In early 2022, it was reported that Randy Orton had a legitimate back injury that would keep him out of the ring for the rest of that year. However, rumors started to swirl around that Orton’s injuries were actually career-threatening, and that “The Viper” would likely never step into the square circle again.
Fast forward to October, and there’s reports that the former WWE Champion has made a strong recovery that could see him make a return at Survivor Series. Should the third-generation star make his return at the Chicago pay-per-view, who will “The Viper” fight in his return match? A lot has changed since Orton has been gone, and these five men would make an excellent candidate as Randy Orton’s first opponent within WWE.
1. Jimmy Uso/Solo Sikoa
Naturally, Orton coming back into the fold of Bloodline makes sense. Storyline wise, the former WWE Champion was written following an attack from The Bloodline. Orton vs. Roman Reigns could be at WrestleMania as the story support is there. However, Cody’s arc is likely to come full circle at WrestleMania 40, so the WWE veteran would likely get his shot between November to March.
Pitting Orton against either Jimmy or Solo Sikoa opens plenty of storytelling possibilities. Orton fighting Jimmy can be a proving ground match for the newly solo star who’s still trying to find his groove as a singles wrestler. It can also bring out the personality and charisma of Jimmy’s character leading up to the big showdown between the two.
Sikoa would be more in line with the enforcer character that could dominate the returning veteran. However, the most interesting aspect is Sikoa losing (because it’s extremely slim that Orton is losing his first match back) and how it will affect the Bloodline saga. Solo vs. Reigns has been a match teased here and there throughout Roman’s run, but if the plan is for Roman to truly drop the championship at WrestleMania then Royal Rumble or Eliminator Chamber should be time to pull the trigger on their showdown. Storyline wise, either of these match-ups match sense, but it can do favors for both parties if the story is told right.
2. Jey Uso
I like the story of the babyfaces still feeling sour on Jey since he did so much of Roman’s dirty work. Jey was there at Randy’s beatdown and “The Viper” going after him can take his career down an interesting path.
Randy tends to work best as a heel. Though his last babyface run was quite good because his dynamic with Matt Riddle was fresh and fun. WWE can dance between good and evil with this story that gives Orton’s character a new dimension. Plus, it can further cement Jey’s status as a singles star with a strong showing against the former WWE Champion.
It’s also possible that WWE may simply move on from continuing the Bloodline/Randy Orton saga because they already have set plans leading up to WrestleMania. There’s no particular history between Gunther and Orton, but the Intercontinental Champion arguably has the most prestigious title on the main roster right now.
Gunther is a workhorse, who’s been presented perfectly by creative. The simple story reason for Orton going after Gunther could be that he wants to take down the top dog on RAW, which would be the IC champion in Orton’s opinion. Of course, WWE can come up with other storyline reasons for these two to wrestle one another, but a showdown between Orton and Gunther is a draw itself and WILL grab most fans attention.
Gunther’s on the cusp of being a main eventer so he shouldn’t be on the losing end here, though if the plan is for Gunther to challenge the WWE World Heavyweight Champion sometime (ideally WrestleMania 40) then dropping the belt to Orton makes sense. The third generation star can keep the title at an elevated level that allows Orton to face plenty of interesting opponents up and down the roster.
4. Damian Priest
It would be hard for Orton to not get sucked into the vortex known as The Judgment Day. Him fighting Dominick could be fun, but the NXT North American Champion is a more cowardly heel so it wouldn’t necessarily be a back-and-forth affair. However, Orton going against Priest could take a more interesting turn.
Judgment Day’s alliance with The Bloodline could be the root for Orton crossing paths with the faction. But Damian’s ongoing issues with Finn or the JD McDonagh situation can make this story more compelling. If Priest is scheduled to win the WWE World Heavyweight title then he needs more of a showcase that proves his star power as a singles competitor. Pitting him against Randy Orton would surely do just that.
5. Cody Rhodes
Would rather save this rivalry once Cody wins the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, but the former WWE Tag Team Champion has been spinning his wheels since Summerslam. Cody should have a hot program before he gets back into a feud against Roman Reigns. There’s so much rich history between Cody and Randy Orton that it would be hard to screw up their story.