Perhaps the nine months away from the ring did more than just heal Randy Orton’s shoulder.
The longtime WWE vet is great when he puts in effort. That’s why he’s currently more entertaining than he’s been in years.
Perhaps even as good as his angle with Triple H in 2009 or his “Legend Killer” gimmick. But whatever Orton did during his nine-month hiatus from WWE, it worked.
For the first time in years, the “Viper” looks like he’s putting in full effort. When he does this, he’s one of the best in the industry.
Orton is arguably the second biggest WWE star of the past decade behind John Cena. He’s a 12-time world champion, third-generation superstar and is – as JBL has said repeatedly – “how you’d build a sports entertainer from the ground up.”
Yet Orton’s character has lacked excitement at times. But it really just depends on how invested the “Viper” is.
Orton has excelled when his character goes through a change, be it a heel turn or complete repackaging. But he lacks enthusiasm when he has to wrestle Sheamus 150 times in one year, much like he did prior to his injury.
Internet fans pointed this out during his most recent run prior to his return. Orton is one of the smoothest in-ring competitors in professional wrestling. He’s capable of cutting entertaining promos and gaining positive or negative reactions. Yet he tends to wrestle on autopilot when given a lackluster angle.
Orton is wrestling’s equivalent to Randy Moss. He’s one of his sport’s most talented competitors and a future Hall of Famer, but gives varying effort in certain situations.
But that’s not a knock at either of them. Moss was the best receiver in the NFL during the majority of his career even if he gave 75 percent and was untouchable at 100. Orton has done the same in the squared circle.
So when you get the Viper at 100 percent effort you get magic. That’s what we’ve seen from him as of late.
Orton made his return at Battleground during an interview segment with Chris Jericho. His promo was sharp and his promo was sassier than any since his last heel run.
Orton continued this trend on his first SmackDown Live appearance following the WWE Draft. But his “RKO out of nowhere” on Brock Lesnar during Monday’s episode of Raw solidified his resurgence.
The run-in, chase by security and stare down from the crowd did more to build excitement for their SummerSlam match than anything Paul Heyman said in the promo leading up to it. Keep in mind, Heyman is the best at selling a match with words alone.
But Orton legitimized himself as a threat to the unbeatable beast and reminded fans why he’s one of the company’s biggest stars.
Orton’s time away may have recharged his love of wrestling as well. Or maybe feuding with Lesnar and having a good angle to work with has forced him to up his game.
But there’s definitely something different about this Orton than the one from nine months prior. This “Viper” fits in perfectly with the New Era of SmackDown and provides a strong veteran presence to the blue brand.