By Norm Elrod
Randy Orton, aka “The Apex Predator,” “The Viper” or the “The Legend Killer,” is one of the most recognizable names in professional wrestling. A WWE champion many times over, he’s been stalking the ring, taking down foes for going on two decades.
But his career path, let alone his meteoric success, was never a sure thing. Orton grew up around the business, but never felt a strong pull to follow his father into the squared circle. After an ill-fated stint the marines, and an early break, he found his calling. The rest, as they say, is history.
Here are 14 things you didn’t know about WWE superstar Randy Orton:
1. Randy Orton was born Randal Orton in April, 1980 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The oldest of three children, he’s a third-generation pro wrestler from a family that includes father, ‘Cowboy’ Bob Orton, uncle Barry Orton and grandfather Bob Orton Sr.
2. Randy Orton went to Hazelwood Central High School in Florissant, Missouri, where he wrestled as an amateur. He graduated in 1998.
3. Orton joined the United States Marines after graduating high school. He completed boot camp, followed by School of Infantry, where he became a squad leader. At some point along the way, Orton realized he “didn’t have the courage to die for my country” and started looking for a way out. After going AWOL twice and disobeying a commanding officer’s orders, he received a bad conduct discharge — not a dishonorable discharge, which is worse. Subsequent to discharge, he served 38 days in the brig at Camp Pendleton.
4. Between the Marines and professional wrestling, Orton worked the midnight shift at a gas station near his St. Louis home.
5. WWE signed Orton to a developmental contract before he even knew how to wrestle. As Orton described it, his dad “…called a couple of his buddies — Tony Garea, Jack Lanza. They were agents at the time, road agents. They had a show in St. Louis in October of ’99. I came down, met Lanza, met Garea. And they hired me, right on the spot, just because I was a third-generation wrestler.”
6. Orton first entered the ring in 2000 with Mid-Missouri Wrestling Association-Southern Illinois Conference Wrestling, where his father helped train him. He was only there a month.
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7. Orton, on his developmental contract, trained with Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Batista, who were also learning the ropes with Ohio Valley Wrestling, the WWE’s main developmental territory from 2000 to 2008. All would go on to become household names in the wrestling world and beyond.
8. Orton was the second-youngest WWE Intercontinental champion. (Jeff Hardy was the youngest.) He took down Rob Van Dam in December, 2003 at Armageddon, starting a seven-month reign that lasted until Edge defeated him the following July at Vengeance.
9. In August of 2004, at the age of 24, Orton became the youngest WWE World Heavyweight champion, taking down Chris Benoit at that year’s SummerSlam. He lost the belt to Triple H at Unforgiven a month later.
10. The RKO, Orton’s finishing move that’s named with his initials, is similar to the Elevated Cutter or Diamond Cutter. In executing the RKO, Orton wraps his arm around his opponent’s head in a three-quarter facelock, cradling his opponent’s chin on his bicep. Then Orton jumps, feet-first and lands on his back, appearing to slam his opponent’s head into the mat.
11. The RKO became part of a popular and hilarious internet meme that saw Orton, performing the move, inserted into videos of people taking nasty tumbles. On a basic level, it looks as if Orton’s RKO is causing the fall.
12. Orton is married for the second time. He has five children, including three stepsons and two daughters, the youngest of whom was born in November of 2016. She is the couple’s only child together.
13. Orton guest-starred on Shooter, a cable drama starring Ryan Phillippe as an ex-Marine sharpshooter drawn out of private life by a plot to kill the president. In the December 2016 episode, Orton plays a second amendment zealot and former Navy Seal who runs a fringe militia.
14. Orton has starred or appeared in multiple movies, all made through WWE Studios. They include That’s What I Am with Ed Harris (2011), 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded (2013), The Condemned 2 (2015) and Countdown (2016). He was also cast to star in The Marine 2 and The Marine 3: Homefront but replaced for the first after hurting his collarbone and the second due to general uneasiness with his Marine history.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.