Orton's Great American bide

Orton's Great American bide

When Cody Rhodes slapped Randy Orton's face Monday night on Raw, the sold-out Cajundome crowd in Lafayette, La., expected one of two things to occur: 1) An irate Orton would attack, and both Cody and his father -- "The American Dream," Dusty Rhodes -- would become the recipients of some rapid-fire RKO's, or 2) an irate Orton would attack, and the Rhodes tandem would beat the hell out of him.

Instead, an irate Orton reacted to the slap in a manner our fans simply aren't accustomed to: He slowly made his departure from the ring.

Naturally, the Cajundome audience let the third-generation Superstar have it; "chicken," plus other disparaging (not to mention much more offensive) taunts and jeers accompanied his every step back up the Raw ramp. In the past, such slander and boos would likely have gotten the best of Orton -- the "old" Randy Orton, anyway. The Randy Orton whose potential has continually surpassed his achievements, and whose actions have often fallen way short of backing up his big mouth.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to stop living in the past when it comes to Randy Orton. Because Randy Orton certainly has.

If truth be told, Orton played his hand perfectly last Monday night. And because he did, the destroyer of WWE Legends will face Dusty Rhodes one week from Sunday at an event made famous by "The American Dream" -- The Great American Bash.

The plan almost didn't work. At first, Dusty had no intention of stepping back into the squared circle to square off against a Superstar he deemed as "a disrespectful, snotty-nosed punk." But the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history pushed exactly the right button to change Rhodes' mind: "Do it for your son, Cody," he goaded. "You want to make your boy proud, don't you? Or should I just end Cody's career before it even starts?"

Fearing that Cody -- who's not even part of the official WWE Superstar roster -- might become a target, Dusty accepted Orton's challenge, "but on my terms…a Texas Bull Rope Match!" Orton smiled and agreed, and no wonder. Granted, he has never competed in this type of grueling contest, but that's where growing up in a family of Legends comes in handy -- especially when the expert fatherly advice comes from "Cowboy" Bob Orton, a WWE Hall of Famer who's quite familiar with the knots and loop holes tied into a Texas Bull Rope Match.

It should come as no real surprise that Cody would head to the ring to back Dusty; any good son would support their dad, and vice versa. But the youngster's sudden presence seemed only to widen Orton's malicious smirk, a grin that suggested he knew precisely how the Rhodes men would respond to his every coaxing word or deed.

That said, if there was one response Orton visibly hadn't anticipated, it was the slap. He assumed that he could simply bully Cody around by getting in his face and staring him down, but it appears tenacity and fortitude are Rhodes family traits. Dusty may never have been prouder as Cody whacked the taste from Orton's mouth, and it was certainly a moment that our fans enjoyed reveling in. While they chanted and cheered "Cody," Orton could only stare in open-mouthed astonishment and rub his jaw, which was reddened as much by embarrassment as from the actual blow.

A year ago, this would have been the instant when Randy Orton became unglued. He would have reacted wildly, without any forethought that even if he managed to garner some short-term pound of flesh, he would almost certainly lose his Great American Bash opportunity to destroy another WWE Legend. And the sad thing is, in the heat of the moment, he might not have even cared, so long as he reaped instant gratification.

Again, however, that was the "old" Randy Orton. Since surfacing earlier this year, this Randy Orton has left a pile of battered, beaten Superstars in his wake, and apparently laid to rest the careers of Shawn Michaels and Rob Van Dam. Boo and taunt him all you like for not striking back at Cody or Dusty Rhodes on Raw Monday night, but don't mistake this Randy Orton's surprising inaction for cowardice. He's more cunning, more vicious and therefore more dangerous than ever. And he's simply biding his time until The Great American Bash, when he can respond on a bigger stage, in a bigger match and with a bigger prize to claim.

Check out Orton's Skull t-shirt....

Get three bonus matches when you order The Great American Bash 2007 webcast! Don't miss it this Sunday, July 22.

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