THE OBTUSE ANGLE Randy Orton: Sickening Mutant Bastard August 18, 2003
by Jeb Tennyson Lund OnlineOnslaught.com/CitizenScholar.net
Ordinarily I try to write an essay approaching objectivity. I try for the fair and balanced approach that one expected from Edward R. Murrow. But that's boring. I want to go for the fair and balanced approach employed by Fox News. As such, it's my duty to comment that Randy Orton is the most disgustingly awful performer in wrestling today.
Furthermore, his crimes include: • Sucking. • Sucking a lot. • Telling lies to dogs. • Annoying me. • Chewing the faces off babies. • All of WWII, except the parts where the USA rocked. • Blowing spots. • Wearing white after Labor Day. • Boring me. • Designing the "Cheap Tickets" pop-up. • Throwing kittens at unmarked police cars.
Randy Orton is an effete water-headed mutant shit-heel foisted on the audience in lieu of a performer with more than a grudging rudimentary association with talent. He has the personality of a turnip. His supposedly badass arm tattoos look like rare ferns you'd find at the botanical gardens. And his nose is smooshed and looks like he spent his childhood running head-first into walls. This condition would also explain his intelligence, which comes off as subhuman.
A lot of people might be saying that I'm off-base about Orton. But all of those people are reading this and not wearing pants, while listening to Mazzy Star CDs and trying to feel deep while feverishly checking Ebay to see if anyone has outbid them for a clump of Pauly Shore's hair. I can't stress this enough.
But there are salient and logical reasons for feeling a great frothy surge of bile rising in your gorge whenever you see Randy Orton. His talent is at best questionable; his charisma is an illusion, and his overall character isn't even as two-dimensional as a game of Pong.
His Talent I read internet commentators discussing the solid work that Randy does. And, yes, solid work is good to see. But doing things consistently and without error is laudable when you do many things. When you can only do a few, it's pretty faint praise. Consider this: Chris Benoit knows scores of moves, easily over 100, and he invariably executes them solidly. My half-sister can soil her pants and stand upright both with equal aplomb. Both of these people perform solidly. But is it right to equate them?
So, yes, solid work. He can do clotheslines, a diamond cutter, punches and a few suplexes. So can Bubba Ray Dudley. I suspect the reason why we don't praise Bubba Dudley for his solid execution of these moves is because he annoyingly keeps distracting us with moves other than the four listed. Silly man.
To give Randy credit, he does have a fifth move. As I've said in the past, regrettably that move seems to be breaking his foot. I know what you're going to say: what about his dropkick? Honestly, people, if screwing up a dropkick or anything else counts as a move, then Gail Kim is YOUR workrate champion. (Like Gail Kim, in his first few matches, Randy managed to botch virtually every unique or non-regular move he attempted. How is it that, like Gail, he is still employed?)
Johnathan Coachman best stated the case on commentary when he said, "When I look at Randy Orton, I see nothing but potential." If we are to interpret this literally, that means that Randy doesn't do or embody anything active, now. Every good quality he possesses is latent. We can only measure them in terms of what might happen at some time in the future. He's all upside. And if Orton really does have upside, it's really far up. Like a sheer steel wall: impressive, but unattainable.
His Charisma I laughed while typing the header. Let's settle this once and for all. Orton has no charisma. None.
Sure, he has "contact charisma." He doesn't bring any with him, and he leaves with none. He's around a lot of it, standing between Flair and Triple H. And if you can't get contact charisma standing between those two, you're either a corpse or X-Pac. Flair cuts a good promo; Triple H rubs the belt and says something intensely dislikable, and Orton twitches and fidgets like a toady and chimes in with something completely unnecessary.
The guy's like Screech from Saved by the Bell. The only reason that kid didn't spend all of high school pinned in a bathroom stall, gasping for breath during flushes while the football team violated him with cleats was because he hung out with Slater and that popular Aryan hair-gelled nightmare Zack. Think about it: if Orton had absolutely nothing to do with Evolution, he'd garner no fan reaction at all. Except, perhaps relief, which was a common reaction during his early blown-spot-fests during the fall of 2002.
There are two other arguments often proffered in defense of Orton's charisma. The first is the RNN Updates. The second is his "look." The first is naïve while the second is merely inane.
