Photo Credit – Forbes
To leave behind a lasting “Legacy,” one must undergo “Evolution.” Randy Orton has done exactly just that. Randy Orton is a third-generation pro wrestler. Son of “Cowboy” Bob Orton Jr, and grandson of Bob Orton. Randy is highly regarded as one of the greatest pro wrestlers in history. Orton is a first ballet future Hall of Famer. His accolades range as deep as the ocean, and they don’t appear to be slowing down on expanding. Randy Orton made his pro wrestling debut in 2000 for a local company in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Orton was trained by personnel of the promotion, as well as by his father, “Cowboy” Bob Orton. In 2001, Randy would secure a deal with WWE, being positioned in its developmental company OVW. It was in OVW that Orton would go on to meet, and square off with The Prototype, who would later go on to become John Cena. Orton would also have the privilege to team with the late-great Bobby Eaton. Randy would finally be called up to WWE’s main product in 2002.
In 2003, Randy Orton would be blessed with an opportunity of a lifetime. He’d join the Evolution stable, alongside another upstart at the time Batista, and veteran legends in Ric Flair and Triple H. The “new face on the block” couldn’t have been in better company, having the Nature Boy Ric Flair, and The Game Triple H to look up to. Orton would spend most of 2003 assisting Triple H in retaining his World Heavyweight Championship. Randy Orton and Evolution reached their peak in December 2003, when all four members won their respective championships, at the Armageddon PPV. From there on, Ric Flair and Batista were tag team champions, Randy Orton was IC champion, and Triple H was World Heavyweight Champion.
Amid Evolution’s dominance, Randy Orton would lay claim to being “The Legend Killer.” One of Orton’s most memorable characters, and runs in the company. The Legend Killer was a young upstart who possessed so much talent, that he laid claim to being the future of pro wrestling. In doing so, Orton would find himself being The Legend Killer by feuding with and blatantly disrespecting some of the older, and well-respected names in pro wrestling. The disrespect would turn into matches, as at Unforgiven 2003 it would be Shawn Michaels vs Randy Orton, in the first “Legend vs Legend Killer” match of Orton’s run. Orton would successfully defeat the legend HBK, giving strength to the “The Legend Killer” gimmick. Orton would then go on to defeat the one and only, RVD at Armageddon 2003 for the IC championship. Orton would be the longest reigning IC champion in seven years, having a grip on it for 210 days. As 2004 rolled around, Randy Orton would continue to establish himself as “The Legend Killer.” He’d turn his attention to a specific legend… The Hardcore Legend to be precise. Orton began targeting Mick Foley in 2004. Foley wouldn’t feed into expanding the legacy of “The Legend Killer.” Foley would attempt to expand his own, by challenging Orton to a hardcore match for the IC title at Backlash 2004. It would now be The Hardcore Legend vs The Legend Killer in a hardcore match. Randy Orton would defeat Foley in one of the most brutal matches of Orton’s career. He’d feel the wrath of the unpleasant barbed wire, and thumbtacks, just to end the legend of Mick Foley. Orton would go on to lose the IC championship in July, against a future legend in his own right.. Edge.
After losing the IC championship, Orton would go on to bigger and better things, winning a battle royal on RAW to become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. The SummerSlam main event was now set. Chris Benoit vs Randy Orton in the main event of SummerSlam 2004, for the World Heavyweight Championship. Randy Orton would defeat Chris Benoit, to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, at just 24 years of age. The following night, jealously ran wild as Orton would be kicked out of Evolution. Triple H, Batista, and Ric Flair acted as though they were proud of Orton for becoming the new world champion. They faked a celebration and used the time to jump Orton, officially kicking him out of Evolution. The following week Triple H would call Randy Orton to the ring, reeking of jealousy, to demand that Orton give him the World Heavyweight Championship. What Orton would give Triple H was far worse than he expected. Orton would refuse to hand the belt over and instead spit in the face of Triple H, and then hit him with the title. One month later, Triple H would have his way when he would defeat Randy Orton at Unforgiven 2004, for the World Heavyweight Championship. Although the reign only lasted a month, Orton had made history and was able to lay claim to having had been the World Champion.
