Randy Orton has become a true establishment guy in WWE. He’s a veteran mainstay whom management is comfortable cycling into the main event picture at intervals because he’s over enough to never feel out of place in that role. Of the course of The Viper’s 15 years on the WWE main roster, he’s occupied a lot of different spaces on the card and worked with a wide variety of talents. As you might expect over that period of time and that range of experiences, Orton has made some friends and also made some enemies.
Orton is nothing if not opinionated. He has had a handful of loose cannon moments in which he seems a little too off the cuff speaking about his colleagues. There are also quite a few rumors surrounding him and his feelings in regards to his fellow wrestlers. It seems clear that there are people he loves in the wrestling business---guys he looks up to who helped him along the way, colleagues he’s done great work with, and less established talents he’s tried to lend a hand. On the flip side, there are those parties whom Orton doesn’t seem to think so highly of. Whether it’s a longstanding beef from Orton’s younger days when he was known to be more rambunctious, younger talents who have rubbed Orton the wrong way, or people he simply doesn’t seem to get along with, these are the talents Orton, for lack of a better word, hates.
This article looks at eight wrestlers Orton loves, and seven he can’t stand.
15 Loves: Triple H
When Randy Orton showed up on the WWE main roster, his timing was just right to fall directly under Triple H’s wing. The year was 2002, and the top stars of yesteryear like Steve Austin, The Rock, and Mick Foley were in the process of transitioning away from full time performance. Triple H was still hanging on, but there was a clear and present need to build new top guys.
Orton was hand picked, alongside Batista, to fill out roster spots in Triple H’s new Evolution stable, with Ric Flair playing the veteran and sometimes manager, and Triple H himself as the main eventer, mentoring two young studs to headline in the future. As it turns out, Orton would not only be involved with Triple H for this period, but see his whole career intertwined with The Game. That includes his first full-fledged main event feud, fending off Triple H as a challenger years later, and reuniting as the heel Authority that gave Daniel Bryan his greatest obstacle.
Orton owes Triple H a lot for the success of his career, and clearly thinks well of his mentor.
14 Hates: Bob Holly
Bob Holly has a bad reputation among fans for being a bit of backstage bully and, in particular, being stiff with rookies in the ring. Holly has dismissed all of this as nonsense in interviews, questioning how he could have had such a long WWE tenure if he hadn’t been professional and well-liked. As fans, it’s tough to know the full truth on that one.
What we do know is that after Orton had established himself in WWE, he felt comfortable talking about his own experience with Holly. Orton squared off with him very early in his main roster run. In an interview, he claimed that Holly wanted to toughen him up, so he was stiff in the ring and taught him to fight for himself within the context of a wrestling match. He did also say that Holly was a bit of a bully.
13 Loves: American Alpha
This past winter, Randy Orton found himself working a number of matches opposite American Alpha. The Viper won the tag titles with Bray Wyatt, and spent several weeks teaming with Wyatt himself, and rotating to team with Luke Harper. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable chased them and finally took the titles off the better established heels.
In interviews, Orton had nothing but good things to say about the young tag team. He specifically praised them for their energy and for helping him up his game with fresh match ups and having to keep up with their fast pace. Though American Alpha would wind up dropping their titles to The Usos and seem to have slipped down the card a bit for the time being, it’s established that they have at least one high profile veteran supporter in Orton.
12 Hates: Kofi Kingston
In the fall of 2009, Randy Orton worked a memorable program with Kofi Kingston. Kingston was, up to that point a mid-card guy, and this storyline looked like it might do just the trick to help push Kingston up to main event status. In the end, however, Orton won their blow off match, and Kingston never saw much meaningful advancement.
By most accounts, Kingston blew a key spot in one of their late matches—a triple threat in Raw the following January—which led to Orton visibly and audibly scolding the younger star, calling him “stupid.” While it wouldn’t be completely out of character for the villainous Orton to taunt him like that, there seemed to be a real anger and fire in the moment. It’s widely rumored that this blown spot, in addition to Kingston not getting over to the extent management hoped, led to him getting de-pushed coming out of this program.
