2/13/14 Wrestler of the Week – Randy Orton

The Wrestler of the Week award is designed to highlight a wrestler who made the most of his or her opportunities in a given week. While great matches or memorable promos certainly help a wrestler win Wrestler of the Week, the ultimate decision will also include consistency through the week and bonus points for pulling off a task with a higher degree of difficulty. 

2/13/14 Wrestler of the Week – Randy Orton

The Elimination Chamber features a pair of bald, muscular alpha males in Randy Orton and Antonio Cesaro, and they both had big weeks that stood out from the pack. While Cesaro deserves mention for his work with Daniel Bryan on Smackdown and the team of Sheamus and Christian on Raw, it was Orton who carried a heavier load. Orton went back to the well with matches against Christian and John Cena and managed to keep fans entertained despite the repetition. On top of that, he seized the moment to define his character and make himself more of a threat with a more secure alliance with The Authority. With so much talk about the moving pieces headed to Wrestlemania, it is easy to forget how good Orton has been over the last six months, but this week put the best of him on display.

Orton’s match against Christian on Smackdown was sure to be entertaining, the only question was whether it would live up to the pantheon of great work they put together during their 2011 run. Indeed, they picked up where they left off with creative and well-timed counters to keep the match from becoming predictable. Orton’s athleticism and Christian’s ring psychology complement each other in such a way that it is almost impossible for them to have a bad match with one another. In the end, Orton avoided the eminently-avoidable Killswitch to hit an RKO and win the match. Although he lost to Bryan on Raw the week before and would go on to lose to Cena on the following Raw, even a heel champion can use a clean pin every now and then to reestablish his credentials.

Raw started with a sort of reconciliation between Orton and The Authority. He apologized to HHH and Stephanie McMahon for his insubordinate, sometimes petulant behavior toward them after he unified the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles. I did not like the tension between Orton and his bosses because it implied that one of the parties was ultimately virtuous, which undermined the other narratives in which either one was involved. With HHH as an evil boss and Orton as his nefarious foot soldier, they both come off as dangerous and detestable.

Despite the friendly words with his employers, Orton went into the main event match with Cena without extra help. Given the negative crowd reaction for their match at the Royal Rumble PPV, Orton and Cena had to come out of the gates strong to get the fans into the match. They dialed up the intensity beyond what we normally see on a free TV show and even kicked out of each other’s finishers. Cena ultimately won the match, but Orton came out looking very strong since he kicked out of the AA and was able to hit Cena with the RKO. Since they have faced one another so many times, the quality of the match was destined to mean more than the result. The match was very good for a free TV main event and helps build momentum toward the Elimination Chamber.

I am not the only one who had mixed feelings when Orton won Money in the Bank last year and it became apparent that WWE would give him another serious run at the top of the card. His character had become somewhat stale and his matches had grown repetitive and predictable. Since that time, he has improved the rate of very good matches and found new nuances to his persona that have made him interesting once again. He tapped into both of those qualities in the last week to raise anticipation for the last PPV before Wrestlemania and he did so in the top position on the card.