|photo courtesy: wwe.com|
His shoddy record against his opponents at the upcoming pay-per-view is just a case of WWE performing sleight of hand. He has been made to look vulnerable only to entice fans of the possibility that someone will dethrone him as he remains the central figure to the championship drama.
In his latest reign, Orton has been portrayed as a snake, but not in the striking predator sense. He's instead characterized as someone who slips away, hides and seems destined to be beheaded only to avoid the sword in the end.
Other men have been the aggressors and the victors since Triple H booked Orton to face each foe that will be after his title at Elimination Chamber.
He's taken on John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Christian and soonSheamus, one by one. "The Viper" is 1-3 in those battles with a chance to go 1-4 if he falls to Sheamus on Monday's Raw.
Even Cesaro, who John "Bradshaw" Layfield and Michael Cole have pegged as the Chamber's dark horse, pinned Orton on the Feb. 14SmackDown with no interference, no flukiness required.
As fans have seen in the past, this is not assurance of Orton's reign ending, but instead evidence that WWE will go with him retaining. Just a month ago, the company was painting Orton as weak, cowardly and ripe to be uncrowned.
He and Cena were to clash over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the Royal Rumble.
Much of the programming leading up to that bout highlighted Orton's susceptibility. Kofi Kingston upset the champ on Jan. 13, for example.
The announcers blamed the loss on "The Apex Predator" toying with his prey.
Orton was flustered after suffering the three-count. The immediate narrative focused on Orton's loss rather than Kingston's win. The enraged champion paced around the ring before pouncing on Cena's father.
On the following Monday, Orton lost even more momentum.
Cena interrupted a Kingston vs. Orton rematch and tore into his longtime rival with fists. He soon chased him through the arena before Orton escaped, ducking into a car and peeling out.
WWE pointed the spotlight on his weaknesses before the Rumble, but Orton won at that event, extending his reign as he will at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view.
Weasel-like behavior begetting championship wins is no new thing for Orton. He spent much of last fall earning victories by way of adistraction, referee interference and The Wyatt Family devouring his enemy for him.
Each time, as it is now, the focus has largely been on Orton.
If WWE were set to crown a new champion, the story would be more about that man working to get atop that peak. Instead, it's been Orton who remains on center stage. The story has been about his struggles and his terrible record at Elimination Chamber matches.
The announcers and WWE's Twitter accounts have talked far more about his lack of victories inside that structure than anyone else's Chamber history.
Hmm... @RandyOrton is 0-for-5 in his #EliminationChamber match history. What could that mean for the @WWE World Hvt. title?! #SmackDown
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) February 15, 2014
The fact that Orton's winless record is a bigger story than Cena's three wins or Bryan's .500 Chamber record is a strong hint of who will be headed to WrestleMania as champion.
Although technically Orton has a one in six chance of winning, one has to eliminate some of his foes as serious contenders to win. Only the most blindly optimistic Cesaro fans would bet on him winning the title and facing Batista at WrestleMania. The same goes for Christian.
Neither Cesaro vs. Batista or Christian vs. Batista has the marquee feel of a WrestleMania main event. It's unlikely that WWE would go with Sheamus here either with as little as the company has focused on him compared to Orton.
What about Cena or Bryan then?
Cena vs. Bray Wyatt is said to be "a lock" for WrestleMania, perPWInsider, via WrestlingInc.com. That makes sense as it was Wyatt who led the attack on him at the Royal Rumble and later ambushedCena and his partners on Raw.
As for Bryan, it's a safe bet that Kane has something to do with him losing at Elimination Chamber.
For the last few weeks, WWE hasn't told the tale of Bryan getting another shot at championship glory. Instead, there's the story of his old tag team partner attacking him as he did when Orton's gauntlet first began.
Maybe Bryan gets added in a Triple Threat match for WrestleMania, but he's just as likely headed for a final showdown with The Authority, this conflict with Kane serving as a precursor to a match against Triple H.
At least that's what WWE's foreshadowing has pointed to so far.
It has also given fans ample reason to believe that Elimination Chamber will be Orton's chance to have another celebration to end a pay-per-view. All these losses will just make his eventual victory look that much more impressive.
Expect him to be the last man standing regardless of how wobbly his legs are now.