I will definitely comment on the Randy Orton suspension, but as I starting thinking about Orton’s value to the WWE over the last decade, I thought of a few related topics.
The Push / Dolph Ziggler
The amount of talent that has risen to the top of the card by pure luck of injury to or suspension of another star is staggering. Orton is not one of these men, as he was definitely elevated in 2004 in a calculated move. He didn’t stay there though, and dropped back down to an upper midcard position for the better part of 4 years.
I think people forget this too easily. Especially when questioning WWE’s lack of development to push the next star to the top. The complaints are frequent concerning the rise of Dolph Ziggler to a permanent main event position, or for The Miz to return to the championship level. Are we forgetting how important a run outside of the main event can be to save a future talent from being wasted, or are we too impatient to care? Would Orton have been as dependent a star since his second era of main event stardom in 2007, had he not spent time in upper midcard scenarios? I doubt it.
In the modern era of 2 titles, Money in the Bank opportunities for title shots, and the Royal Rumble for the Wrestlemania main event spot, the options are limitless for WWE to find a way to try out new talent in a higher position. While there’s a strong ignorant section of fans who bitch about how much John Cena is in the main event, it’s hard to deny that no one has made the impression on the audience like Cena has since the Attitude Era. Randy Orton, with all his talents, is nowhere near the star Cena is, and for good reason. Orton is an insanely valuable asset to the main event, but he’s not a marquee name like Cena is. If Cena is a modern day Hogan/Austin/Rock in terms of being the solid top draw, Orton is the Hart/Michaels in terms of getting top billing because of ability, while not actually being a top draw.
How many other stars have been able to improve and earn their spots like Cena and Orton have? I’ll firmly agree that Dolph Ziggler is definitely the type of guy that should be headlining on a regular basis due to his talents. The problem is that WWE have done a piss poor job in displaying those talents on the regular basis. He’s been in competition for match of the year, yet has spent most of 2012 in tag matches, or quick singles matches on TV. His speaking ability is hampered (understandably) with Vickie doing the mic work. While I could on a serious rant about how poorly WWE books their midcard talent, the fact is that he wasn’t been held down in any way. Bad booking and staying stagnant is a lot more forgivable than a complete fuck up.
But is he being wasted? He’s working on a regular basis on TV. He’s working with a variety of talents, and gaining experience with the talent that does work the main event. His only major and memorable losses have been in competitive matches to the top guys on the roster. This is all very similar to what Orton was doing during the 2005-2007 era, after his initial World Title run. It didn’t seem to harm him, and I think it’s too early to label WWE lazy or ignorant in not pushing several solid midcard guys into a higher position. Experience is such a valued asset, and that gets completely wasted with the hot-shot pushes we commonly see. And that is ever so evident by how many initial runs as champion are “trial” runs, with a return to the midcard soon after. Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, CM Punk, Sheamus, Rey Mysterio, Christian, Mark Henry… And this is just in the last 6 years!
That’s why I’m in no rush to see guys like Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, Ryback, Tensai, or Zack Ryder get pushed into a main event position. I think there’s more than enough talent and creativity available for them to work in a midcard position, with some main event experience from time to time, to keep them relevant, and to test the waters on their future relevance. Time in the midcard has shown that talent like Kofi Kingston will most likely never be a main event player. That’s just not the right position for him, barring a major and unexpected change in character or style. With the insane roster the WWE has between the 2 brands, Cody Rhodes has only worked serious and memorable angles with Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, Booker T, and Big Show. What’s the rush? As shallow as the waters are for face talent, Cody has more than enough to work with when considering Kofi, Truth, Evan Bourne, Brodus Clay, Ryder, and Sin Cara are all at a level to challenge for the Intercontinental Title. And he’s involved with Christian now.
I feel too many fans think of guys without angles as being wasted. It’s so easily ignored that being on TV weekly does a lot more for a character than perceived by these fans. This regular TV time is a not-too-subtle cue to the fans to remember Dolph Ziggler as someone worth caring about in some fashion. His losses aren’t a highlight of his current storyline, unlike The Miz. That’s why his struggle to find a challenge through Vickie on the last week’s Raw worked. The fans are being told that he belongs.
And this comes back to injury/suspensions. With Randy out, there’s a big hole at the top of the card. Will Ziggler get the nod? Only time will tell. But the fact that’s he’s been sustainable in the current position makes him an easy option, as well as arguably the best.
Randy’s Worth to Sheamus
Now, I don’t want anyone to think I was discrediting Orton’s value as a talent. While not a top draw, I do think he showcased his abilities in the ring better than anyone in the WWE over the last 2 years. Think of his consistency, and skills with a variety of opponents, as well as how over he continues to be without hogging too much microphone time, and how credible he remains even after losing to Mark Henry, Kane and Wade Barrett in major fashion over the last year – it’s no accident that’s he’s where he is on the card.
