ll notice that most of the “beat” writers have had to come up with topics born out of internet rumors rather than what happened on TV. I will be no different. There is one particular news blurb that caught my attention in the last 7 days, which coincides with an otherwise inconsequential action from Sunday’s Night of Champions. Randy Orton’s interview from the Magazine was clipped and highlighted in an LOP news post, detailing how his character had lost its edge, in a manner of speaking. Basically, he described himself as the inauthentic, white meat babyface that he has become since he was forced into the role to give Smackdown a new face after, perhaps a bit ironically, Edge retired. On Sunday, Orton defeated a very capable opponent, but in the midst of the victory turned toward an increasingly typical jeering crowd and flipped off either one fan or a group of fans. Such are not the actions of the face of a brand, so allow me to dive well further into the news blurb about his candid, anti-current persona comments and insinuate that Sunday’s out-of-white meat-character action was done completely on purpose and was not the indefensible action that would put him in further hot water (or so it’s been suggested) with the company.

Once upon a time, Randy Orton was easily the best antagonist in the business and it was not handed to him – he took it. He took it by accentuating the little things that make bad guys bad and mastering the art of facial expressions and psychology. He did it so well that eventually the knowledgeable modern day fans decided that he was too good at what he did for them to accept him as evil any longer. Only if your name is John Cena can the audience so blatantly express their desire for a performer to be pegged as either good or evil and the company refuse to listen, so Orton was given the green light to start embracing the chants and catering to the masses. Unfortunately, that is not a role that comes naturally to him. Everyone who was paying attention in 2004 saw what happened when Orton was forced out of his natural comfort zone of being a heel of the highest order – not just on camera, but very much off it, as well. That was a younger, 24 year old Orton, but even though becoming a family man in the real world has taken some of the immaturity away, the man is still at his best being ruthless. He is not a talker and he never will be. He is an outstanding grappler cut from the same mold as Triple H, but he might be even more cerebral an assassin than The Game. Nobody that I can recall has been able to draw the ire of the fans and accomplish more in his craft without (much of) one of the great intangibles in the game: charisma. Orton brings elite skill to the table, but little in the way of media savvy. It is the rare modern athlete that can get away being beloved despite the limited ability to give good sound bites.

We’ve reached the ten year anniversary since Orton’s debut in 2002 and his career can basically be split in half: The Legend Killer and the Viper/Apex Predator. It is time for him to make another change or risk becoming increasingly irrelevant. Remember that Orton is still very much in the prime of his career and has reached a consistency in the ring that few can match. On any given event, Orton can pull a classic out of his hat. You know what you’re going to get with him, in that department. The problem is that we also know what we’re going to get with him in the character department. He has become what I like to call predictably unpredictable, in that he is portrayed as someone that can surprise people with the suddenness of the RKO (to his credit, he’s still doing great work with coming up with creative ways to pull it off). Unfortunately, in the build-up to the encounters in which he pulls off said RKOs, Orton is anything but creative. If he can translate his unpredictable in-ring mindset back to his character and make it authentic again, then I think we’re looking at not only the further evolution of the predator, but also at the reinvigorated top heel in the business. Volatility is what I’m looking for. Little things like flipping off crowd members is, at this time, a very unusual occurrence. That used to be commonplace, but in this generation that has grown up on the Hogan of the 2000s (Cena), we’re dealing with a general viewing audience that is ready to see someone break out and push things to the limit physically in a similar way to how they’re ready to see a CM Punk push the limits vocally.

About two years ago, I suggested that Orton had the potential to be the WWE’s next game-changing star because I thought that his heel character represented the social landscape of uncertainty – of being insane one moment and insanely content the next. Sadly, that character was neutered to fit the current mold of “company man” that won’t take risks and won’t be given the chance to do something that might appeal to people in a greater context than just the 3.0 rating and 0.5 buyrate brigade. I still believe that Orton has that in him. Remember that some of the greatest stars in history emerged from what seemed like a career abyss. Orton has tasted the top and surely wants to get back there, for not only is that the position of highest respect but also the position of the highest salaries and bonuses. Orton has not headlined the biggest show of the year since 2009. That’s going on a four-year drought come next spring. The 2011 match with Punk was overshadowed by a bout pitting the announcers against each other. Orton has looked as bored since ending his feud with Christian last summer as I’ve ever seen him and, subsequently, the mistakes that plagued him earlier in his career have come to haunt him again. The 60-day suspension won’t help a company that doesn’t seem to consider him a big draw (because he hasn’t proven that he is) from further shifting away its television time in someone else’s direction.

What I envision for Orton is kind of a more physically inclined version of Brian Pillman’s Loose Cannon and Steve Austin’s initial 3:16 persona. I see him being the exception to the pretty much unwritten cursing rule. Bleeping out what he says will be fine; to see him antagonizing the crowd directly as he did last Sunday would not be a bad thing, nor would it be a bad thing for him to use the RKO on everyone and anyone whenever he wants. Maybe have him beat someone bloody. You see, the things that Orton is good at would work so well in a specific, more violent way. I’m not suggesting that shock TV rule the airwaves again by any means – I hated that…but I do think it would be nice to have a guy that you just don’t understand; maybe not even have him talk at all. A live interview where he just took out someone adored but fails to say why would be nice, ala the Eddie Guerrero silent promo from the Rey Mysterio feud. Nobody in the business today could pull off the facials necessary to make that “money-making” effective like Orton could.

At the end of the day, Randy Orton has reached a crossroads in his career. My hope is that he tweaks and reinvents, allowing us the privilege of seeing him continue to blossom as his career moves toward its next chapters. I think his personal mistakes (if the rumors are true) have historically coincided with down times in his professional life, so if he can get back to the top, then I think we’ll see the more mature Orton get back to “golden boy” status (i.e. Edge getting tagged as a doper and an adulterer, but it not affecting his iconic career in a negative way). I can also just as easily see Orton keeping a top spot warm for someone that the WWE feels is more deserving and has greater long-term prospects and, once the new star emerges, Orton becoming a bit player that eventually has his contract run out in frustration and joins TNA to be one of their cornerstones. I sincerely hope that the former happens, as Orton is too good at what he’s really good at to not be mixing it up with the best in the business with consistency again.

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