As well as appearences on Raw and ECW, and a PPV appearance at Vengeance 2006 coming up, Randy Orton flew over to England. On a whirlwind tour of TV, Radio and magazines Randy took some time to sit down with us and talk candidly about his sensational career so far...
Growing up with your Father and Grandfather as famous wrestlers, was wrestling something you always wanted to do?
Definitely - I grew up with it and I was around a lot of the guys when I was younger so it was just part of my life from the get go. To me it was just what my Dad did for a living but I knew he was having fun, travelling round the world and getting to meet a lot of people and he was on TV - it was really neat. I always had a hint of it in me, that I would eventually be doing that.
Did you get to go a lot of shows with him?
Yeah, when I was younger definitely. I travelled on a few loops with him, going to a few cities in the summer when I was out of school. It was a lot of fun.
What are your memories of Wrestlemania 1, in which your Father played a part in the main event?
It was cool because it was the first one and he was in the main event. Back then they weren't sure how it would go. Of course it blew up and Wrestlemania XX was my first Wrestlemania and it was in the same arena as Wrestlemania 1, Madison Square Garden. I was in a top match with Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Batista and The Rock on that show and my dad was actually watching from the stands. It was neat having my Dad at that same show, 20 years later, in the same arena watching his son.
When did you start training to be a wrestler?
When I was 19 - it was in Louisville, Kentucky. They have a developmental programme there called OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling). I did that for about a year and a half before the brought me up on the road.
How did you get approached to sign a developmental deal?
My Dad made a few calls because he had connections. I'm from St Louis, Missouri and they had a show there so I went backstage and met with the agents, Tony Garea and Jack Lanza, who were friends of my Dad. They went back to Vince and said "Bob Orton's got a big kid - he's never been in the ring but he's got a look and he might be a star one day if we give him the opportunity. They signed me on the spot!
What was it like wrestling in Ohio Valley Wrestling and who did you learn the most from?
Danny Davis, who owns the facility down there. Jim Cornette who is in charge of our TV show down there - they both had big influences on my career. A lot of the wrestlers were actually there like John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Mark Jindrack and Maven. Some of these guys aren't with the company any more but a lot of those guys started out there. Eugene, Nick Dinsmore - he'd been there about 5 years before I got down to Louisville so I learned a lot from him too. Rob Conway was down there. A lot of those guys were down there before I got down there and I learned a lot from them.
It must be great being in WWE with all those guys that you trained with when you started your career.
Yeah, we kind of grew up in our careers together and there's more of a bond and friendship between us than some guys you've never met before and you don't know how to take them. But these guys I trust, they're genuinely good guys. Like you said, we started out together and it doesn't get any better than that.
In late 2001 you suffered an injury during one of your first matches on Raw – how did that injury affect you?
I was facing Lance Storm and Christian back to back and I dislocated my shoulder and tore some ligaments in it. We had about 4 more minutes of our match to continue until a commercial break. My arm was out of socket and I kept going. The adrenaline kept the pain away - I was so excited to be there, it was just my 2nd time in the ring on Raw which is live, so I panicked and just kept going.
Being a new guy in the company and working through that injury, it probably said a lot about you to the established guys.
I got a lot of pats on the back, for being ballsy and not quitting or complaining, or anything like that. The same thing happened 2 days ago when I hurt it again and everyone thought it was dislocated. My arm froze up and I could't use it. Lita was out there with me and I kept trying to put it back in, outside of the ring on the floor. I was like "just push it, push it". I continued, much like the first match. Guys like Undertaker approached me and said "God you're a tough kid!.
What is it like coming from OVW and wrestling on Raw for the first time in a huge arena and on national TV?
In the arena in Louisville where we did our TV taping from there might have been 100 people and the show went out, if I had to guess, to thousands of people, maybe 10,000 people watched it. Compared to going to the big show, the amount of people that watched the show was unbelievable. It was very nerve-wracking - my confidence level back then was nowhere near what it is now as far as what I can do in the ring. You walk to the ring and you're a little unsure of yourself, especially if its live on TV. Millions of people watching you - "what if I trip? What if I slip? What if I do something wrong?" That's what's great about live TV, anything can happen, but it's very nerve-wracking. It took me a while to gain my confidence.
Do you still get nervous now?
A lot of guys say that once you stop getting nervous you're not really having fun any more - it's just like "OK, let's get this over with". I think everyone gets nervous to an extent but it's not the butterflies where I'm not sure of myself - it pumps you up and gets you motivated.
Just over a month later you had a title match against Undertaker, what did it feel like to be wrestling for the World Title after such a short time in the WWE?
That was really cool, he's always been good to me - he's one of the best guys out there and I probably learned most from him. I remember that match and being in awe that they were giving me this opportunity to showcase my talents with the Undertaker.
Your return to Raw saw you as part of Evolution – what was it like for Batista and yourself to be part of a group with 2 legends like Ric Flair and Triple H?
As well as Undertaker, I credit Triple H and Ric Flair as one of the reasons That I am where I am today. They showed me so much and they're also at the top of their game so they had no reason to mislead me.
