Lemons To Lemonade: The Suspension Of Randy Orton
Randy Orton’s most recent suspension for violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy no doubt sent members of the creative team into a scramble, as he is not only one of the top 3 or 4 names in the company, but had also been positioned once as a main event player. As it stands, he’s gone for 60 days, and with this being his second violation, has but one more strike before WWE will bid him a fond farewell for at least one year, after which time, under the rules of the policy, he would be eligible for rehire. While the exact nature of the violation is unknown, Orton’s importance to the Smackdown is very evident. To watch that show each week is to see a mostly ho-hum crowd reaction to the product, regardless of what WWE’s crack audio staff pipes in post-production. Randy Orton is one of the few still getting that huge ‘pop’ from the fans, and he will be missed. Having said that, what’s done is done, so why not work to turn the negative into a positive?
As much as I enjoy watching Orton work, and make no mistake about it, he’s one of the very best in the business, his character is very stale, at least in my view. Yes, he’s as over as over can be with the overwhelming majority of the viewing public, but I’ve always believed Orton’s best work was done as a heel. It’s a role he seems to relish, and he’s always seemed much more comfortable being the guy we love to hate rather than the superhero showing up just in time to save the day. Certainly, working heel offers a much broader canvas on which to paint, as nothing is off the table when the fan’s opinion of you doesn’t matter.
WWE’s need for more quality ‘good guys’ is another reason I’d consider turning Orton. As good as he is working face, he’s a captivating presence in the heel role, and could do wonders for getting some of the newer faces on the roster over with fans. You only need look back on the all too short feud between he and Kofi Kingston to see Orton’s ability to bring out the very best in his protagonist. Performers like the aforementioned Kingston, Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd are this close to being huge stars. With Orton in the mix, Kofi Kingston becomes a bona fide World Title contender.
The flip side, of course, is to simply allow Randy to come back as he’s been, and you’d certainly have a hard time criticizing WWE for that. He’s a huge star, no doubt sells a ton of merch to the kids, and other than Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, is the only member of the roster currently getting the ‘Cena-like’ levels of crowd reaction. In this case, I’d like to see a scenario where Dolph Ziggler is moved into the main event picture with Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio, with Ziggler going over and taking the World Heavyweight Title at the upcoming PPV, No Way Out. Ziggler is more than credible, and has a great deal of respect from the fans thanks to his stellar in-ring work and quality character, so him winning the title would be well-received. That would then give WWE roughly 40 days to get Sheamus and Del Rio out of the mix, just in time for Orton to return to “reclaim his title”. It’s a simple story, and it’s been told a thousand times, but there’s a reason for that: it works. Orton vs. Ziggler for a few months would not only be big money, but would also give fans some amazing wrestling matches, something I think gets lost on the creative team from time to time. Not everything needs to be a soap opera. Sometimes, two guys just need to get in the ring and fight like hell.
It remains to be seen what will ultimately come of the Randy Orton suspension. Were I to guess, I’d think WWE would stay the course with his character, stale as it is. They’re doing the exact same thing with Del Rio and Sheamus, despite the fans reaction to them being at best, tepid. For whatever reason, WWE sometimes gets into this mode of trying to ram ideas down their fans throats, rather than listening to how we’re reacting to different stories and characters. I guess when you’re the biggest dude on the block, you think you can get away with that sort of behavior, but if the rating are any indication, they might wanna consider getting back to a little more ‘good vs. evil’ and do away with some of the silly soap opera mess.