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Orton’s return highlights WWE’s risk with SummerSlam match

WWE Champion Randy Orton poses on the top rope before the start of his triple threat match against Batista and Daniel Bryan to close Wrestlemania 30, Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome on April 6, 2014.
(Matt Roberts/ZUMA Press/Icon Sportswire)

Ever since it was announced that Brock Lesnar’s next match under the WWE umbrella would be against Randy Orton at SummerSlam, fans have been speculating on whether or not “The Beast” would dismantle his opponent like he always seems to do when he steps in the ring, or if Lesnar would succumb to “The Viper’s” clutches, potentially as punishment for his UFC drug test failure.

But amongst all the discussion of how Orton would hold up, few stopped to consider if Randy Orton would even make it to SummerSlam on his bad shoulder.

This week on SmackDown Live, Randy Orton made his return to in-ring competition with an impromptu match against The Miz, and though he appeared to be in top shape as he made short work of the Intercontinental Champion with two vicious RKOs, there was a moment where it looked like SummerSlam’s main event may have been in jeopardy.

During the match, Orton took a nasty spill to the outside, and had what could only be described as a fit while clutching his surgically-repaired arm. Orton’s never been bad at selling, but his apprehension going forward in the match, particularly following his initial RKO, was a clear indication that something could have went drastically wrong with regards to his injury.

A few days on, we know that Orton is all right and it was probably just an exceptional performance on his part, but the scare still highlights the dangers that come with announcing a match of such epic proportions without confirming the health of both parties first.

Orton already had a track record with shoulder injuries prior to his accident late last year, and if he’s able to throw out his shoulder by simply taking out the trash, who’s to say he can’t do the same thing in the ring as soon as he returns? And that’s against a normal competitor like The Miz. There’s no telling what kind of damage Lesnar is capable of dishing out to an already vulnerable opponent.

It’s completely understandable why WWE would want Orton to shake off the ring rust before his huge match at SummerSlam; it allows them to draw in ratings for SmackDown Live too. But to have Orton’s first match back take place after the announcement of his SummerSlam match-up is a big risk that could have still easily backfired on the company.

There’s a substantial margin for error when you put the bulk of your SummerSlam build-up on a match involving somebody who’s still on the shelf. You can take as many bumps as you like, and undergo as many physical examinations as possible, but there’s no telling how a person’s rehabilitation has gone until they get back in the ring in front of a crowd.

You would have to think that Orton’s “scare” on Tuesday came as a bit of a shock to the system for WWE, whether it was legitimate or not. SummerSlam is shaping up to have a blockbuster line-up, with Finn Bálor gearing up to take on Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship and Dolph Ziggler getting a chance at Dean Ambrose’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but the bout they’ve been marketing the most is also the one with the most danger of not even taking place.

Though the concept of Lesnar vs. Orton did just appear out of the blue when WWE announced it would be happening, it has been discussed as a dream match of sorts before. You may count Orton out, but the fact remains that he has been a constant on WWE programming for about 14 years.

Having grown as a performer at the same time as Lesnar himself, even competing together in OVW, it makes sense why a lot of people would be interested in seeing this bout between two future WWE Hall of Famers while they can. And now that the company has dangled the carrot in front of us, to be forced to take it away would be a huge loss for the company, no matter what they replace it with.

Naturally, once the match takes place and all is said and done, there’ll be nothing to worry about. Even if Orton gets injured again, although it would be a loss for SmackDown Live to lose one of its top features, he’ll still have completed the task he set out to.

But until then, WWE and Orton himself should be taking every measure to ensure the fight goes ahead as scheduled. Otherwise, there may be some fans looking for refunds.

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