Randy Orton Didn’t Chase Wrestling Immediately, Says He Had To ‘Hit Rock Bottom’ Before He Gave It Consideration
Photo credit: AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images
Randy Orton says he never thought he’d make it as a pro wrestler until he finally hit a personal low as a young man and went to his father for help.
Orton was the latest guest on Broken Skull Sessions with Steve Austin and talked about being a third-generation wrestler and not chasing the dream of wrestling right away. Orton explained that he didn’t always want to be a wrestler and really didn’t get into it that much until he was in high school.
“I don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve done a lot of interviews where they talk about, ‘Did you always want to be a wrestler?’ and the easy answer, Steve, is, ‘Yeah, I always wanted to.’ But, I guess the truth is—and this is first time I’ve ever spoke on it in front of a camera—is that I wasn’t a wrestling fan. When I was a junior, senior in high school, I definitely got into wrestling and I loved it from a fan’s point of view. Early on, I wasn’t living and breathing the business like so many guys that I worked with did. I’m so fortunate to be where I’m at because early on,” Orton explained, “it was what my dad did for work. He could be a vacuum cleaner bag salesman, like it didn’t matter.”
“My dad was a wrestler, he was gone a lot. There wasn’t the iPhones and the social media and this and that and my mom didn’t sit me down and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna watch Dad tonight.’ He’d be gone for a month or two, come from Japan, I might like go through his bag and see the cool s—t that he brought home and he’d bring me home a present or something but other than that,” Orton said, “that was what my dad did for a living.”
Orton says later on in high school he got into wrestling as a fan, but lacked the confidence to follow in his father’s footsteps because he didn’t think he had what it took.
“I didn’t have it up here [points to head], Steve. I wasn’t conditioned to understand the business the way that I maybe should have in order to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Orton noted. “So it wasn’t a possibility to me, at that time.”
Orton then spoke about his time in the military, including his dishonorable discharge. He explained that things started off well enough, but found that the way things were run weren’t for him. Orton said he left boot camp with a meritorious promotion and Private First Class rank, but got to the fleet and it was like a “restart boot camp.”
“It was like the opposite of how a locker room should be, where everyone’s got each other’s back. Then I said, ‘you know what? This ain’t for me.’ I took the f—k off. I went AWOL for 83 days, came back, turned myself in, thought they’d give me my release papers. They said, ‘No, you signed a contract with Uncle Sam, son. You’re grabbing you’re M16A2 service rifle and you’re going to the field with the rest of your platoon.’ And I was like what? So I just sat on my hands and said ‘I ain’t going anywhere.’ They brought me to the platoon commander and I disobeyed a direct order to return to the field and got a bad conduct discharge,” Orton explained, “and it took about 45 days in the brig before I went home.”
“And now I’m living at home with my folks. My dad, of course, isn’t wrestling anymore, other than doing some indie things around, some signings. Me and my old man built a little room in the basement for me to live, and I worked at the gas station, working midnights down the street. About a month goes by,” Orton said, before he finally asked his father about getting into the business. “‘Hey dad, do you think…’ I was just about to turn 19, ‘Do you think maybe I’d be able to do what you did?’ He said ‘No, I’m blackballed. New York will never have you.’ Like he didn’t think I had a chance in hell.”
When Austin asked why that was the thought process, thinking Randy had to be talked out of it, Orton explained that his family never pushed the idea of wrestling on him.
“My mom never pushed it on me, never mentioned it. Didn’t like what my dad did and you’re away a lot. My father never pushed it on me, either. So I had to approach him,” Orton explained, “I had to hit rock bottom, so to speak, and come to him. But he made that call.”
Orton went on to explain that despite his father being “blackballed” in the company, he still had some fans in the office, and Randy ended up getting a tryout and started with OVW six months later.