A magician’s trick is only impressive when you don’t know what they’re doing. When you’ve seen the same card trick three times, by the third time you’re not only not impressed, you’re a little weary.
That’s why I was a little weary when Randy Orton delivered an RKO to Kane two weeks ago on Smackdown Live.
It’s a trick. It has to be. Randy Orton siding with Bray Wyatt would completely overshadow Bray Wyatt, therefore making no sense unless the whole plan is to split up the Wyatt family from within by making Harper side with Randy. I don’t see that happening, as Harper has only just come back and I’d say there’s a lot more to come from the family yet, but it would at least fit Randy’s character.
Then I felt even wearier this week when Randy Orton called Bray Wyatt a god.
Randy thinking Bray is a god doesn’t fit his character. It’s too clearly a trick. Only it’s a trick we’ve seen a million times before and which has become stale.
Randy Orton is, as Bray said, a snake. You can’t trust him. At times, he acts like evil incarnate (as far as WWE does evil) and his character’s legacy will be as much for his ruthlessness as it will be for his arrogance, his self-belief and his disdain of others. All of that means we already know before this starts that the only thing Randy Orton is out for is himself. He’s been a part of, and led, factions for himself, to further his own ends. Even when a face he’s acted very much like the loner. As a heel, apart from his dreadful run with The Authority, he’s exhibited a vicious, fearless streak, at times, that a lot of heels don’t get to show very often.
He’s not always been entirely predictable, when WWE is, far too often, predictable. Sometimes that’s ok because unpredictability is not the be all and end all. However when you’re presenting a scenario as being supposedly unpredictable, it needs to actually be at least a little unpredictable, otherwise the whole thing falls flat. Which is why I’ve been curious to see so many positive comments about Randy’s involvement with the Wyatts.
He’s going to use it to get close to Bray then at the last minute, strike when Bray is at his most vulnerable, like a viper does. That’s what fits with his character.
And it’s why Randy Orton runs the risk of becoming stale. I’ve seen the viper, I know how he’s going to react and I know what he’s going to do. Just like John Cena. His last heel run with The Authority was drab because it was all predictable.
What I want this story to be is a way for Randy to really kick on into the next stage of his career. Randy has a good few years of work left in him, and rather than coast along doing what he’s done before, face or heel, I want to see what else he can do. If you look at what Chris Jericho has done this year, he hasn’t needed to completely reinvent himself to become one of the most watchable performers on either show – he’s just tweaked a few things to make them different. Has Orton got the charisma of Jericho? Of course not, but out and out charisma on a promo isn’t the only way to generate interest in what you’re doing.
I really want the real trick that the WWE is trying to pull to be that this isn’t a trick at all. I want Randy to actually become a part of the Wyatt Family and devote the next 6-12 months to elevating Bray to that next level where I think he should be. I want it to not make sense for his character and I want his character to change and mould because of whatever his journey with Bray turns out to be. For good, not just for a few weeks until he reverts to type.
This is where wrestling needs to go, to move away from the caricatures and superheroes and ramp up the involvement of real life character and attitude changes.
Only Randy went and called Bray a god. Randy went and made it completely obvious it’s a trick and Bray, far from being a wise eater of worlds, is a moron who can’t see what everyone else sees.
There were so many more intriguing angles for them to play here. Maybe Randy was confused, struck by Bray, put off his game, struggling to find a resolution to how he was feeling. Maybe Randy could have got beaten down so often for a number of weeks that he became a broken man and needed to find a new way to build himself up again after fearing he’d lost it. Maybe Randy is openly searching for a new way, a route back to the top by any means necessary.
Those would have been more innovative directions to take. That’s the way to confound expectations, generate interest and build suspense in what is going to happen next, by everyone not knowing what is going to happen next.
The image of Randy, arms spread, as Bray spread his own, showed them together and separate at the same time – that’s how it should have remained for weeks. Randy on the periphery, a suspicious acolyte, teasing us. Instead, the load has been blown and Randy has gone full worshipper far too soon for it to be believable.
Or, in fact, any different to what Daniel Bryan did a few years ago.
I don’t mind Bray Wyatt losing matches. Not as many as he has lost, but in general, heels must eventually lose (apparently). What should never happen to Bray is being out-thought. Bray should always be two steps ahead of the roster. All of them. Otherwise he has no purpose and no USP.
Now, with that in mind, if Randy Orton is trying to play Bray only for Bray to end up being the one to get the upper hand because he’s known all along that Randy was trying to mess with his head, I’d be ok with that too. Bray is exactly the sort of character who would want to see how Randy’s actions played out and pitch himself against them, backing himself and his family.
I’d actually like that to lead to a Harper and Orton feud, because I think that could be absolutely fantastic given that backdrop.
But it won’t. It’ll be Randy in a few weeks’ worth of TV making us think he’s with the Wyatts, then it’ll all be a big trick and I’ll yawn at the reveal.
There’s one more reason I think Randy’s only with the Wyatts in the short term. Who is AJ Styles going to face once he beats Dean Ambrose, as he should, in their next match? Should AJ remain heel, which he definitely should, he’s done John Cena, he’s done Dean Ambrose…that’s pretty much the only other top faces on the roster other than Randy, so you can pencil in an AJ vs. Randy feud lasting for three months after that because looking at the roster I can’t think what else there is that they can do unless they do a title switch, rematch and then turn Dean heel to face Cena, but then that’s even more reason to keep Orton as a top face because they’re really short in that department.
All that is, of course, unless I’m wrong and WWE is tricking me by not tricking me. Maybe Bray and Randy become the most destructive force WWE has seen in years and snatch not just the World title, but the IC title and tag titles from the rest of the roster, becoming the most dominant force in WWE since the Shield.
But somehow…I just know they’re not going to. I’ve seen these tricks before.