Randy Orton made his debut on WWE’s main roster in April 2002 and was almost immediately earmarked for great things.
Following some time on the side lines with a shoulder injury, Orton joined Evolution alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Batista in January 2003.
As Orton progressed up the card, he took on his now infamous “Legend Killer” moniker. During this time he faced Shawn Michaels before turning his attention to the “Hardcore Legend” Mick Foley. Much like Foley did for Triple H years earlier, the feud existed to give Orton an edge, to prove he wasn’t just a finesse wrestler and a clean cut star that looked good in a suit.
The two would eventually go one on one at WWE Backlash in 2004, in a brilliantly brutal affair which would see Orton come out on top. During the match which saw the pair deploy every weapon imaginable, including barbed wire bats and thumbtacks, both men bled profusely and put it all in the line in the name of entertainment.
Speaking on the latest episode of Broken Skull Sessions with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Orton described how after the vicious battle people started to see him in a different light.
“One hundred percent. I didn’t know going in, I knew how lucky I was to be in the position I was in, but I didn’t understand after we did this. It was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Sold out crowd. Probably one of the biggest, loudest houses I’ve ever been in front of, and they were there the entire time…
Yes, that’s exactly what it was, and I felt that right away, whether it was at the airports, the arenas, the autograph signings, I could tell that there was buzz about this match. The fans realized that okay, so he’s not just, you know, I’m out there wearing suits in Evolution, clenching the jaw, doing the photoshoots with the girls. I’m the good-looking one like you said – whatever – I needed this.”
The Viper continued to praise Foley, saying that he “made me” before also tipping the proverbial hat to Harley Race and The Undertaker.
“Mick Foley had everything to do with it [the Legend Killer]. The idea itself, I’m not sure, but Foley made me. Talking about coming around, he let me spit in his face. Harley Race too (let me spit in his face). I knew he [Race] was going to take a swing at me and I knew I’d better get out of the way, I don’t care what age the man was, I did not want to get knocked out on live television doing this with him. But old school, it goes back. Loved my dad. That goes to that — a lot of these guys that were like this [tight] with my man. That respect was there. I’m Cowboy Bob’s son, they loved him. ‘Your Bob’s kid? Let’s go. I’m going to do what I can.’ So here, just like Mark, just like Taker with the hip tosses and the arms drags and yadda yadda yadda here’s Harley race. That was huge for me man. Same with Mick.”
Following the blood-soaked clash at Backlash, Orton continued his march to the main event, becoming the youngest ever WWE Champion at Summerslam, something he now admits that he wasn’t ready for.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.