I don’t think it’s an insider secret to see that Smackdown was being shaped around a future PPV main event for the World Heavyweight Title between Sheamus and Orton. I dare say that the end result would have put Sheamus over, as well as turned Orton heel.
While many claim the brand split is obviously finished, it’s an ignorant statement to claim that the shows are not separated. Orton and Sheamus may have been a part of Raw, but their storytelling has taken place on Smackdown. They are Smackdown talents, and the angles are separated enough that it will be tough to fill the gap in Orton’s absence.
Sheamus as World Champion has been off to a rough start thanks to Daniel Bryan earning the spotlight WWE had in mind for the Irishman. Instead of quickly switching gears, right or wrong, WWE stuck with Sheamus as the World Champion and are doing a damn fine job making up for it. Quickly, it was realized that the wins over Bryan at Wrestlemania and Extreme Rules weren’t enough to make the star out of Sheamus they were hoping for, and made room for Orton give the Celtic Warrior the needed boost.
And now, they are without Randy for 2 months.
What’s in store for Sheamus now? He’s become the #3 face of the company by default, but there’s huge space between him and Cena/Punk. It’s a drastic enough gap that he’s without any real main event direction. Without Jericho, there’s no available heel in the entire company in a position to real give him a boost of momentum. Cena could run roughshod over Big Show at No Way Out, and then leave his defeated opponent to challenge for the World Title, but it’s a sloppy situation when Sheamus is fed nothing but scraps from bigger feuds.
I wouldn’t be shocked if WWE keep SummerSlam in mind for Sheamus vs Orton to take place. That means Sheamus will most likely defeat Del Rio in a couple of weeks, and then a random challenger at Money in the Bank. While many claim it’s not enough time to develop the feud (as there’d only be 2 weeks before the PPV for Orton to appear live), I think Orton’s star power makes up for a lot of the lost time. We’d no doubt be in for a series of matches between the 2, and I do suspect a heel turn for Orton in the near future. My thinking is that it’ll be within the feud with Sheamus, once it’s been established that Sheamus is credible enough to be the top face of Smackdown.
But without Orton, I don’t see that happening.
I don’t like the way the world is going. I don’t like how Jericho is suspended for portraying a character, or how protected a flag is. I don’t like how Orton’s personal life is in direct relation to his professional life. Yes, these men should be smart enough to know what lines not to cross, but it doesn’t mean those lines should be there. It seems that as the modern world evolves, there’s an increase on the restrictions for humanity.
But that’s a bigger rant for another place.
I agree that WWE stars should be role models. The problem is that the only way the WWE Universe knows whether or not their stars are well behaved outside of the arenas is if WWE tells us. I have no problem with busting Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Iron Sheik back in 1987 when they were caught with pot, or Sabu/RVD when WWE brought back ECW. That was outside WWE’s control, and those guys need to take legal responsibility.
If Randy feels he can perform better by breaking the law and smoking marijuana, or taking a steroid (though I want to know why that is banned by law) I don’t see how it should be our concern. Nor the WWE’s. If it’s about the wrestler’s safety, then you should restrict them from driving, or drinking. Because those legal activities have led to many wrestlers deaths over the years.
I don’t know. I’m a big fan of letting people deal with their consequences on a personal level. I don’t do drugs, rarely drink, and have never smoked. But I don’t believe in restricting other people who choose to do those things. And if I took a steroid to improve my muscle frame while working a desk job, my boss shouldn’t give 2 shits.
But, that’s the way of the world. And if I must accept it as a viewer, Randy must accept it as a performer. And since he hasn’t, it makes him a liability to the company. His reliability has been repaired over the last while after several initial concerns about his attitude, but this incident could erase everything he’s improved on. I am not saying he’ll never touch gold again, but I think the effort to make Sheamus a major force and draw will be even stronger without the intention of completely protecting Orton. This could end up benefitting more than just the World Champion. If Ziggler does get used as I suggested, his established reliability will be fondly taken into account, and may be turned face to replace Sheamus as the #2 face on the blue brand for example.
Randy didn’t exactly shoot himself in the foot. But he definitely opened the door to lose footing on what he’s worked hard for in this more mature run as top face. Will someone step up in his place? I hope so. Not because WWE is better without Orton, but because any extra names that can be used to sell a show can help. Orton’s absence will give the creative no choice but to give someone a bigger shot, perhaps more than they would have given otherwise.
Wouldn’t a Cena heel turn be perfectly started off by him being suspended for testing positive for something? Consider that.
And on that note, peace out.
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