Fast forward three years to 2007 and Randy Orton was being positioned for his next run of glory. Orton was the number one contender to John Cena and his WWE Championship at SummerSlam. Cena would defeat Orton at SummerSlam, but the rivalry was far from over. The next night, Orton would assault Cena during a match with Booker T and would proceed to punt Cena’s father, who was at ringside. Orton would now have his rematch scheduled for Unforgiven 2007, against John Cena for the WWE Championship. Once again Orton was unable to secure the title, as the match would be called by way of DQ. On the October 1st episode of Raw, John Cena would suffer a legitimate injury that would require Cena to vacate the championship due to rehab time off. Seven days later, at the No Mercy PPV, Randy Orton would just be awarded the vacant WWE Championship, ushering in his first reign. The reign would last a couple of minutes, as in the first match of the event, Orton would lose the title to an old foe, Triple H. Luckily for Orton, the drought of losing the title in a matter of minutes from being crowned, would come to an end in a few hours. In the main event of No Mercy, Orton and Triple H would go at it once again for the WWE Championship, in a last-man-standing match. Orton would be victorious. No Mercy 2007 would be a rollercoaster night for Randy Orton, getting crowned the WWE Championship, losing it minutes later, and ending the show winning it back. Randy Orton went on to have a lengthy reign, going on to defeat the likes of Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, JBL, and Jeff Hardy, in defense of his WWE Championship. John Cena would return from his injury in the Royal Rumble match of 2008 and would be victorious. Instead of waiting for WrestleMania to have his match, as is the usual for Royal Rumble winners, Cena would take his match at No Way Out 2008. He’d fail to bring the championship back home. At WrestleMania, the main event was now John Cena vs Randy Orton vs Triple H, in a triple threat match for the WWE Championship. Despite the odds, despite this being Orton’s toughest task to date, he was still victorious. Orton would lose the title the following month at Backlash, to Triple H, in a fatal four-way against Cena, JBL, and Triple H.
Following an injury shortly after losing the WWE Championship, Randy Orton would return to RAW later on in the year 2008. He’d go on a rant targeting every champion in WWE, including the tag team champion’s Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase. Being berated by Randy Orton would inspire them to earn his respect. They would successfully do so when alongside Manu, they’d assault CM Punk so bad he had to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship. On the November 3rd episode of Raw, Randy Orton and CM Punk would finally square off, but the match would conclude in disqualification as Ted DiBiase would interfere. The response from Orton to DiBiase interfering in his match was a punt to the head of DiBiase. With DiBiase now on the shelf, Orton, Rhodes, and Manu formed an alliance called “The Legacy.” In their debut match, Legacy would defeat Triple H and Batista in a three on two handicap match. When DiBiase returned he’d be immediately aligned with Randy Orton and “The Legacy.” They’d help him secure his next WWE Championship at Backlash 2009, in a six-man tag match between Legacy, and Triple H, Batista, and Shane McMahon. For the first time in history, the person that scored the pinfall in a six-man tag would be WWE Champion. The Legacy would allow Orton to pin Triple H to become the new WWE Champion. He’d then defend the title at Judgement Day against Batista, where he would retain, thanks to Rhodes and DiBiase interfering. At Extreme Rules, Orton and Batista would go at it again, this time inside of a steel cage, to try to prevent Legacy from interfering. Orton would lose the title to Batista inside of the steel cage. The next night, Orton and Legacy would assault Batista viciously, forcing him to relinquish the WWE Championship. Orton would win it back after it was vacated, defeating Big Show, Triple H, and John Cena. Randy would now spend the next couple of months in a rivalry reignited, trading the WWE Championship back and forth with John Cena. At Bragging Rights, Orton would lose the title for good, after an hour-long Ironman match against John Cena. From here on things would begin to go south for Legacy. Legacy’s interferences in Orton’s matches began costing him matches, including a very important one. At the Royal Rumble of 2010, Randy Orton had another WWE Championship opportunity against Sheamus, in which he lost due to Legacy interfering. This would result in Orton assaulting Rhodes and DiBiase. Orton was easing in a face turn after so many years, culminating in Orton defeating both Rhodes, and DiBiase at WrestleMania in 2010.
