WrestleMania 33 is just over one week away – coming at us live from the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, April 2nd. Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg will collide once again, this time with Goldberg’s Universal Championship on the line, while Roman Reigns is set to square off against The Undertaker. In another huge match, Randy Orton will challenge Bray Wyatt for the WWE World Championship in a match that’s sure to be filled with violent mind games galore. So far, Orton’s torched Bray’s sister’s remains while Bray himself has covered himself in his ashes and pronounced himself reborn. Yeah, it’s gonna get weird. I spoke to Randy Orton about his big title match at WrestleMania, his long-running storyline with the Wyatt Family, the popularity of the RKO, and more.
IGN: Unfortunately, you missed WrestleMania 32 last year in Dallas. It must feel good to not only be back at ‘Mania, but to be in a world title match.
Randy Orton: Yeah, you know it’s never nice to miss a WrestleMania and that’s the first one I’ve missed since I started here. I think WrestleMania XX would have been my first one, yes, and then I had 12 in a row. Twelve years in a row. So it did suck to miss last year’s but I had an injury and, on one hand, it was kind of nice to go to WrestleMania in that big of a venue — I think there were close to a hundred thousand people there, I’m not positive — but it was great to go because I got to just go there as a fan. I hadn’t really been keeping track of what was going on with the build to the show so it was exciting to see. I brought my family and we had a great time. I got to bring them into the ring on the Saturday before ‘Mania. We took pictures of them posing on the ropes. They’ll never forget that. So that was nice, but it still hurt to miss performing on it.
I’ve been back since last July and it was a rocky start when I came back from my injury. I had Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam and he’s a machine right there. I got a concussion, got split open, blood all over the place. It kind of put me back a few steps. It took a couple months to get my feet under me again. then I got to doing this thing with the Wyatt Family and I don’t remember having this much fun in the ring in a long time. Messing with them. The mind games. The promos. Tagging with Bray. Tagging with Luke. And being a part of the Wyatt Family threw me back into that heel element that I love so much and had missed for a very long time. It’s no secret that I would prefer to be a heel, night and day, over being a babyface. And it was nice to get that little taste of being a heel again. And now I’ve kind of switched back over, so to speak. I still want to walk that line and be as much of a bad guy that I can be while still doing my job well. To answer your question, we’re going into WrestleMania and it’s been two years for me and I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to bringing the kids, all five children, and their going to watch their father whip Bray Wyatt’s ass. Instead of going to it with them as a fan, I get to possibly main event it with them sitting in the front row. So personally, it’s a huge victory.
IGN: Decades ago, feuds and storylines could go on for years. It seems like, while we’re not back to anything that long, a lot of angles can go on for months now. What’s it like to be part of this long gestating Bray Wyatt storyline? It’s gone on for about half a year now and it looks like it’s heading to a big payoff at WrestleMania.
Orton: Yeah, it’s few and far between when you get an angle with a guy, or guys, and it really carries on for a long time. I’ve had a few in my time. Like with Mick Foley, Undertaker, Shawn, Triple H. And in more recent memory, Seth Rollins and I worked together for a long time. Daniel Bryan. Christian and I. Cena, of course. Whenever you get that four or five months to tell a story, and maybe a title changes hands a few times, whatever you’re doing, you’re married to that guy for that amount of time. And some people may fall off, may lose interest, but I think the biggest mistake we can make is to get scared, get cold feet, and then stop that storyline because we think it’s not what the fans want to see. With the Wyatt thing, when I first jumped ship and joined the Wyatt Family, fans were like “Oh, I’ve seen this before.” They’ve done that before. They’ve kidnapped guys and cast their spells and all that stuff. Daniel Bryan was a member of the Wyatts but that only lasted a few weeks and then he turned on them. So a lot of people, I think, thought this was going to be short-lived and it just started the buzz a little bit.
Bray, Luke and I would go to Europe and tag against American Alpha and Apollo Crews and we’re the heels but I’m still a babyface because people are thinking I’m going to turn. So every night they were waiting for me to turn on Bray and help out American Alpha. Those poor guys are the babyfaces, but I’m tagging in and people are going crazy and chanting “RKO!” and I’m beating up Jason Jordan and Chad Gable and they’re getting no sympathy. So as a performer, that sucks because I want the babyfaces to get sympathy. I want the crowd to blow a gasket when the babyfaces turn around and start beating me from pillar to post. But that wasn’t happening. And at first it would freak me out because you have a certain historic way that a match goes and that would get thrown out the window because you have a popular babyface with a heel team. That was fun to play with, you know, getting back to me having more fun than I’ve had in a while because it was a learning experience for me too.
IGN: Some guys change their finishers a couple times over their career, but the RKO has remained yours since the start. Not only that, but it’s experienced this resurgence in popularity.
Orton: It’s funny you mention that because the kids and I just watched DX against me and Edge back at New Year’s Revolution 2007. And they wanted to watch it because it was a bloodbath. And they wanted to show my wife because she gets uneasy when anything like that happens, of course, but we’re watching it and I hit an RKO at the end of the match and it’s funny because I don’t even remember setting up for it in the manner than I did. It was a decade ago, you know. It was nothing like it is now. It’s a little smoother now, it’s got a bit more finesse. And of course I hit it from a number of various vantage points. As many as I can. But it was funny because I got to see, after three or four years of doing that finish, where I was at with it back in ’07. Now it’s completely taken on a life of its own. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m able to hit it, yes, out of nowhere, and then also the internet and social media. Whoever started those little memes of me sneaking in and taking someone out with it. Like the guy proposing to his wife and he falls off the deck of a boat or something and there I am. It doesn’t get old. It’s just funny. I think the resurgence that you speak of because of that internet memes and the fans putting me in those videos. So gratitude to whoever started that up.
IGN: There’s a really awesome Hall of Fame lineup this year what with Kurt Angle, Beth Phoenix, DDP, Rick Rude, and such. Is there any induction that you’re looking forward to seeing the most?
Orton: Well, I’d say until a few days ago, Kurt Angle was the guy who I was most curious to see get inducted this year. But a couple days ago, I heard that Jim Cornette is going to be given a live microphone and so I’m going to have a bag of popcorn, maybe a little flask of some good stuff in my breast pocket, and I’m going to sit back and listen to Jim Cornette and just cross my fingers that it’s as good as I think it can be. Because he is amazing on the mic, he doesn’t hold anything back, and I think it says a lot about WWE and whoever made that final decision — I’m sure it was Vince — to have Cornette induct the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Because there’s some bad blood there. I don’t know what it is. I know as far back as 17 years ago when I first signed there was some kind of weird backstage heat thing going on where Cornette never went up north and didn’t like interacting with the guys in the office. You never really knew what it was, though I’m sure if you did some digging you could find out. I’m not interested in that though, I just think it’s cool that he’s being allowed to come and induct these guys into the Hall of Fame. These guys who are both very deserving in their own right.