Randy Orton has been a staple player on the WWE landscape for quite some time now. After weathering a relatively generic debut as a guy fans were supposed to cheer for the simple fact that he was a third generation wrestler, he came into his own. First it was the heel turn, in which he gave self-important updates about his recovery from injury. Then there was his alignment with the Evolution stable and getting both the rub and the invaluable experience working alongside Ric Flair and Triple H. From his work as a main event face, to finding himself, with his father by his side, as a heel again, Orton transformed into part of the fabric of WWE programming—one of the company’s biggest and most important stars.
Fans have had mixed reactions to Orton throughout his tenure. He’s a big enough star with enough kayfabe success that there’s a segment of fans who can’t help but cheer him. But there are others who find his parade of chinlocks and his endless stream of main event opportunities, not to mention rumors of him being a jerk backstage, plenty of reason to hate on The Viper.
But what of Orton’s colleagues—the men and women who were around when Orton first started, or who rose alongside him? What about the younger stars who’ve come up since? There are those who clearly love Orton, but he’s also provoked his share of enemies over the years. This article looks at eight fellow wrestlers who love Randy Orton, and eight who can’t stand the guy.
16. Love Him: John Cena
On-screen, Randy Orton and John Cena have been long-time on-again, off-again rivals. Sometimes they’ve battled out of mutual respect, a pair of heroes on the WWE landscape. More often than not, however, their on-screen rivalry has been more pointed with Orton playing the heel, Cena the face, as was their dynamic for much of 2007 through 2009, and again from late 2013 to early 2014.
In real life, though, Cena and Orton came up as wrestlers together through the WWE developmental system, and debuted on the main roster in close succession. While Cena has said that he was put off by Orton’s attitude a bit in the early going, over the years, the two have developed a strong friendship. We can surely attribute this, in no small part, to the two of them working together so much over the years, but there also seems to be a high degree of mutual respect that grown out of being two of the top torch-bearers for their generation of WWE programming.
15. Hate Him: Kofi Kingston
In late 2009, Kofi Kingston looked to be on the verge of a break-through as he got embroiled in a heated on-screen feud with much bigger star Randy Orton. The wheels fell off of this push, though, when Orton not only defeated Kingston decisively in their blow-of match, but also ridiculed Kingston in real life.
Toward the end of their match, Kingston messed up a spot. Orton can clearly be seen and heard yelling at Kingston that he was stupid, looking positively enraged as he did it. While one could claim Orton was in character and talking trash to his opponent, a variety of accounts have called the awkward moment all too real. In addition to humiliating a young Kingston, it’s popular theory that blowing the spot, and Orton blaming him for it cost Kingston in the long run, and explains his prompt return to the mid-card where he languished for years to follow.
14. Love Him: American Alpha
The team of American Alpha, new stars Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, had the opportunity to work opposite the team of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt early in their main roster tenure. The matches were good and Orton, in particular, looked more energized in these bouts than he had for years.
Both sides went on to sing each other’s praises in interviews, with Orton talking about how working with hungry young talents motivated him to push himself physically, and American Alpha praised Orton for the caliber of his performances and his selflessness. Indeed, Orton ultimately ate pin to lose the tag titles to the rookie tag ream and set them on a course to dominate the tag division. Given Orton’s level of both experience and credibility, the performances mean a lot for getting American Alpha over with the fans and helping them further improve their game.
13. Hate Him: Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy has spoken out about Randy Orton in a lot of shoot interviews. To be fair, he claims that the two were friends and that even their wives got along. Things took a turn, however, when Kennedy claims Orton told management he was dangerous to work with. Orton purportedly cited a specific back body drop that might have badly injured The Viper. Ironically, it was Kennedy who was injured in a match with Orton in another instance, when an RKO landed incorrectly.
Kennedy has spun a conspiracy theory that casts Orton and John Cena as using their political power to stall Kennedy’s momentum on screen, and ultimately got him released. While it’s impossible for us outside the business to evaluate how on point his theories may be, the fact remains that Kennedy most certainly holds a grudge against his former friend.
12. Love Him: Chris Jericho
After SummerSlam 2016, the story leaked that Chris Jericho got into a heated verbal confrontation that almost turned into a fight with Brock Lesnar. The source of their tension? The well-being of Randy Orton.
