By Mike Mooneyham (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Controversy has surrounded Randy Orton ever since he made his WWE debut six years ago.
The 27-year-old third-generation wrestler has flirted with superstardom for most of that time, only to have disciplinary problems and an overall lack of maturity bring him back to reality, or at least as much reality as can be hoped for in a business based on fantasy and deception.
Although he is the current WWE heavyweight champion and has held a number of titles during his run with the company, Orton has failed to show the consistency that defines a true superstar, not the generic term used by WWE for all its performers.
Orton has been accused of harassing WWE divas, trashing motel rooms and violating the drug policy His attitude problems, though, started well before WWE. Orton joined the Marines after graduating high school but left a year later with a dishonorable discharge due to unauthorized absences and disobeying a direct command. He spent 38 days in the brig at Camp Pendleton. A tattoo on his left arm which once read "USMC" for United States Marine Corps is now covered up.
WWE realizes the tremendous upside to Orton. Few performers on the company's roster have been able to attain the rarefied status occupied by the likes of Triple H, John Cena and The Undertaker, but Orton has been poised at the threshold, with the company anxiously waiting for a sustained stretch where Orton stays out of hot water and truly comprehends the responsibility such a position demands.
"Randy is a talented and good-hearted kid but he has to make better choices, especially when it comes to anger issues," Jim Ross said last year after the company took action against Orton for unprofessional conduct.
Orton has been candid in the past when publicly discussing his personal demons. Concerning a past suspension over a drug violation, he once told WWE Magazine, "My problems came to a head when I decided to smoke a joint and someone smelled it and stooged me off. You know who you are, so if you are reading this, thanks. But I've also had a few outbursts of anger on the road. I get loud and verbally abusive. But I've nipped that part of me in the bud."
Orton also publicly discussed an incident in which he ruined an expensive Louis Vuitton bag owned by a former WWE diva by pouring ointment, Flexall and tanning lotion inside.
"The reality is the company brought in this diva and she couldn't walk without falling over her own two feet," Orton told the magazine. "She had no respect for the business. She'd say, 'I'm here to help your show, it's not doing too good.' She would call people by the wrong name and rub us the wrong way. I took it upon myself to mess with her my own way."
While the company doesn't necessarily want Orton to lose his edge and swagger, a couple of traits that serve him well inside the ring, officials want to have faith in him that he will conduct himself as a professional and not bring them any undue attention. His lineage has been a blessing, but with it comes tremendous responsibility.
Sources say the outspoken Orton, unlike most others on the WWE roster, stands up to established power brokers such as Triple H and Shawn Michaels. He admits being a natural heel because, as he has said in the past, it's "the real Randy Orton times 10." His cocky attitude, though, has more often than not caused him problems backstage.
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