Look, there is nothing complex about the RNN formula, and nothing about it is reflective of any aspect of Orton's charisma at all. You can plug anyone in the formula. "Unlikable guy arrogantly assumes everyone is interested in him; he interrupts important action to talk about himself; he says virtually the same thing every week; repeat ad nauseum." You could start up JNN right now, and it would work. Weekly, I could tell you how the WWE wouldn't let me try out, but that I would keep persevering with the support of my thousands of pieces of fan mail. We could plug any one of my eighteen readers into the RNN spot, and I guarantee that whoever it was would become one of the most hated aspects of the show. RNN works for anyone who doesn't have to wrestle.
The fact is that you can get an audience to hate anyone if that person simply won't shut up about their own (unproven) excellence. And that person will get a great heel response. And that response is cheap, short-lived and unremarkable. It can get blown to bits the moment that person steps in the ring. Coincidentally, that's pretty much what happened with Orton.
So we come to the last defense. His "look." This is basically homophobic-male-internet-writer code for "Orton is pretty." And he is. Watching Orton stand silently is very pleasant, especially given the alternative of listening to him talk. Orton possesses all the cute, fit and goofily oblivious handsomeness that is expected of the Guests of Honor at NAMBLA conventions.
But praise for his look is derived from a false notion of cause and effect or, at best, extreme optimism. People look to stars of the past and note that they were handsome. Orton is handsome; therefore, they reason, he must become a star. Wrong. Looking good is an important stepping stone on the road to becoming a star, but it's not the biggest determining factor. The fact that Mick Foley is still a star whereas Billy Gunn still isn't ought to tell you something.
But even when commentators are just being optimistic, they're still falling back on the "potential" or "upside" factor. Orton looks great and has the body to become a big star. If and when he develops great ring talents, those looks are going to be very marketable. Basically: when he becomes a star, he will be an even bigger star because he looks like one. Without the development, looks are just window dressing. And many people aren't going to buy them.
It's time to face facts. Orton isn't the next Rock. He's the next Billy Gunn. Billy had a decent moveset, one that was and is more diverse than Orton's. Billy looked and still looks pretty good. Billy used to hang out with Triple H, too, and Billy was more popular than Orton at one point. Orton is The Load: Version 2.
His Character After writing this much, I decided that maybe I was going a bit overboard, so I went and asked the fiancée for her input. I figured it was a good idea. First of all, she likes wrestling but isn't fanatical about it. Second, she's generally more positive about stuff than I am. Third, I have never heard her utter a quiet but incensed two-minute litany of vile profanities in her sleep which is apparently something I've done in the past.
We had this conversation:
Me: What do you think of Randy Orton? Her: I don't, really. Me: Yeah, but if you had to, what would you think? Her: I don't know. Me: Come on. Her: What's the opposite of je ne sais quoi? [French for "I don't know what"; an uncertain quality or characteristic.] Me: "I know what"? Her: No, that's not it. I guess he doesn't have an "I don't know what." Me: So the je ne sais quoi about Randy Orton is that he doesn't even have one? Her: Yeah. There's nothing there.
This coming from a person who is far more likely to take pleasure in Orton's figure than I.
In the absence of much charisma or a defining and visually stunning moveset, his character is all he has to fall back on. In quantity and packaging, it's tremendous. In quality and substance, it's sparser than hair atop Hulk Hogan's head. In short, there is none.
Orton is Evolution and a Legend Killer. But Evolution is basically Flair and Triple H. Evolution is the sum of its parts, not greater. It's worth is predicated on the worth of Flair and Triple H, and all the artifice in the world is not going to make Orton a contributing factor. The Legend Killer moniker is laughable because it is so wretchedly contrived. His victories are at worst forced and at best implausible. When you take away his nickname and his Evolution status, you are left with only what he himself is which is nothing.
If Orton were any more manufactured, he'd come to the ring in a molded plastic casing, with a button protruding from his stomach, above which the words "Press to Hear Randy Talk!" would be written in red toddler-friendly letters. We are told to hate and respect him because of the many shining bells and whistles featured in the entrance theme. We are told to hate and respect him because of the many fatuously drooling praise-heaps that Flair and Triple H constantly shovel at us. The only thing not telling us anything about Randy Orton is Randy Orton.
In fact, the two painfully loud voices telling us about Randy Orton are not Triple H's or Ric Flair's. They're Orton's father and grandfather. They tell us why he's there, more stridently than the WWE Machine tells us.
WWE, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle twice, gave Randy a contract. He is meant to be the next Rock, the next third-generation superstar. He was hired on the worth of his kin and not the worth of his capabilities. A fairer-minded man than I may say that Orton has a wealth of talent. But that talent was given a chance on the basis of Orton's parentage.
When undeniably well-rounded talents like Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas emerge from OVW, it becomes all the more obvious where Orton comes from. His training school and minor-league credentials did not get him an audience with the WWE talent scouts. In a tryout with those other grapplers, he would be the sorest, most immobile and noxious thumb in the ring.
