Maturity arrives for Randy Orton
TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
|Randy Orton. Photos courtesy World Wrestling Entertainment.
Maybe being the youngest heavyweight champion in WWE's history went to Randy Orton's head.
Maybe hearing a symphony of boos and cheers from thousands of people every night affected his perspective.
But Orton needed a reality check. And two years ago, he got it from Vince McMahon, who happens to sign 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. I was told, 'This isn't going to work for you. That's what the ring is for. This is a publicly traded company and you're not a kid anymore."
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."
So why didn't one of the other wrestlers, one of the veterans, give the third-generation star a reality slap?
"I'm sure Triple H was probably thinking it. He probably had a hundred of those conversations with me," says Orton.
He says internet reports at the time accused him of trashing a hotel room, something he says just wasn't true.
"I came home early from a show in Germany and the night before I flew out, a couple of the other wrestlers, who I won't name, got out the fire extinguishers and had a war in the hotel. There was thousands of dollars worth of damage. Everybody thought it was me because I flew home right after. There were signs in arenas: 'Randy Orton destroyed my hotel room.'"
Orton says he's looking forward to tomorrow's Survivor Series, where Team Orton will take on Team Batista.
"Being part of it is awesome," he says. "My goal this show and every time I got out there is to steal the show."
At age 28, Orton says he's still on the rise.
"You look at the talent and you've got a lot of the veterans getting to the age where they have to slow down ... lighten up their schedules, maybe do some movies," says Orton. "You've got a big crop of second- and third-generation wrestlers. And you've got a lot of new guys with limited experience. There are very few wrestlers at the level I'm at. There are going to be a lot of things for me to do down the road, movies and sponsorships, but my goal is to be the No. 1 guy here.
"As long as I'm kicking ass and taking names, the titles will find me."
Orton strikes a pose.
Orton was recently ranked the No. 1 wrestler by Pro Wrestling Illustrated
, but he says he doesn't pay much attention to those accolades.
"If I'm first or 60th, it doesn't really matter to me," he says. "But when my wife sees the magazine at Walgreen's ... she's like, 'That's so cool!' "They can hate me. I would love for all of them to hate me. It really means nothing to me."
Since he's The Legend Killer, does he see himself as a future legend?
"I'm a future Hall of Famer," he says. "I'm already a three-time champ. Age is on my side. Nothing is going to stop me."
But what about the injuries, the broken collarbone he got in June's One Night Stand match against Triple H, a setback that sidelined him until early this month?
"If I tear a muscle, I'll come back. I'll keep coming back. Doctors now, they fix you up better than ever. I'll definitely be a household name if I'm not already," says Orton.
And what about August's motorcycle accident that could have killed him?
"I was 3-4 weeks from returning to the ring, maybe not even that long," he says. "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 didn't have enough road, (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. We'd just had the baby. I got to stay home some more and spend time with the baby."
He's back riding again.
"The first time back I was a little nervous, but that went away," he says. "The accident wasn't my fault. I just learned how to ride. Before the injury, I wasn't that experienced."
Orton headlocks CM Punk.
So what's next?
"Batista's in my sights. [John] Cena tore his pec before we could wrap up our feud. And I want to prove to everybody I'm better than Rey Mysterio. We had a run on Smackdown!, but I'd like to have a good run with him."
It's been well documented that Orton is the son of Cowboy Bob and grandson of Bob Sr., but what about his uncle Barry O, who was also a wrestler?
"When it comes to wrestling stats, he's not up to par with my father and grandfather," says Orton. "He's not a big part of our family. My wife and I had a baby girl (July 12) and I never got a call from him. I did everything I did by myself. My dad helped me get my foot in the door, just like his dad helped him get his foot in the door."
It's obvious Orton still is 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, when I got home, 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.
Randy Orton bio and story archive
Tim Baines is the Ottawa Sun Sports Editor and writes a weekly wrestling column for Sun Media. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.