Randy Orton’s match at SummerSlam in August against Brock Lesnar was supposed to be the night’s main event, but what happened backstage later that night received almost as much attention.
Controversy clouded the finish of the match, with a concussed Orton sitting in a puddle of his own blood. Once Lesnar returned backstage, the “Beast Incarnate” was confronted by Chris Jericho, who was demanding answers about the health of Orton and whether Lesnar went off-script.
“Basically, what happened is Jericho saw what was going on in the ring and wanted answers as to whether my best interests were in mind as far as my health and safety,” explained Orton. “I had my family there, sitting front row, and Chris knew that, as well. He was just coming up to check on his boy, that’s what it boiled down to, and I think that’s awesome.”
Orton, who makes a guest appearance on the USA Network’s Shooter this Tuesday night at 10pm ET, is close enough with Jericho to know that he did not want to start a fight with a former UFC heavyweight champion in Lesnar.
“You hear all these things about how they were going to fight, but I don’t think Jericho wanted to fight Brock, I’m just going to throw that out there,” said Orton. “I think he was coming up to just make sure everything was cool. It’s unfortunate that in that small space, with the dozen bodies in there, somehow that leaked and everybody knew about it. That’s very unfortunate. It was blown way out of proportion, and Jericho just wanted to check on one of his fellow boys in the locker room.
“I have a lot of respect for Brock. I was down in OVW with him, and I was there a few months before he came. We all knew he was coming, but when he came, he was humble and a fun guy to be around. He’s still the same way. He’s been through a lot, and he’s really became a name in this business and in MMA.”
In addition to his work in the ring, Orton has experience acting in both movies and television. His latest role is on Shooter, where he had the opportunity to play a former Navy SEAL turned radical Second Amendment advocate.
“Even though the Shooter character on TV is so close to the real-life me, I’m still playing with ways to creatively portray that character,” said Orton, who previously served in the United States Marine Corps. “Acting isn’t a craft that I’ve studied for the past two decades like professional wrestling is, but I am fortunate to have had a lot of experience with scripts and memorizing verbiage. All those things definitely help, as does being around good actors on set. That’s so great, too, because they’ll read lines with you in-between takes and make sure they do everything they can. It’s just like in the wrestling ring—we’re making each other look good, and it’s the same thing on set.”
Orton’s character in WWE, which he has perfected, is the “apex predator”. Outside of wrestling, however, Orton is a proud family man with a wife and five children, including a newborn daughter.
“I have three stepsons, and this is my second daughter,” said Orton. “She’s a good little baby and my wife is a badass, so we make due pretty well.”
Although sleep is at a premium with five children, Orton made time to watch John Cena host Saturday Night Live this past weekend on NBC.
“Being with the WWE gives so many opportunities and chances to branch out, and John is the perfect example,” said Orton. “Other than The Rock, John is the best example of how all these different things can come your way after being with the WWE. He’s starring on American Grit, all the other movies and appearances, like Trainwreck, and he’s done so much for the past ten years. This SNL gig, to me, is the biggest thing. When Rock was on Saturday Night Live, that’s what propelled him into the mainstream and made everyone realize, ‘Holy crap, this guy is really talented.’”
Orton does not think John Cena is a fraud for choosing Hollywood over wrestling, despite the fact that that same decision was the foundation of Cena’s criticism of The Rock for years.
“I haven’t even thought about that,” admitted Orton. “Even though John has been gone a month or two, he’s been working every day that he was gone filming American Grit. He’s going to come back and he’s going to do every town that’s on the schedule when he does come back.
“I might be wrong here, but when Rock left, he left and then made appearances here and there. Cena, one-hundred percent, bleeds WWE and he always will. I know that much about him. I’ve known him for a long time, and he will be loyal to WWE and Vince for as long as he’s in the game. It’s hard to compare. I’ll see John in the smallest towns and the biggest towns. He doesn’t pick and choose and only do Madison Square Garden or The Pond in Anaheim or Air Canada Centre in Toronto. He’s always going to do that, as long as he’s physically capable.”
Orton, who is a 12-time WWE world champion yet only 36 years old, is currently working with Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper of the Wyatt Family, where he is one-half of the Smackdown Live tag team champions.
“Working with the Wyatts has helped me have a new appreciation for the business,” revealed Orton. “Things get stale. When you’re out nine months and you come back, and you’re booked with Brock Lesnar in the main event of one of the biggest shows of the year—then you get split open and concussed and you can’t work for three weeks and you can’t even remember that night—it’s not motivating, let’s just say.
