Recently, we took a look at Edge’s most memorable career moments. And since his opponent at Backlash in the apparent “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” is one Randal Keith Orton, we decided to look at the most memorable moments of The Viper, the RKO man himself, Randy Orton.
Let’s start from the beginning shall we? At Unforgiven 2002, Triple H defended his World Heavyweight Championship against Rob Van Dam. During this match, the Nature Boy Ric Flair came down and teased hitting Triple H with a sledgehammer, but instead hit RVD. Flair began accompanying Triple H to the ring, and when Batista made the jump to Raw from SmackDown, Flair began accompanying him as well. In January of 2003, Triple H, Flair, and Batista were attacking Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner. During the beat down, a young Randy Orton came down and joined in, completing the group that would later be called Evolution. We now know that Evolution was always set to be a representation of the past (Ric Flair), the present (Triple H), and the future (Batista and Randy Orton), but I think everybody in the crowd and the locker room knew Randy Orton was going to be one of the greatest ever.
Randy Orton’s WrestleMania debut came at WrestleMania XX, where he, Batista, and Ric Flair took on the reformed Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection. Following weeks of Orton and Flair attacking Mick Foley, Foley booked himself (in kayfabe) in a match for Orton’s Intercontinental Championship, but walked out of the match. Foley would return at that years Royal Rumble, and would eliminate Orton, and himself in the process. This set up a handicap match between Flair, Orton and Batista, and Rock and Foley. Orton shined in this match, and was even given the chance to finish the match by hitting Foley with an RKO and picking up the win for Evolution. Orton was here, and we now all knew.
Becoming the Youngest World Champion/Evolution Split
Orton would end up losing the Intercontinental Championship to none other than Edge! On July of 2004, Randal would win a 20-man battle royal to become the number one contender for Chris Benoit’s World Heavyweight Championship. Orton and Benoit would put on the match of the night in my opinion, and in the end, Orton broke out of a Crippler Crossface, and when Benoit attempted to lock it in again, Orton countered into an RKO for the win. Orton became the youngest World Champion in WWE history at just 24 years old. This would also lead into a celebration by Evolution where Batista propped Randy up on his shoulders, which in turn lead to that iconic moment where Triple H went from a thumbs up, to a thumbs down, which was followed by The Animal dropping Orton to the floor, an attack by Evolution, and Orton being the first member kicked out of Evolution.
Attacking Jeff Hardy
It may seem that this list is in chronological order, but it isn’t. So there will be some jumping around here, and we’re going to jump to just 2 years ago. Following a brief United States Championship reign before WrestleMania 34, Orton sort of disappeared for a few months. Orton returned at Extreme Rules that year, and attacked Jeff Hardy after Hardy lost the United States Championship to Shinsuke Nakamura. Two nights later on SmackDown Live, Orton interfered in Hardy’s rematch, and attacked the Charismatic Enigma once again, but that low blow was nothing compared to what we would see the following week. Orton threw Hardy all around ringside, and then proceeded to stick his finger in Hardy’s gauged ear, and tug away at it, which was absolutely disgusting. The two then had a Hell in a Cell match at the namesake pay-per-view, and Orton doubled down on the sickening attack by taking a screwdriver, putting it through his earlobe, and twisting the screwdriver in a sickening way. These events will definitely always be talked about when talking about the career of Randy Orton.
SummerSlam 2011 Against Christian
I think everybody in the wrestling world knows that in 2011 the John Cena and CM Punk feud is one of the greatest feuds of our era, and their match at Money in the Bank 2011 is a top 10 greatest WWE match of all time. But there was another feud in 2011 that was wonderful as well, and that was Randy Orton vs. Christian. At Extreme Rules 2011, Christian defeated Alberto Del Rio in a ladder match (with Edge’s help) and won the vacant World Heavyweight title. Just 2 days later (technically 5 due to tape delay) Christian lost the title to Randy Orton on an episode of SmackDown, but would win it back two months later at Money in the Bank 2011. This set up a No Holds Barred match at SummerSlam, where Edge was supposed to be in Christian’s corner, but left him before the match. What ensued was a fantastic match, where Orton reversed an attempted sunset flip by Christian into an RKO on the ring steps to regain the World Heavyweight title in fantastic fashion.
