Randy Orton spent his weekend riling up the indies, both its fans and performers, by retweeting a critical Rip Rogers’ tweet and then sending plenty of his own. If you missed all that, well, this “apology” from Orton should just about catch you up:
I really need to issue an apology.... pic.twitter.com/N8NqRZu9Es— Randy Orton (@RandyOrton) May 14, 2017
Not everyone with an indie background took offense — current WWE cruiserweight and former indie darling Drew Gulak posed with Orton for an incredible “No Fly Zone” photo just days later — but Orton definitely punted the hornet’s nest and laughed it off as everyone else got mad online.
This could just be a tiny, isolated incident, but where’s the fun in that? Randy Orton is the current WWE World Champion. He’s 37 years old, and has had a pretty similar character with minor shakeups for most of his career. When he’s been focused on something specific, he tends to be at his best — Authority’s champion, Legend Killer, etc. — so this is the perfect opportunity to refocus him into more than just the guy with the RKO, which is basically where he is right now.
Randy Orton: Indie Hater is a gimmick waiting to be used. It’s basically a gatekeeper role for Orton, a way for him to fully invest himself into the kind of anti-indies characterization that we’ve seen from a few WWE and NXT superstars over the past few years, maybe most notably with Baron Corbin (and recently with Dolph Ziggler, who, well, his performance could be improved upon).
Orton has been in the business forever. He’s not an NXT guy. He’s one of the most decorated wrestlers of all-time, and at his best when he’s a condescending, motivated heel. Orton as an inverted legend killer would be a way to make him meaningful again. It’s not like WWE has a shortage of these dudes. NXT is full of them. The cruiserweights are full of performers who could transition to a less restricted role who had plenty of experience on the indies. New performers who come in and practice the style Orton criticized could be immediately thrust into a feud with an all-time wrestler.
Can you imagine WWE signing someone like Will Ospreay and then having Orton target him specifically because he’s one of those indie types with the flips and the dives? Only for Ospreay — or someone like him — to rise to the occasion and put a stop to Orton’s tyranny? Imagine away, because it would be a perfect use of both of them.
It doesn’t have to be Ospreay, of course. Ricochet to WWE rumors have existed for a while, and nothing has come of them yet mostly because his contract with Lucha Underground is still active. The guy who actually puts a stop to Orton definitely doesn’t need to even be with the company now, and maybe it’s better that they’re not: let anyone who approximates the kind of performer Orton complained about take the brunt of the abuse until WWE signs the person who can stop him.
It would be a wonderful way to put a tidy bow on top of Orton’s run at the top, too. He came in as the young star, impossibly athletic and dripping with potential to the point it was Jerry Lawler’s job on commentary to publicly drool at any mention or appearance of him. Orton took down the greats of the past era in order to make room for himself in the present.
Now, 15 years after coming up as Evolution’s young gun, it’s time for the tables to turn on him: now Orton is the one who needs to be shown how things have changed.
It’s not that this needs to be the last thing Orton does for WWE or anything, but again, he’s 37. He’s won 13 WWE World Championships, and chances are good that they aren’t going to position him to tie or surpass Ric Flair’s record like his peer, John Cena. It’s Cena’s job to gatekeep, too, but he should still be in the WWE World Championship scene when he’s around. Orton needs a little more focus than “I’m the best,” and making the lives of the performers who flip and dive miserable while they’re in WWE is the best way to give it to him.