For the better part of the past two decades, Randal Keith Orton has consistently been one of the most destructive and impactful players in WWE history.
From the "Legend Killer" to the "Apex Predator," the son of the legendary "Cowboy" Bob Orton has evolved several times over his lengthy career, and in doing so, has made some enemies along the way. These enemies include Hall of Famers, World Champions, and some of the most iconic stars in the history of the professional wrestling industry — whom alongside Randy Orton, created some of the most memorable stories in WWE history.
An absolute menace, both inside and outside of the ring, from his very first day over 20 years ago, Randy Orton has always been a prominent feature in WWE’s programming, always performing at the highest of levels against the top stars in the company, best exemplified by the following list of his most memorable feuds.
The "Animal" and the "Legend Killer" had previous encounters when Randy was promptly kicked out of Evolution back in 2004. But it is their renewed story in 2009 that saw a demented world champion in Randy Orton face off against a fresh-off-surgery Batista in the spring of 2009 the one that makes it into our list.
The feud began when the two clashed in a traditional Survivor Series five-on-five elimination match as captains of their respective teams. And after a singles match one month later at Armageddon, which Batista won, the "Animal" was written off TV after he received the infamous Randy Orton punt to the skull (while he recovered from a surgery on a torn hamstring).
When the future star of "Guardians of the Galaxy" returned to action a little over three months later, he immediately set his sights back on Orton. They fought on pay-per-view a total of three times before Batista finally captured his first ever WWE Championship.
The bad blood between the two did not end there, as a day after Batista finally conquered WWE’s richest prize, he was once again sidelined in kayfabe by Orton — this time after the "Viper" and the rest of "Legacy" attacked and broke Batista’s arm. In reality, Dave Bautista was set to undergo surgery for a completely torn bicep.
The star of "The Man with the Iron Fists" returned a little over three months later and defeated the star of "12 Rounds 2: Reloaded" before moving over to "SmackDown," putting an end to this injury-filled feud. And that is exactly why this feud is featured on this list, as Randy Orton was able to put the "Animal" down twice in kayfabe in under a year, which not only gave Orton’s run as the top champion a couple of shots of credibility but it also further cemented Orton’s status as a stone cold killer.
11. Shawn Michaels
What began as a tag team feud between the recently reunited D-Generation X and the recently formed Rated-RKO quickly turned into a four-way feud also involving the WWE Champion John Cena, after Triple H got injured at New Year’s Revolution 2007. Then, after Edge moved over to "SmackDown" and John Cena vacated the WWE Championship due to a torn pectoral muscle, the "Viper" and the "Heartbreak Kid" were left to fight over the gold all by themselves for a few months.
At the 2007 edition of Cyber Sunday, Shawn Michaels was picked by the WWE Universe over Mr. Kennedy and Jeff Hardy to be the first challenger for Randy Orton’s WWE Championship, after he was awarded it by Vince McMahon and then won it back from Triple H on the same night a month before.
Orton defended the championship against Michaels one more time a month later at Survivor Series, and it is that match what solidifies this feud as one of Randy’s Top 12. The match had an extra stipulation that prevented Michaels from using his signature "Sweet Chin Music" superkick, which gave a huge boost to the match’s psychology and solidified Orton as the top champion in the company.
The biggest detriment to this feud is definitely how the story kept changing due to the injuries suffered by both Triple H and John Cena. That said, while the storytelling could have been better, the actual matches that resulted in the "Legend Killer" and the "Showstopper" facing off in 2007 more than made up for it, particularly the classic four-way match at Backlash and the grudge singles match at Survivor Series.
10. Daniel Bryan
2013 was very clearly Daniel Bryan’s breakout year in the WWE. His now legendary rise to the top as the underdog rebelling against "The Authority" was in full effect. This underdog dynamic was largely defined by the countless matches the "American Dragon" had against the corporate-approved champion, Randy Orton.
Their interactions began when, alongside Kane, they were partners as part of the first team to ever defeat The Shield in May, only a couple of months before Orton cashed-in his Money in the Bank contract on Bryan after the main event of SummerSlam. This moment not only made Orton a 10-time world champion, but marked the inception of the "Authority" stable and the first time Orton aligned himself with Triple H since their Evolution days.
Orton and Bryan battled a total of 12 times in singles competition from June 2013 until their WrestleMania main event the year later, also involving Batista. Out of those 12 matches, there were four WWE World Heavyweight Championship matches, three No-Disqualification matches/street fights, and a total of five matches either ended by disqualification or no contest. To say this rivalry reached personal levels would be an understatement.
The best match to come out of said 12 match series is probably a toss up between the WrestleMania main event triple threat and their Hell in a Cell match, but to be perfectly honest, any match these two had together during this period of time was what Sheamus would call a "banger."
