You may have heard the news that Alberto Del Rio’s contract runs out shortly. Reports suggest he is considering leaving the WWE and returning to his native Mexico. I think this could be a huge blow to a company that is already reeling from losing one of their top stars.
Del Rio joined WWE in 2010 and initially wrestled under a mask. It wasn’t long before he unmasked and turned into the character we see today. He officially made his debut on the SmackDown roster as an arrogant rich Mexican aristocrat. His initial run as a heel on the blue side of the company was without a doubt his finest work under the WWE banner.
The company set Alberto up as a conniving heel that took every opportunity to injure his opponents with his patented Cross Armbreaker. He took out Rey Mysterio, Matt Hardy and Christian within his first year in WWE. Arguably the biggest moment of his career was winning the 40-man Royal Rumble, dubbed the ‘the biggest Rumble Match in history’.
Having won the Royal Rumble, Del Rio decided to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. He was defeated in his attempt by then champion Edge at WrestleMania, I felt that this and the fact that Edge had to retire really halted the progression of Del Rio’s character. I fully expected a long feud between him and Edge ending with Del Rio eventually picking up the title and looking like Edge’s equal.
Because of the forced retirement of Edge, his best friend Christian stepped in to battle for the title in a ladder match against the Mexican superstar. This was the point at which Del Rio should have finally reach his full potential, but it was not to be. This was the big issue with the way he was used in WWE; there was no consistency to his push and it affected the legitimacy of his character.
He was given another opportunity to shine when he won Money in the Bank and eventually cashed in on CM Punk at SummerSlam 2011. His momentum was again stop and start as he would lose the title to John Cena a month later at Night of Champions, but then win it back at Hell in a Cell. Why WWE decided it was a good decision to flip-flop the title from someone who was on the brink of becoming a big star is above my pay grade.
Del Rio went on to hold the title for another couple of months after defeating Cena but his character had already started to become tainted by the nature of his stop-start pushes. His feud with Sheamus were as one side as you are likely to see in a scripted environment, I can’t remember one time during their 2012 feud that Del Rio got the upper hand.
WWE attempted to turn him face with mixed results. He was put into a feud with Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship and came out of it looking like he’d managed to get over despite the somewhat dodgy booking of his character. Then Dolph Ziggler came along and halted his title reign at 90 days.
This should have been a necessary evil to get Ziggler a huge pop the night after WrestleMania and make him look like a huge star. Unfortunately, Dolph got injured early in his reign and sat most of it out before dropping the title straight back to Del Rio on his return. Del Rio had once again turned heel by this point. I think his turn came too soon, WWE should have allowed more time to either keep him heel and evolve or turn him face and create a new twist to his character.
Lets skip ahead to today. Del Rio is currently the whipping boy to Batista in what could have been an interesting feud. They managed to drum up genuine interest with their twitter feud and it shown how good Del Rio can be, even when given very little to work with. Where can he realistically go from here? In my opinion he is too big to battle for either Intercontinental or United States title.
The end of two main titles in WWE is the worst thing that could have happened to him, he epitomises the superstars that are good enough for the secondary title but just not quite at the level for the WWE Championship.
WWE probably think they did everything they could to push Del Rio to the moon and back, and it has come back to bite them. I think in this case it’s pushing someone to the moon but then allowing them to crash back down to Earth that is the problem.
– By Michael Owen