Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history at just 24 years of age. The grandson of Bob Orton Sr and son of “Cowboy” Bob Orton Jr, Randy quickly stepped out of the shadow of his family and forged a name for himself in WWE.
Aligning himself with Evolution early in his career, Orton was able to hone his craft next to Triple H, Ric Flair and reigning World Heavyweight Champion (at the time of this interview) Batista.
Just a few months after rejoining SmackDown, Orton has recently taken The Undertaker out of action in an epic match at No Mercy, once again proving that he is indeed “The Legend Killer”.
Be sure to watch Randy Orton in action Sundays at 6.45pm on WWE SmackDown on SKY1.
NZPWI Editor Dion McCracken spoke with Randy Orton on November 4, 2005 to discuss the roster split, his father, The Undertaker, AJ Styles, the recent departure of Christian, and much more.
Dion McCracken: Partnering up with the likes of Triple H and Ric Flair, becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, defeating legend after legend and having one of the brightest futures in WWE are just some of the many accomplishments of my guest at this time. He’ll be on hand next March as the stars of WWE SmackDown invade the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. He is “The Legend Killer” Randy Orton. Randy, how are you?
Randy Orton: Good Dion, how are you?
Yeah, I’m good thanks. And thanks for joining me today.
You returned to SmackDown just over four months ago – are you enjoying being back on that brand?
Yeah, you know that’s where I started out of course, and it’s great to be back. I miss some things about Raw, like the fact that it’s live and everything, but as far as being on SmackDown I think is a good move for me, as far as my career goes, because it kind of gave me another group of guys to work with, and learn from, and a little bit more of giving me the reins, I think, on SmackDown, because there’s fewer top guys I think, and everyone’s kinda… it’s like a pack of wolves going for that last steak, you know what I’m saying, like we’re all really competitive, really trying to make this show as great as it can be.
Ah, d’you know, I think it’s good for business, I think that it kinda, it’s hard to tell what’s gonna happen too. Like after the different drafts, you know. And going week-to-week like they did last time I think was a good way to take advantage of that interesting element, you know, of who’s going to get picked this week, and drawing it out for that month. But I think that it’s good for some reasons and bad for others, but mainly good, I think switching up the rosters is a good way to create more angles, and more things that people haven’t seen yet.
It must be great fun getting to work with your Dad, how’s that working out?
You know, it’s great, like I was talking about earlier with somebody, it’s one of those things where he’s real proud of me, you know, getting started, you know, becoming the youngest World Champion ever, and just things like that, that he got to see his son do, really made him proud, you know.
And for him to be now in the ring with me I’m kinda getting those feelings towards him, I’m proud of my father, which I think is rare, being in that kind of situation, you know, it’s very rare… what can I say, we’re professional wrestlers, father and son… out on TV together every week… it doesn’t get any weirder than that, ha!
…and it’s definitely a plus right now in my life, you know… I just actually got engaged as well…
…about a month ago – thank you – so for my father to get signed again with the WWE now, and have that in common, it’s great. It’s great all around.
What’s the best piece of advice your Dad’s given you about the industry?
Well, when I first got signed, he said, keep your mouth shut and your ears open. And just learn from everybody around you, and that’s pretty much what I did, and I got lucky starting out with Triple H and Ric Flair, there for about a year and a half. I learned just, I got a plethora of knowledge thrown my way, it’s just, it was amazing. And I was able to learn from those guys, who were at the top of their game. So that was the advice he gave me, I took it, I think where I am now, as a test of what he said, has definitely paid off.
You mentioned just earlier that you’ve recently gotten engaged. You and The Rock must have a bit of a side bet now of who’s going to make the first fourth-generation Superstar?
Hahaha! You know, I think he’ll probably beat me at that… haha… it’ll probably be a few years before I think about having kids… The girl I’m with, Samantha is her name, I’m definitely in love of course, and it’s the greatest time of my life, right now, but I think that the travelling and everything that comes with this business that I’m in, I think I’d like to be around for the child, as it’s growing, for the children, for whatever happens, you know, definitely… when my schedule lightens up, then I think a fourth-generation Superstar will be in the making.
You’re an OVW graduate, along with John Cena, Batista, and many others. Did your time there build strong camaraderie with those guys that continues today?
Definitely. We all, like the list of guys you just said of course, we’ve all done well, you know there’s, with Brock included, there’s four World Champions right there, that they were able to put out of that, that school down there, that’s just amazing thing to have happened, to be a part of that, the alumni of OVW, that, that “graduating class” as you say, there was about 10 of us that made it up, of course with Shelton being one of them, and other guys, it’s just, it’s great to be a part of that.
We were taught the right way, we were the few of that generation that I, I always say it that way, that was skipped, that didn’t get to learn from the right group of guys, we were, we were taught the old school mentality, the old school psychology, with just the right mix of entertainment. We all have our weak points, but I think our strong points overcome those, we’re all getting better. We’re the new wave of guys that five years from now, people are gonna, hopefully, know as a household name.
