At least that’s been the case for most of his career. In fact, Orton’s first and only run with a secondary singles title—a seven-month run with the Intercontinental Championship—came over a decade ago.
Orton has since been a perennial fixture in the main event scene. Unfortunately, when he’s not competing for world championships, he typically wallows in obscurity punctuated by otherwise fluid in-ring performances. Creatively, there’s never quite been a middle ground with Orton.
He’s either at the top of the card or virtually invisible.
During the recent Madison Square Garden live special, featuring Brock Lesnar and main-evented by a John Cena-Seth Rollins cage match, Orton found himself mired in a curtain-jerking tag team match.
With Cena rumored to take time off toward the end of the year, per F4WOnline.com (h/t Wrestling Inc), Orton is a prime candidate to supplant him as the United States champion. Rising stable The New Day has high upside as a potential U.S. Championship trio, but the experiment could diminish the U.S. title just as easily as it could elevate it.
While on the right track, The New Day still has some work to do to convince fans it is more than just a comedy act. It might be too much of a risk to include the U.S. Championship as part of that experiment.
WWE’s formula of having a top star carry a secondary championship with pride worked wonders with Cena trumpeting the U.S. title as a symbol of opportunity. For a fellow veteran like Orton to serve a similar role, WWE would get a fresh batch of matchups between Orton and a series of hungry up-and-comers.
As entertaining as Cena’s U.S. open challenge has been, the shock value of new challengers is beginning to vanish. Cena has seemingly fought every rising star imaginable, with WWE Superstars like Cesaro getting multiple opportunities.
While the concept of an open challenge is a good vehicle to pair with a pool of contenders, having Orton as champion would further the division’s momentum by creating new matches.
The New Day, Neville, Cesaro and current frenemy Dean Ambrose could all have instant classics with Orton that would equal—if not surpass—entertaining matches they had against Cena.
Orton could also add value to the title as a challenger. If WWE made light of the fact that Orton rarely competes in matches for secondary titles, fans would understand the value in The Viper’s pursuit. If WWE opts to pass the title off to a newer wrestler, fans may slowly begin to view the title as a lower-midcard prop.
With Orton at least challenging for the title, WWE would send a message that everybody—from the NXT generation to living legends—is interested in the U.S. Championship.
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