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Out of nowhere, WWE releases a new Randy Orton shirt...will he return at Fastlane, or not until after WrestleMania?

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This baby was buried beneath the NXT shirts that WWE Shop released last week, so it's probably not hot of the presses, but I just saw it.  And it's a good design (devoid of back stuff!).  And it got me thinking.

Get yours here.

The Viper has already made several house show returns over the past month, so he's cleared to go medically.  He's been rumored for television returns a couple of times and has a ready made feud set up with Seth Rollins and The Authority when he does show back up.

With a six-man tag between Rollins and some Authority lackeys and fellow "stars with a grudge against Triple H & Stephanie McMahon" Dolph Ziggler, Ryback & Erick Rowan all but confirmed for this Sunday's Fastlane pay-per-view (PPV), that would again look like a logical place for the Apex Predator to strike.  It would also lay out a program for he and Mr. Money in the Bank heading into next month's WrestleMania.

Not so fast, says Dave Meltzer over at The Wrestling Observer:

They've pulled [Randy Orton] from all TV's. So, I don't know what the story is. He was supposed to start at TV a couple of weeks ago - he's ready, he's worked all of the house shows. But for whatever reason, they've decided to hold off his return, and I'm thinking that since he's not going to work [at Fastlane] they figure there's no point in bringing him back now, and maybe they're going to bring him back after WrestleMania, or they'll have him do a run-in at WrestleMania.

The original plan was for Orton to be on TV weeks ago, and then he was pulled and he's not advertised on any TV's at all up through WrestleMania.

Meltzer does say that removing him from advertising could be to set-up a big surprise return this Sunday or the Monday after.  It seems unlikely that a made guy like Orton would be asked to sit on the shelf for 'Mania if he's ready to go, even if they've decided to have Rollins continue his issues with Ziggler on to the big show.

But it's also weird that he's been left to sit healthy for the last month.  Orton was arguably as hot as he has ever been when he was written off to go film The Condemned 2: Desert Prey, the sequel to 2007's Steve Austin vehicle from WWE Films.  His finisher was a mainstream hit thanks to the RKO Vines, and he'd just capped off an acclaimed run during which he was the undisputed champion of WWE with a semi-turn that has him positioned to be a very interesting anti-hero babyface character.

Do they not want to distract from Sting playing a similar role in his feud with Hunter?  What could be leading to leaving a bullet like the Viper in the chamber for WrestleMania season?

Or are we all getting worked again, and he'll be back on Sunday night?

Let us know what you think about Orton's status, and his new shirt, in the comments below Cagesiders!

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