Lesnar and Orton’s main event match ended with Lesnar mauling Orton with elbow shots until he was bloodied and the referee stopped the match. Lesnar continued the blows afterward, and it was unclear if everything was going according to plan, or if Lesnar had gotten angry and truly gone on the attack. Jericho, concerned for Orton’s safety, complained to Vince McMahon which led to the confrontation.
In explaining the incident on his podcast, Jericho explained that he was motivated purely out of concern for a good friend—that he wanted to make sure Orton hadn’t been taken advantage of or actually assaulted.
11. Hate Him: Rochelle Loewen
Rochelle Loewen may not have a very recognizable name to fans, based on her short WWE tenure and limited exposure to the audience. When we talk about people who hate Orton, though, she shoots toward the top of the list. Rumors swirled that Orton bullied members of the female roster at this early point in his career—around 2005—and the worst incident of all involved him going so far as to defecate in female wrestler’s gym bag.
Loewen was the victim, but clarified in subsequent interviews that he didn’t actually drop a deuce in her bag, but rather dumped lotion and oil into it and created a mess. She went on to blast Orton saying she wouldn’t be surprised if he actually would do such a thing, because she looked at him as such a mean-spirted and unprofessional jerk.
10. Love Him: Diamond Dallas Page
In a number of interviews, Diamond Dallas Page has been asked how he feels about Randy Orton. This question comes up, in particular, because The Viper’s finisher, the RKO is strikingly similar to the move that carried DDP to the main event almost a decade earlier, The Diamond Cutter. There’s a question as to whether Orton ripped him off.
DDP’s response has consistently come back as not only professional and kind, but altogether glowing about Orton. He’s called Orton the best worker in the business and even suggested he’s flattered by the comparisons. While their signature moves remain similar, and questions may remain about whether Orton’s version and his out-of-no-where delivery are a little too similar, the fact remains Page doesn’t seem the least bit mad about it. He’s made it abundantly clear he’s a Randy Orton fan.
9. Hate Him: Ted DiBiase Jr.
There are those times when a wrestling angle seems painfully simple. Take the case of Legacy—a stable with main eventer Randy Orton at the fore, and Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. as his henchmen and proteges. The trajectory seemed obvious, particularly as tensions mounted, that the angle would culminate in at least one of the young lions turning face and giving Orton his comeuppance. DiBiase seemed like the more obvious choice, though it was possible it would go to Rhodes, or that the two would somehow share the push.
Oddly enough, the group’s end culminated with Rhodes and DiBiase staying heel, and ultimately getting crushed by Orton after he turned face. DiBiase left WWE to spend time with his family but there were also a lot of rumors about him being dissatisfied with how his character was treated. There’s little wonder that Orton, who was already a made man, essentially stole a push custom designed for him.
8. Love Him: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes worked right alongside Ted DiBiase Jr. as one of Randy Orton’s sidekicks in Legacy. While Rhodes didn’t necessarily prosper as an immediate result of this angle, he did wind up advancing in his career in the aftermath of the Legacy faction. Through constant evolution and character changes, he became an upper mid-card fixture before turning face to rival The Authority. So, while Dibiase stalled out after Orton got his push, Rhodes paved his own way in the years to follow.
Rhodes did eventually hit a glass ceiling, though, in the Stardust gimmick and ultimately walked away from WWE. Upon his departure, Orton expressed his surprise and disappointment. On Twitter, he responded to departure by listing Rhodes as a true friend among colleagues. So, it was clear that a bond remained between the two, and there’s reason to believe their backstage relationship continued long past their on-screen partnership.
7. Hate Him: CM Punk
CM Punk seems to have an axe to grind with a lot of his WWE co-workers. In the WWE-produced documentary Best in the World, Punk discussed his frustrations with getting stuck in the upper mid-card, and particularly never getting to main event a WrestleMania. One of the years when Punk might have gotten that top spot—that he specifically cited as the first year when he was WWE’s top heel and ought to have squared off against the top face, John Cena, in the main event—was WrestleMania XXVII. Punk, instead, found himself working with Orton.
Punk is, in many ways, the antithesis of Orton. Whereas Orton has a great look and has had every opportunity to be a top player, despite some fan backlash, Punk languished outside the main event for years despite a groundswell of support. Orton racked up enough Wellness Policy suspensions to push WWE’s hand in revamping its rules so they wouldn’t have to fire him. Punk is adamantly straight edge. Perhaps most importantly of all, while Orton remained relatively cookie-cutter in terms of his look, his in-ring style and his promos, Punk was always different. It’s little wonder these two were never close.
