Randy Orton as WWE Champion Has Short Shelf Life


Randy Orton’s WWE Championship run started with a thud and spells doom for SmackDown’s main event scene.

Randy Orton as part of the Wyatt Family was once a red-hot idea on SmackDown Live. It had been an unexpected change for Orton, even though the end game of a bigger match with Bray Wyatt seemed obvious. Fans still enjoyed the unique partnership, which eventually broke down weeks before WrestleMania 33.

Orton vs. Wyatt for the WWE Championship as WrestleMania’s main event had momentum, as the SmackDown announce team continuously stated it would be the headliner. That faded away by March, and was made clear when the fourth-to-last match turned out to be this.

The bout turned out to be an underwhelming 10 minutes of mind games, which could have been used for SmackDown. Creepy images appeared in the ring as a way to distract Orton, something that proved to be meaningless. The action never got off the ground either, and was, quite frankly, boring.

The Viper’s RKO for the three-count seemed abrupt, leaving a crowd somewhat muted. He didn’t receive the wild ovation that others had for their wins, but something more subdued. It felt difficult to get behind this babyface character that has had his moments under the sun for about 15 years, and didn’t really triumph over the heel he had messed with (and gotten the upper hand on) in the weeks prior.

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Building a show around someone this — specifically Orton — may have worked about six or seven years ago. He had momentum, after going through his sadistic heel persona, and went through a babyface run. This was even seen during the aftermath of Evolution’s split in the mid-2000’s. Both times, his face runs fell flat and warranted a heel turn.

WWE is back in that dangerous territory again with Orton, even though he just turned back, after burning down Wyatt’s resting place for Sister Abigail. The Apex Predator received plenty of boos from the Amway Center, which may be an anomaly since it was the post-WrestleMania crowd. It’s not like it was for Roman Reigns, who WWE is hitching their wagon to — this is for the lead main event babyface on SmackDown, someone who just got turned weeks ago to head the latest John Cena hiatus-era.

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Like their WrestleMania match, the tag bout to close SmackDown provided no spark, either. It made for a lackluster ending to the week, and would have been a bigger topic of conversation, if not for the Superstar Shake-up taking over the Apr. 10 and 11 shows.

Wyatt probably won’t take the WWE Championship off Orton after winning it in grand fashion and defending it at WrestleMania, so when the title changes hands, expect it to be from the current titleholder. That means someone new will step up, and hopefully so, unless Orton’s babyface shtick picks up as we near SmackDown‘s Backlash PPV in May. Could that be AJ Styles? The Miz? Shinsuke Nakamura? Someone from Raw that comes over during the Superstar Shake-up?

Whoever becomes the one to take the title from Orton needs to be someone that gets the best out of him, which we saw when he teamed with Wyatt. That may necessitate another heel turn.

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For now, Orton will slide by as the big-name babyface in SmackDown’s main event scene and on their live event tour. It’s still only one week into his run, so things can change, but given the past and how stale his past World title runs have been, will things be different?