Before being promoted to the main WWE roster, Orton trained in and wrestled for Mid-Missouri Wrestling Association-Southern Illinois Conference Wrestling for a month. He was then sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). There, Orton became OVW Hardcore Champion on two separate occasions.
After signing with WWE, Orton became a member of the stable Evolution, which quickly led to his capture of the WWE Intercontinental Championship, his first title with the company. Orton also acquired the moniker "The Legend Killer" during a storyline where he began disrespecting Hall of Famers and physically attacking veterans of professional wrestling outside of appropriate restrictions In 2004, Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion, when he won the title at the age of twenty-four from Chris Benoit. His title win resulted in his departure from Evolution and feud with his former stablemates. In 2006, Orton joined forces with Edge in a tag team known as Rated-RKO. As a team, Orton and Edge held the World Tag Team Championship. After the team disbanded, Orton, during the fall of 2007, won the WWE Championship twice in one night.