Orton V Wyatt
Total Wrestling Magazine|March 2017

Randy Orton has been one of the faces of WWE since 2004. An enormous star for the entirety of the 2000s and beyond, he has faded into mediocrity over the last two years. A main event program, and a layered story involving Bray Wyatt, has ‘The Viper’ regaining the attention of the WWE Universe. Join Erik Beaston as he investigates Orton’s resurgence, how his current storyline helps him and how it all benefits wrestling’s hottest brand, SmackDown Live.

In the world of professional wrestling, the worst thing a performer can become is stale.

Especially when that performer is a household name, one of the few legitimate stars the industry has produced in the last 15 years.

That is the situation Randy Orton found himself in when he disappeared from television in 2015. A future Hall of Famer and a Superstar whose accomplishments helped make him one of the defining performers of the ‘Ruthless Aggression’ era, he had become a shell of the character that once captivated audiences. His motivations unclear, his status as a lead baby face waning thanks to the apathy with which fans approached him, he was in desperate need of a spark.

Injury forced him to the sidelines, though, and he faded into the realm of insignificance. In his absence, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens carried the ball for WWE. So stale had he become that it was easy to forget that Orton, one of the top three stars of his generation, had not appeared on television in months.

It was a harsh realisation for Orton and company to come to. After years of providing fans with unforgettable battles involving Mick Foley, Triple H, John Cena, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns, he was forgotten by that same audience.

The 2016 brand extension brought with it, though, the opportunity for new faces and the rejuvenation of longtime stars. Drafted to SmackDown, it became very clear, very quickly, Orton was at the top of head writer Ryan Ward’s list to feature heavily on the weekly broadcast. To rebuild Orton into a compelling character, one who could headline pay per views and reign supreme atop the brand, Ward enlisted the enigmatic and engaging Bray Wyatt.

‘The Reaper of Souls’, himself, had been wildly devalued by WWE creative. Built as this mysterious cult leader, he would regularly be heated up for a main event run with a top-level babyface, only to be cooled down exponentially after being beaten by said babyface. It was a vicious circle for Wyatt, one that threatened his credibility with fans. That is, until he arrived on SmackDown Live, ready to unleash chaos and terror on the Tuesday night roster.

When he set his sights on Orton, fans had reason to expect that history would repeat itself, that Wyatt would see his star diminished once more. Instead, the story proved key to the reinvigoration of Orton as a main event player and the replenishment of his star power.

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