From there of course, you mentioned that you teamed up with Hunter and Ric Flair as part of Evolution. What do you think you learnt the most from those guys?
Well with Ric Flair, as far as being a heel, or a bad guy, it’s…it’s tougher to learn any more from anybody else … besides Triple H. So I was with two of the best heels, in my mind, and in a lot of other people’s minds, in the business, and I was, not only that, but I was working with guys like Shawn Michaels, Goldberg, guys that were on top, guys that I could learn from on the other side of the ring, so as far as what I learned, I don’t know where to begin.
You know, I learned from Ric, just that heel mentality and how to always be thinking, not have a mindset of what I’m gonna do and just do that, but to like be out there and just be myself and just have confidence in what I’m doing, and things like that are more important than how to execute a suplex perfectly, or how to make a power-slam look more spectacular. It’s that psychology that I think a lot of guys that are my age breaking into the business don’t really get, because they don’t, they’re not fortunate enough to learn from the right people.
Your Hardcore match with Mick Foley at Backlash 2004, was a major turning point in your career. What went through your mind when you landed on those tacks?
Well I had actually about 3 weeks before that match, decided that that was something that I wanted to do in that match, was to take that bump, on tacks, and when I thought about it, and I decided to do it, and opened my mouth about it, I don’t think that I’d thought it through all the way. It seems like as the days drew nearer to that show, um, Backlash, it was harder and harder to sleep at night…
…and uh, by the time I landed on ’em, I was just so exhausted of being so nervous, it was like, I’m doing this. And when I hit, I mean, just picture it like a belly-flop into a pool… like on razor blades, like…it, it sucked, it was like, it was like I went into shock for a second, like I didn’t feel anything at first, and then this big wave of like sharp pain hit me right away… my hands hurt the most, I think because of all the nerve endings in your hands. I just remember looking at my hand and it was shaking, and I just saw all the blood, and I was like, I gotta land on my back, you know, 5 more times in this match, and I got a hundred tacks sticking out of it.
So all kinds of things were going through my mind, I didn’t know if I’d hit bone, or was I gonna be bruised or scarred. So it was definitely a monumental turn in my career, that match, like you said.
The tacks in your forearms certainly didn’t look like much fun.
No, no. And I had ‘em all over my ass, like I sat up, and when I sat up they all like dug into my ah… into my butt, hahah…
… I had tacks in my ass, in my back, I was a mess. I was a mess. It’s hard to watch back, that’s for sure.
Yeah? Soon after that you claimed the World Heavyweight Championship, and became the youngest Champ in history, how do you look back on that match with Benoit, and on that title run?
Well you know, I’m very fortunate to being able to work with Chris, and of course being the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history is such a great honour, I think I deserved it, but I think that, it was one of those things where they had the title on me for about 28 days, and it wasn’t a long run at all. But I think that claiming the title as the youngest Champ ever, was so big that the title run itself, even though it was that short, it was still such a big point in my career. One of my favourite ever. The emotions that went through me, when I got my hand raised, but I think the next time around I’ll definitely, as far as what I did during my title run, I think will be more impactful, by far, than what I did during my first title run.
How’s your shoulder holding up?
It’s great. I’ve had surgery on both, but the one that I recently had surgery on is doing great, I just did therapy today, and I try to once a week. I see a masseuse, a chiropractor, an ART specialist and a therapist all in one day, and it’s all geared towards my shoulder, ‘cause uh, they’re definitely, they’re tricky, you know it’s a tricky part of anyone’s body and I had kind of, a degenerate kind of problem with my shoulder blades that caused, basically I gotta keep ‘em strong, keep my rotator cuff’s strong, by doing different things, pretty much every day, and then one day a week I get ‘em stretched out, and that’s ah, that’s my week…gotta keep my shoulders tied on.
Dr Andrews seems to be quite a miracle worker for the WWE.
Yeah, yeah, and you know, and so many guys have had him, with broken necks, like I feel, I start feeling sorry for myself and I need to be slapped, like Edge I think, he was out with a broken neck, came back, broke his hand, then broke his ankle, then tore his groin, you know, and this was all like back-to-back. Poor guy. He worked through all that too, every day he could, and he had a cast on, or a brace on, and he was, he was healthy I think for 10 years or so, or 8 or 9 years, and then got hit with that stream of injuries, so it’s really, it’s really dumb luck. You’ve just got to be prepared as much as you can, but just whatever, you know, shit happens.
Yeah, yeah. It’s widely expected that we’ll see the Undertaker return and you two will have another showdown at Survivor Series. Will you be the man to put the final nail in the career of the Undertaker?
Well you know, I think I already did that.
I set him on fire, man. You know, I’ve been hearing rumours that he might be hanging around somewhere looking around, like I didn’t take care of him at No Mercy, but, we’ll just have to see. I don’t know who I’m wrestling, or facing, at Survivor Series, but, unless a miracle happens I don’t see it being him.