After Legacy broke up, Orton would go on to have one more WWE Championship reign. Once he lost it, he was drafted to Smackdown in 2011. On the May 6th edition of Smackdown, Orton defeated Christian for the second World Heavyweight Championship reign of his career. From that point on, he’d spend the rest of the Summer defeating Christian. After a couple of months of being World Champion, Orton would lose the title to Mark Henry at Night of Champions 2011.
Fast forward two years to 2013, and Randy Orton would win an all-star Money in The Bank match, containing Christian, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, and RVD. Orton was now Mr. Money in The Bank and can cash in anytime, anyplace, for a year. He’d use SummerSlam 2013 as his date, turning back heel after cashing in on Daniel Bryan, who had just won the title. Triple H helped Orton with the cash in, as while Bryan was celebrating his win, Triple H would pedigree him. Orton was now a seven-time WWE Champion. The next night, Orton was given the title of “face of the company” by Vince, Stephanie, and Triple H. A month later, Orton would defend the title against Daniel Bryan at Night of Champions but would lose it. The decision was later reversed, as Bryan won due to fast count, so now the WWE Championship was once again vacated. At Hell in a Cell, Orton would become an eight-time champion as he defeated Daniel Bryan to regain the vacant WWE title. At Survivor Series, after a successful title defense against Big Show, Orton would be confronted by an old foe, World Heavyweight Champion John Cena. Cena and Orton would set up a title unification match, turning the WWE Championship, and the World Heavyweight Championship, into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. At TLC it would be WWE Champion Randy Orton vs World Heavyweight Champion John Cena, to determine the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Orton defeated John Cena to unify the titles. He’d go on to the Royal Rumble of 2014 to retain the championship(s) against John Cena. At Elimination Chamber, Orton secured his WrestleMania main event spot, by retaining the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Daniel Bryan, Christian, Sheamus, John Cena, and Cesaro. He would finally go on to lose the championship at WrestleMania to Daniel Bryan, in a triple threat including Royal Rumble winner Batista.
In 2017, Randy Orton would win his 13th WWE World Title at WrestleMania against Bray Wyatt, and wouldn’t touch the championship again for three more years in 2020. It was in 2020 that Randy Orton decided to bring back his famed, beloved, Legend Killer gimmick. It started when Edge returned at the 2020 Royal Rumble. Orton was poised to make the comeback a short one. He wanted to rid of Edge after eleven years away from the ring. The night after the Royal Rumble, Randy Orton would fake an alliance with Edge, only to RKO him, and hit him with a con-chair-to. This was scary since Edge was just returning from a neck injury that forced his retirement for eleven years. The matchup for WrestleMania was now set, Edge vs Randy Orton in a last-man-standing match. Edge would be victorious in this bout, leaving Orton to be out seeking revenge. The second iteration of The Legend Killer would go into full effect following their second match, at Backlash. The match would be promoted as “the greatest match ever,” in which Orton would be victorious with a punt to the head of Edge. It was later learned that not only was Edge on the shelf due to the punt, but he also suffered a torn triceps during “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.” Orton was now in pursuit of new things. Specifically his 14th World Championship. Shortly after defeating Edge, Orton would use his Legend Killer gimmick at full force, to become unhinged and chase the WWE Championship. He’d attack legends such as Christian, Shawn Michaels, and Big Show, putting them away with punts. His final stop before setting his sights on Drew McIntyre, and the WWE Championship, was attacking his mentor, Ric Flair. Orton would then go on to fail to capture the championship at SummerSlam, and Clash of Champions. He wouldn’t give up though. He’d get his third match at Hell in a Cell, inside of the structure, against Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship. Finally, a 14-time champion, as he would defeat Drew McIntyre.
Though the reign was short but sweet, Randy Orton is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished, and greatest pro wrestlers of all time. The record of World Championship reigns currently sits at 16. Orton has 14, and he’s still out here expanding his legacy. John Cena has been heavily suspected to break the Championship record, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Randy Orton was the one to do it. From Legend Killer, to simply legend, Randy Orton has done it all and continues to chase new accolades. He will undoubtedly go down as one of the best once it’s all said and done. Until then, let’s appreciate the Viper, the Legend Killer, Randy Orton.
Written by: Joseph Rivera