How careful do you have to be when punting your boss in the head?
Well, if you're Randy Orton, the most hated heel in the wrestling industry and your boss is billionaire bad boy Vince McMahon, the answer (backed up by the sick thud of replay) is not so safe.
And that's just how WWE wanted to lead into their second biggest pay-per-view of the year, with Orton kicking McMahon in the head to the shock/cheers/boos/disbelief of the millions of Raw fans who scrambled for their DVR remote to watch the kick again.
"If you watch the replay, I wasn't too careful. I definitely let him have it," Orton admits when talking about what transpired Monday night. "My wife DVR'd it for me because I had to watch it for myself. My foot still hurts. And if that's the case, I'm sure he has a nice migraine right now."
ESPN caught up with Orton as he prepared for the 30-man Royal Rumble match to talk about what it's like playing the role of a heel, the story behind his new tats, and the future of The Legacy.
Here's what the best punter since Ray Guy had to say:
ESPN: How did growing up in a house where your dad (Cowboy Bob Orton) was one of the top heels of his day, prepare you for life as "the bad guy"?
Randy Orton: I have to put my father over because he really taught me a lot, especially when it comes to out-of-the-ring psychology and how to react when you're approached by fans after a show or in the airport. It might sound silly, but a lot of those things come into play when you're playing a character. You meet people outside of the ring, and if you act a certain kind of way, then they really believe that this guy is a bastard. They want to watch, tune in, buy tickets to see me get my ass handed to me, and I think that's why I'm in the position I'm at right now, because I understand that. I understand the psychology of the sport, especially inside the ring. From bell to bell, from when my entrance plays and I step through that curtain, people have to wonder what's going on inside that guy's head. And my theme music, "Voices", describes my character to a tee. When I walk to the ring, I hear voices telling me what to do and sometimes it's not the right thing, but it's definitely damn entertaining.
ESPN: From yourself to Cody Rhodes (son of Dusty Rhodes) and Ted DiBiase (son of The Million Dollar Man) to older guys like The Rock, it seems like the second and third generation stars just have such an edge both inside and outside of the ring. Why is there such an advantage to being a legacy?
Randy Orton: When you grow up in the business as a fan and as the son of someone who wrestles for Vince and wrestles for WWE, you see a lot of backstage stuff and how the wrestlers interact with each other. When I was a kid, these wrestlers really took me under their wing when I got to travel with my dad during the summers. I was so young, traveling with my dad when I was five, six, and seven years old, but I look back and I was so lucky because the guys who are coming up now, most of them only got to watch wrestling on television as a fan. What's different about me, I was bred for it.
ESPN: Your career really started to turn the corner after you joined Evolution with Ric Flair, Triple H and Batista. How did Flair and Triple H help you in your career?
Randy Orton: I have to give props to both Triple H and Ric Flair. When I was a part of Evolution, we rode together from town to town and that was a great experience for me because while my father taught me quite a bit about out-of-the-ring psychology, Flair and Hunter, I really learned a lot from them about how to perform inside the ring. Being involved in tag matches with them and seeing how they react to certain situations that come up in the ring, it became second nature to me. I got to wrestle against people like Shawn Michaels and Goldberg with Flair and Hunter in my ear teaching me right from wrong, pointing out my mistakes. But a big part of that was also me being good enough to correct that mistake and not make it again. Learning from my mistakes at the same time being criticized by Triple H and Ric Flair made me what I am today. Without them, I definitely wouldn't be here right now in this position.
ESPN: Is traveling on the road with Ric Flair the rock star lifestyle it's made out to be?
Randy Orton: Oh my god, yeah. Everything is five star with that guy, from the hotels to the wine and champagne. Before I was married, before I was with my wife, I was traveling with Ric Flair and women were everywhere. It was crazy. The lifestyle he leads, he's the wheelin', dealin', kiss-stealin' son of a gun. He's Ric Flair and there's no one like him, there won't ever be another like him in the wrestling world again. No one will match up to Ric Flair and how he lives. He's a great man and a great tutor of the game. And of course, Triple H is right there too, giving me all the little tips. He loves this business. He is one of those guys who was a fan growing up, but it's different with him because he got it so quick, the understanding of how everything works and the psychology you need to have in the ring and with the fans.
