Has The Viper lost his bite to the cunning Del Rio?
Randy Orton kicked off the Oct. 26 edition of SmackDown with his usual quiet confidence and stoicism as he responded to Alberto Del Rio’s dogged pursuit of the nine-time World Title holder.
Unfortunately, Orton also forgot to keep his guard up.
Moments after promising to dole out “the single most brutal beating of [Del Rio’s] life” at WWE Hell in a Cell this Sunday ( MATCH PREVIEW), The Viper fell prey to an assault from behind by longstanding rival Wade Barrett. The English brawler’s sneak attack was not only brief, but its purpose — to prove that Del Rio could play mind games with the third-generation Superstar — also came through loud and clear.
Just a few short months ago, the master of the RKO stood on the ring apron and stated his intentions to challenge Sheamus for his World Heavyweight Championship. Orton would come up short against Big Show, however, for the right to be The Celtic Warrior’s next No. 1 contender — thanks to two vicious ambushes by Del Rio. ( WATCH) Then after being taunted by a seemingly fearless Del Rio in the weeks that followed, a timely distraction by The Mexican Aristocrat on Friday evening caused The Viper to succumb to Barrett’s Souvenir Elbow for a demoralizing defeat just two days before the upcoming pay-per-view.
It leaves the WWE Universe asking one question: Has Alberto Del Rio caused Randy Orton to lose his serpentine edge?
In addition to adopting The Viper’s signature poses, Del Rio also chose to co-opt Orton’s moniker. Calling himself “the new Apex Predator,” The Mexican Aristocrat mustered up a new level of notorious behavior, a place many could argue used to belong solely to The Viper.
Using the same Cross Armbreaker he made Orton submit to on the Friday before Night of Champions 2012, Del Rio made Daniel Bryan experience a similar fate during the Oct. 12 edition of SmackDown. ( WATCH | PHOTOS) He imposed his will on Brodus Clay during Raw the following week. ( WATCH | PHOTOS) He trapped Zack Ryder in the Cross Armbreaker one week later and refused to break the hold, signaling that he intended to produce another merciless attack against Orton at Hell in a Cell. ( WATCH | PHOTOS)
Admittedly, Orton did lash out with a post-match attack on his latest rival after Del Rio forced Bryan to submit. Yet that clash did little to slow down the former two-time WWE Champion, who now exudes a cocky, cruel attitude that he lacked against Sheamus in recent months. As The Viper continues to recover from his losing ways, Del Rio appears to be peaking at the right time.
Does Orton still have what it takes to deal with a pesky opponent like Del Rio? Can he rediscover the path that made him the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history and a nine-time World Title holder? Or is his recent slide just the first sign that The Viper may now be easier prey for a grappling mogul seeking to make a name for himself?
At Hell in a Cell, Orton will need to establish a level of ruthless aggression that he’s lacked in recent weeks. Otherwise, should The Viper find that the venom from his fangs has dried up, there may be little Orton can do to put a stop to Del Rio’s plans for domination.