Celebrating Randy Orton’s greatest RKO ever on its five-year anniversary | ONE THING TO WATCH
If Randy Orton comes across as a little cocky, it’s because he’s just that good.
Orton is a 13-time WWE heavyweight champion — the youngest ever — trailing only Triple H, John Cena, and Ric Flair for most title reigns all time. And, of course, he’s a former tag champ alongside Edge, a partnership that’s the basis for their current feud and upcoming WrestleMania 36 match.
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— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) March 24, 2020
Yet for all of his accolades, Orton is most synonymous with his lethal finisher, the RKO. And for all of those he’s hit out of nowhere, one clearly stands above the rest.
Five years ago today, at WrestleMania 31, Orton reversed Seth Rollins’ Curb Stomp, launching The Architect into the heavens and hitting him with the greatest RKO ever. Period.
The actual RKO itself is a thing of beauty, and a GIF we could watch over and over and over and — well, you get the point.
But what really makes the moment is Orton’s ecstatic reaction to hitting his finisher. The elation was genuine on Orton’s part; he KNEW that was his WrestleMania moment.
In fact, Seth Rollins’ story on how it all went down is fascinating, from Orton’s decision to throw caution to the wind to his being so thrilled they’d pulled it off that he had to be reminded to make the cover for the pin (via Rollins’ appearance on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Talk is Jericho):
“I came up with the idea a couple weeks beforehand. Ran it by Cesaro, he said, ‘I think you can do that.’ So we get to rehearsals that week and I pitch it to him, and Randy’s like, ‘Uhhh… are you sure about that? I don’t know.’ … So we never got it one time practicing that day. We got the pop-up, but we never actually did the full thing.
“We come back to Mania Sunday, and we’re talking, and we had come up with a plan B – like, he was going to get me out of a springboard or something like that, which we’ve done and everyone’s seen it. And Randy’s one of these guys who likes to play it safe sometimes. He likes to bat 1.000, he said, and I have no problem with that. I have no problem with that. I was like, ‘Screw it, dude, I get it, you want to bat 1.000.’
“And he was like, ‘Yeah… you know what? I always play it safe. I always play it safe every time. And that’s great, but… let’s just try it. To hell with it…. I have plenty of WrestleMania matches, they’re fine but I want to have [this]. Let’s just try it, if we can hit it it’ll be awesome, it’ll be the greatest thing. Let’s just do it.’”
Narrator’s voice: He was correct. It would in fact be the greatest thing. Unless you’re Rollins, and had to, you know, eat the RKO.
Sorry, Seth. You were saying?
“So we get out there, we’re doing the match, it’s hot as [expletive] out there. It’s the middle of the day, right? It’s 5:00 or 6:00, early that day, and the sun’s out, the mats are hot, you’re blown up, hair’s drying out. I’m just like, ‘This sucked.’ And we got to the [moment], when I ran, I put my foot, it was just one of those where I hit it and I knew it. I got up in the air, I got super flat, we made eye contact. He hits the thing and he forgets to cover me.
If you watch it back, he hits it and he stands up immediately. Starts Randy-firing up, however he does, which was a complete shoot. I think Cone was our referee, or maybe Chioda, and he was like, ‘Cover him, cover him!’ He was so excited that it worked.”
Frankly, so were we. Not only is it the greatest RKO ever, it’s one of the greatest WrestleMania moments ever. We love it so much, we reused it to capture just how incredible the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback was in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers:
— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) February 3, 2020
The moment’s simply that iconic.
Coincidentally enough, though, Orton wasn’t the only participant in this match to have a career-defining moment on the day. As you probably know, Rollins later cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase during the WWE World Heavyweight Championship clash between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, turning the main event (in which Lesnar was absolutely demolishing Reigns, coining the “Suplex City!” catchphrase) into a triple-threat.
After rolling Reigns out of the ring, Rollins turned to attack Lesnar, only to find himself caught by The Beast Incarnate and lifted into position for an F5. When Reigns appeared out of nowhere to hit Lesnar with a spear, however, Rollins took advantage, landing the Stomp on his former stablemate and winning the title:
It was a pretty great day for wrestling fans — and one we’re glad we got to relive with WrestleMania 36 right around the corner.