Brash Orton's a softy at heart

TIM BAINES

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Maybe being the youngest heavyweight champion in WWE's history went to Randy Orton's head.

Maybe hearing a symphony of boos and cheers every night affected his perspective.

But Orton needed a reality check. And two years ago, he got it from Vince McMahon, who signs the paycheques.

"I wasn't thinking before I was saying things," says Orton, who seems to have matured through the humbling process. "I was taking the heel persona a little too seriously."

It was a chat with McMahon and subsequent suspension that had an impact.

"Vince said he couldn't have somebody who was a loose cannon. He said if any person was going to stop Randy Orton from succeeding, it was Randy Orton."

Orton, 28, says he's looking forward to tomorrow's Survivor Series, where Team Orton will take on Team Batista.

"There are few wrestlers at the level I'm at," he says. "My goal is to be the No. 1 guy here. I'm a future Hall of Famer. I'm already a three-time champ. Age is on my side. Nothing is going to stop me."

What about August's motorcycle crash that nearly killed him.

"I was going up a hill at night. A car swerved into my lane and I had two options -- to slide into the wall or try to make a turn. If I'd slid into the wall at 30 miles an hour, I would have been pretty messed up. I (hit a curb) and landed a couple of hundred feet away. I was wearing a helmet or I would have been dead. I really got lucky."

It's obvious Orton is still brash and bold. So how has he softened? How has he turned into a better person?

"We were just in Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Italy ... and Tampa before that," he says. "After being gone so long, I walked into our house and my daughter and wife were sleeping. They looked so beautiful, so peaceful. I just watched them for a bit. I knew then what I had with my wife. She's one of a kind.

"My daughter (Alanna) was so happy to see her dad. She remembered me. I'm very lucky, there's no doubt."

See, it's hard to hate the guy now. Within the heel, there's a big heart.


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