The story of Randy Orton is one of the more unique cases in all of pro wrestling. From starting out being cast as another member of an already successful family to making his name stand out on its own as a household name, one word seems to ring true throughout his illustrious career — evolution.

Orton is the key focus of the season premiere of A&E’s WWE documentary series, Biography: WWE Legends. In a rare instance, viewers get an in-depth glimpse into the real man that is Randy Orton and not just the character that has been displayed over his 20-year career in the business. Joined by a cast of interviewees such as Cody Rhodes, “Cowboy” Bob Orton, his wife Kim Orton, Adam “Edge” Copeland, Anthony Carelli (FKA Santino Marella), Matt Riddle, and more, Orton talks about his career and how each of these people influenced the person he became and is today. As the documentary gets more in detail with the person that is Randy Orton, the more certain issues that plagued his personal life are showcased and given attention that were not highlighted as much previously.

As the feature begins, we get a look at Randy along with his family, a big theme to his story that will become more evident as the documentary progresses — yet the career of Bob Orton Sr. is barely mentioned. Orton shows off a high school varsity jacket before getting into a vintage WrestleMania 2 T shirt. This transitions the viewer into a little bit about the career of “Cowboy” Bob Orton, Randy’s father (Bob’s brother, Barry Orton — who was Barry O and involved in the whole WWF sex scandal of the early 1990s is not mentioned). Randy details not being able to take part in normal father-son activities such as being able to just stop and “play catch” with Bob as he was on the road a lot and often overseas or on different tours.

“The few times I did get to go with my father, I will never forget,” says Orton as he reminisces about getting to go backstage and meet some of the greats. Randy would often get asked by others if he would be a wrestler like Bob, but stated he didn’t have the confidence to do it. He reveals he was often bullied and was not popular throughout high school but found some success in amateur wrestling.

It was then that he had to decide about his future and decided to sign up for the Marine Corps. Randy was excited to be a part of something, a team where he could excel. He graduated boot camp and felt that’s where his first evolution occurred, and he transformed into a man. When Randy realized the multiple traumatic hazing experiences that others were participating in, he says he had to get out. He got on a greyhound and got to St Louis, Missouri, where he stayed home for two months following everything. We get another look at Randy with his family going over his time in the military. Randy refused to return to the Marine Corps and was sentenced to 110 days in the brig, serving 38 of them for good behavior. Orton would be discharged and made it back home, working at a gas station for $5 an hour.

As Randy realized he couldn’t handle doing this for much longer, a glimmer of hope made itself clear as he began to watch wrestling again. He would reach out to his father, and this would get his foot in the door to make a debut in the WWE. We get an interview with Adam “Edge” Copeland who was interested in meeting Randy and was looking forward to one day “getting the ring with him.”

Dave Bautista is the first person to meet Randy at OVW as viewers are presented with a look at the infamous OVW class featuring Randy, Batista, John Cena, Shelton Benjamin, and Brock Lesnar. At 19 years old, Randy felt he “did not have much to offer” aside from his family name. Cena is interviewed and describes Randy as someone who was just there to get paid and move on. It is made clear that Randy knew he was not necessarily liked by everyone but would be one to work hard to be better than everyone else there. As time went on, Randy grew confident, both inside and outside the ring but some would consider that confidence as arrogance. Randy’s success and rise would not go unnoticed as not long after he got the call to join the WWE main roster and was working weekly dark matches.

Orton credits the dark matches to some of his early success in improving and how he was able to get his TV debut on Smackdown. Shortly after, he would get sent over to Raw and would unfortunately get injured immediately. This would be Randy’s first serious injury, tearing his labrum. Keeping Randy on TV via vignettes during his recovery, it was realized the WWE had a star on their hands. Creeping up on a full recovery, the stable of Evolution was born. Randy would be reunited with his OVW classmate Batista, alongside Ric Flair and Triple H.

Randy’s time as a singles star is highlighted as he would debut the Legend Killer gimmick. A highlight of this character would be the infamous Backlash 2004 match with Mick Foley, a match that will go down in history. A truly bloody, gruesome match involving barbed wire, a plethora of weapons, and of course,  “10,0000 thumbtacks.” Orton describes the thumbtack spot as being a human “pincushion.” According to Orton, the win against Foley would catapult him into no longer being a kid in the business anymore. Orton won his first world title in 2004, becoming the youngest in history, but he was not ready. The money, the women, everything being thrown onto his lap all at once did not match with his maturity.

It was around this time Randy reveals he began to have a problem with drugs and with painkillers specifically. His “biggest regret” was being unable to fully function during the Hall of Fame speech for his own father, consistently falling asleep and unable to focus. He was prescribed hundreds of pills and taking them because he felt he “needed them.” Randy was seen by Triple H as a “self-destructor.”

“If there was something that could go wrong, Randy would force it to go wrong,” said Triple H. Many interviews are shown of peers in the business describing Randy as someone with a short fuse.

Randy Orton in A&E Biography.

Randy describes a night where he drove home while under the influence. He got home safely but took a few pills on an empty stomach. Orton would wake up, but not where he expected. He had an accidental overdose and was in the hospital. Despite trying to hide it, he received a 60-day suspension. Randy had to attend rehab, and it’s revealed the doctors didn’t think he had much of a drug problem, but more so an anger management problem.

Using this as inspiration, the anger management would be the spawn for his character in the ring. Upon his character developing, he would meet a career turn, teaming with Matt Riddle, crediting him for recent success to disguise a serious back injury he was going through. The injury was stenosis, otherwise known as an unstable spine, keeping him out of action for a long while before his huge return at Survivor Series 2023.

Randy would turn his life around the moment he met his wife, Kim. She is described by many as the reason Randy evolved into a brand-new man and is the man that is known today. Someone who is willing to help, someone who wants the next generation to succeed. A family man, who helps at work but also at home with his family consisting of Kim, his stepsons, and his two daughters and a man who can take a step back, play that game of catch with his dad after all these years, and be respected among his peers as a brand-new person who deserves it.

TOP PHOTO: Randy Orton at WWE Friday Night Smackdown at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, BC, on January 5, 2024. Photo by Ben Lypka