Beyond that you must have your eyes on Batista’s World Championship again.
Oh, hell yeah man. And I haven’t said this on air I don’t think anywhere, but I’m like the last guy, I think I am the last person to beat Batista legitimately, I did it at New Year’s Revolution in Puerto Rico last January, so I came up with Batista, I know his game, I know his tricks, he’s a big boy but I think I got the speed and the youth on my side, I got that drive that I don’t think he posesses.
Who’s the one legend that you’d love to get into the ring with?
Well you know… I technically have already been in the ring with him but it would be my father. You know I love the guy, but I see him helping me as much as he can, but when I decide that he’s ah, kinda too much of extra baggage, I think that he might just have to be the next legend on my list. Don’t tell him that…
Oh, absolutely not.
… but ah…hahahaha
Do you think he’s taught you all the tricks?
Yeah, I’d love to face my father one day. It would be a good learning experience.
What about your contemporaries, whether they’re WWE guys or TNA guys, or wherever, who would you like to work a program with that you haven’t yet?
At TNA…? Or…?
Um, anywhere. TNA would be interesting.
Well, you know, AJ Styles I’ve never been in the ring with but I’ve seen him do some amazing things, things that I could never dream of doing. I’d like to face him in the ring maybe, when he jumps out of the ring, I just won’t catch him.
You know what I’m saying?
Spectacular stuff, but I don’t see why I should go out of my way to catch the guy when he’s jumping off a ladder to the floor. You know I think I’d just let him bust his head, jump in the ring and pin him.
But that’s the old school mentality coming out of me. I’d never watched any tapes of my Dad jumping off of ladders to the floor, you know, and landing on anybody, and certainly not anyone going out of their way to catch him. But that’s… I think I got AJ figured out man, I just won’t catch him when he jumps on me. Haha.
If you’d never entered pro-wrestling what would you be doing today?
That’s a very good question. Ah… very good question.
And that’s a question I get asked often but I don’t have an answer to.
I guess I can’t answer that, ah, but you can go ahead and put in there that I can’t, you know I’m not ashamed to say that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, than what I’m doing now, I just couldn’t imagine.
Are you surprised that Christian didn’t renew his contract?
You know, Christian and I were, we were friends, we didn’t talk too much, but I knew enough to know that … you know, and I’d been in the ring with him of course enough to know that he is a talented dude, man, he can really have a good match with anybody. I think he just felt as if he was capable of doing a lot more than what he was doing on the show, and whether he was frustrated with the Company or himself, or the writers or whatever it was, I think that one of his deals was he hasn’t missed a show, except for like about 3 months ago, when he hurt his back wrestling RVD, he hasn’t missed a show since then in 8 years with the Company, and I think that, I think that he’s just burnt out.
You know I think him, just like Jericho a couple of years go by, maybe 6 months, a year, they’re gonna know people are gonna want them back. I think it’s just a matter of them going out and going away, getting their head on straight, resting, and just getting that feel for it again. And they’re gonna get it.
Once you do this, once you wrestle in front of a crowd, you get a response, and you can manipulate the people sitting in those seats have paid to see you, there’s nothing else you can picture doing. Like I said before, I can’t picture myself doing anything else, and I don’t think either of them can, either, and they just have enough money right now, where they can take a year off, raise a child, enjoy their wives, their lives, and come back and be more over than they were when they left, just because of that absence. And I think that’s the smart way to do it. You know, if you do it the right way, of course.
So ah, the stars of SmackDown are going to be coming to Wellington next year, what can fans expect from a WWE live event?
Oh man, what can you expect? Well I’ll tell you right off the bat – if anyone’s never been to a pro-wrestling event, and of course, the WWE hasn’t been to New Zealand, I think ever, this is the first time there…
… so that being said, you know the fans that go to this event, are gonna feel an energy that they’ve never felt before. You get that many people, when you sell out a stadium, that big, which I plan on doing, which we plan on doing, you have 40,000 fans screaming, and chanting and standing and stomping their feet, and clapping, you know and being entertained, it’s an atmosphere that you can not compare to anything else.
If it’s rugby or if it’s basketball, baseball, whatever sport anyone likes, and goes and watches, it’s like, if it’s baseball and you’re hitting a home run, you know those people are on their feet, well it’s like, it’s like we’re hitting a home run every 30 seconds. You know? The people will not be upset with one minute that they’re there. They’ll be exhausted by the time it’s over, you know, but the energy that, that we get from you guys, and that we give to you guys, the fans, you know like, it creates an adrenaline rush like no other you know… and it’s one of those things you’ll never forget being a part of.
Awesome. Well, we thank you very much for your time Randy, we definitely look forward to seeing you in Wellington next March, who knows, it could be with that World Championship around your waist.
You got it. Hey thank you very much for the time, and the interview.
No worries, thanks mate.