Randy Orton strikes back as The Viper takes back the WWE

The Viper Randy Orton reveals the secret to his rebirth, his toughest opponent and why he has free reign on the WWE now.

Randy Orton has always been the big baddie in the WWE squared circle. He’s raw in power yet refined with technique. He’s physically imposing at 1.96m tall and 113kg yet fast enough to escape his opponent’s attack. He’s a master of the waiting game as his victim tires, yet will strike in seconds. He’s a headliner at pay-per-view specials because he is that good. And Randy is going through something of a rebirth in 2020. “Oh yeah, I’m having fun in the ring. I don’t care what anyone says. I do what I want,” says Randy. “We were talking about it the other day – bringing back (Randy’s finishing move) The Punt Kick. If we can do it safely, we will!”

That didn’t help during his SummerSlam match against Drew McIntyre in August when The Legend Killer (one of Randy’s nicknames) wasn’t able to beat the WWE Championship champ, but it’s opened the door for a return match at Clash Of The Champions on Sunday, 27 September in the US (Monday, 28 September in SA). “Physically this is the best shape of my life. I cut a bit of weight and I’m feeling good. I’ve bulked in the right places and I’m great,” says Randy, who has suffered injuries in the past as a result of hypermobility in his shoulders.

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Performance piece

At 40, Randy is physically one of the elder statesmen in the WWE ring. But it’s his 20 years as a WWE Superstar and many more in the business that puts him in an elite category. “I’ve been in the game for a very long time. I’ve done more than so many other wrestlers who’re considered ‘better’ than me. I don’t need to be doing moonsaults and springboards in my matches. That’s not where I am at in my career,” hisses The Viper. With 20+ titles to his name, Randy has been there, seen that, worn the championship belt.

Randy’s game now is being more of the entertainer, the storyteller who captivates the audience. And he’s got one onlooker wrapped around his little finger. “There was a live event where I got into the zone and went on. It was the story being told. We actually went overtime. Overtime in primetime television. That’s unheard of. And it was unscripted. Vince (WWE owner Vince McMahon) didn’t give me a script. I went and just put on a show. Vince wasn’t angry that I went into overtime. He trusted me to do what I do. And he had a grin when I came back.

Randy has always been a showman, but he’s taken it up a notch in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic derailing entertainment around the world. He’s taken inspiration from a Superstar who’s been both a friend and an enemy in the ring. “Bray Wyatt – what he’s done with his character is phenomenal. Whether he’s Face (the good guy in the storyline) or turns Heel (the bad guy), what he has done is reinvented every time. That’s what you want as a performer, to be able to do that. And to have the space from the team and the trust from the boss,” says Randy. Not that it always works out – as Randy acknowledges of his time as one of Bray’s acolytes in The Family wrestling “gang”. “That could’ve gone better but we learnt and we did what we needed to. Wrestling isn’t a game. It’s a way of life. And I’m here to survive,” he insists.

When it comes to his personal preference, Randy is clear: bad is best! “Being a babyface sucks, unless you’re 300 pounds like Batista, or a character everybody wants to see live, like The Undertaker, or Hulk Hogan, who has charisma. Maybe it’s because I’m not good at it, or it’s easy for me to go out there and be a villain on the show because it’s me, times 10. And even though you probably don’t like me anyway, give me five minutes, and I’ll make you not like me more. Being a heel is fun. It comes so natural.”

Ring mates

While the WWE is scripted in terms of storylines, the friendships between the Superstars are genuine. Randy says that he’s honoured to call WWE icon Ric Flair one of his closest. “I’ve known Ric for years. He is a great guy. He is the consummate professional. He knows how to put on a show. He knows how to hype up the crowd and get people chanting. Being in the ring with him, you learn. Being out of the ring, you learn. It’s a constant evolution in this industry, being able to get into the ring and know you can trust the person on the other side to give you what you need in your career. If that means tearing their legend status down, you’re going to say to yourself, ‘Man, I hate this,’ but they’re there to help you. This is a business, but you make the best of friends.”

Don’t miss Randy Orton taking on Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship at WWE Clash Of The Champions on Sunday, 27 September in the US (Monday, 28 September in SA) on SuperSport Wrestling (DStv 236).

Watch all the WWE action from SmackDown, Raw, NXT and pay-per-view specials on SuperSport Wrestling (DStv 236)

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