“I feel now, these last couple weeks, really since Survivor Series, that I feel back in my head in terms of confidence. Being out that long and coming back to that match that I had [with Lesnar], it took a little out of me. It’s not like riding a bike for me. Some people can leave for a few years and come back and have a five-star match, like a Jericho. I was always somebody who needed to get the ring rust off, and I needed a few weeks or months to do it. Now I feel like the timing is perfect with the slight change in my character and storyline. I feel really strongly about Luke and Bray and the fact that we can take Smackdown Live over. I don’t want to use the word ‘tweener.’ We’re heels and I enjoy being a heel, but in this day and age, we know what that means—some people are going to enjoy seeing you whip some ass. That’s where we’re at, and I like right where we’re at right now.”
Despite rumors that many in WWE believe Wyatt to be too much of a fringe character to ever be world champion, Orton is such a proponent of Wyatt that he wants the “Eater of Worlds” to have a run with the title.
“He can be a world champion, he just hasn’t had the opportunity yet,” said Orton. “His first title win was at TLC with me. It doesn’t hurt him to not be on top, so to speak, but on the other end of it, the Wyatt Family, in many different situations, has been on top, regardless of not having a title. I feel like his character could do both, and we just haven’t seen it yet. If Bray was on top with the gold around his waist as world champion, that would be a great thing and it would be great for him, too. There is a lot of experience he still needs to gain, and he can’t really get that experience unless he’s in that position. I have all the confidence in him to succeed in that position.”
On the subject of world champions, Orton said is closely observing the work of WWE champion AJ Styles.
“I’ve got a lot more to do in my career,” said Orton. “AJ Styles is definitely somebody at the top of the list as far as who I’m looking forward to working with in the future.”
Orton, who travels on his own bus while on the road with WWE, reminisced about his former travel partners.
“I’ve had a bus now for five years or so, but I’ve got the guys who I like to hang with in the locker room,” said Orton. “Overseas, when we’re all on a bus and a plane and a hotel and a locker room together for two weeks, there are certain guys that I’m around more. Over the years, I rode with Kurt Angle, Lesnar, and, of course, Triple H and Ric Flair. Mysterio and Umaga. When my father was on the road, I rode with him. Chris Jericho. Santino [Marella]. Chris Masters. Legacy with Cody [Rhodes] and Teddy [DiBiase]. There’s so many different guys over the years, but now, with Smackdown Live, we’ve got the best crew of guys. The locker room is really level-headed, and everyone is there to watch and wants to see each other succeed. We’ve got a great group of guys and girls.”
Orton also revealed that Kurt Angle is one wrestler who he would relish the opportunity to work with again on Smackdown Live.
“Kurt was one of the greatest I ever got in the ring with,” said Orton. “It’s funny, when I look at Jason Jordan and Chad Gable with American Alpha—and I got the chance to work twelve matches with them in Europe and Saudi Arabia, as well as live events here in the states, and they’re so smooth and fluid but powerful—these guys remind me of Kurt Angle. They can do anything and they’ve got a great attitude. These guys remind me of him, and that’s a huge compliment.”
After some careful consideration, Orton also shared his top three wrestlers in the world.
“The top three wrestlers in the world is tough,” he admitted. “It’s a hard one because you’ve got the guys who drew the most money, but I’ll go Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio, and s---, I’ve got to throw Triple H in there. I hate to do it, but I’ve got to. I’ve never been in there with a better ring general than him. When it comes to understanding psychology and having an answer to a question that you feel like there’s no answer to, there is no one better in the business.
“It would be easier to give you a top fifteen, because Edge and Christian are up there. Jericho is up there, ‘Taker’s up there, but my top three are Mysterio, Shawn, and Hunter.”
Orton remains humble and hard-working despite his status as one of WWE’s most recognizable superstars.
“There are fans out there who appreciate what I do and have been with me through the ups and downs and still had faith that I’d come out on top,” said Orton. “All the fans that are aware that I’m a family man and I have five kids and the newborn, and they send messages on social media or a sign in the audience or they just say it to me person-to-person on the street, I appreciate all of that. I firmly believe that without the fans, I wouldn’t be where I am. I’m truly fortunate to be relevant for a very long time, and it’s because of them wanting to see more of me.”