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Monday, September 7, 2015

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Retrospective: The Age Of Orton

By @MeenHendrix

"I don't just beat people. I end careers."- Randy Orton in 2007

The Age of Orton is one of my personal favorite storylines. It tells a story of redemption, hunger and ruthless aggression unseen from the man they now call The Viper.

2007 was an eventful year for Randy Orton. He would go on to compete in many high profile matches before securing his first WWE Championship at No Mercy in Rosemont, Illinois. But before I dive into the Orton's run on top, I want to look a little further into the events leading up to the beginning of the Age of Orton.

The beginning of the year started with a collection of solid in ring performances from New Years Revolution in January till Backlash in April. At Backlash, Orton was granted his first shot at the WWE Title that year in a Fatal-4-Way involving former Rated RKO tag team partner Edge, Shawn Michaels and WWE Champion John Cena. Orton came up short in the match, but what followed would soon put the Legend Killer onto a new path of destruction.

Orton began to target Shawn Michaels shortly after Backlash. In subsequent weeks, Orton would ambush Michaels multiple times after matches, including the debut of his new punt kick attack. Michaels and Orton would be placed in a match at Judgement Day. At the event, Orton attacked Michaels before the match injuring him and defeating Michaels by referee stoppage. But Orton didn't stop there. He would continue to display his new aggression and punish multiple stars and legends including Ric Flair, Sgt. Slaughter, Rob Van Dam (whom he defeated in a Stretcher Match at One Night Stand), and Dusty Rhodes (whom he also defeated in a Texas Bull Rope Match at The Great American Bash.)

Soon Orton hungered for more. John Cena, left without an opponent for SummerSlam, was attacked on the July 23rd edition of Raw, after a Handicap Match with Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch by Randy Orton. Johnathan Coachman would then announce Orton as the number one contender for the WWE Title. Orton would then attack Cena multiple times before their title bout including a RKO on a steel chair at Saturday Night Main Event.

At SummerSlam, Cena and Orton would go on to deliver a match of the year candidate. One of my personal favorites of all time. Orton displayed intensity and aggression previously unseen in him, delivering hard strikes and doing whatever it took to put the champion away. Controlling the action most of the match, Orton fell victim to a F-U (now renamed Attitude Adjustment) and a loss to Cena.

Unhappy with the result, Orton demanded a rematch with Cena at Unforgiven, which he was denied. Angered by this, Randy would proceed to get personal and drag Cena's father into the feud by hitting him with a Punt Kick. Orton and Cena would then face off in a rematch at Unforgiven where Orton won by DQ ensuring the feud would continue. However an injury derailed Cena's reign and he would be forced to forfeit the WWE Championship before No Mercy.

Rosemont, Illinois. October 7, 2007. Mr. McMahon stood in the middle of the ring and named Randy Orton the new WWE Champion. Orton's celebration was cut short by The Game, Triple H who would then challenge Orton to a title match to start the show. After being taunted into accepting, Triple H defeated Orton to win the WWE Title by a roll up.

This in particular upset me. After months of build up, Randy Orton had finally reached the top and all of it would be undone in 11 minutes. Undone by the same man who stole the World Heavyweight Championship from him in 2004 after only holding the title for a mere 3 weeks. But I was rewarded for my patience.

Before the event ended Randy Orton decided to use his rematch clause to defeat Triple H. Orton and the Game went on to deliver a 20 minute near classic Last Man Standing match for the company's top prize. It would end with a RKO on the announce table and the Game being unable to answer the 10 count.

On the October 8th edition of Raw, a familiar foe would return to challenge Orton for his WWE Championship. Shawn Michaels, who had been put out of action months earlier by Orton, set his sights on the Champion. Michaels would be voted by the fans to face Randy for the title at Cyber Sunday, which he won by DQ when Orton hit him with a low blow. Orton and Michaels' rematch would happen at Survivor Series with the stipulation that Michaels was banned from using the Sweet Chin Music finisher. Orton would go on to defeat Michaels.

This is my least favorite part of The Age of Orton reign. Orton would be thrown into a feud with the returning Chris Jericho from a 2 year absence. He would defend the WWE Title against Jericho at Armageddon, which he lost by DQ when JBL attacked Chris Jericho. It felt like Orton had become an afterthought for this feud, as Jericho was the hot act and suddenly transitioned from Orton to JBL.

Orton then moved on to a short feud with Jeff Hardy which included a Swanton Bomb from Jeff onto Orton off the Raw set. At Royal Rumble 2008, Orton would defeat Hardy in a solid match, but he again felt like an afterthought when John Cena returned from injury early to win the Royal Rumble match.

Cena and Orton would rekindle their feud from last summer with Cena cashing in his Royal Rumble win at No Way Out instead of Wrestlemania 24. Orton would get himself disqualified and retain his title by champion's advantage. Triple H won an Elimination Chamber match that night making him the Number One contender to Orton's title.

A triple threat match between, Orton, Cena, and the Game had been set for Wrestlemania. The build up again left Orton feeling like an afterthought before taking the spotlight the Raw before Mania by laying out both opponents with an RKO. At Wrestlemania 24, Orton would go on to escape with a win and his WWE Title intact. However this would lead to the end of Orton's run on top.

Orton would lose the title a month later to Triple H in a fatal-4-way involving JBL and Cena as the other competitors. Orton would fail to regain the title, losing in rematches at Judgement Day and One Night Stand where broke his collarbone in a Last Man Standing match after being thrown over the top rope by Triple H.

The Age of Orton started off with excellent build. Although he felt like an afterthought late in his reign, Randy proved that he was capable of being the guy. The heel everyone hated. He unleashed a new level of aggression and took out multiple opponents with his vicious Punt Kick. His run on top lasted 6 months. Orton's hard work earned him 2 WWE Title reigns, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Most Hated Wrestler off the Year in 2007 and the #1 Singles Wrestler of the Year in 2008. Orton also graded out well including two 4 Star Matches (vs John Cena at SummerSlam 2007, a 4.5 vs Triple H at No Mercy 2007) and finishing the year with back to back 3.5 Star Matches with Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho. Orton would return later in the year more hungry and determined to be a Champion again, but the Age Of Orton launched him into the upper echelon of guys who could carry the company on their backs as a top Heel.

"It is my Destiny."- Randy Orton

-Ameen Purdie
Feedback on Twitter: @MeenHendrix


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