#7 Randy Orton — 609 days as champion
Number of reigns: Eight | Longest individual reign: 203 days
Bet you didn’t realize that Randy Orton has spent more time with the WWE Title around his waist than Superstars like The Rock, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. The Viper doesn’t always receive the admiration that these rarified champions get, which may be owed to the controversies that often surround the title’s journey to Orton’s hands.
Take, for example, The Viper’s first WWE Championship reign, which began when Mr. McMahon literally handed the thing to him. Awarded the vacant title by WWE’s Chairman at No Mercy 2007, Orton immediately lost the championship to Triple H before winning it back the very same night — making him a two-time champion in the course of a few hours.
Eight reigns in the books, Orton stands as the Superstar with the seventh most days as champion. Whether or not this has endeared him to the WWE Universe is another question.
Michael Cole had a chance to talk with Randy Orton. Michael reminds Randy about his ‘excommunication’ from The Authority. Michael asks Randy how it felt to live with that night after night. Randy says something changed in him. The four months he was off, all he could think of was to get his vengeance on Seth Rollins. Randy says he came back and he had his blinders focused on Randy. He thought he would get his revenge at Fastlane, but it did not happen. Randy says he is an opportunist. He wove his way back into the fabric of the Authority so they would trust him. The mind games were a lot of fun.
Michael reminds us that Orton helped Rollins beat Roman Reigns a few weeks ago on Raw. Randy says that he is not friends with Roman Reigns and he will never be friends with him. He used Roman just like he would use anybody else. He would use his grandmother if it meant he could get to Seth Rollins. That was what would get everyone to think he would be trusted. Michael asks Randy why would he say what he did on Raw. Randy says it was reverse psychology. Seth was in a good mood so it was not expected that he would berate everyone. Randy says he was entertaining himself. Then the relief in Seth’s face was tremendous. Randy knew he would exact his revenge, but when that moment happened, it would be sweet. Michael asks Randy why did he do it on Monday. Randy points out that Kane and Big Show were taken care of by Stephanie. During the match, Noble and Mercury removed themselves from the equation. He had Seth right where he wanted him. When Seth wanted him to make the tag, he pulled his hand back. Randy says he saw fear in Seth Rollins’ eye. Something came out and he enjoyed beating the holy hell out of Seth Rollins. It was like all of the weight of the world off his shoulders with every swing of that chair. Every time he threw Seth into the steel stairs or barricade, it was a relief. He enjoyed every minute of it.
Michael asks Randy if he knows there is hell to pay. Randy says he knows that is the case. Michael asks Randy what is the first thing he is going to do on Monday. He is going to find Seth Rollins, spit in his face, and challenge him to a match at Wrestlemania.
Brock Lesnar took WWE by storm in his rookie year, capturing the WWE Championship at age 25, but another blue-chipper needed to fill the void when Brock left after WrestleMania XX.
At the time, Randy Orton was the promising star of Evolution who reinvigorated the Intercontinental Championship and wanted to step into the main event scene. With Lesnar gone, The Legend Killer graduated into a Legend in his own right, winning nine World Titles (and three more since The Beast Incarnate returned to WWE). Orton saw the opportunity to forge his own destiny without the monstrous Lesnar in his way and he grabbed on, never letting go.
Lesnar and Orton battled once before — back when the former was WWE Champion and the latter was only 22. Orton gave Lesnar a run for his money back then, so imagine how epic the matchup would be with both Superstars primed, experienced and at their best.
#11 Randy Orton’s RKO
What’s in a name? For Randal Keith Orton, it’s a lightning-quick front face neckbreaker that has defined a career filled with venom and victory.
A year after his WWE debut in May 2002, Randy Orton figuratively stamped his initials on a move he modified from Johnny Ace’s “Ace Crusher.” Like a true Viper sinking its fangs, Orton renders opponents motionless with a three-quarters facelock before driving them head-first into the canvas. The result has proved more pivotal to Orton’s personal evolution than even his time under the tutelage of Triple H and Ric Flair — with the RKO, this son of WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton transformed into a destroyer of ring icons, cemented a legacy of championship glory and put a WWE-imposed face on an Apex Predator.
#23 Cesaro vs. Randy Orton (SmackDown; Feb. 14)
Since his arrival in WWE, many had pegged Cesaro as a star of the future. But The Swiss Superman did not get a chance to truly prove it until he faced then–WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton on Valentine’s Day 2014. Cesaro showed off his impressive strength, mat wrestling ability and powerful striking acumen. With Zeb Colter and, surprisingly, the WWE Universe, willing him on, Cesaro took everything The Viper had and answered with blistering offense of his own. The King of Swing lived up to his moniker, dizzying Orton with his patented Cesaro Swing.
In the end, The Swiss Superman reversed an attempted top-rope superplex into a sunset flip powerbomb, followed up with a bone-rattling European Uppercut and the Neutralizer to pick up what should have been a star-making victory. — Bobby Melok
#6 Randy Orton (4,612 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.