The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotion for the Orton family as they reflect and say goodbye to their patriarch, Bob Orton Sr.
Orton died July 16 of massive heart failure in Las Vegas, a few days shy of his 77th birthday. Two memorial services, one in the morning and one in the evening, were held July 19.
Son Barry Orton wanted to honor his father by celebrating his life instead of having a “grief fest.” So during the evening service he showed a nine-minute homage of his father’s life that he edited himself.
Most of the video contained footage his father shot.
“We have trunks full of Super-8 movies,” recalls Barry. “My dad was all about the latest technology when we were kids. He always had the cameras and equipment and the projectors. He would film everything.”
The video opens with singer Stevie Ray Vaughn, whom the older Orton idolized, being introduced at a live show, and then cuts in to an interview he gave for WWE’s Confidential for his grandson, current WWE superstar Randy Orton.
It also featured plenty of footage of his son, Bob Orton Jr.
“I found a tape where my brother and my father are shoot wrestling on the mat,” describes Barry. “It was so funny. My dad taps Bob out and then he sees the camera so he falls over and hams it up. So Bob goes over and puts his foot on his chest. Bob was so skinny back then. My Dad reaches up and grabs Bob’s hand with his thumb and forefingers and snaps his wrist back.”
The footage allowed everyone a chance to laugh, although it’s been a very difficult time for the family, Barry admits. Their father’s death is still a shock.
“We were sure, it wasn’t even a question that he would be 90 years old,” Barry reveals. “It blows my mind. He was just so huge. Even though he wasn’t mobile, he was bigger than life. We didn’t expect that. I thought he would go out slowly.”
After a few moments he adds, “As I’ve been watching these tapes, I realize there was no one like him. It’s messed up that he wasn’t the world champion. He could have been the best ever. I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad. He was a master. I’m watching him and you just forget how good he was.”
Barry remarks at length how his father was a genius at crowd psychology and how he could make the crowds go ballistic. It was these traits that would inspire Barry’s rendition of his father’s Zodiac character years later in Stampede Wrestling.
“I almost wish he wasn’t my father so you’d believe all this stuff I’m telling you about how great he was,” he says softly.
He also reveals that beyond his father’s tough exterior was a clown, a funny man who wanted to be home more with his family and also enjoyed playing rag time music on the piano.
And one of his favorite stories is when his brother Bob rolled the family’s ’57 Chevy while his dad was on the road. Everyone, including Barry who was in the third grade at the time, thought Bob would be in extraordinary, life threatening, trouble.
“All of my family thought we should be hugging and kissing because we would all be dead when Dad came home,” Barry says laughing. “My dad comes home and he turns on the light in our bedroom, and my dad goes, ‘Well I knew something was going to happen to it, but it never occurred to me you’d roll it.’ Then he turned the light out and walked out.” That was the end of the incident and Bob Jr. was spared massive punishment.
It was Barry who went over to his father’s house on the afternoon of July 15th. During their visit, his father complained of having shoulder pains. According to Barry his father had suffered a major cardiac arrest that morning, but didn’t tell anyone. The only reason he had called Barry over was to help him tape Saturday Night’s Main Event because grandson Randy would be appearing on it. That was the priority to him. He was one of Randy’s biggest fans and he taped everything Randy appeared on.
Because of his pain, Barry decided to call 911 and his father was taken in to the hospital. He passed away after undergoing surgery where doctors gave him a 20 per cent chance of surviving.
Prior to his passing Orton decided he wanted to be cremated. As per his request the family will be spreading his ashes on Mount Charleston next year when the annual Cauliflower Alley Club reunion is occurring in Las Vegas, so some of Orton’s colleagues can be a part of the ceremony.