You had some problems with your foot at this time – did it ever get to the point where you got fed up with injuries and considered quitting wrestling?
I knew I was young and they reassured me that the business wasn't going anywhere. "We'll still be here when you get back and we'll take off where we left you". It sucks getting hurt, sitting at home when you're itching to come back. I had a messy foot injury - Bubba Dudley landed on it and smashed it up, so it took about 4 months for me to heal. When I finally got back, my 2nd match in I dislocated my other shoulder, so I had surgery on that a month after I got back. That's when I started to think "Is my body built for this?" It turns out I had hypermobile shoulders. I was born that way so my shoulders were all loosey goosey and basically had to get tightened up.
At SummerSlam 2003 you took part in an Elimination Chamber match. It looks like an incredibly brutal match, what was it like to be a part of?
That steel cage is like our stage - it doesn't give at all, it's brutal. I was in there with Triple H, Kevin Nash, Bill Goldberg, Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels. I was just "Wow - I'm in here with this talent - these guys are making millions and millions of dollars a year", which I was nowhere near making at the time, "does this mean that maybe one day I'll be like that?". It was really inspiring for me, being in the main event of a PPV was so awesome.
You mentioned about being in the match with those guys and being in awe of their star power. At what point in your career did you that you'd arrived at that level?
I would say when I wrestled Mick Foley at Backlash 2004. It was 30 minutes long and we had a lot of spots which were just brutal. Before that match I was just looked at as a pretty boy - "sure it was fun to watch him getting his butt kicked but he's not the kind of guy who is ever going to draw any money". I didn't have a toughness about me. After that match, which I won, but regardless of whether I won or not I still took quite a beating and they had 10,000 thumbtacks laid out and landed on those. God, it hurt so bad, but it was worth it because after that match it made me tough in the eyes of the fans. It made me into a contender as far as being a top guy and being able to handle those top guys. It was after that match that I started to feel "I am one of those top guys".
How did it feel to win your first WWE title when you defeated Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental Title at Armageddon 2003?
I'd just got my purple trunks made and I went out there and wrestled RVD - we had a great match and I beat him and I had this title, I'd never had a title before. In OVW I was the Hardcore Champ but there wasn't a title it was a trash can - the Hardcore Trash Can! It's not like it was as cool as an actual belt. The Intercontinental Title was enough to make me think "wow - I'm the best I can be".
You had a vicious and intense feud with Mick Foley, what stands out as the highlight of that period for you?
There was a time when I was in the ring and Batista and Flair were holding Mick Foley for me to punch. Before he had showed me where to hit him to make him bleed - right on the eyebrow. He said "If you hit me there hard enough I'll get some colour". So, they held him for me and I forgot! In the heat of the moment I just figured that if I punch him hard enough he'll bleed. So I reared back and hit him, BOOM, almost in the temple. He slumped down and I looked - no blood. I said "Mick, shall i hit you again?". His was swaying from side to side and I thought he said yes, so BOOM, I hit him again. I hit him 6 times in the face. He didn't bleed once but it swelled up really big and then drained down his face - poor guy. That was pretty brutal - the fact that this guy wanted me to open him up a little bit and I ended up beating the sh*t out of him while he was being held. You could see in the replay that I was really hitting him and that made people say "Randy Orton's really hitting that guy". That really helped me out a lot - that was the heaviest part of our feud, which led to Backlash.
At SummerSlam 2004 you defeated Chris Benoit – how did it feel to become the youngest World Champion in history?
That was a highlight for me in my career. I remember - I was the last guy to leave the locker room and I ended up having to get a cab ride to my hotel because everyone had left. I was just sitting in that locker room, holding the title belt thinking "Wow - I can't believe this". It didn't hot me until after the match that I'd become the World Heavyweight Champion, and not only that but the youngest ever - wow, what an accomplishment. I was sitting in the locker room all sweaty, holding this title and thinking "I'm the guy". Then I didn't have a ride home. I thought "This is kind of funny - I'm the guy but I gotta take a cab!"
Did it bother you much that it was a short reign?
If I'd represented the company well, as far as being the champion, and been real good at it, it would have been longer. It was one of those things where I was a transitional champ, Triple H beat me for it the next month. They also turned me babyface at the drop of a hat - actually it was the day after I won the World Heavyweight Championship that I became a babyface. That was a really hard way to get going and to stay over. As a heel I was just starting to get some fire and people were starting to respond to me. To turn me babyface, from being a d*ckhead to being a'' "yeah yeah, come on" - they didn't buy it, it wasn't really something the fans went with. It was kind of my fault - it was my fault and it was the writers' fault. It didn't bother me - I still had that title that I was a one time World Champion and the youngest ever.
What was it like to have your Father by your side in your feud with Undertaker?
I love my Dad but he's definitely not in shape to be bumping for guys and having matches. I feel from a business standpoint it didn't really help me that much. Him coming out with me and giving me a hug before the match - it just wasn't spectacular at all. Then if I lost a match because he'd interfered, he'd come out to help and ended up making me lose - it just didn't make sense from a creative standpoint. Where it did help was with a with a few matches with the Undertaker where he was able to work and was one of the reasons why I won the match. So I got a few wins over the Undertaker because of my Dad. That helped, but that's business. As for personally, like I said, I love my Dad but we never rode together - I had guys that I had things in common with and my Dad was just a little old school for me.
