Traditionally known as a team-based competition, factions like the Mega-Maniacs, Million Dollar Team and Degeneration-X have dominated the Survivor Series, but there’s only one wrestler who will go down with Survivor Series glory: Randy Orton.
He’s achieved an impressive 5-2 record at the event, but it’s not just the numbers that showcase his dominance.
Before Orton became nicknamed the Viper, he was simply known as The Legend Killer during his Survivor Series debut in 2003.
Prior to his match, Orton made his mark by planting an RKO on Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. His victory later in the night came as a surprise since he was not yet developed or known as the main-event superstar he is today.
Like the snake he is, Orton waited and studied his opponents, not entering until over the ten minute mark where he quickly nailed the RKO on Rob Van Dam and eliminated him from Stone Cold Steve Austin’s team.
With teammates like Chris Jericho and Scott Steiner eliminated, Orton took the leadership role he became known for at later Survivor Series events.
Down to the final two, Orton relied on the help of Evolution teammate Batista and covered Shawn Michaels for the win and his first sole survivor status.
Showcased in that first year and carried on through six more, Orton’s tactics have always remained the same: survive anyway possible.
This includes sacrificing teammates, using outside help and finding the perfect opportunities to strike.
For Orton, the Survivor Series is not about showing off. In 6 elimination matches, he is credited with only 9 out of 29 possible eliminations, allowing his teammates to complete most of the dirty work. Brooding in the corner, Orton schemes and plans his wins year after year.
Key alliances like Evolution, Rated RKO and Legacy have helped Orton use numbers to survive. However, during the 2004 event Orton found Evolution in the opposite corner.
He was able to lead a rag-tag group that included Chris Jericho, Maven and the late Chris Beniot.
Orton would find himself the last man remaining as Edge and Triple H double-teamed him. Relying on the RKO, Orton eliminated both men in a matter of minutes, became the sole survivor and won control of WWE Raw for a month with his team.
The third year of Orton’s Survivor Series reign came with unusual circumstances. After the shocking passing of Eddie Guerrero and an injury to Batista, Orton (with his dad Orton Sr. by his side) was promoted to the Smackdown team captain.
JBL was influential in the win over Eric Bishoff’s Team Raw, but it was Orton who was raised high by an ecstatic Smackdown roster.
The celebration was quickly disrupted by a returning Undertaker, but even that did not take away from Orton’s third year of sole survivor domination in a record that will unlikely ever be beat.
All streaks must come to end and Orton’s two losses may impair his record, but he is not to blame entirely.
In his first Survivor Series loss at the 2006 event, Orton led Team Rated RKO against Team DX. Team DX dominated the match and left a vulnerable Orton alone with near impossible odds against all five members.
A double team from Triple H and Shawn Michaels led to Orton’s elimination and first defeat.
It took three years for Orton’s second loss, which ended with similar circumstances as his first loss.
After Legacy members DiBiase and Rhodes failed to support Orton, an uprising Kofi Kingston got the surprise victory and eliminated Orton only seconds after eliminating C.M Punk at the 2009 event.
Though Kingston was a surprise upset over Orton, his Survivor Series opponents are equally as impressive as his wins.
Opposing teams have included Triple H, Edge, The Big Show, Kane, Batista and long-time foe Shawn Michaels a surprising three times.
Their fourth Survivor Series match-up in 2007 was Orton’s first singles match at the event. Ten years after the Montreal Screwjob, Orton screwed Michaels by banning Sweet Chin Music during his WWE title defense.
This strategic move cost Michaels the match after Orton psyched him out and planted the RKO. If Michaels is truly Mr. Wrestlemania, then Orton’s multiple victories over him have granted him the title of Mr. Survivor Series.
There is one key factor to Orton’s multiple victories and unprecedented survival: the punishing RKO.
Unlike other finishers that take a while to set-up, the RKO comes out of nowhere and is useful in chaotic team situations.
Year after the year, the RKO struck to eliminate opponents, but one of its best uses came at the 2009 event when Orton shocked Team Kofi by delivering the RKO to Mark Henry in the first 50 seconds of the match. He later relied on the RKO again to eliminate Christian.
As Orton enters his eighth Survivor Series, the stables and allies that supported him before have dwindled to almost nothing. With Shawn Michaels out of the picture, Orton’s survivalist instincts are needed more than ever as potential foes come from all directions.
Edge, Chris Jericho, Evan Bourne, Ted DiBiase, Triple H, John Cena and Sheamus are potential opponents on the Raw roster alone.
If a Smackdown vs. Raw match presents itself, Orton can find himself on the opposing side of the Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Kane, The Undertaker, Jack Swagger or even Kofi Kingston again.
Orton’s Survivor Series domination year after year makes him a bigger target, adding more challenge to his matches. Former teammates could become opponents and use Orton’s own strengths against him.
His best chance of winning may be facing new blood that has never experienced the wrath of the Viper.
Orton’s consistent position in the WWE title race could place him in his second Survivor Series singles match and depending on the stipulations he will have to adapt a new Survivor Series strategy.
No matter what match Orton finds himself in, he will prove why he is the “Ultimate Survivor.” Other superstars like John Cena and the Undertaker may thrive at bigger stages like Wrestlemania, but Orton has made Survivor Series all his own.