Why did Orton lose the title so soon in 2004?

Hi Scott,

Michael Xavier here. I've been off-blog because of the current product and am watching PPVs during the Reign of Terror that I missed because that was the last time I wasn't interested in the product. Plus, it was just referenced in the Max Landis short movie (by the way, congrats on the mention!)

Anyway, Orton beat Benoit for the RAW belt at SummerSlam 2004. It went on last, Orton won clean, and Benoit even did the "handshake of respect" to completely put him over. It was essentially portrayed as a career-making performance. The next night he got kicked out of Evolution and then lost the belt at the next PPV to Hunter. He was basically Hunter's bitch in rematches and Batista was later pushed into the RAW championship spot instead. Orton didn't get another run with a top title until he won the WWE title in October 2007, more than 3 years later.

What was the point of putting Orton over so strongly at SummerSlam only to have him lose the belt so suddenly? I'd get it if ratings and house shows tanked, but he was already being set up to lose it to Hunter the very next night, and then was essentially out of serious consideration of being champion for 3 years.

Anyway, any knowledge on this?

​The explanation I've always heard is that Hunter felt like they needed a heel champion for whatever the voting PPV was that year (Taboo Tuesday or Cyber Sunday, I forget) because fans wouldn't want to vote between three heels and the choices were stronger on the babyface side anyway.  Plus Orton was really a spectacular flop as champion, like really badly, so it worked out OK anyway.  ​