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The date was August 15 2004. Randy Orton hit an RKO on Chris Benoit and won the World Heavyweight Championship to become the youngest World Champion in WWE history. After winning their rematch on Raw the next night, the rest of Evolution (Triple H, Batista and Ric Flair) came out to congratulate Orton on his victory.
Only to smash him to the mat and essentially claim that Triple H was the true champion and Orton was 'nothing' without Evolution and essentially rob him of the coveted Big Gold Belt at Unforgiven.
The thinking was that Orton would turn face and eventually be put over by Triple H at Wrestlemania 21. The trouble was than unlike Bryan in 2014/15 Orton wasn't really ready to be a crowd favourite- in fact he wasn't really ready to be a face at all and his run as the baby face challenger was a bit of a flop. So Orton got shunted sideways into a feud with the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 21 while Triple H faced Batista- now with John Cena seen as the new big faces of the WWE going forward.
But that was merely the prologue. Fast forward 4 years and all of those resentments were going to bubble up once more.
In 2009, Orton was in charge of his own little faction known as Legacy- comprising of himself, Ted DiBiase Jr and Cody Rhodes. With these two at his back Orton had begun turning his attention to the McMahon family and after having an argument with Stephanie McMahon, he then tried to get VInce to apologise to him on behalf of the McMahon family. Vince, clearly not impressed with Orton's manner attempted to fire Randy before Orton punted him in the skull and left him hospitalised (which apparently was not a firing offence).
Actually, Orton left McMahon with a legit concussion by many accounts due to the fact that he really did come in hard with his boot. Lawler's commentary on the last replay (around the 7:35 mark) is particularly interesting as you hear him say "Oh my...gosh". The 'gosh' comes after he realises just how much contact Orton made with the boot and it is in a totally different tone- from kayfabe shock to genuine concern.
Fast forward six days and Orton won the Royal Rumble match by last eliminating Triple H- giving him a guaranteed World Title match at the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania.
"But he punted the Chairman Vectron!" I hear you cry, "That's almost as bad as grabbing his arm!"
Ok steady on now...But I do take your point. Why wasn't anyone addressing the fact that clearly Orton should have been suspended or even terminated?
Well, Randy Orton had an answer.
And it involved lawyers.
Let me just say that I don't hate lawyers. I know it is easy to. But I know quite a few. My dad is a lawyer and one of my best friends is also a lawyer. What I do hate is lawyers getting anywhere near that friggin' WWE ring. Or any ring. Because it never works out. It only makes stupid stories more stupid because you have to tangle yourself in legalese, which makes things more complex. And I can understand that occasionally you may need to run a lawsuit angle, but why not just have a guy in disguise come and serve papers? That would be kinda a cool pop moment to see someone like Vince in the middle of an angry promo against the crowd only to be get served papers by someone disguised as a dude in the crowd.
And lawsuits often mean you have to have some sort of legal rationale. In this instance Orton claims to have Intermittent Explosive Disorder which results in violent outbursts of temper against real (or perceived) provocation. He claimed that WWE knew about this and did little about it, meaning that if they fired him he would sue- and Di Biase and Rhodes would walk with him. Furthermore, he would file an injunction over the WWE so that there would be no Wrestlemania.
You know when a feud is beginning to look decidedly shaky when you are beginning to throw up obscure (but real) mental disorders as a way to grab heat for the heel. Because you can't help but feel that if Orton really has been going around with the disorder and WWE knew nothing about it...they're bastards. And that's the trouble of using lawyers. Because Orton's claims have to come from some sort of legal logic.
So essentially you have a guy who wants to ruin Wrestlemania against a bunch of GMs who knew that he was a ticking time bomb (who, incidentally had RKO'd his father and his girlfriend even before this feud) and essentially threw up their hands and said "this guy is main event material!!".
And of course there's the fact that doing this sort of explanation means that a microphone has to be put in the hands of one Randall Keith Orton.
Look, it's no secret that Orton sucks on the microphone. He has two tones- Boring Guy and Angry Boring Guy. What's worse though is that he makes potentially interesting writing look bad. I can't help but feel how the promo between he and Vince or he and Stephanie would have sounded if it was Chris Jericho or Bray Wyatt or anyone. When he is screaming at Stephanie McMahon to fire him here (it's about 6 minutes in) it doesn't look intimidating- it just looks hilarious (the head movement is particularly weird).
What was worse was the fact that although Triple H is a good promo, he's not a great promo (as a face anyway) and anyway, this is not the sort of feud where the baby face gets to do the lion's share of the promos. So you were left with Orton doing the lion's share of the promos that he was ill-equipped for this whole feud. Why wasn't the WWE signing up a manager? Ted DiBiase, Sr not available? Or Bob Orton? Dusty Rhodes? The group is called Legacy, why not use that?