11 Loves: Chris Jericho
At this point, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho are both well-tenured WWE veterans. They’ve worked together a handful of times throughout the year. In the summer of 2016, the not entirely surprising news broke that the two are backstage friends.
The news came out because of Jericho standing up for Orton in confronting first Vince McMahon and then Brock Lesnar when he was concerned that Lesnar had gone into business for himself at SummerSlam. The main event of the show was Lesnar vs. Orton, and the battle ended in an ugly way with Lesnar busting open Orton with stiff elbow shots. It turned out that Lesnar was following the script and nothing had gotten out of control. Just the same, in not only getting in the boss’s face, but not backing down from a confrontation with Lesnar, Jericho proved not only his courage, but his loyalty to his friend. Orton had to appreciate his friend’s concern and willingness to have his back.
10 Hates: Kelly Kelly
In a 2011 radio interview, Randy Orton infamously lit into Kelly Kelly. He started by alluding to her sleeping around the WWE locker room, and proceeded to call back to that point as a running joke throughout the conversation. The comments were surely offensive to Kelly herself, and also problematic for WWE given they were entrenched in the family friendly PG era by that point.
While WWE didn’t publicly sanction Orton, based on how apologetic he was on his social media the next day, you have to assume that he got a stern talking to. Orton clearly didn’t respect Kelly very much to make the comments in the first place, and can’t think much better of her after a situation directly involving her got him into hot water with management.
9 Loves: John Cena
There was a time when John Cena vs. Randy Orton was something of a dream match, because WWE shrewdly built these two stars at the same time, but kept them apart from one another. All that changed in 2007, when the two began an on and off rivalry that would stretch two years. It was long enough that fans tired of it, and were vocal in booing when WWE revisited the feud in late 2013.
For all the time that Cena and Orton have spent as enemies on screen, by all account they’re very good friends behind the scenes. Their closeness makes sense, given guys who work together regularly in front of the crowd need to communicate and plan together in the locker room. Moreover, the two are each now veteran locker room leaders with a shared respect.
8 Hates: Mr. Kennedy
There was a time when Mr. Kennedy looked like he might join guys like Randy Orton and John Cena at the tip-top of WWE. Ill-timed injuries wound up messing up a series of big breaks for him, though, after which backstage politics got the better of him.
According to a variety of interviews with Kennedy, he actually considered Orton a personal friend, and has referenced that their partners were friends, too. Things changed, however, when Orton became part of the establishment, and when, Kennedy claims, Cena got in his ear. Kennedy says Orton wound up going to management to complain Kennedy was reckless in the ring after a match between the two. That was apparently the last straw to get him de-pushed and ultimately released from WWE.
Getting a former friend fired? That’s a pretty clear cut sign you don’t like someone, besides which Kennedy continuing to talk about Orton in interviews can’t have helped his standing in The Viper’s eyes.
7 Loves: Batista
Randy Orton and Batista came up together, through Ohio Valley Wrestling and then as the chosen two young stars for the Evolution stable. They spent a lot of time together on the road and would be on again off again rivals in the years to follow. As such, it only makes sense that the two would forge a bond with one another.
To drive home Orton’s admiration of Batista, after The Animal left the business full time, The Viper continued to praise him in interviews. In particular, he noted that Batista’s frame and physical presence were more impressive and better suited to being an intimidating pro wrestler than the body types of guys like Ryback in the next generation of superstars.
It’s little surprise that when Batista returned to WWE for a short stint in 2014, he spent a lot of that run working with Orton, first as rivals then as teammates in a reunited Evolution group.
6 Hates: Rochelle Loewen
It’s become one of the most infamous stories attached to Orton that, when he was younger, wilder, and, frankly, more of a jerk, he defecated in a female wrestler’s bag. The victim was Rochelle Loewen, a Diva Search participant who’d go on to wrestle very sporadically and appear in backstage segments for months to follow.