Every time you see him, you're seeing the better qualified indy star whose place he's taken. Every five minutes spent trying to graft a personality onto this human toadstool is five minutes not given to potentially great matches, to older wrestlers who are running out of chances for stardom or to new wrestlers who desperately need the exposure.
Orton has no character, no charisma and a gross lack of a moveset. He is the unabashedly selfish expulsion of all that is sickening about nepotism. He is part of Evolution in the same unnecessary way that your appendix is part of your body. His moves are as diverse as the ethnicity of the cast of Friends. And deciding now that he is the future of the business is not only an act of terrible wishful thinking, it's also just stupid. Randy Orton is miserable. He's not the future: he's the worst discharge of the past.
Dear God, Jeb, this may be the best piece you have ever written. HIlarious and dead-on accurate at the same time.
Randy Orton is nothing. I've been thinking that since I was at the Raw where JR announced that he had been traded from Smackdown. Now, whenever anyone tries to defend Randy, I can just point them to your article. There is no defense against your points. Bravo!
'Personally I don't get the whole "Orton's great" sentiment around here. His interviews aren't funny or original. I'm not saying they're bad, but there's nothing great about them. He's never taken the stick and made me interested, or made me even crack a smile. His RNN update was a net darling gimmick, but it was essentially the exact same promo with the percentage of healing changed, so I don't think he deserves be be lauded for it. His wrestling is even less spectacular, he's got about five moves, and like Jeb Lund said, "sadly, breaking his foot is one of them". He stole his finisher from Diamond Dallas Page of all people. Anyway, all of this stuff could get better (or less annoying) with time, so I'm not saying F Orton, I'm just saying I don't think "his time is now".
And no, anything isn't better than Triple H. '
And now Jeb, you've taken it to a new level. I couldn't agree more. And as for his "look", I dispute even that. Wrestling isn't a fashion show. His look lends itself to gay porn more than wrestling. He looks like a guy who spends almost all his time at the beach, and whenever he's not at the beach, he's getting waxed so he can go to the beach. That doesn't mean he looks like a world champion. This is not a guy who I'd be afraid to step up to, whereas, I dunno, Brock I might just have to let get away with things.
"Whatever I just posted above is what your mother said in bed last night."
I even have to dispute about him being handsome, as a girl. No offense to Ringmistress and the other ladies. Shawn Michaels is hella better looking especially without having to pimp his looks (despite doing it in the past as part of his character which of course he was still cute and could back it up and Randy's just a weak rip-off but anyway this is for another topic:)).
Anyway, most excellent column you have here. I agreed so much I was almost in tears. I myself usually get ripped into for pointing out flaws about newer superstars so its encouraging to see you share your story. I look foward to more.
(edited by darkmatcher on 20.8.03 1854) what you say
darkmatcher: I didn't want to say that he wasn't really handsome at all, because I knew everyone would think I was just jealous or something. Glad to hear you don't think much of the presentation. As for more in the future, I don't think I'm going to focus much more on Orton. But I do have a fabulously fun column about rape this week! And, if WWE has taught me anything, it's that rape is okay. (Shivers.)
Big Bad: "I can't let that happen. I won't let that happen. And I can't let that happen!"
Hogan's: It was actually your post (that you quoted) that got me writing the column. I did a google search for myself (laugh all you want, columnists: you all do it too) to see what blog I wound up on this week, and you're quote came up. I thought, "Hey, I was on to something, there. I oughtta run with it."
Uber, Asteroid, Shippe: Thank you all very much. It's heartily appreciated.
Lets see...Randy Orton's heel character is based on him being an arrogant bastard who doesn't deserve the spotlight given him....a wrestler with a great pedigree who is too lazy to do what he should be able to do in the ring for a win...
Hot damn, JTL, looks like you've drunk the Kool-Aid without even knowing it!
A lot of the criticism directed towards Orton is the same directed towards Zbyszko...that he really isn't all that as a wrestler. Well, that's not his character. You aren't supposed to like what he does. You are supposed to want to see him get run over by a truck.
He does a pretty darn good job of it, despite being thrown into the mix somewhat early. He doesn't HAVE to show you everything he can do, so he doesn't, and you hate him for it. Sounds like a heel to me.
The ghost of a steam train - echoes down my track It's at the moment bound for nowhere - just going round and round Playground kids and creaking swings - lost laughter in the breeze I could go on for hours and I probably will - but I'd sooner put some joy back In this town called malice
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