6. Love Him: Daniel Bryan
Though they were arch-rivals for an extended stretch from 2013 to 2014, by all accounts, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton got along well and respected each other. In the Bryan-centric WWE 24 special, Orton spoke glowingly about his colleague, while Bryan cited his feud with Orton, and particularly winning the world title off him at WrestleMania XXX as career highlights that defined his WWE legacy. While there are plenty of parties Orton hasn’t treated as well, or who have reason to not get along with the Viper, Bryan’s not among them.
While on-screen rivalries can translate to real-life hostilities, Bryan and Orton seem to have developed a real mutual admiration based on their experience working together in the ring. They’re a prime example of friends playing their part so well that fans would never guess the actual nature of their backstage relationship.
5. Hate Him: The Rock
When The Rock returned to the WWE fold in the build to WrestleMania XXVII, he drew a mixed reaction. There were those grateful for the return of one of wrestling’s all-time greats. There were those who balked at a part-time talent with questionable commitment coming back to take a high-profile spot from full-time talents.
As Rock’s tenure wore on, and particularly as he feuded with John Cena to build to their WrestleMania XXVIII main event match, the critiques picked up. In particular, Orton spoke out against The Rock. In a radio interview, The Viper zoned in on Rock’s claim that he was back and he was never leaving, questioning if the movie star meant it. Rock was reportedly angry enough about the comments to complain straight to Vince McMahon. Orton reportedly got heat for speaking out against The Great One, and this may be why he dialed back his comments, and even went out of his way to praise Rock in future media appearances.
4. Love Him: Triple H
Randy Orton and Batista were hand picked to join Triple H and Ric Flair in the Evolution stable. Some of it was a matter of storyline—selecting two young heels to complement the veterans. But as noted in numerous WWE-produced documentaries, the choice was also purposeful from a backstage perspective. Triple H, in particular, was hand-picking guys with star potential and helping to bring them along in the ways of the business.
Triple H looked at Orton, in particular, as a protégé, which led to Orton breaking from the group and engaging in a main event feud with Triple H. The two have revisited both the kayfabe rivalry and partnership a number of times. Especially given Triple H’s increasingly part-time status as an on-screen character, the revisiting of this pairing speaks volumes to how much Triple H believes in and respects Orton.
3. Hate Him: Kelly Kelly
In an infamous radio show appearance in 2011, Orton had some choice words about a number of his colleagues. No one came out worse than Kelly Kelly, the female star who Orton wasn’t too subtle about calling promiscuous (to put it kindly). While accounts vary as to how on-point Orton’s comments were, Kelly was well-liked by her peers and a lot of folks backstage were upset with The Viper for what he said. Moreover, WWE was trying to project a wholesome image for all of its talents at the time, and so management was also not pleased with what Orton said.
Orton issued a public apology shortly thereafter to smooth things over. Kelly stayed tight-lipped at the time. She did, however, make allusions to not getting along with Orton in shoot interviews after she left WWE.
2. Love Him: Bob Orton
This entry may come as no surprise, but in a business in which plenty of families have been torn apart through disrespect, egos, professional jealousies, or philosophical differences, it’s noteworthy that Cowboy Bob Orton has always stood by his son. Indeed, the older Orton went so far as to re-enter the fray as Orton’s manager and occasional in-ring partner at a critical point when his son returned to a heel persona and went to war with The Undertaker. Better yet, Cowboy never had a bad word to say publicly about his son, and after Randy was ready to succeed solo again, his old man quietly disappeared from his on-screen role.
Randy Orton got introduced to fans as a third-generation star. It’s a credit to him that he’s kept his family close even as he surpassed the legacy that came before him, and became the family’s first bona fide, long-term main event talent on a national scale.
1. Hate Him: Roman Reigns
It’s well-documented that fans have a love-hate relationship with Roman Reigns. Nonetheless, an interesting conundrum came up during Reigns’s rise to the main event level because he went through Orton—another talent fans of that ilk tended to root against.
The house show matches between the two, in the build to SummerSlam 2014, were widely criticized as boring and lethargic and Orton got most of the blame, with some theorizing he was purposefully making Reigns look bad.
The incident followed a year after another backstage shake up when Reigns, still part of The Shield, allegedly got in a shouting match with Orton about a blown spot in one of their six-man tag matches.
Orton and Reigns have worked together since with little discernible tension beyond pro wrestling theatrics, so maybe they made peace with one another. Nonetheless, it seems clear Reigns is not a fan of Orton.
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