Randy Orton It’s easy to understand why. His father is WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton, his uncle Barry “Barry O” Orton, and his grandfather “The Big O,” the late Bob Orton, Sr. Most kids remember their first ball game or school play; Randy’s childhood memories include sitting in the kitchen of his family’s St. Louis home with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and repairing a broken banister leaned on by Andre the Giant. He wasn’t even five years old when he watched his father knock out “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the main event at the inaugural WrestleMania, but he already knew he wanted to be a WWE Superstar.
Randy’s parents tried dissuading him; his father even warned that life in the ring meant a life on the road, away from family. Yet Randy, seeing how his friends perceived his world-traveling dad in “a different light,” recalls only thinking the prospect was “quite appealing, and something I wanted to do.”
Still, he agreed to try other avenues first. After graduating Hazelwood Central High School in 1998 (where he was an accomplished amateur wrestler), Orton enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. His plan was to serve a four-year tour of duty, then focus on a wrestling career; his reality was a dishonorable discharge one year later, due to unauthorized absences on two occasions (one for 82 days) and for disobeying a superior officer’s direct order. After spending 38 days in the brig of Camp Pendleton Base, he would resume his civilian life…and to pursuing his destiny.
Back home in St. Louis, Orton accompanied his father backstage at a local WWE live event in late 1999. He left the show with an opportunity to try out in Stamford, which soon resulted in a developmental deal to train at Ohio Valley Wrestling. Orton quickly rose through OVW’s ranks, and in April 2002, he officially made his WWE debut as a member of SmackDown. The third-generation Superstar had at last fulfilled his dream, though a long-standing rivalry with Mick Foley (and a brutal Hardcore Match at Backlash in 2004 that Orton remembers as one of his greatest contests) provided him with a new purpose.