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The Legend Killer. The Legacy. The Viper. The Evolution.
Since becoming the youngest WWE Superstar to win the Heavyweight Title, Randy Orton has captured the imagination of wrestling fans the world over. Combining a charismatic swagger, muted intensity and smooth moving wrestling style, Orton has grown from a third generation legacy wrestler into one of the WWE's most celebrated, enigmatic anti-heroes.
Randy Orton: The Evolution of a Predator is a character study of the man behind wrestling persona we all know as The Viper. The documentary follows Orton on the road to WrestleMania XXVII to take back his title from archrival CM Punk. Though the package markets itself as highlighting the details of his WrestleMania training (mental preparation, physical workout, fan interaction and press promotion), the pay-per-view event is only a plot device.
The meat of the film deals with Orton's life up to WrestleMania XXVII. Evolution of a Predator posits that Orton's road to WrestleMania XXVII actually began when a teenage Marine Corps dropout named Randall decided to try and follow in the wrestling footsteps of his father ("Cowboy" Bob Orton). Upon arrival the WWE saw Randy's raw abilities and cultivated him into superstar status almost overnight. With this success came Orton's struggle with fame, personal failures, insecurities, and addiction, forcing the hotshot rookie to reinvent himself or succumb to his own self destructive personality.
The Evolution of a Predator of Randy Orton from a self-loathing, hugely talented heel into one of the most magnetic and likeable wrestlers in the WWE makes for a very compelling narrative documentary that casts Randy Orton in a complex, if sympathetic light in keeping with his wrestling persona. Added testimonials from Orton's colleagues, including Triple H, John Cena and Cody Rhodes, lends authenticity and varied perspectives of The Viper's career, warts and all.
Speaking of warts, since Evolution of a Predator is a WWE production, the politics of "family entertainment" whitewashes the explicit details of Orton's personal demons (specifically his drug addiction). This minor complaint aside, this is a captivating, well-produced piece of documentary that refuses to shy away from Orton's darkest moments, nor does it miss an opportunity to glorify his biggest wins. Whether you love or hate Randy Orton in the ring, Evolution of a Predator will provide you with a greater understanding of a wrestler who, like all of us, is a heel and hero all at once.
Accompanying the documentary are two career spanning discs of Orton's most noteworthy matches, starting with his Ohio Valley Wrestling debut and ending with his post-WrestleMania XXVII match against Christian on SmackDown.
With a moniker like "Legend Killer" as your namesake, it isn't surprising that Orton faces off against a diverse roster of adversaries. Retro wrestling fans will be pleased with matches involving Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Mick Foley, Undertaker, Dusty Rhodes, and Ric Flair. This classic set of wrestlers are evenly mixed into the crowd of contemporary superstars like Edge, Sheamus, Triple H, CM Punk, and John Cena, playing out like a well-crafted mix-tape with something for everyone. While not all of the matches knock it out of the park (a casket match against Undertaker falls prey to its own gimmicks; a match against Edge feels too evenly stacked), the majority of what's on display really shines. As far as a career retrospective goes, this is one of the most uniformly excellent sets I've encountered from WWE. Given that Randy Orton is only ten years into his career at WWE, that is amazingly high praise.
On the technical side, WWE turns out its usual strong showing. The 1.78.1 anamorphic video is quite sharp. The 5.1 sound mix lacks in fine detail, but is very clear. This presentation extends to the matches as well, which look and sound equally impressive.
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