Seven years after winning his first Royal Rumble, 12-time WWE world champion Randy Orton has once again booked a ticket to WrestleMania. Orton was the last man standing among 30 participants at Sunday night’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view at the Alamodome in San Antonio. In the main event and titular match of the night, Orton eliminated Roman Reigns with a clothesline after an RKO and tossed him out of the ring. In a Royal Rumble match that was short on surprise entrances, business picked up in a hurry late in the match, following appearances from Brock Lesnar (No. 26), Goldberg (28), The Undertaker (29) and Reigns (30). After a series of memorable standoffs that could very easily be the ignition for a variety of WrestleMania feuds, it was Orton who secured a title opportunity at WrestleMania 33 on April 2, in Orlando, Florida.
“I’d say I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot of great things here, more than most,” Orton told ESPN.com immediately following his victory. “I think I heard today that there were 23 winners here in 30 Royal Rumbles. That’s quite a short list, given the history of WWE and how long WWE has been around. But not only am I one of the 23, I’ve done it twice. It’s just accolade after accolade stacking up, and I couldn’t be more grateful.” Orton, a member of The Wyatt Family, entered at No. 23 and instantly cleaned house with several of his signature RKOs, including an impressive one in which he caught Sami Zayn in mid-air after Zayn leaped from the top rope. Two spots later, however, embattled Wyatt Family member Luke Harper entered the match, creating a memorable moment.
Harper and Orton have feuded in recent weeks due to a lack of trust in the group, which caused Wyatt, the leader of the faction, to become the peacemaker for a time before ostensibly booting Harper from the group. Wyatt attempted to extend an olive branch one last time before Harper surprised his former leader with a stiff spinning lariat before eating a retaliatory big boot to the face from Orton. Moments later, after Harper attempted to put Wyatt in his own finishing move, Sister Abigail (including a signature kiss on Wyatt’s forehead), Orton rescued Wyatt again with an RKO on Harper.
24. Team Raw (Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins & Braun Strowman) vs. Team SmackDown LIVE (AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Shane McMahon, Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton) — 5-on-5 Traditional Survivor Series Men’s Elimination Match (Survivor Series)
If there was a WWE equivalent to a big-budget summer popcorn flick this year, it was undoubtedly the Survivor Series main event. The heavily hyped battle between Raw and SmackDown LIVE was so packed with marquee stars, high stakes and even comic relief (thanks to Team Blue mascot James Ellsworth) that you wouldn’t have been surprised to find out it was directed by Joss Whedon. The nearly hourlong (!) affair — which saw Roman Reigns almost hospitalize Shane McMahon with the ugliest Spear of 2016, The Shield Triple-Powerbomb AJ Styles through an announce table and Randy Orton & Bray Wyatt walk out as survivors — left us slack-jawed, breathless, and asking one question: When’s the sequel?
In an article written for The Player’s Tribune, WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler wrote about his Top 5 favorite finishing moves of all time. Randy’s infamous RKO was among the list, read below to see what Dolph had to say:
This list wouldn’t feel complete without the RKO. It’s a great finisher and I’ve taken a few of them. There’s something just special about Randy’s athleticism. He so good at what I’m trying to accomplish that it makes me mad. He has a way of doing something incredibly difficult, while having a look on his face that says I’m thinking about Disneyland right now but I’m still wrestling better than you ever can.
So the RKO is kind of perfect for him because it’s a difficult looking move to pull off that he’s made stand out through art, showmanship and impact. He has many well-documented snake attributes, but he’s also so smooth in the ring that it adds a lot to the RKO. And like a lot of these great finishers, it comes out of nowhere. Like I’m pretty sure he even sells a shirt that says “Out of Nowhere” on it.
#19 Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton — Fatal 4-Way WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match (WWE Payback)
For a match that had to juggle intra-Authority squabbling, personal rivalries reaching their, ahem, “Apex,” and the first official instance of The Shield against itself, it kept each ball in the air with a mix of intrigue (will Kane screw Seth over?), surprises (Dean vs. Roman!) and, ultimately, satisfaction (Seth retains!). Plus, we got a Shield mini-reunion, if only to Triple Powerbomb Orton through a table. Was it a tease for their eventual reformation way, way down the line? Hard to fathom. But for one night, we all believed again.
#8 Randy Orton — “Voices”
Telling a tale about the motivations and reckless nature of a man who earned the moniker The Viper, Rev Theory’s “Voices” melodically cuts as deep and strikes just as hard as Randy Orton himself.
The words detail what makes a predator tick, depicting a realm of wicked thoughts coiling throughout his brain. There’s a discussion and exchange encouraging malevolence and bloodlust. It’s the story of a relentless madman, but set to a super-catchy, albeit “screamo” refrain that gives way to badass rock. Plus, it makes one hell of a soundtrack for a beat-timed RKO video compilation
#26 Evolution — “Line in the Sand”
Motörhead is known for their hard-hitting heavy metal anthems, so it was a little surprising to see Lemmy belting out a slower tune for Evolution. With many people seeing Triple H and his crew of Randy Orton, Batista and Ric Flair as a modern twist on The Four Horsemen, Evolution needed a tune that exuded cool and confidence.
Lemmy and his band had no problem cranking out a song that was beyond cool while still retaining Motörhead’s trademark edge. If you close your eyes and listen to “Line in the Sand,” you can probably picture four suave bros getting out of a helicopter and into a limo to go party at the hottest club in the city.
#6 Randy Orton (4,962 days; debut; SmackDown, April 25, 2002)
With an influx of talent hoping to make a mark in the post-Monday Night War era of sports-entertainment, a fresh-faced rookie named Randy Orton walked into Mr. McMahon’s office before his official tryout match. The Chairman raved about Orton’s pedigree, but even he couldn’t have guessed what The Legend Killer-turned-Viper-turned-Face of WWE would accomplish in his career. He’s the youngest World Champion in history, capturing the title at age 24. He unified the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships to form the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2013. He’s risen through the ranks of Evolution and led the charge with The Legacy and The Authority.
Twelve years and 12 World Championship reigns after first walking onto WWE TV, Orton has matured into a sports-entertainment icon.