By Mike Mooneyham

April 29, 2007

Randy Orton may have dodged another bullet.

WWE announced last week that the controversial superstar will only have to pay a fine for an incident that occurred during the company’s recent European tour.

Orton, 27, was sent home early due to “disciplinary reasons” that reportedly involved more than $50,000 worth of damage done to a hotel room.

The incident was just the latest in a string of incidents involving Orton. The third-generation performer also has served suspensions for drug violations, been accused of harassing divas and been ordered to attend anger management classes.

“Orton is not unlike many young athletes who reach fame and fortune at a young age and have issues handling it,” WWE announcer Jim Ross posted on his blog. “I read about it seemingly every week regarding athletes from the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. That certainly doesn’t make it right, as there are only so many second chances to go around and it would be a damn shame to see any young talent self-destruct and permanently damage their career because of utilizing poor judgment.”

Randy Orton

Randy Orton

WWE owner Vince McMahon reportedly was upset that the company Web site was late in reporting the incident, although he obviously would have preferred had the item never seen the light of day. Its eventual release consisted of only a terse one-line statement: “WWE has taken action against Randy Orton for unprofessional conduct.”

Fortunately, or conveniently, for WWE, Orton will take part in tonight’s Backlash pay-per-view in Atlanta where he joins Edge and Shawn Michaels in a Fatal Four-Way match for John Cena’s WWE title.

Orton became the youngest performer in WWE history to win the world heavyweight championship when he defeated Chris Benoit in 2004 at the age of 24.

“Randy is a talented and good-hearted kid, but he has to make better choices, especially when it comes to anger issues,” added Ross. “In my opinion, if Randy decides to change how he approaches certain situations, he can be successful in doing so, which would in turn extend his career into one of the longer, more successful ones in the business. I speak from experience that attitude starts and ends with the person one sees in the mirror.”

“Randy Orton still hasn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Steve Austin told the Miami Herald. “(He has) all the tools, but he’s distracted. If he can put it together and make a commitment to be the best in professional wrestling, develop an interview style and more interesting character, he’s there … Physically he’s got it, but if he can put it all together, he can be a top guy and make top money. It’s up to him.”

– A marginally related story on the WWE Web site detailed the rigors of the company’s grueling overseas schedule. Ken Kennedy, Chris Masters and Bobby Lashley related how their lives had been affected on the European tour, and how they coped with the rough two weeks on the road prior to their shows.

A pale Kennedy said he could barely stomach the food he was subjected to. “I’ve been through boot camp and had better food than on this tour,” he said. “European food is terrible. I’m not kidding when I say this, but the worst Italian food was in Italy. Everything is as dry as it could possibly be. There’s no spices or anything.”

“I may have lost a little bit of my mind out here,” said Lashley. “But seriously, I’ve learned to pull out only what I need from my bag and to leave the rest. That’s how I don’t lose things.”

“Emotionally, these tours are tough,” said Masters. “That’s the hardest part for me – being away from home. I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed the tour. I’ve seen a lot of cool places and countries, but it’s going to be a great feeling when my life gets back to normal.”

– WWE Tough Enough 3 champion Matt Cappotelli will be undergoing brain surgery May 1 in Boston to remove a cancerous tumor that has grown since being discovered.

Cappotelli, 27, postponed his career early last year due to a malignant brain tumor.

“Doctors have been monitoring the tumor since its discovery, and my last MRI revealed that it had grown a little,” Cappotelli told the WWE Web site. “I had been feeling pretty good the last couple months, but recently I had some bad headaches and noticed a little change in my vision. They told me that because the tumor has grown, my optic nerves had swollen as well.”

Cappotelli, who operates a Christian clothing company called Faith Ink, is cautious yet optimistic about the procedure.

“Any surgery like this … it’s extremely tough to get 100 percent of the tumor. They’re hoping to get in the high 90s, and we’ll have to treat whatever they can’t get with chemo or radiation or a combination of both.”

“I’m glad I’m not in control of this, because I probably would have screwed this up a long time ago,” he added. “God is in control, and I have complete faith in what he’s doing. There’s a scripture I read quite often that describes my situation. It says God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I think this is a time where I’m at the darkest point of my life.”

– Initial reviews of the new Steve Austin movie “The Condemned,” which opened nationwide this weekend, have been less than glowing.

“The posters for ‘The Condemned’ include the tagline ’10 People Will Fight. 9 People Will Die. You Get to Watch,'” wrote the Hollywood Report. “They ran out of space before they could include the words ‘… and be Bored Silly’ by this D-grade ‘Running Man’ ripoff. As off-putting and ridiculous as it is ponderous, this WWE Films enterprise should have been condemned to fight for space on the DVD shelves rather than be thrust upon unsuspecting moviegoers, but distributor Lionsgate obviously has other ideas.”

An AP review was equally harsh.

“‘The Condemned” also attempts to dress us down as a society for being such mindless sheep that we’ll watch anything shocking – and it scolds the media and entertainment industry for constantly pushing the limits of what’s considered shocking. This from the people who made the word ‘smackdown’ part of the American lexicon.”

The review did credit the movie with having “a bit more panache and fire to it than the two previous WWE movies: ‘See No Evil,’ starring the seven-footer Kane, and ‘The Marine’ with beefy John Cena. It also has headier stuff in mind than those two movies – and that’s its pathetic downfall.”

Critiqued the Boston Globe: “Nobody rooting for the movie career of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, the big, swaggering pro wrestler, wants to hear that his debut vehicle, ‘The Condemned,’ is execrable. So those people will have to stop reading, because it is.”

– The first 10 guests have been named for this NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest on Aug. 10-12 in Charlotte.

Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Ole Anderson, Magnum TA, Rip Hawk, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Gary Hart, Rick Steiner, Bob Armstrong and Barry Darsow (aka Krusher Khruschev and Demolition Smash) have been confirmed to sign autographs and take photos with fans at the three-day fanfest weekend. Bob Caudle and Christopher Cruise will serve as emcees for the weekend’s activities.

– Old School Championship Wrestling will hold a show tonight at Weekend’s Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek. Main event is The Barbarian vs. Josh Mangum. Bell time is 6 p.m. Admission is $8 at the door. For more information, call 824-1477.

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Backlash pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7.