The Complete History of the WWE Championship - Part 13
Orton was 24 years old - a full year younger than Brock Lesnar was at SummerSlam 2002 when he raised the WWE Championship at the tender age of 25.
After Lesnar had departed WWE in March 2004, WWE were keen for Orton, their next superstar to break the record of youngest World champion in WWE history.
However, Orton's first World title run was botched. Originally planned to dethrone his mentor Triple H in a slow burn storyline, meant to culminate at WrestleMania 21, Orton had been rushed into the top spot six months early. That he dropped the belt, just one month after winning it, to "The Game" meant his headline aspirations were over.
It took Orton three years to truly recover from this setback and gain acceptance as a top act again. However, once more he was dealt a blow when the time came for him to become World Champion again.
This time it was the WWE Championship and Orton had been involved in a deeply personal feud with long reigning champion, John Cena. He was set to lift the belt from Cena at No Mercy 2007 but Cena went down with a pectoral muscle injury shortly before the show forcing him to vacate the title.
Orton was simply awarded the title which was a letdown for his credibility. It would have meant far more if Orton had been the one to terminate Cena's 13-month long title run.
In another knock to his credibility, he dropped the title 10 minutes after winning it before regaining the strap later in the show. This time, WWE finally did right by RKO and he held the crown for six months as he finally morphed into a permanent headline act.
At the time of writing, Orton was a 13 time World Champion, with only Triple H, John Cena, and Ric Flair ahead of him in terms of most World titles won.
It took longer than expected but RKO definitely achieved his potential.
Part 13 in this series charts the journey of the WWE Championship from January 2006 until that crazy night in October 2007, when the title changed hands three times in one night.
Previous entries in my series can be found here: