The Main Event:
Randy Orton: The Evolution Of A Predator isn't so much a biography of the champion WWE superstar as it is a like inside the head of its subject. The feature bases itself around Orton's journey on 'The Road to WrestleMania' where we see him preparing for various matches leading up to the WWE's biggest and boldest event and his position in it. Along the way, we get not only footage of Orton stretching, training and dealing with doctors and physical therapists but we also get a look at what his life is like outside the ring - or at least what his professional life is like. The focus here is very much on his WWE superstar status and as such this isn't so much a biographical piece as it is a slice of life look into his career.
Orton does go into a little bit of detail about his early days, discussing how when he was nineteen years old he got tired of working as a gas station attendant and had his father, 'Cowboy' Bob Orton Jr. (son of Bob Orton - Randy had wrestling in his blood, whether he wanted it or not!), pull some strings and get him an interview with a WWE talent scout. Evidently that scout liked what Orton brought to the table and soon enough he was an up and coming star in the OVW league alongside other future WWE titans like Dave Batista, Brock Lesner and of course, John Cena. It's here, Orton notes, that he first start getting cocky - which is fine, says Arn Anderson, so long as you can back it up. When Orton made the transition to the big leagues and debuted in the WWE, he'd fast climb the ranks but Anderson, as his trainer, would try to reel him in. Randy is a big guy and his early years featured a lot of high flying kicks and 'off the top ropes' maneuvers that would wind up causing him some fairly serious pain that he still carries with him. This lead to an evolution in his style, on his way to the very top where, after joining up with Batista, HHH and Ric Flair to form Evolution, he'd soon become the youngest champion title holder in the history of the WWE.
As the documentary plays out we also see how and how often Orton deals with the media, takes time out to sign for the fans whenever he can, and how infrequently he gets to go home and actually have a personal life. It's fairly telling and interesting to have this material mixed in with the expected career highlights, such as his time as the 'Legend Killer' and his later infamous feud with CM Punk.
The documentary moves at a good pace and covers pretty much all of Orton's career highlights (save for the perpetually absent Chris Benoit material) and more importantly it also allows him to discuss things in his own words. That said, the WWE's tendency to bleep him when he curses, which is frequently, gets old fast. Of course they want to keep things reasonably family friendly on their releases, but Orton curses a lot (as does Cena at one point!) and the bleeping gets irritating. Regardless, what's here is pretty interesting even if some of us probably would have liked for it to have provided more background information on Orton's life and given us more dirt on his early years. Orton does talk about being kind of a nerd in high school, noting that he had bad acne and that he didn't lose his virginity until he was finished high school, later than his peers ,but these are fleeting comments even if a few pictures from his archive are fun to check out.
Input on Orton's personality and style come from commentators like the aforementioned Cena and Anderson is welcome, while 'Cowboy' Bob Orton Jr. chimes in here and there as do Triple H, Batista, Cody Rhodes, Sheamus and a few others. All in all, it paints an interesting portrait of the life and career of a man who tends to be a pretty vicious contender in the ring, and gives him a refreshingly honest and human personality.
All of the material in this collection is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen although when the documentary makes use of some older footage going to Orton's early days mattes appear on the left and right side of the screen to present it full frame. Some of the older material was shot on consumer grade video and isn't in the bets of shape, though all of the newer material looks just as fine as you'd expect it to. Colors are nice and natural and there are no problems with print damage, dirt or debris. Skin tones look good and there aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues to note either. All in all, it's a pretty standard WWE transfer - it's not reference quality, but it looks good enough.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is of decent enough quality, though there isn't really all that much to it in terms of channel separation, nor does there need to be. You can hear the interviews and narration on the feature just fine and there is no audible hiss or distortion outside of some of the older archival clips used in the documentary. The matches vary in quality here, just as they do where the video is concerned, meaning that the older ones don't sound quite as clean as the newer ones but there's nothing here to be concerned about, it all sounds fine.
Disc one includes just the documentary and some menus and chapter selection but this is a three disc set and the later discs include a pretty solid selection of bonus matches, some of which are touched on in the documentary. Here's what you get:
Randy Orton vs. Slick Robbie D, OVW Christmas Chaos - January 31, 2001
Randy Orton vs. Hardcore Holly, SmackDown - April 25, 2002
Randy Orton vs. Shawn Michaels, Unforgiven - September 21, 2003
Intercontinental Championship Match With Randy Orton vs. Rob Van Dam, Armageddon - December 14, 2003
Handicap Tag Team Match With Randy Orton, Ric Flair & Batista vs. The Rock & Mick Foley, WrestleMania 20 - March 14, 2004
Hardcore Match for the Intercontinental Championship With Randy Orton vs. Mick Foley, Backlash - April 18, 2004
Intercontinental Championship Match With Randy Orton vs. Edge, Vengeance - July 11, 2004
Handicap Casket Match With Randy Orton & "Cowboy" Bob Orton vs. The Undertaker, No Mercy - October 9, 2005
Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle, Vengeance - June 25, 2006
Legend Killer vs. Legend Match With Randy Orton vs. Hulk Hogan, SummerSlam - August 20, 2006
Texas Bull Rope Match With Randy Orton vs. Dusty Rhodes, The Great American Bash - July 22, 2007
Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship With Randy Orton vs. Triple H vs. John Cena, WrestleMania 24 - March 30, 2008
"I Quit" Match for the WWE Championship With Randy Orton vs. John Cena, Breaking Point - September 13, 2009
Hell in a Cell Match for the WWE Championship With Randy Orton vs. Sheamus, Hell in a Cell - October 3, 2010
Randy Orton vs. CM Punk, WrestleMania 27 - April 3, 2011
World Heavyweight Championship Match With Randy Orton vs. Christian, SmackDown - May 6, 2011
It would have been nice to see more early OVW matches included here but at least we get one, and it's cool to see his WWE debut against Hardcore Holly included. As far as the other matches go? They're a pretty good sampling of career highlights and, as the title of this set implies, they do go a long way towards demonstrating how Orton has evolved over the years into one of the biggest and best of the WWE Superstars. It should be noted that Orton's title match victory over Chris Benoit is missing from this set. The WWE has their reasons for this, but it was an important match in Orton's career and its omission is a big one.
As a third generation wrestler, you could say that Randy Orton was 'born into this' and to a certain degree you'd be right BUT you've got to give the guy credit for his accomplishments. Not only has he risen out of his father's shadow but he's developed his own style and managed to climb to the top of the ranks very quickly. This set may not offer up the comprehensive biography some fans probably wanted but it does give us a look inside Randy's head which makes for interesting viewing in and of itself. On top of that, we get a pretty solid selection of bonus matches as well. Recommended, particularly for Orton fans.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.