After he was verbally ravaged by Stephanie McMahon on the September 16th episode of Raw, the writers have given Randy Orton carte blanche to be the merciless, cold viper that has delivered classic moments as the leader of Legacy and the head-punting villain. Presumably, Orton has been nastier, more unpredictable, more callous, and more brutal, taking his character to the heights of the heel work that made the IWC clamor for the recent heel turn. Keeping in line with Orton’s viciousness, Randy has dialed up the intensity, starting to take apart faces who are set to wrestle him and embodying the lethality of the Viper that Orton seeks to capture with that nickname.
The post-match beatdown is a staple of heel repertoire, but usually that comes with caveats: the heel gains a significant unfair advantage. That advantage usually comes from the involvement of a foreign object, after an ambush from a few wrestlers, or creation of an advantage. At that point, the heel then tends to trounce the opponent for an extended period of time by leveraging the advantage he has. This tried and true method has been used by Triple H, Ric Flair, JBL, Hollywood Hogan with the NWO, Bret Hart with the Hart Foundation, Fit Finlay, and great heels ad nauseum. Orton has brought this tactic into his repertoire and crafted some thorough, painful-looking beatdowns. The beatdowns have been executed flawlessly, drawing live audiences out of their seats to see just how twisted Orton can get. During each beatdown the entire front row is on their feet in anticipation of seeing how twisted the Viper will get.
When a heel gains an advantage and then capitalizes on the privilege of that advantage to destroy a wrestler, that heel creates solid heel heat as the crowd despises him for being opportunistic and unscrupulous. Orton was a master at this on the past two Raws. He destroyed the Miz after ambushing him, and creating an advantage—weakening the shoulder. He demolished RVD after using a back drop on exposed metal to weaken RVD’s lower back and core. In these carefully orchestrated beatdowns, Orton merges ferocity with technical precision. He thoroughly took apart each man, beating them around the ring and in a way that made him seem cold and heartless. Orton toyed with each of them for as long as he wanted to the point where he looked dominant and they looked incapable. He beat the Miz in front of his parents, in an episode that was reminiscent of when Edge beat up John Cena in front of Cena’s father, glaring at the Miz’s parents and giving off an aura of cruelty. He then attacked RVD rabidly, using a more intense version of a signature move to inflict pain. All the while, Orton’s merging great heel psychology with the physical brutality to create great segments.
No doubt that this is being done to build Orton’s credibility as the dangerous, dark, merciless Viper, so that when Bryan beats Orton, Bryan picks up a huge boost of legitimacy in the storylines. Still, the Viper’s mean streak has Orton looking vicious, malevolent, and like the man no one wants to face. This should make the upcoming months-long feud between Orton and Bryan thrilling.