WWE: Randy Orton's New Look Teases Return of Popular Gimmick

Randy Orton has been out of action for almost a full calendar year. The 14-time world champion was quietly written off of WWE programming after he and tag partner Matt Riddle lost the Raw Tag Titles to The Usos in a championship unification match. Orton was set to take time off to heal from some back issues but was expected to return in time for WWE SummerSlam, where he was reportedly set for a main event clash with Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns. The Viper's injuries ended up being worse than expected, as Orton required surgery and was consequently put on the shelf indefinitely

While there is still relative uncertainty on when he will be back, Orton's name has been reportedly floated around backstage for the first time in months, indicating that WWE personnel are beginning to have conversations about how he can be worked into storylines. When that day comes, it looks like a popular and recently viral iteration of the Apex Predator could resurface.

Orton's wife recently shared a picture of herself and her husband on her Instagram Story. Unlike the last time he was on television, Orton is now sporting both a clean-shaven face as well as a bald head.

(Photo: @kim.orton1 on Instagram)

This look is reminiscent of Orton's style 14 years ago. Recently re-popularized on TikTok, fans have raved about "2009 Randy Orton," reminding each other how villainous and sadistic that iteration of The Viper was. That year saw Orton enact some of his most infamous deeds, including kissing an unconscious Stephanie McMahon in front of a handcuffed Triple H and punt-kicking a defenseless Vince McMahon.

If Orton's current look means a return of this extra evil side of him, there could be some highly personal feuds on the way. Most eyes look to Cody Rhodes, as Orton has built-in history with his former mentee. If Rhodes defeats Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at WWE WrestleMania 39, Orton could be one of the American Nightmare's first challengers. As evident by his championship pursuits against the likes of Bray Wyatt and his blood feuds with superstars such as Edge, there are very few lines that Orton is not willing to cross to emerge the victor.

Another possible program for this hyper-violent Orton could be against Riddle. The Original Bro is currently away from WWE due to required rehab, but an implosion of RK-Bro upon both men's return could lay the groundwork for a narrative that gives Orton a reason to revert to his '09 evil ways.

Stay tuned to ComicBook.com for updates on Randy Orton's WWE status.