Randy Orton was pinned on the Jan. 10 edition of WWE SmackDown Live in a match which saw American Alpha retain the Tag Team Championships. Though Orton and Bray Wyatt gave maximum effort during the bout, an awkward moment with Luke Harper brought on the end.
But what happens with The Viper now?
Many fans are likely waiting for the 12-time world champion to finally betray Wyatt.
From the moment Orton first aligned himself with The Wyatt Family, fans have been more than a little puzzled. He never really turned heel, but he also didn't work like a babyface after joining the family. He seemed to be stuck somewhere in between, and he's been there the whole time.
Of course, for any fan familiar with Orton, this has been nothing but a charade. The likelihood that he would ever cooperate with Wyatt was minuscule at best, and anything other than a war was just out of the question.
So if Orton wasn't truly on Wyatt's side, what was his game?
Orton is called The Viper for a very good reason.
The likeliest motive for joining The Wyatt Family was to destroy it from the inside. Harper and Wyatt have been nearly inseparable for years, and their bond was indestructible. Despite which opponents crossed them, Harper and Wyatt were almost always on the same page.
Harper was the man standing in front of Wyatt, so if Orton had a prayer of taking them down, he had to separate them first.
Rather than go after them physically, Orton instead chose to change his tactics.
Gaining Wyatt's confidence was the first step, and Orton did that perhaps more convincingly than anyone could have predicted. Wyatt had no reason to trust Orton, but The Viper slithered in and became an ally. Wyatt eventually had no reason not to trust his new follower.
But Harper was another matter altogether.
Wyatt's primary soldier was suspicious from the beginning. Instead of seeing a new partner, Harper saw a new threat. He was wary of Orton, and that mistrust has led to the current situation within the family. Harper and Orton are at odds, and now it seems the time may be right for The Viper to strike.
However, the new Wyatt Family is over. It's a fact that many may not have believed possible, but this new unit is working.
It consistently gets great reactions no matter what match it's featured in. The members may work against heels, but The Wyatt Family could definitely be thought of as a babyface faction. Much of that is thanks to Orton.
Fans respect Orton and want to see him on the right side. They know what he's capable of and also know that one sudden RKO can change everything. Of course, those same fans also happen to respect Wyatt, a man who should be a great character babyface in WWE.
Both men are popular, and that has helped them rise to the top of SmackDown. Considering their level of success, maybe it's too early to end their alliance. But what happened on SmackDown surely seems to require some attention.
If it's time for the end, then it will surely come because of Orton.
His plan to divide and conquer has worked, and it's likely only a matter of time until Wyatt may actually choose Orton over Harper. When that happens, Wyatt will be alone and Orton will take him down.
At this point, there's no reason for Orton to turn. If his run with the Wyatts has indeed been a ruse, then it's not yet gone far enough. The decision to eliminate Harper from the equation must be made by Wyatt because it would mean Orton will have gained Wyatt's full trust as his new top lieutenant.
To break Wyatt down when he least expected it would be a signature Orton move.
Orton is obviously in the right when it comes to protecting The Wyatt Family. He's looked like the loyal follower, while Harper has looked nothing short of paranoid. Wyatt has certainly taken note of this, which means the plan has worked perfectly.
Orton is in the right place right now, so he should stay the course. The time to pull the trigger on The Wyatt Family will come soon enough.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.
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