In interviews years later, Loewen said the story had been distorted and that Orton hadn’t literally done his business in her bag, but rather squirted lotion in it and made a mess of everything. Nonetheless, it was clear that she thought he was disgusting. Orton clearly didn’t think very highly of her to pull this prank, and surely doesn’t appreciate the bad reputation he developed as the story spun out and got exaggerated.
5 Loves: Cody Rhodes
Following in the footsteps of Evolution, when Orton had solidified his status as a veteran, he was booked to team up with younger stars Ted DiBiase Jr. and Cody Rhodes in the Evolution stable. The theory was sound—that Orton could both give these kids the rub and mentor them, and by the time the group broke up, one or both of them would be ready for the top of the card themselves.
While the plan didn’t exactly work out—Rhodes and DiBiase never became full-fledged main eventers—the stable was successful enough in and of itself, and Orton and Rhodes, at the least, forged a bond. When Rhodes decided to leave WWE in 2016, Orton was quoted as saying that a lot of the guys in the locker rooms were just acquaintances and coworkers, whereas he was sad to see Rhodes go, because he was a true friend.
4 Hates: The Rock
The Rock made a surprise return to the WWE Universe in the build to WrestleMania XXVII. Once the initial shock of the prodigal son coming home wore off, he quickly became one of the most divisive figures in wrestling.
No doubt, Rock is a super-over superstar who functions as a tremendous ambassador for WWE, and it feels like a big deal every time he comes back. Just the same, there are questions about his commitment to wrestling and who is using whom when he collects monster paydays and gets to pick his spots, often at the expense of today’s full-time talents.
Upon Rock’s return, Orton was one of the first to call him out, questioning his commitment to the wrestling business in a shoot interview. Orton was rumored to get heat for speaking negatively about The Great One which, in turn, probably didn’t improve Orton’s outlook on him.
3 Loves: Ric Flair
Randy Orton got to work more with Ric Flair—first as an in ring partner, later as an in ring opponent—than just about any rookie. It was a part of Orton’s early anointing as part of the Evolution stable, followed by his placement as main event face opposite the remains of Evolution for the months to follow. Orton has only spoken positively about Flair in the aftermath as a mentor and a friend.
Orton would, of course, go on to build his own legacy as one of the greats of his generation. Nonetheless, you can see elements of Flair’s influence, particularly when Orton has played a ruthless heel and the leader of the Legacy stable, pulling some influence from Flair’s masterful work as heel headliner decades before.
2 Hates: Roman Reigns
After The Shield split up, Roman Reigns garnered an immediate singles push. While Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose mostly feuded with each other for the months to immediately follow the schism, Reigns spent the summer of 2014 working the house show circuit with Randy Orton, culminating in a SummerSlam showdown.
All signs point to WWE wanting to use the Orton program as a way of elevating Reigns in the eyes of the fans, besides perhaps hoping Orton might mentor the younger star as he got fast tracked to the main event. Rumors broke out, however, that management wasn’t happy with how Orton conducted himself in the feud, and that he was a working a slow paced style that led to boring matches, and hurting Reigns’s standing with the fans. All of this culminated in a rumored backstage confrontation with the two, after which management decided to keep them separated for a time.
1 Loves: Daniel Bryan
Randy Orton played an on air antagonist to Daniel Bryan for half of a year, as the establishment heel who beat back plucky underdog Bryan in his attempts to recover the WWE Championship through late 2013 and early 2014. In shoot interviews, however, Orton has revealed that he was anything but a naysayer when it came to Bryan. On the contrary, he offered Bryan limitless praise as a hard worker and an exceptional talent.
Besides his general in ring excellence and unlikely story of getting over with the fans, Bryan may have earned extra respect from The Viper as a result of a match they had on Raw, in which Bryan got hurt but insisted on continuing. He was reportedly livid with Triple H for calling the bout early to protect him. While the decision may have been in the best interests of Bryan’s health, he proved his toughness and commitment to his craft in insisting that he get to continue the match.