2009 Royal Rumble Winner
Coming in at number 8, Orton lasted 48 minuted and 30 seconds in the Royal Rumble match. Two entrants later, Orton’s fellow Legacy member Ted DiBiase came in, and at number 15 the third member, Cody Rhodes entered. Legacy teamed up to eliminate Kane. The final 6 were the 3 Legacy members, Big Show, Undertaker, and Triple H. Undertaker and Big Show brawled on the apron and Orton hit Big Show with an RKO on the apron, eliminating him. Big Show pulled Undertaker off of the apron, eliminating him as well. Triple H was able to eliminate both DiBiase and Rhodes, and with Hunter on the ropes, Orton clotheslined him to win the Royal Rumble. This wouldn’t be the last Royal Rumble win for The Viper either, but it was a great moment for him and The Legacy.
Becoming a 2-Time WWE Champion on the Same Night
In 2008, Randy Orton was in a feud with then WWE Champion John Cena. This feud was supposed to culminate in a Last Man Standing match at No Mercy, however Cena was injured shortly before the PPV, and was pulled from the match. Opening No Mercy 2007, Vince McMahon awarded Orton the WWE Championship seemingly for injuring Cena. This sparked a match between he and Triple H for the title…which Triple H won…for some reason. To add to the confusion, Triple H defended, and retained the WWE Championship in a match later that night to Umaga. After that match, McMahon informed Triple H that Orton was invoking his rematch clause tonight, and booked him in a Last Man Standing match. Orton countered a pedigree into an RKO, which put Triple H down for the ten count, giving the title back to Randy Orton. The booking decision is questioning, but nonetheless, Randy Orton became a two time WWE Champion on the same night.
2013 Money in the Bank Winner
At the 2013 Money in the Bank PPV, Christian, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Rob Van Dam, Sheamus, and our boy Randy Orton competed for the Money in the Bank ladder match to challenge for the WWE Championship. At SummerSlam later that year, Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena to become the new WWE Champion with Triple H as a special guest referee. Bryan hit Cena with a running knee to win his first WWE Championship. As he celebrated, Randy Orton appeared holding the Money in the Bank contract. From behind, Triple H turned Bryan around and hit him with a Pedigree, turning heel in the process. Orton cashed in the contract, and pinned Bryan to become the WWE Champion for the 7th time in his career. The following night, The Authority was born.
WrestleMania 24 WWE Championship Retention
Following the above mentioned No Mercy 2007 pay-per-view, Orton really took off in the WWE as the WWE Champion. Following his No Mercy win, he successfully retained his title against Shawn Michaels twice, Chris Jericho, and Jeff Hardy. Following a DQ loss to John Cena at No Way Out 2008, both Cena and Triple H were gunning for The Vipers WWE Championship. The match wasn’t spectacular, but it was a great moment for Randal and I really enjoyed the finish. With Triple H on his shoulders, Cena went for an FU, but H countered it into a pedigree. While Trips’ went for the pin, Orton punted him across the face, and covered Cena for the win, and the retention.
The Wyatt Family
I’m putting this one in here for 2 reasons.
1) It’s memorable
2) I’m a Bray Wyatt/Wyatt Family mark.
That being said, I loved every second of this partnership and eventual split. Following his loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam (that legit elbow to the head match) Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper started interfering with Orton’s matches. A few weeks later, Wyatt had a match with Kane the next week, and Orton interfered on his behalf. Rumors began circulating that Orton would join the Wyatt Family. Wyatt and Harper would interfere in Orton’s match against Kane, thus confirming the heel turn and team up. Wyatt and Orton would go on to win the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, but would lose the belts less than a month later. Orton would win that years Royal Rumble, and afterwards relinquished his title opportunity due to Bray Wyatt being the WWE Champion. All this would lead to that weird (yet enjoyable) Wyatt Compound promo. Randy Orton is an arsonist….bottom line. He lit Wyatt’s home on fire in an effort to “burn the soul” of Sister Abigail. At WrestleMania 33, Orton defeated Wyatt to become the WWE Champion for the ninth time in his career. This was also the first WWE Championship win on the Grandest Stage of them All for Randy.
There are plenty of moments you can talk about when it comes to the master of the RKO Randy Orton. His incredible RKO on Seth Rollins at WrestleMania31, The Legacy faction, his feud with the Undertaker. Hell, “the legend killer” is one of my favorite personas in all of wrestling history. But I believe these 10 are the most memorable of Randy Orton’s career.
Featured Photo: Matthew Boyce | GCSN
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