9. CM Punk
In one of the most extreme cases of holding grudges in WWE, CM Punk attacked and cost Randy Orton his shot at the WWE Championship at the 2011 Royal Rumble. Punk later explained that his motive behind the attack was Randy’s own vicious and unprovoked attack on the Straight Edge superstar over two years prior at Unforgiven 2008, which cut short Punk’s first ever run as world champion.
At the time, Punk was the leader of the New Nexus, which meant Randy was going into a fight with a five-on-one disadvantage. Orton’s solution? To take out every single member of Punk’s group before their eventual clash at WrestleMania XXVII. And that is exactly what made this feud as entertaining as it was, as the "Viper" went out of his way to punt every ally of Punk in the head, week in and week out before eventually defeating the Chicago native in a classic WrestleMania show stealer.
The feud would not end there, as a couple of more matches followed, one at "Raw" in London, England, and the other in a Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules. Randy Orton was the clear winner of the feud as he came out on top on all three matches.
While most of the value of this feud comes from the entertaining ways Randy was finding to punt New Nexus members in the head, all three matches they had were top-tier, main-event level matches.
In one of those rare Randy Orton babyface feuds, the "Viper" saw himself voted by the WWE Universe to challenge Christian for the World Heavyweight Championship — a title he had just won for the first time in his career in a brutal ladder match only two days before. Randy went on to win said match and capture his second World Heavyweight Championship and eight world championship overall. This kickstarted Christian’s heel turn and his most memorable singles run in his WWE career.
In just a little under five months during 2011, "Captain Charisma" and the "Apex Predator" clashed seven times, four times on pay-per-view, six times for the Heavyweight Championship of the World, once inside a Steel Cage, and once in a No Holds Barred match, for a total of five decisive victories to Randy Orton.
Christian, who finished the feud as a two-time World Champion, was clearly on a mission to prove himself as a main event. He undoubtedly did so, as he and Orton put on classic performances at Over the Limit 2011, which was rated 4.25 stars by Dave Meltzer, and particularly during their No Holds Barred show-stealer at SummerSlam.
This feud accomplished much more than elevate Christian to a top-tier level, as it also served as the first proper world championship run for Randy as a babyface, as the previous two barely lasted.
7. Jeff Hardy
Back in Armageddon 2007, when Randy Orton was just a little over two months into his third reign as world champion, Jeff Hardy earned an opportunity for Orton’s championship by defeating Triple H in one of the biggest upset victories in company history.
What began as a by-the-book championship storyline, quickly turned personal when Randy Orton kicked Jeff Hardy’s injured brother Matt In the skull and "where his appendix used to be." The youngest of the Hardy brothers responded by, jumping off of the "Raw" lighting structure onto Orton, in one of Hardy’s career defining moments.
While the feud only lasted a month and only consisted of one real match between the two, the quality of the match makes up for this. Their encounter at the Royal Rumble in 2008 is an absolute masterpiece. It had the exact amount of high risks and dangerous falls you would expect from Jeff Hardy and everything you’d want from Randy Orton, including one of the most replayed RKO out of nowhere in history.
If only one match between these two is not enough for you, the feud got revisited over 10 years later when the two faced each other in 2018, first in May at Backlash for Hardy’s United States title, and later in October at Hell in a Cell.
Edge went from Randy’s ally to enemy back to ally for as many times as you can possibly imagine. They went from fighting for the Intercontinental championship, to winning the tag team championships as "Rated-RKO," to once again fighting each other over 15 years after their first ever match.
While choosing the entire story between Edge and Orton as an individual feud would be cheating, the pair of matches they had with no crowd in 2020 and their respective builds is by far the most interesting and fun active rivalry between the legends. This particular period of time, from their staredown during Edge’s triumphant return at the 2020 Royal Rumble until their blow-off match at Backlash, we witnessed a con-chair-to from Orton to Edge, an RKO to Edge’s wife Beth Phoenix, and a triceps tear suffered by the Rated-R Superstar during their final encounter in June of 2020.
Out of their two matches in 2020, the one at Backlash, somewhat appropriately named the "Greatest Wrestling Match Ever," is head and shoulders above their Last Man Standing bout at WrestleMania. This is not to say that their encounter at the "Showcase of the Immortals" was bad, but the longer and heavily edited match at Backlash is just a more personal and much smoother match.
5. Mick Foley
This is the feud that turned the up-and-coming second-generation rookie from Evolution to the "Legend Killer."
The storyline between the two unofficially began when Randy Orton punted Mick Foley off a flight of stairs in Madison Square Garden in June of 2003. This ill-natured action from Orton kickstarted what turned out to be a career-defining feud after Foley made his return to the ring in January of 2004 exclusively to eliminate Randy Orton, and himself, from the Royal Rumble match.
The tension between the "Hardcore Legend" and the "Legend Killer" only grew from the Rumble until WrestleMania, where The Rock made a return to stand alongside Foley against Orton and his Evolution peers.
And then came the star-making No Holds Barred match between the two at Backlash, which took things to a whole different level. This match singlehandedly gets this feud into the list as it is a complete hardcore classic. Both men put everything on the line, as the match features thumbtacks, a lot of blood, and a lot more barbwire.
