The Anti-Superstar: Randy Orton

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September 17, 2012

After weeks of losing to WWE Legends in the ramp-up to Raw 1,000, Heath Slater was ready for his moment, primed to face a current Superstar and show the world what he could do when pitted against an equal. As the WWE Universe held its collective breath, the arena suddenly darkened, and the familiar chorus rang out: “I hear voices in my head…”

While the crowd in Cincinnati, OH, roared its approval, Randy Orton strode to the ring, his eyes hooded, and his gaze purposeful. In little more than a minute, The Viper had decimated The One Man Band with a brutal RKO, and then arose from the canvas, arms outstretched, as thousand of fans in attendance hailed his return.

Welcome to the next phase of Randy Orton.

Seated in his private tour bus rolling along an unnamed highway somewhere out West, Randy takes a moment to reflect on a career that, even by the standards of a WWE Superstar, defies categorization. He’s not a flag-waving, crowd-saluting hero of the masses like John Cena, or a saber-rattling, rabble-rousing upstart such as CM Punk. Instead, Orton’s managed to navigate the waters of WWE by perpetually swimming against the prevailing tide. So, as we stand on the cusp of this latest WWE run, one has to ask: How has he made it this far at all?

“Just by me being who I really am,” he replies, after a long pause. “Not concerning myself with other people’s opinions. Not letting other people dictate who I am in the ring. Even when I’m told to do something, if I can find a way to go about doing it my own way, then I will.”

The Hunt For Respect

The respect Orton has garnered from members of the WWE Universe, he says, comes from his complete and total unwillingness to compromise. Case in point—January 19, 2009. On Raw, Randy and Mr. McMahon were squaring off in the ring, with The Chairman angling for an apology from The Apex Predator for denigrating Stephanie McMahon and calling her “worthless.” During the exchange, Mr. McMahon threatened to fire Orton, but before he could completely utter his oft-growled catchphrase, Orton’s fist collided with his jaw, sending the billionaire to the mat with a look of genuine shock. “How many of our guys, if given an opportunity to punch or kick Vince would actually knock his lights out?” he says with a rueful laugh. “Nobody. Me. I hit him so hard he went down. Then I nearly kicked his head off. But that’s who I am. I will do whatever I have to do.”

In Orton’s mind, the fall from the top began when the fans stopped being afraid of him. Back in his hell-raising days as the wild-eyed, volatile IED-driven powerhouse, he could turn a fan’s legs to liquid with one cold stare—and they loved him for it. “They almost couldn’t put their finger on why they liked me, but they knew that they did because I had that look,” he says. “I came down the ramp and I didn’t smile. I didn’t pump my fist. I’d make six-year-old kids cry at live events just by looking at them before I got in the ring. I had this fear that I could put into the fans. But [now], I’m slapping hands, I’m kissing babies…instead of being my own person. I had something special there, and I’ve lost it, and I’m trying to get it back.”

To read more of Randy's Orton's exclusive interview, including his battle for privacy and changing his current approach, pick-up the October issue of 'WWE Magazine' or SUBSCRIBE HERE and save 70% off newsstand sale price.

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