“Randy, you sign with SmackDown, and I can give you the guys that took you out.”
Those were the words of SmackDown General Manager Nick Aldis as he persuaded Randy Orton to sign with the blue brand rather than go to Monday Night Raw. Aldis pledged to feed the Bloodline — specifically, Roman Reigns — to Orton, and Orton took the bait.
Three weeks later, Orton learned that he would be competing in a triple threat match with LA Knight and AJ Styles on the Jan. 5 episode of SmackDown, titled New Year’s Revolution, to determine who will meet Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble for the Undisputed Universal Championship.
In kayfabe, Orton should be chewing nails. He was promised a fast track to Reigns, only to have the carpet pulled out from under him.
In reality, fans should have reason to be concerned because WWE could be preparing to pull a fast one on its audience.
Perhaps a triple-threat match pitting three super-popular babyfaces against one another is WWE’s glorified way of filling up television time before Randy Orton wins and moves on to a title match with Reigns. Then again, the Orton-Styles-Knight confrontation could end without a decision, should the Bloodline interfere. That would potentially set Reigns up to defend his title in a fatal-four-way at the Royal Rumble.
And that would be a cop-out.
When WWE scripted Orton to sign with SmackDown, a showdown with Reigns seemed imminent; to many, it was a foregone conclusion. Regardless of the outcome, the match itself would’ve been a sports entertainment super fight that would’ve been the perfect way to kick off 2024.
Now, WWE could be inching away from what it teased.
A multi-person match with Reigns, Orton, Knight, and Styles would allow WWE to delay the inevitable faceoff between The Viper and The Tribal Chief by having Reigns defeat someone other than Orton so soon after Orton’s return. And, perhaps, a four-way could set up a program for Orton with either LA Knight or AJ Styles at WrestleMania next April.
While all that would be fine, WWE should offer a storyline explanation as to why Orton isn’t fighting mad after Aldis essentially lied to him. Granted, Orton did hit Aldis with an RKO after signing with SmackDown. Still, Orton’s character isn’t likely to say, “Okay, boss, I guess we’re even.”
No matter which direction WWE goes for the Rumble, creative head Triple H should close that hole in this story before or at the “New Year’s Revolution” episode of SmackDown.