On his Instagram page, Orton posted a photo of himself staring at a sign that read "Elite Level." He tagged various WWE and AEW talents in the photo, including Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho.
With Orton's initial 10-year contract set to expire in 2020, there was good reason to believe that the 13-time World Champion was serious about possibly leaving. But of course, that didn't end up being the case.
So if Orton was seemingly keen on staying with WWE the whole time, why would he tease about joining AEW? The Viper explained to After The Bell (h/t Ringside News) that it was merely for the purposes of fun, and that he didn't envision leaving the company that made him a legend.
"Yeah, I was just having fun. More-so now than ever I’m aware of other guys like Will Ospreay and other guys who worked with Cody and I’m watching more wrestling. I’m not in the WWE bubble as much as I’ve been for almost the last two decades...
This might be upsetting for some people, but I never really saw myself leaving WWE. To me, it was about getting to the point where I’m happy and what I’m doing to my body and the amount of time that I’m gone from my family.
In the end, it’s all gonna be worth it and that’s where I’m at right now so I’m definitely happy being a WWE Superstar."
Losing Orton would have been quite the blow for WWE, given his status as one of the company's premier superstars of the 21st centuries. They already lost Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley) to AEW, while WWE legend Chris Jericho is enjoying life as a top superstar on the rival company.
WWE has treated Orton well, and he obviously feels that way. At the end of it all, there was nothing really AEW could have done to bring him aboard. They'll have to sit back and wait another day to try and recruit other WWE superstars.
Staying In WWE Was Best For Orton
It made sense for Orton to stick around with WWE, because this is the company that built him into a legend. And of course, WWE will continue to do what they can to accommodate the 39-year-old superstar over the long haul. Orton is one of the most decorated superstars in history, and it only seems fair that he finishes his career where it started.