The Stomping Ground: Why Randy Orton’s Suspension is Good for Business

Guess who’s back from playing a ridiculous amount of Diablo 3?

If you have a limited sense of how the wrestling business works, you’re probably wondering why I think Orton’s recent spell of bad luck could somehow be good for everyone in the long run. Those of you higher-functioning beings probably know where I’m heading with this, but for the sake of killing time and filling in a requisite column, allow me to divulge.

Over a week ago, Randall Keith Orton received his 60-day Wellness suspension. This is Orton’s second strike under the guidelines of the company’s drug policy, and his last chance to keep his nose clean or risk termination. In 2010, Orton signed a ten-year contract extension, so he is most certainly on the hot seat and, one would assume, in the doghouse for his actions. With his abrupt dismissal, a program with Chris Jericho and an angle with Dolph Ziggler have both been scrapped. As the unofficial “Number Two” for the company, Orton consistently gets a huge reaction from the crowd and is (without a doubt) a major money-maker for the WWE.

So why is it a blessing in disguise that Orton is out of action, and not a major hindrance for the WWE’s much-lauded ratings?

Let’s look at how things played out for Orton over the past few months. Although Orton had been consistently in the hunt for the World Heavyweight Championship, the last time he held the title (or any title for that matter) was back in September of 2011, when he lost the strap to Mark Henry at Night of Champions. He proceeded to feud with the likes of Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Kane. Along the way, Orton suffered some minor real and kayfabe injuries that extended his angles ans well as kept him off TV for a number of weeks. He lost at Survivor Series, spent just over 5 minutes in the Royal Rumble, and lost to Kane at Wrestlemania. As a testament to his solidified popularity, his audience favor had not wavered. Nine months after losing the WHC, Orton was still just as popular as ever.

And yet, the WWE realized that he didn’t need the title and either kept him occupied in feuds with midcarders to give them the rub, or gave him title opportunities in which he subsequently lost. Here was a bona fide main event star being used to put others over and pop the crowd; a novel idea, wouldn’t you agree?

The fact of the matter is that the WWE really is trying to make Sheamus their top dog over on Smackdown. Orton’s suspension only serves to further allow Sheamus to grow and prosper in preparation for their inevitable one-on-one showdown without rushing it, which I’m sure was the plan when Jericho attacked him to facilitate the need to keep Orton and Sheamus apart. Not only that, but with Orton gone for now that frees up a spot for midcarders to get opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be there: a veritable feeding frenzy, if you will. It also sends a message to the guys and gals under contract that nobody gets a free ride, regardless of their status in the pecking order.

Both Jim Ross and Paul Heyman recently claimed that anyone who wants to grab the proverbial brass ring in the world of professional wrestling needs to step up and not be content with the status quo. Now more than ever this rings true for the young guys on the roster stuck in a holding pattern, like Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler. They’ve got two months to prove themselves, or they’ll wind up like The Miz.

If only Drew McIntyre got that push….

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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