When Alberto Del Rio was first introduced to WWE audiences last year it was immediately clear that he was going to be getting the star treatment. While most newcomers to the WWE roster in 2010 started out on NXT Del Rio was introduced through a series of typically well produced vignettes. It was made clear that he was an arrogant, self-aggrandising heel, and when he finally made his debut in front of a live crowd he got one of the best reactions a WWE newcomer has had in years.
The vignettes were one sign that the company had serious plans for him. His inaugural feud being with Rey Mysterio was another. Being shown as equal to one of the company’s top babyface draws demonstrated the faith and hopes the company had in him.
With crisp verbal skills, an intense, realistic wrestling style, and his own personal ring announcer, Del Rio quickly stood out in the eyes of fans, his Mexican aristocrat persona quickly becoming one of the highlights of SmackDown. He was routinely involved in the best segments and matches on the blue brand and had enjoyable matches with everyone from Rey Mysterio to Matt Hardy to Daniel Bryan to John Morrison, and was receiving healthy heel responses from crowds.
At the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view in December he faced off against Mysterio, Edge and defending champion Kane for the World heavyweight championship in a TLC match, signalling that he was now seen as someone who could be trusted to not let the company down in a main event setting. He didn’t win but he carried himself well and didn’t look out of place.
A few weeks later Del Rio started 2011 by defeating Mysterio in a highly enjoyable two-out-of-three falls match, ending their feud. From there he went on to win the Royal Rumble, hyped as the biggest match of its kind ever, and announced that he would challenge for Edge’s World heavyweight championship at WrestleMania. This was yet another good sign: not only was ADR to be involved in one of the biggest matches on the show but his opponent was going to be one of the hardest working men in the company. He was sure to have a good match.
Despite the build-up to the WrestleMania bout featuring enjoyable matches (in particular the Christian v Del Rio cage match on the March 8th SmackDown) and an Edge and Christian reunion, it didn’t become the white hot feud it should have. When the two men opened the biggest show of the year I hoped it would work to their advantage: the crowd was hot and fresh. But the match they had, while by no means bad, didn’t have the big fight feel it should have done. It certainly didn’t feel like a man fulfilling his destiny, because ADR didn’t win.
In the days following ‘Mania the decision for Edge to win was attributed to Vince McMahon feeling that a Del Rio win was too obvious, and I imagine the back troubles Edge was having at the time played a part too (with nobody knowing for sure whether that would be his last match it’s possible Vince felt Edge deserved to go out on a high). No matter the reason, not winning hurt Del Rio’s momentum. He managed to get his heat back in his brief feud with Christian, but losing at Extreme Rules, his second World title challenge in as many months, made him look weak.
The switch from SmackDown to RAW could work to is advantage, but it’s by no means guaranteed. ADR had carved out a niche for himself on SmackDown and become the show’s standout performer. The show has already been weak without him. On RAW he faces a much tougher battle for screen time (especially with John Cena on the show), as he attempts to continue his rise to the main event scene.
The move to RAW has seen the resurrection of ADR’s feud with Rey Mysterio. As good as their matches were it’s only been four months since they ended their SmackDown program. Personally, I feel it’s too soon for them to be paired with one another again and would have preferred to see Del Rio going against someone like a babyface CM Punk or Jack Swagger. Maybe we’ll get to see that soon, the heels currently outnumber the faces on RAW considerably, so a prominent heel turning face will probably be happening before too long.
The good news is that there is supposedly very serious talk about promoting a John Cena v Alberto Del Rio WWE championship match at SummerSlam. With The Rock likely to be involved in some capacity (my guess would be that he’ll be a guest referee) this would be huge for Del Rio. It’s very easy to imagine this being the match in which he finally gets his first world title. I hope it is, because the man has been deserving of a big win for several months, and WWE desperately needs to capitalise on how over he is before it’s too late.
Del Rio in the main event? It’s destiny.