Where does RKO come from?
The RKO is the signature finishing move of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestler Randy Orton. A variation on other moves like the jumping cutter or the Diamond cutter, the RKO is done by approaching an opponent, jumping high into the air, grabbing the back of the opponent’s head, and then driving the opponent’s face into the mat when they fall.
When Orton first came up with his variation of the “cutter” in the early 2000s, he says that the WWE’s Vince McMahon gave him only until the end of the day to pick a name for it, so he just used his full initials: R.K.O., or Randy Keith Orton. The RKO became famous when Randy Orton used the move to knock out Chris Benoit in 2004, winning him the record of youngest World Champion in WWE history.
Though the move has been popular with WWE fans since its introduction, the RKO hit the mainstream when it spread into an online meme in 2014. It became a trend for social media users to edit videos of people falling down by including footage of Randy Orton as if he’s performing an RKO on them. The first known instance of this was posted on Vine in October that year by user Wrestling LAD, who took footage of a soccer game where one of the players tripped over the ball, and edited it so that it looked like Randy Orton was dragging the player down to the grass. Many similar videos quickly popped up, often with the hashtag #RKOOutOfNowhere.
Who uses RKO?
Because the RKO is a dramatic and powerful move, wanting to “do an RKO” to someone or telling someone that they’re going to “get RKO’d” is used as an expression of frustration, e.g., “I’m going to RKO Ted if he’s late again.”
The RKO wrestling move is not related to RKO Pictures, the noted early 20th-century American film and radio production company.
“I want to RKO every single person that is posting the bathing suit pic on insta”
Faith Nesbitt @Faaiitthhhh Twitter (May 3, 2017)
“Ready to RKO myself through my bedroom window over the fact I simply CANT STUDY”
@JasonKiely1 Twitter (May 3, 2017)
“But before Orton embarks on one of the most demanding months of his career, he sat down with WWE.com to discuss the highs, lows and lessons of the 15 preceding years, from knowing who he’s here to please to his single favorite RKO ever.”
Anthony Benigno and Nichola Sampogna, “Exclusive interview: Randy Orton looks back on his 15-year career,” WWE (April 26, 2017)