Prior to this Sunday’s WrestleMania, Yahoo Sports had a chance to speak with WWE Superstar Randy Orton, who will be headlining the event in Orlando, Florida when he takes on Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship. Orton, who has been with the company since 2002, has been one of the most popular wrestlers on the WWE roster and has had one of the most decorated careers in the company’s history. During our conversation, the third-generation star spoke about the differences between this WrestleMania and the previous 12 he has competed in, the Undertaker’s legacy at the event, and the evolution of the WWE throughout his career.
Heading into WrestleMania 33, you have been part of these for more than a decade now, how is this one different?
Randy Orton: This will be my 13th match at a WrestleMania, and I’d say one of the biggest differences for me going into this thing is how it came about. This storyline, being injured last year and coming back, having a little run with [Brock] Lesnar kind of put me back a few steps. I got a nasty concussion, got opened up, I had to get my feet back underneath me so to speak and get back used to the grind. [That opportunity] came with the Wyatt Family and what makes this WrestleMania different is that I’ve had five or six months, since October anyway, to let this story marinate.
At first I could tell peopled weren’t getting with the whole Wyatt Family thing where I became a part of their family because they knew I was going to turn and we knew that they knew that. To be able to pull those strings, make this thing go longer than expected, to win the [Smackdown] Tag Team Championships with Bray [Wyatt], and then next get [Luke Harper] kicked out of the family, get Bray alone, burn down his compound. All of that stuff that we had to do to get this storyline where it is, all of that helps it going into ‘Mania. Where we’re at in the story is the perfect culmination for WrestleMania. I think that’s what makes it different for me. I’ve had other very good angles going into ‘Mania, long storylines too, but this was different than normal from the way we do things, it wasn’t bad versus good. I infiltrated the Wyatt Family, I became close to Bray, I earned his trust and respect and to ultimately stab a knife into his back, turn on him, it was a very original thing that we did.
You mention the Wyatt Family. Being in a stable is something you’ve done at different parts of your career with Evolution and Legacy. Do you prefer when you’re working in a group or solo heading into an event like WrestleMania?
Randy Orton: I always prefer being by myself, but if you look at the teams I’ve been in, Evolution, I don’t even have to say who I was with [HHH, Ric Flair, Batista] then because everybody knows and I was around some great talent. Hunter, for instance, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him, in more ways than one. Being around those guys and learning from them that early in the business for me was great.
Rated RKO with Edge was another example of a guy who knows his craft. It was an awesome way for a guy – I was in my mid-20s then – to learn. Then I’m with Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in Legacy. These are both guys whose families were in the business just like me so I had this commonplace with them; we all grew up around the business. Cody’s brother [Dustin Runnels aka Goldust] had this bond the same way my father [“Cowboy” Bob Orton] and his brother [Barry Orton] had their bond in this business. To be able to have those similarities with your team is really good. You can do great things when you’re all on the same page and “get it” so to say.
Bray is third generation, might be through marriage, but he’s got a whole lot of wrestling greats in his family and again, another guy that I can see eye to eye with when it comes to psychology, when it comes to respect for the business and when it comes to not being selfish when it comes to the match and getting everybody over. Bray gets it. I think that being with these groups is great, I prefer being alone, but without these groups I wouldn’t be where I am.
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.
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.
Even a pro wrestling bad guy like Randy Orton has a heart. Especially when it comes to family. That has been apparent in the last few weeks even as the heel Orton won the Smackdown tag team championship with Bray Wyatt last weekend at TLC and the actor Orton appears on USA Network’s Shooter on Tuesday as James Richards, a former Navy SEAL who leads a militia group.
On Thanksgiving, Randy and wife Kim welcomed daughter Brooklyn Rose. “Everybody is doing great,” Orton said this week. “The baby is perfect. Mom is healthy. They came home on Thanksgiving so that was pretty cool.” Days earlier, Orton stepped out of character during the Survivor Series pay-per-view to check in with Shane McMahon’s sons in the front row after McMahon took a wicked spear. “He whacked his head pretty hard,” Orton said. “I knew where the family was. I didn’t think the camera was going to be on me. I wanted to reassure the kids that daddy’s OK and he will be fine.”
Orton also was wearing an orange bracelet to raise awareness for leukemia after his 5-year-old nephew T.J. was recently diagnosed. “He’s a little badass,” Orton said. “It’s going to be a long journey. That’s why I wear the bracelet and will continue to wear it.” As a third-generation wrestler, Orton has been steeped in the wrestling business by his grandfather, father and uncle. Now a father of five kids, Orton fully understands to how his kids react to seeing him in the ring, too. While promoting Shooter – which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET after Smackdown – Orton talked family, wrestling, his new tag team partner and more with For The Win. His Shooter episode is part of WWE Week on USA with Raw on Monday (8 p.m. ET), Smackdown on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET) and the 14th annual Tribute to the Troops on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET).
LET’S TALK ABOUT “SHOOTER.” HOW DID THIS ROLE COME ABOUT FOR YOU?
I got an opportunity while I was out of action in the ring after shoulder surgery in December. I was a couple of months away from being cleared and was still at home. Basically, that made me one of the candidates. They talked to a couple of other guys and wanted to give me the opportunity. You don’t really get to audition. USA Network talks to our people and the network wanted me to play the role. It was really cool that they picked me. It does make you feel good. I was really impressed with the director. He was willing to work with me. I needed a little extra in terms of pointers because I’m not as experienced as the other actors. It was a great group of people. The crew was awesome. Ryan Phillippe was great. Just a man’s man. He talked to me on the same level. There was no big-leaguing anybody on the set.