The key is dictating what the fans do rather than letting them dictate what you do. It's a completely different universe when you're in there with Triple H and Ric Flair. Learning from the best, you will eventually become the best if you have the talent already, if you have that potential. And I think that's what they saw in me. They saw that third generation kid who loved the business, had the hunger to be the best, and they took advantage of that and taught me so much. God thank them because without them, I wouldn't have been the three-time World Heavyweight champion, Intercontinental champion, tag champion, three-time Survivor Series sole survivor, and I believe I'm going to add Royal Rumble winner after Sunday. I have big hopes.
ESPN: Is the Royal Rumble a fun match to be in because of all the new match-ups, or is it something that is more dangerous than it looks because of all the big bodies that could land on you from any angle?
Randy Orton: It's definitely dangerous. If you get knocked down, if you take a bump in that ring, you have so many feet walking around, so many big guys ... if the Big Show lands on you when you're on the ground, you're not getting back up. He'll pick you up like a sack of crap and toss you over the top rope. I think that's where Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase come in handy. They are the eyes in the back of my head.
ESPN: Your RKO is one of the most spectacular finishing moves in the sport. What do you think it is about the move that makes it something everyone looks forward to seeing, even if we are supposed to hate you?
Randy Orton: It can come out of nowhere. In the air, on the ground, crouched down, setting up for it, it's just something that's unexpected, and when I hit it, you're not kicking out. It's a great move because I can do it to everybody. Since I don't need to pick you up, I can hit Big Show with it, I can hit Rey Mysterio with it. I can do it on the run, if you're back behind me, from either side ... it's the perfect move.
ESPN: You took some time off recently due to injury, and when you came back you were covered in tattoos. Is that a look you always wanted?
Randy Orton: Hell yeah, I've always wanted sleeves. Tattoos are addicting, and I used to have this tribal tattoo, but I was never really happy with it. I wanted to get the sleeves, and when I did get hurt, it wasn't that bad of an injury and I was able to move around just weeks after the bone started to heel. I figured, shoot, this is the best opportunity I've got to sit down and get some work done. I got about 50 hours put into my arms. It's a wash, where it's a faded art. I have a bunch of skulls and roses, and I have a little rose that's colored in that's actually a tribute to my daughter Alanna Marie. They all have their own little meanings to me personally, and I always liked the look of sleeves. I'm really glad I did it.
ESPN: Are the new tats something you want to see updated in your video game character when WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010 rolls around?
Randy Orton: For sure. I've actually already taken the studio shots for the new game and the new action figure. The next game should definitely have all my new tattoos.
ESPN: You mentioned Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase earlier and how The Legacy is watching your back. Any hopes to add a new member, and if so, wouldn't Stephanie or Shane McMahon have about the best legacy in the business if you wanted to add one of them?
Randy Orton: I never really thought about that, but that's a really good idea. I would actually like to make the group one more man strong. I would like to have four guys in my group because I think four is that magic number. We need a big guy. Someone we can count on to be the heater. Someone who is an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Someone similar to how Batista was in Evolution. So yeah, I'm still recruiting for The Legacy but I don't think Shane McMahon and Stephanie are too happy about what I did to their dad Monday night. We'll have to wait and see what comes of that.
ESPN: Are there a lot more legacy kids in WWE's development system?
Randy Orton: Mike Rotunda has two boys who are in FCW, the WWE's developmental system. Then of course there was (Superfly) Snuka's son who had his shot, but he's out. Afa the Wild Samoan's son had his shot, but he's out. One guy I've been looking at really closely is Harry Smith. He's Davey Boy Smith's son, and he's a big, young kid who has that hunger. He's a strong boy, and I think he's at that age now where he's learned from some of the mistakes he's made in the past. He originally debuted as DH Smith, but he's a completely different person right now. I have my eye on him, but we'll have to see what the future holds. I need one more guy, but he has to have wrestling in his blood and he has to have that potential to one day follow in my footsteps. I won't settle for anything less.
Randy Orton currently stars in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, PSP, and Wii