The viciousness of the match put an end to the brutal rivalry. It also put Randy Orton on a new, higher level, where he became the youngest world champion in history only a few months later.
4. Triple H
Probably the biggest influence in Randy Orton’s WWE career both in and outside the ring, Triple H handpicked Orton to represent the future of the WWE in his Evolution stable alongside Ric Flair and Batista all the way back in 2003. This group ended with Orton and Batista becoming two of the biggest stars in wrestling following their respective high-profile feuds against their former leader, Triple H.
The "Cerebral Assassin" and the "Legend Killer" were constant opponents ever since Orton got kicked out of Evolution, but the period of time in 2009 from when Randy won the Royal Rumble match to his successful defense against "The Game" himself and John Cena at Night of Champions solidifies this rivalry as an all-timer. This stretch saw Randy Orton brutally attacking Stephanie and Vince McMahon, Triple H invading Randy Orton’s home, a WrestleMania main event, a Last Man Standing match and even the first Three Stages of Hell match in seven years.
Some other examples of excellent matches during their feuds include their original singles match at Unforgiven 2004, their Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules 2008, and even Triple H’s final televised match in his career at Super ShowDown 2019 in Saudi Arabia — over 15 years after their first match together.
WWE’s programming during 2005 was largely defined by the constant fighting between the Undertaker and Randy Orton, as both men first faced off in probably the best WrestleMania match ‘Taker had ever had up until that point, and extended until a Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon over eight months later.
The rivalry was a "Deadman" classic which featured the best of his supernatural tricks, including revealing perfect wax sculptures of Randy and his dad, disappearing from a casket which had been set on fire by the Orton father-son duo and then reappearing a month later from a different casket on fire, this time after being struck by indoor-lightning.
All these iconic moments only added to the in-ring action these two all-time talents had together, as aside from their classic match at the "Showcase of the Immortals" they also wrestled a complete show-stealer at both SummerSlam and Armageddon, and a really entertaining handicap casket match at No Mercy that saw Randy team up with his legendary father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton.
There is no question this is one of the defining feuds in Randy Orton’s career, but an aspect of this rivalry that might be overlooked is how impactful it was for Randy’s career. It gave Orton an opportunity at truly improving to a main event level both in the ring and on the microphone, to the point of Randy himself calling this feud "one of the highlights of that stage of his career" on Twitter.
2. Bray Wyatt
Right after the 2016 Draft, Randy Orton found himself in a rivalry with Bray Wyatt, with regular promos and backstage attacks before their eventual match at No Mercy. Thanks to interference from Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt won. Following this match, Randy would slowly and inexplicably join the Wyatt Family to officially kick this rivalry into high gear.
As an official member of the Wyatt Family, Randy Orton won the traditional Survivor Series match for team "SmackDown" alongside Bray Wyatt, the "SmackDown" tag team titles alongside Luke Harper, and his second-ever Royal Rumble. After the "Eater of Worlds" won the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, this made for a family conflict between Wyatt and Orton at WrestleMania inevitable.
The championship match at WrestleMania and the subsequent rematch at Payback in the House of Horrors match were not the all-time classics fans were expecting, as particularly the ‘Mania match lacked time and had one too many bug projections on the ring. But the build to both matches make up for the quality of the matches themselves, as we got a chance to see Randy Orton like we never had seen him before, burning homes and infiltrating cults.
The former family members met once again around four years later during Wyatt’s run as the Fiend, which saw them once again face off at WrestleMania. It featured the now infamous red lighting, a giant music box, and an unexplained distraction from Alexa Bliss.
1. John Cena
Just like every superhero needs a supervillain, every top babyface needs a top heel, and there is no better example of this dynamic in the history of the WWE than the ying and yang dynamic of the leader of the "Cenation" and the "Apex Predator."
Bred from the same class in Ohio Valley Wrestling, it seemed as if the two were destined to parallel success in the WWE from very early on. Both debuting in 2003, displayed levels of athleticism and in-ring skill unlike anything seen before. They first crossed paths in 2007, when John was rapidly becoming the face of the company, while Orton was cementing himself as a top-level heel.
They put each other through anything and everything — from I Quit matches, to Hell in a Cell matches, to Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, to even the first ever Falls Count Anywhere 60-minute Iron-Man match. Out of their seemingly endless catalogue of matches, in their close to 11 years together in WWE’s main roster, the previously mentioned fatal-four way match also involving Shawn Michaels and Edge from Backlash 2006 and their I Quit match from Breaking Point 2009, which was rated 4.25 by Dave Meltzer, are arguably the best two.
This rivalry between Orton and Cena defined an era for WWE, when John Cena and Randy Orton solidified themselves as wrestling’s top babyface and heel, respectively. It’s one of the most legendary feuds in WWE history and the absolute most entertaining in Randy Orton’s career.