Bruce Prichard has admitted that WWE made a crucial mistake with Randy Orton in 2004, explaining things should have been done differently in hindsight.
On August 15th 2004, at SummerSlam, Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history pinning Chris Benoit when he was aged just 24.
The win completed a whirlwind couple of years for the young star, who only made his main roster debut in April 2002.
During the early part of 2004, before getting himself into World Title contention, Orton was entrenched in his persona as the “Legend Killer.” During this period, he attacked and verbally assaulted a whole raft of wrestling royalty. It was a run which saw him face The Rock and Mick Foley at WrestleMania XX, before facing Foley again in a legendary match at Backlash.
Speaking on Something To Wrestle, Bruce Prichard recalled The Rock being really happy to work with Orton, adding that he was keen to help the younger star, as he understood the pressure on the third-generation performer.
“Rock was really happy to be working with a guy like Randy because it was youth and in that Rock was able to see where he was at that age,” Prichard said.
“I think Rock had debuted at that point and Rock could look at Randy and go, man, I’ve been there, I’m a third generation. So you had two third-generation guys in there in The Rock and Randy Orton so in Orton The Rock saw himself and understood the pressure that was put on him. And you got to live up to not only your father, but you’ve also got to live up to your grandfather and can you do it? Rock was willing to help him along the way.”
However, by the time Orton became World Champion his character began to shift and he became a true babyface for the first time on WWE television. This led him to be kicked out of Evolution and feud with Triple H.
Reflecting on the character change and split from the group that made him a star, Prichard admitted that it was a mistake to jump into the changes so quickly.
“In hindsight, it was too soon,” Prichard said. “I would’ve loved to have Randy have a run as the heel champion with Evolution behind him and continuing to help him stay champion for a while so that you build that up even more. Evolution’s in control with Randy Orton as the champion and then Evolution would have the argument that we made you champion, we kept you champion and now it’s time for you to do the right thing and let [Triple H] be the champion.
Hindsight I wish we would’ve run with it a little bit longer instead of going right into Hunter and Randy and turning Randy. I think Randy still needed a little more time on the heel side for people to truly accept him as a babyface.”
It has been confirmed that Randy Orton will be back in action at WrestleMania Backlash when he teams with Riddle and Drew McIntyre to take on The Bloodline.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.