You'll notice I'm over 1000 words in and I've barely talked about the current WWE Champion yet. Well, the fact is that's because he wasn't the WWE Champion while all this was going on. Wrestlemania 25 had a kinda weird build up. Both World Titles were only decided the PPV before at No Way Out, with two completely new champions. Furthermore, the WWE Championship had been going through a bout of hot potato where it had gone from Triple H to Edge to Jeff Hardy back to Edge back to Triple H all in the space of four fucking months. And so Triple H won his match at No Way Out by last pinning the Undertaker (in what was a whale of a mini-match) and taking the title to Mania.
At the same time Orton continued to feud with the McMahons, punting Shane McMahon's head in and taking him off television and at the same time delivered an RKO to Stephanie (because she was pleading with him to stop). Triple H- her husband- made his feelings known to Randy and we were seemingly off to the races- a blood feud between a young upstart punk who wanted revenge against his mentor and was willing to do whatever it took to get it but doesn't know the bear that he's poking to do it.
Seems like easy money doesn't it? Made even easier when Triple H the next week simply stated that "I'm gonna break your neck!" to the weasel Orton who told Hunter that neither could lay hands on the other until Wrestlemania or Hunter would automatically spend Wrestlemania behind bars charged with assault.
Which he broke on Smackdown later in the week.
The stupidity of all that was, of course it made Orton look like an idiot. Sure he got one good shot in, but if his team was 3 vs 1, why bother with the condition at all? Just keep beating the crap out of him. Because the next Raw Triple H invaded Orton's house (in a ludicrous segment) and told Orton that he should have "finished the job".
And he was right- not withstanding he was breaking and entering and essentially ratcheting up a whole bunch of other charges in a stupid stunt angle that made little sense which saw him back on Raw the very next week! Not withstanding that...
And that was part of the damn problem with this feud! They spent all their time ratcheting up all sorts of weird and wacky stunts which got the crowd primed, PRIMED to see the Game squeeze the head of that little fucker's body like a champagne cork with his trusty sledgehammer.
This was made all the more apparent On the March 23rd Raw when Orton and Legacy handcuffed Triple H to the ring rope and made him watch as Orton DDT'd Stephanie and then kissed her while she was basically unconscious. We wanted blood, we wanted Orton in a puddle of goo! We wanted-
Only to find that it was not only a normal singles match, but if he did he would not only be DQ'd but also lose the title.
Why would you cut off the knees of your match like that?! Particularly when it has to follow this.
Apparently, according to HBK, after some idiot thought that the best place for the Undertaker/HBK match (probably Dunn) was 5th and for 15 minutes or so, Undertaker was psyched to deliver a massive match. And what a match it was. It is ironic because it came to define everything that was great about the 25 years of Wrestlemania...and the thing was that it didn't have a title and the feud was sorta thrown together by a weird tournament that HBK won in order to challenge the streak. What made it work was the fact that the two wrestlers knew each other inside out and were able to play off a history that hadn't been done to death.
Triple H and Randy Orton not only had faced off since that fateful match at Unforgiven (several times, in fact), they had faced off at a Wrestlemania- the year before in fact where they faced each other and John Cena in a Triple Threat match. The notion that the novelty of this match was beginning to wear a little thin may have been something to consider.
Apparently Triple H knew the gravity of the situation after seeing HBK and the Undertaker and knew that they'd have to be really good.
It began well with a really cool entrance from Triple H as he threw a sledgehammer through a glass panel to come to ring and look dead cold in the eyes of Randy. It actually starts really well too with Triple H trying to beat Orton to a pulp and getting so distracted and angry that the ref has to pull him up, giving Orton enough time to hit an RKO. That bit is cool. Then Orton takes a big swing with the punt, misses and Triple H hits the Pedigree.
And the match slows to a crawl.
I can kinda understand the thinking behind this: Michaels and Taker have blown the roof off the joint and so you want to pop the audience fast and get them engaged. But it also highlights the bigger contrasts between these two matches. Michaels and Taker found several different ways to go to the well with all sorts of manoeuvres which got the crowd onto its feet.
Randy and Hunter sorta go through signatures...but there's not much sense transition or some intriguing moves being thrown in between. Nor is there a real sense of strategy after that first few minutes. It just looks like two guys trying to beat the bejesus out of each other.
But you won't give them the stipulation to do that properly.
And that's sorta why it's on this list. Overall everything about this isn't terrible. It's just so...meh. And you can't help but feel with all the moments that were created during this feud, meh isn't really enough. I know some complain that Randy should have won, but then this was in Triple H's "I'm-a-full-timer-who's-dating-the-daughter-of-the-Chairman-but-there's-no-conflict-of-interest" phase so that would have been hard. I also would've liked it if Legacy somehow managed to elevate Cody and Ted's career rather than make them look like royal noobs, but there you go.
And that's article 53 in the books! Next time we travel to the Orient to see a guy who beat a WWE Champion, a 14 time WWE Champion...and didn't get near a title. What gives?! Find out next time!
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?!