Did he ever comment on how "Things weren't done like that in his day" and "that's not how things should be done"?
I think he was just happy to be back. I've made more money in 30 minutes than he made in his best year in the business which is pretty outstanding. But if you're the guy who's son is making more in 30 minutes than you made in your best year, it's a strange kind of thing. He sees how the business has become - there's a lot of money it compared to when he was in and coming off that he realises that they must be doing something right, so he didn't really critique things.
In mid 2005 you were from Raw to Smackdown – how much of an effect does changing brand have on your life?
All those guys on Smackdown I was pretty close with. When I made the jump it was different because it was a taped show and things were more low key. If you scr*w up they can edit it. When they air it on TV people on the internet can already know what the outcome is. It's not the same product as Raw, I knew that, so going over to Smackdown it was kind of like a downgrade. Now to be back on Raw, I feel better than ever.
You have occasionally headed back to OVW from time to time – how had things changed from when you were there?
Yeah, a lot. When I started it was in the back of a barn, it didn't have air conditioning, it didn't have heat so it was always really hot or really cold. It was like a big World War 2 factory and we rented out the corner of the building and put some chairs, a concession stand and a ring in there. The ring was like walking on sand, so like bumpy and wavy. There was no mat under it, it was just canvas and 2x4s. It was really difficult to train an practice. When I came back there to do shows for Danny Davis and Jim Cornette they had a brand new facility - I'm sure they'd spent a pretty penny on it. They had bleachers and big PPV posters from back in the day. It was way better but besides that it was still the same kind of principles as far as teaching and stuff.
What can Kurt Angle expect in his match with you on Sunday at Vengeance?
Kurt Angle is an Olympic Champion - that sucks for me! When I'm out there in the ring and I'm doing my think, if he doesn't want to do it, he doesn't have to because he's an Olympic Champion. He can beat up anyone on the roster - you take the Big Show and out him in with Kurt Angle he will take him down and wrap him up like a pretzel because he's just a different breed. He has a sense of pride - for me to be able to capitalise on that in the ring, well that would never happen in real life. I think for him sometimes it's hard to fathom that some tall, skinny 26 year old is gonna beat him up! So, what I have to do is be more rough with him - if I give him a forearm to the face I really give it to him - let him feel it and that kind of keeps him down to the point that he realises I mean business. I've gone in before with him and been real smooth, like the ECW PPV, and he ate me alive. It was because in there and relaxed with him. This Sunday I'm going in 100%. I think it's going to make for good TV, it's going to make for a good match because people are going to see there's some realism going on and he's going to see a different Randy orton and realise I mean business, as will the fans. The only thing I'm worried about, and even then adrenaline will probably see me through, is my shoulder - I can't even move it right now, but it's just a hindrance.
What is your opinion of the resurrection of ECW and of the ECW of old?
I was never a fan - to me they didn't really tell a story. If you put me in the ring for 30 minutes with Rey Mysterio I'm gonna tell you a story and it's going to be captivating - by the end of the match you're going to want to see him kick my ar$e. In ECW they wouldn't have 30 minutes or 20 minute or 15 minute matches - depending on who's in there of course. This is with the exception of guys like RVD, I really enjoy working with Rob. If you've got Sandman vs. Balls Mahoney all you're gonna get is lots of blood, lots of chairs and lots of barbed wire and no psychology. You're just going to see two people beat the sh*t out of each other and that's not what I do - what i do has an art and tells a story, so at the end those people have gotten what they paid for. There were a few matches, like the Sabus and Jerry Lynns, the RVDs, just to name a few - they could go out there and they could keep fans captivated because they were so talented at doing all those crazy moves. Even then a lot of the time it would just be back and forth stuff - there would never be a set of heat where the bad guy is beating up the good guy for a long amount of time. In the same token, it's now under the WWE banner and I'm definitely happy that they are back and I wish them the best.
What do you consider to be your greatest ever match and why?
Mick Foley at Backlash. Simple fact is that it toughened me up and put me as a contender in the eyes of the fans, as someone who could go toe to toe with the top guys.
What are a few of your favourite matches not involving yourself?
It must be quite a thrill getting in the ring with Shawn Michaels being such a fan of his?
Shawn Michaels vs Scott Hall at Wrestlemania X and Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XII.
Getting to beat him at Bad Blood was fun - being able to win against Shawn Michaels was another highlight of my career just because of who he is.
OK, now if you could just say what comes to mind when you hear the following names:
Vince McMahon - he's loyal to you if you're loyal to him
John Cena - can't wrestle but damn he's entertaining
Triple H - needs to start counting his calories again
Ric Flair - he has a beautiful daughter called Ashley
Batista - one of my best friends in the business
Umaga - one of many great Samoans who have been in our business
The Great Khali - he needs to take a speach class
Hulk Hogan - I'll see you at Wrestlemania!
Thank you Randy and good luck on Sunday.
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